Corporate culture is loosely understood to be the shared attitudes and values of employees in a company. But what happens when a business experiences significant growth in a short period of time, as many startups do?
Frequent hiring and rapid turnover can mean substantial changes to your organizational culture, and not all of them will be positive. That’s why it’s crucial for every business leader to make an effort to define and reinforce the corporate culture their organization wants and needs.
Many companies choose to hire human resources professionals to help maintain their culture and take responsibility for the administration and management of their employees. But since culture is so vitally important to business success, and administrative tasks grow quickly as you hire more employees, why leave cultural responsibility to an entry-level or middle management employee? After all, it’s corporate leadership that needs to focus on building a team that’s going to sustain growth.
Businesses across all industries—from Google to the Federal Reserve Bank—are hiring executive-level Chief Culture Officers, in an effort to shift HR’s role from pushing paperwork to building culture and engaging employees.
While cultural understanding is often best found within a business, this shouldn’t preclude hiring a CCO from outside. It’s up to the CEO to define the corporate culture’s boundaries, the CCO to work to realize them, and the dedication and perseverance of the rest of the team to follow suit.
So how does an ambitious professional work to become the Chief Culture Officer? What can growing businesses do to attract top performers to the role? How can organizations be sure that they create a valuable resource for their business, and not a black hole of time and money?
1. Live The Vision
Let’s be clear. Yes, the CEO could assume the role of CCO. But the CEO is probably too busy to give the role the amount of attention it deserves. Delegation is key. Find CCO candidates who are already aligning themselves with the company’s mission and vision. These people understand the company’s culture already, even if they haven’t expressed it in so many words.
2. Be The Example
Demonstrate the leadership the job requires. Without being a know-it-all, the CCO needs to show that she’s capable of holding down her own responsibilities. Executives need to multi-task, and the CCO is no exception: Culture means leading and managing at the same time.
Come up with a plan to help develop and maintain company culture. Don’t wait to be asked for the plan; draft something and push it forward. Holding the role of CCO, like any executive-level position, means anticipating what needs to be done, and making it happen. Don’t forget about measurement and analytics—a plan whose success cannot be tracked won’t be taken very seriously.
4. Pursue Value-Driven Growth
Too often, businesses look to results-driven management to get things done, and the company’s culture falters as a result. Worse still, results-driven approaches can mean a lot of time is spent micromanaging employees who really don’t need to be supervised that directly. Working towards value-driven growth means emphasizing values and numbers in equal measure. If you can’t successfully tie the two together, you have bigger problems.
5. Trust The Team
Employees can’t live out your culture if they don’t feel empowered to act without permission. Show that you trust your team to do their jobs and work towards your shared mission and vision. A trusted high-performance team will embody the spirit of the company, and make the CCO’s job a lot easier over the long term.
The CCO is someone with an honest understanding of what the company’s culture is, and what it needs to be. The right person for the role will support the CEO’s alignment of the company to its mission and vision, while accepting that some things are priceless, but some price tags are simply too big.
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