“Who Owns Culture at your company?”
It’s one of the first questions I ask almost every company I work with. A common answer I hear is: “Everyone. Everyone in the company owns culture”.
Friends, this is what we call a red flag.
If “everyone” owns culture, then no one owns culture. And if no one owns culture this is where the problems arise.
Why Company Culture Is Important
Look, culture equals brand. It is the DNA and lifeblood of your business.
Walking The Walk
At this point, most organizations agree that a strong culture equals engaged and high performing employees which in turn produce the best products and services which allow you to charge the highest prices and fees, serve the most customers, and realize the highest profits.
While most organizations know that culture is key to their success what they don’t know is that great cultures that drive employee engagement and results don’t happen by committee or by accident.
Building a culture that drives your organization is an intentional act.
So Who's In Charge?
Someone needs to be responsible for defining, driving, maintaining, and measuring the culture of your organization.
Many times it’s the CEO. I’ve also seen it be the COO. I often advocate for a CCO - Chief Culture Officer.
Whoever it is, if a person isn’t measured and compensated based on culture performance then the cultivation and growth of your culture, the foundation of your company’s success, is drifting aimlessly like an uninhabited boat in the middle of the ocean. And from my experience there are a lot of drifting boats out there.
Even in strong founder led companies where no one “owns” the culture it is clear that the founder has taken the responsibility of building a culture that drives performance and engagement. And why wouldn’t they? The success of their vision and their compensation is tied directly to the culture of the company - so it makes sense they would automatically assume the role of CCO. Typically founder led companies need to do more with less. They rely on the power of “we”. They need their people to make miracles happen.
Most organizations today extoll how people are their most important asset. They print it in their values and in their marketing materials. But if you ask those people that are called important assets if they feel important, if they feel valued, they’ll tell you otherwise.
You might hear things like:
- We don’t really know who we are.
- We have core values but I don’t know why.
- What’s our why? Or Why am I here?
Recently I heard this manifest itself during an all hands meeting. The company was delivering the bad news that all snack foods were to be eliminated in order to cut expenses. One employee stood up and asked, “If my benefits like snacks are being taken away, then what will motivate me to come to work?” This type of comment isn’t as crazy as it sounds. What this person is really saying is, I don’t know our company “why” and so I’ve found other reasons to motivate myself. How many of your employees are coming in just for the free jerky?
- They don’t fit our culture but I don’t know how to evaluate that or to measure that.
- How do we hire and fire based on our culture and values?
- We’re not performing at the level we are capable of.
If any of this sounds like your company, here are some steps you can take to make sure culture doesn’t become an afterthought in your organization.
Step 1 - Commit
First, commit to being a culture driven organization. This sounds easy but it’s the most important step. Everyone from the top down must commit to doing everything they can to support the building of a great culture. Once you commit there is no turning back.
Step 2 - Pick An Owner
Second, decide which one singular person is going to own culture. Typically this is someone who embodies the core values of the organization and can be seen as a North Star or guidepost of the desired company culture. Tie their compensation directly to the KPIs you develop in the next step.
Step 3 - Measurement
Lastly, develop and assign KPI’s and measurement to your culture. What outcomes do you want to see at your organization? If your culture isn’t where you want it, define what it should look like and then set measurable goals to achieve that outcome. Your culture owner should be evaluated on these goals and making progress towards a vision of a high performing culture.
When a leader at your company “owns” culture and is intentionally working to build a culture that is the foundation of your business you may find that most of your biggest problems “magically” disappear.
All of a sudden you’ll find that you can scale a great workplace as the company grows. You’ll keep your best employees and team members engaged.
No more forced motivation tactics! Keep morale high no matter the situation. More work will get done at higher levels of performance. Your work will feel like play.
You’ll create a place where everyone feels ownership of the company - wouldn’t that be nice? Turn over will be amazingly low.
And your employees will live the brand so no matter where they are - work or in their personal life they will be your best brand ambassadors.
Still Have Questions?
If these are the types of struggles (and outcomes you’d like to see) that you're currently experiencing in terms of culture and brand, don't worry - I'd like to help. It's my mission and purpose in life to help organizations like yours better connect and engage with their internal audiences in a way that elevates culture in order to elevate the brand and I’d be honored for the opportunity to do the same for you, too.
At this point, I'd recommend contacting either myself or a colleague to book your culture and brand audit and assessment. It's a sophisticated in-house process that allows us to learn as much about your business as possible, thus putting us in a better position to help you get clear on exactly what is possible with your culture. It's also a great way to become clear on the root cause of your frustration, too - thus giving you a chance to correct those issues as quickly as possible.
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