When most people hear the words "crewmember", they likely think of the pilot of an airplane or of in-flight attendants who pass out drinks and snacks. But for one company, "crewmember" is actually used to describe employees of all levels within the organization.
JetBlue has dropped the "employee" moniker because it doesn't accurately describe the passionate individuals who make up their workforce. "When we use the word crewmember, it's because everybody is a crewmember," says Marty St. George, EVP of Commercial and Planning at JetBlue. "We've created a culture where there's a direct relationship between our crewmembers and our leadership. It is very much an egalitarian society." The airline, known for its commitment to finding travelers the best deals on flights, is one of several businesses that are using work titles to capture how meaningful each employee's job is.
Investing in corporate culture is hardly a new strategy, but one thing many organizations neglect is what they call their workforce. Taco Bell refers to their cashiers as "champions" and Disney employees are called "cast members" because they aren't just hired for something as simple as a job. These optimistic labels bring both positives and negatives to the table, with some critics pointing out that such cheerful labels leave no room for negativity or bad experiences. On the one hand, it creates a form of encouragement and when employees could choose their own titles there was a decrease in emotional exhaustion. Using titles like "cast member" for a janitor, who clearly is paid less and is tasked with less enjoyable responsibilities, is like telling someone they will have fun and enjoy their job... no matter what.
But these nicknames are also the result of a purpose-driven culture that supports an entire organization's existence. And it's one way brands can identify the right hires who will contribute to the growth of their brand. "When I talk to folks about our culture, I view it as the personality of the company," says Mike Elliott, EVP of People at JetBlue. "As we continue to grow this company we need to hire the right people... so that every crewmember has ownership in sustaining our culture as we grow." Inspiring humanity is what the airline centers its culture around, and what hiring managers take into consideration as they interview new crewmembers. By reducing hierarchical monikers and focusing on a more egalitarian culture, they refer to everyone as part of the team (crewmembers), JetBlue continues to uphold its commitment to open door policies and valuing each employee for their individual contributions to the company.
"One of the elements about the term "employee" is that it carries a lot of baggage and can often imply an us and them or feeling of division and objectification," explains Chris Mann, CEO of Guayaki. "For us, we are all about Yerba Mate culture, service and sharing. In Argentina, the person who provides hospitality by serving and sharing yerba mate is called a Cebador. By recognizing that all of us at Guayaki are Cebadores it aligns our culture, elevates our purpose and makes it clear that we are all here to provide service and to share."
What makes a corporate culture powerful is when everyone in your organization buys into the values and beliefs that are preached by upper management. It's more than what you call your workforce; it's treating your employees to an experience that makes your competitors jealous and makes it difficult for your team members to leave the company. "You hear it and you see it every day," says Julie Loeger, Executive Vice President and CMO at Discover Financial Services, when asked about the corporate culture. "Discover invests heavily in its people and a company culture that thrives on employee engagement which is one of the main reasons people want to join us. Our culture is driven by treating people well, being respectful of one another, and pushing the boundaries around transparency and competitive collaboration."
Employees are attracted to companies that are not only financially successful but also are culturally successful. New hires and interviewers are looking for opportunities to make a significant impact in their workplace, while also commanding respect and acknowledgement from their peers. An established corporate culture offers more than just intangible benefits to your internal team; it serves as an opportunity to showcase who you are as individuals to people scrutinizing your brand from the outside. Brands are a reflection of their culture, and culture is what attracts and retains employees more than fancy perks or long-lists of benefits. As you examine your own team of employees and organizational processes, take a good hard look at your corporate culture. Ask yourself if your culture is the best it can possibly be, and what areas you should be looking to improve as you market your brand to the rest of the world.