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Connecting company culture to organizational performance

Nov. 20, 2015
How the Rockwell Automation culture improves its products and service—and provides a model for customers struggling with cultural change in their own businesses
About the author
Steve Diogo is Associate Publisher and Digital Media Director for Control Global and Control Design. Reach him at [email protected].

In discussions around the technological and workforce transformations occurring in the manufacturing industry, one topic repeatedly arises as an obstacle that can derail the transformation companies need to make in order to succeed as Connected Enterprises.

It's not cybersecurity or isolated data silos. It's culture.

But ask a lot of business leaders, most employees and just about any engineer what "culture" means, and you'll get a mission statement at best and, more often, a shrug.

If you're equally confused by all things culture, Tressa Knutson Bruggink, director, internal communications and engagement at Rockwell Automation, feels your pain. She knows how difficult it can be to even define culture, let alone transform it.

But she also knows the payoff that happens when you make culture a priority: higher employee engagement; increased flexibility and acceptance of change; better ideas, better products and improved customer service.

And if a global company with 22,500 employees can nurture a culture change that contributes to measurable business outcomes, then it probably has a thing or two to share on the subject.

"We've shown, with statistical validity, that every 4 points of improvement in our employee engagement score correlates to as much as a 1-point improvement in our customer loyalty score." Tressa Knutson Bruggink, director, internal communications and engagement at Rockwell Automation, on the "best kept secret" to the company's success.

"Every company we talk to is struggling with the issue of culture," Knutson Bruggink said during a conversation at the company's Automation Fair event in Chicago. "And, yet, when we talk with customers and mention a recognition we've received for ethics or equality or supplier diversity, they ask us, ‘Why aren't you talking about that more?' I guess before we thought it was immodest to talk about these things, but now we see that we can help our customers with their own culture struggles by sharing what we've learned. Plus, our customers like to know that they are doing business with a company that's recognized for its standards and practices around ethics, diversity and the environment."

But what is it?

BusinessDictionary.com defines organizational culture as "the values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization." That's a lot of non-engineering words.

But Knutson Bruggink has worked out a way to put culture in terms that resonate even with technical professionals: "Every three years, we undergo a third-party assessment that determines our Employee Engagement Score. We're also externally assessed on customer loyalty. We've shown, with statistical validity, that every 4 points of improvement in our employee engagement score correlates to as much as a 1-point improvement in our customer loyalty score."

For Rockwell Automation, employee engagement is a critical metric. Knutson Bruggink defines it as the level of discretionary effort an employee puts into the company. "It's a measure of everything above what it takes to just get the job done. And that energy not only feeds into improved products and service, it feeds back into the culture. It's a feedback loop: working with engaged people makes you more engaged."

Writing on the topic, Chairman and CEO Keith Nosbusch said: "Even though engagement can mean different things, we have much in common that make us a strong, global team. I believe these commonalities have to do with our customer focus, our ethics and integrity, and our desire to improve what we do every day. These make us who we are and help differentiate us as a great company."

Best kept secret

To spread the word about the company's success in defining and nurturing its culture, and to share its model with customers seeking insight on culture and engagement, the company has launched a new campaign: Rockwell Automation's Best Kept Secret. The campaign's website outlines the company's initiatives, policies and recognitions around community, culture, environment, ethics and supplier diversity.

"Culture isn't just one thing; it's myriad elements," Knutson Bruggink added. "For us, it's our ethics and diversity, it's change management, it's how we attract and develop the most talented people to provide the best domain expertise to our customers. It's those key elements you might not always see, but that make Rockwell Automation who we are."

Knutson Bruggink encourages Rockwell customers to use the website to learn more about the company and to get ideas on how to begin their own cultural transformation to reap the benefit of engaged employees who will drive success in The Connected Enterprise.

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