Bayer's Job-Evaluation System Models Its New Culture

Article excerpt

Bayer needed to combine three business units and then reestablish a companywide culture that would carry the new Bayer forward.

The Bayer Corp. case study "Rating Jobs Against New Values" written by Associate Managing Editor Jennifer J. Laabs in the May 1997 issue of WORKFORCE illustrates two of the main reasons companies often find their human resources tools out of alignment with their culture. Pittsburgh-based Bayer needed to combine three disparate business units and then reestablish a companywide culture that would carry the new Bayer forward. An understanding of Bayer's current and desired cultures helped provide the context its management needed to direct the redesign of its guide charts.

Drawing on broad-based human resources and general management consulting experience, the Hay Group, based in Pittsburgh, developed a cultural model with four drivers and four themes. Although no company is purely within one cultural theme, the relative emphasis each organization places on the themes provides insight into its core competencies, values and cultural expectations. This insight is invaluable in determining the types of HR initiatives that are best suited to reinforce and even drive cultural change initiatives.

The cultural model has four drivers that often relate to the core competencies organizations articulate. They are:

1) Technology: Many organizations claim their strategic advantage comes from the technological excellence of their products and services. This can be described in terms like "low-cost," "high-performance" and "innovative." High-tech industries and commodity businesses in which low cost and high quality are critical are strongly driven by technology.

2) Reliability: Reliability and technology have traditionally gone hand in glove. This is especially true for products that have a relatively stable and longer term change cycle. While all organizations want to be viewed as reliable, product reliability and service reliability aren't necessarily the same thing. Product reliability is rooted in technology. Service reliability may be enhanced by technology, but the greatest value comes from a strong focus on the customer.

3) Customer: Customer service was the main theme of the TQM movement, and it's a strong factor in the mission, values and beliefs of most companies today. Historically, companies developed what they wanted to make, when they wanted to make it. Planned obsolescence, rather than continuous improvement, drove the product-development cycle. The U.S. automotive industry was of this mindset for decades until Japanese carmakers, who reinvented the business in response to customer considerations, served their sleepy competitors a wake-up call. Customer-driven cultures stress not just satisfying but delighting the customer. But customers don't always know what they want, nor do they want the same things. This gives rise to the fourth cultural driver.

4) Flexibility: Organizations realize that customers vary in their needs and wants, and don't always know what they want until they see it. Reengineering devotees recognized this factor early on and focused on cycle-time reduction and the ability to respond quickly to any and all requests. Organizations also realized that customized service has value and often can command a premium price. Reliability is often a lower priority in organizations that emphasize flexibility. The computer industry is an example. Windows 95, for example, was on the market even though it reputedly had a number of "bugs." People buy it more because of its features than its proven reliability. While a base-line reliability is still required, this isn't its selling point.

The four cultural drivers help define four cultural themes:

1) Functional: For most of this century, work cultures varied little from company to company. The dominant focus was perfecting each function in a complex operation. Jobs are the basic building blocks of this functional culture. …