Culture: How to Build and Maintain It During Times of Growth and Change

The topic of culture was perfectly timed for our group of CHROs around the table. When sharing 2019 priorities, their answers included: codifying the organization’s values, revisiting and refreshing the core values, succession planning, and reinforcing core values. The group had an engaging conversation and top themes and ideas that surfaced included:

1. Culture is a shared set of values and behaviors that make up an organization. Culture must be more than lip service. It’s intentional. There has to be alignment in what you say and do, from the top to the bottom of the organization. The values are the actions, not just the words on a poster or coffee mug.

2. There can be pitfalls around culture when outcomes and results are emphasized rather than behaviors and values. In this case, values become secondary (or forgotten) in pursuit of results.

3. The leadership team is critical when it comes to culture. Leaders have to model the way. There is often a point in time in an organization’s growth where the values need to pivot or change. The CHRO’s role is an important one in helping identify that point of transition, getting buy in from the leadership team, and charting the new path forward. Today, more than ever, we need an agile mindset about who we are.

4. Trust is critical to a positive culture, and trust is often the result of strong values in action. Since trust is a shared agreement between people, trust can often be talked about as an outcome of strong values and culture, rather than a core value itself.

5. To maintain your culture, you have to monitor it, measure it, and bring it to life and to the forefront through stories. Stories that highlight key values go a long way in solidifying and ingraining those values in everyday actions. Importantly, middle managers need to be onboard, sharing their stories, living the values, and holding their people accountable as well. You also can’t be afraid to take action when individuals or business decisions conflict with those core values.

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