I’ve been researching healthy corporate cultures lately and had the opportunity to interview Jennifer King, a human resources analyst at Software Advice who regularly blogs about HR trends, best practices and technology.
What are the three to five attributes of a healthy corporate culture?
This looks different for every organization, but I think three of the biggest attributes are open communication, transparency and recognition.
Why do company cultures become unhealthy?
I think there are a few ways cultures run the risk of becoming unhealthy. First, rapid company growth can be a big factor. As companies grow and more employees, different personalities and cultural work experiences enter the mix, culture needs to be actively managed. Second, reorganizations or transitional periods can be cause for an unhealthy culture. New organizational leadership is another reason. All three represent scenarios in which company leaders need to be proactive about defending their culture.
What three things can improve a company culture?
Every company is different, and the cultures are different. So what works for one company may not work for another. But generally, I think making culture management part or all of someone’s job within your company is a great way to show your employees that you’re serious about it. It’s a task that can easily fall by the wayside, but it’s too important.
Take Impact Advisors, for example. The company founders knew they wanted to sustain the unique culture they’d already built. But if they wanted to be successful and meet their goals, they needed need someone to inspire new thoughts to grow their culture. They hired Michael Nutter as its Director of Firm Culture and Associate Satisfaction to help sustain the company’s culture and low turnover rate as the workforce continued to grow.
A culture liaison should be someone employees can trust and consult regarding workplace issues. Open communication is key to improving company culture. A culture chief or liaison serves as the eyes and ears of the organization. He or she should be able to connect with employees on an emotional level, and then bring up tough conversations with management or leadership as needed.
The third way a company can improve its culture is by adopting an engagement or recognition program.
Why are companies creating the position of Culture Chief? What is a Culture Chief expected to accomplish?
We’re seeing this role pop up more and more as it applies to employee engagement levels. According to the Winter 2012 SHRM/Globoforce employee recognition survey, 90% of respondents identified culture management as an important or very important challenge for their organization. To help address this, a growing number of companies are hiring “culture chiefs,” or adding culture management responsibilities to other roles throughout the company.
What is the one most pervasive myth about corporate culture?
I think a huge myth around corporate culture is that it only takes one person to manage it. Yes, we’ve been talking about the singular role of “culture chief,” but the reality is this person can only do so much to inspire and grow a company’s culture. The main goal of this person’s job is really to empower managers and employees to practice culture on their own everyday. Culture management ends up being everyone’s job, from the high-level executives all the way down to the newest hires.