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Laurinda Pang, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Level 3 Communications Photograph by Scott Dressel-Martin
Commentary

The one thing only the best business leaders understand

Aug 12, 2015

The Fortune 500 Insider Network is our newest online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Laurinda Pang, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Level 3 Communications, has answered the question: What’s one quality that drives your company’s success?

Having spent more than 20 years in the telecom space overseeing various facets of the business — from segment and product line P&L to corporate strategy and customer service — I have come to believe, as author Simon Sinek has said, that customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.

Shape your company’s culture

For Level 3 Communications (lvlt), that level of devotion comes from establishing a genuine connection between our employees and our company values. I recognize that for some, culture is a buzzword that’s thrown around as the catalyst for whatever is or isn’t right about what’s happening in the business.

Our culture, employee engagement in particular, is one of the most vital factors in determining long-term growth, sustainability and success. Let’s be honest. Employees drive the customer experience, and motivated employees will deliver an exceptional experience, which impacts the bottom line.

What motivates employees to deliver the best possible experience for customers? Savvy business leaders understand that employees want opportunities to learn and grow while contributing to meaningful work in an environment that empowers them to do their best. When those needs are met, the entire organization is aligned for success.

See also: The best goal any company can have

Develop pathways to engagement

In 2011, our biggest acquisition to date at that time marked the combination of two large organizations of roughly comparable size, in terms of revenue and employees. However, the cultures differed. From the beginning, the leadership team recognized that we had a unique opportunity to bring the companies together in a way that would maximize employee engagement and therefore increase our customers’ experience. We developed our cultural roadmap, which described our desired environment, and how, in this new world, we were planning to get there.

Over the course of several months, we implemented a variety of initiatives that brought people together, including employee listening sessions. After hearing what was important to our combined workforce, we launched programs designed to empower employees to create their own support systems based upon shared interests, passions and personal pursuits. These included employee resource groups for veterans, young professionals, LGBT and women in tech, to name a few. We also created a corporate social responsibility program, and earlier this year, launched a foundation to broaden our commitment to giving back.

Never settle

In my career, I’ve watched the latest trends to drive a company’s success come and go. I’ve read the books, reviewed the studies and participated in the forums. My advice to other business leaders is to adopt an attitude of continuous improvement. Recommit to your culture on a regular basis. Keep open lines of communication with your employees and customers. Be willing to try new approaches and remain responsive when some of those attempts fall short. This is how you will create a sincere and compelling value proposition — one that rings true for employees and for customers.

Read all answers to the Fortune 500 Insider question: What’s one quality that drives your company’s success?

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The key to long-term success by Jerome Peribere, CEO of Sealed Air.

The Internet could be sabotaging your business by Terry Cavanaugh, CEO of Erie Insurance.

Meet the former janitor who runs the world’s biggest oil company by Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation.

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