Does every company need a Culture Chief?

If company culture is so important, not just setting the rules of play for a company, how it is to operate, but this also impacts success of the company, how can a company ensure that those values are being lived out in all the day-to-day operations? Hire a Culture Chief or Happyologist (if the company is big enough, or assign someone that role if not)?

While it is true that company culture has to come from the top, from the founder or executives, they don’t have the time usually to focus on the details needed to have their finger on the pulse of what is going on with company culture nor to work at fostering that. Culture needs to be continually managed and protected.

So what does a Culture Chief do? Every aspect of the company’s operation needs to be considered in terms of the company values. Here are some areas the Culture Chief would be involved in:

  • The hiring process. Even the interview process should be a reflection of the company culture. I’ve read of one case where a whoopee cushion was put on the applicant’s chair to see how they would react. Potential employees need to fully understand the company culture even before coming onboard, to agree with it and agree to uphold those values if hired.
  • Developing employees. In valuing employees, the personal and skill growth of employees, and in what role they’re working, is an important component of the playing out of the company values.
  • Measuring employee satisfaction. Does the employee see the company values played out in their part of the company? Are they happy in their role?
  • Implement the culture in practical ways. That means consistently involving the staff in implementing programs or rituals or practices which add life to the cultural values. If customer service is an important company value, then salute the heroes who provide great customer service. If philanthropy is a company value, then this would mean finding ways to implement that within the company.

This all sounds a lot like what HR does. The difference is that HR is often pre-occupied with forms and ensuring the company follows due legal process according to the local statutory requirements.

One problem with hiring a person for the Culture Chief role is then everyone could think that it’s that person’s job to maintain and grow company culture, but it needs to be realized that culture in the company is everyone’s responsibility. Maybe that means including culture in the KPIs for each employee, not as a stick, but as a way of making it clear that the cultural values are important objectives.

As the company grows, the Culture Chief can’t do it all by themselves, so volunteers throughout the organization are encouraged to step up, and other leaders throughout the organization empowered to keep on encouraging the culture.

It doesn’t have to be expensive to do these things: part of the Culture Chief’s role is to find simple and inexpensive ways of fostering the company’s values.

The Culture Chief needs to be on the Leadership Board of the company, because protecting and encouraging the company values happens in every area of the business.

Without paying attention to whether or not the company values are being lived out and encouraged in the company, there’s no guarantee that the values match reality. If you’re a company founder or executive or leader, how can you ensure your company cultural values are really driving how the business works?


More reading on appointing a Culture Chief:

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