The language you use acts as a moral compass for your people, influencing how they think, act and feel in different situations.
Some examples include the language used in your company’s mission, purpose and values statements, but also in company mottos, both old and new. In this way, HR and the executive level can play an essential role in shaping and influencing the kind of culture you’d like to create.
Consider Facebook. In 2014 it changed its motto from “Move fast and break things” to the much less sexy, “Move fast with stable infrastructure.” Though it may seem like a small change, this signaled a big step in the company’s maturation.
While initially Facebook greatly valued its young hacker roots, it later realized that the bugs created through this type of work ethic were actually causing more problems in the long run, making it more difficult to provide quality service to its users. In changing its company motto, it aimed to guide the way in which its people worked and approached problems at the company.
Reinforcing language through processes and rituals
Language doesn’t just impact the way people behave at work, it also impacts the types of processes and company rituals we create.
For example, Zappos is known for the extreme lengths to which its customer service reps have gone to make its customers happy. Unsurprisingly, its number one core value is to “Deliver WOW through service” and its mission is “delivering happiness to customers, employees, and vendors.”Through its mission and values, Zappos tells its people that the number one indicator of a job well done is customer happiness. As a result, 75% of its business comes from repeat customers.
This strong customer-focused language is backed by the types of processes and rituals it has created.
Reinforcing its commitment to delivering quality service, Zappos has all new hires undergo a vigorous 4-week customer service training program. After this, it famously offers each participant $4000 to quit.
Through this seemingly unconventional onboarding process, the company demonstrates that its first priority is to hire people who will not only uphold but also fit into the Zappos mindset.
Language impacts the way we feel about work
Language doesn’t just impact how we work, it can also change how we feel about work. In psychologist Barry Schwartz’s TEDTalk, The way we think about work is broken, he explains that institutions aren’t necessarily shaped by human nature, instead, “We design human nature by designing the institutions in which people live and work.”