With every organization, it is important to keep priorities in check and deliver your product to the customer at the best quality. For organisations like the Water Authority of Fiji (WAF), however, the product provided is one that is essential to the survival of the entire populace. As such, the responsibility grows as well.
At the heart of any successful organisation are the employees – the everyday, honest workers who keep the business running smoothly in their own unique ways. Therefore, without the full dedication and teamwork of every employee, running the company becomes that much harder. That is why a good ‘work culture’ is a necessity and an advantage to any business.
WAF CEO, Barry Omundson is a proponent of increasing productivity through building a strong work culture among employees.
WAF is responsible for over 144,000 residential and non-residential metered customers residing largely in urban areas, reaching over 700,000 people nationwide. About 116,342 million litres of treated water is supplied to homes and businesses nationwide, each year.
WAF’s area of operation covers 18,274 square kilometres of the 332 islands in the Fiji archipelago, of which only 110 islands are inhabited, and their network constitutes more than 4313 kilometres of pipes.
Since he took over as CEO, Omundson has begun a strategic shift in WAF’s operations and work culture. As a firm believer of arming and empowering people, his hope is to create a work culture that gives direction to WAF for decades to come. This includes recruiting based on merit, providing regular training to update and maintain skill sets, and acknowledgement and appreciation of achievements to retain the best talent.
At its core, work culture is incredibly simple – it is just the way employees work. The relation between every employee as they go about their day, doing their part to give Fijians clean, secure water, invariably creates a work culture. The trick to maintaining a good, functioning business – as WAF has done all these years – is to ensure that this work culture is positive and forward-thinking.
Every employee needs to respect not only their own jobs and their managers above them but also members of the company who have very different jobs. For example, an accountant should have the same respect for a worker in the plant as they would for a fellow accountant.
The work required to achieve this requires active participation from management as well.
Omundson approaches his role with a healthy consideration of the collaborative and holistic aspects of leadership, which is why he is often on the ground to meet and get briefings from WAF ground teams.
He also makes a point of acknowledging exemplary work as he believes it is important to recognise when team members are doing a good job to build and maintain a strong work culture. Additionally, he believes in the importance of applying this to all WAF employees, regardless of position.
Some initiatives that acknowledge the roles played by employees include a recognition programme for long-serving staff members and various leadership, performance and development programs.
Communication especially plays a critical role in developing a robust and healthy work culture. Omundson ensures this is reflected not just in operational changes but in a weekly message that reinforces unity and makes sure that everyone is on board.
This focus on conducive work culture and environment is already yielding great results and helping WAF improve the Fijian water delivery and sanitation system and take it to the next level.
WAF teams are able to operate with greater consistency resulting in a marked improvement in customer satisfaction and consequent decrease in customer dissatisfaction.
This success of this approach is no surprise to Omundson, who said, “The culture of an organisation is set by people and things get done through people; not systems and not processes.”