Organizational Intelligence

Chief Culture Officer | How Can This Role Help Your Business

Post by
Avi Lambert

There is a new, indispensable seat in the C-suite: the Chief Culture Officer. Companies around the world including Google, Microsoft and Lululemon are hiring a CCO to incite passionate and positive team culture, a move that is inevitably centred around enhancing corporate brand identity to increase sales and productivity. So what is a Chief Culture Officer?

This responsibility has never been more important considering 7/10 employees are disinterested and unhappy at work at this very moment. The reason? It has everything to do with addressing the role of company culture.And companies desperately need their employees to be incentivized and motivated. Studies show that disengaged employees can cost a company $450-550 million per year in the United States alone.Poor company culture can also waste something more valuable than money— time. Maia Josebachvili, VP of People at Greenhouse, produced a compelling case study that proved retaining a sales person for three years instead of two yields a difference of $1.3 million in net value to the company over just a three-year period.

What is a Chief Culture Officer?

The CCO is responsible for incentivizing a team by promoting communication, alignment, goals and recognition. Think of it as an objective person analyzing the “culture” of a team.In 2017, a Chief Culture Officer ensures that evolving strategies, ideas and initiatives, on both a small and large scale, are in correspondence with the company’s overall mission and business goals. This alignment ensures internal teams find emotional fulfillment in the work they do, igniting an emotional connection.This can impact everything from the tone at the morning huddle to the frequency of team lunches to the conversations surrounding all decisions.Now, we see a growing emphasis placed on the CCO role with the majority of startups immediately hiring to help build a culture that is representative of the values and morals of the founders. That’s an enormous task but, on a granular level, it means establishing how your company hires, fires, runs meetings, runs sales, deals with customers, reviews performance, manages internal and external conflict and makes decisions.And, more than that, it is about defining why you do things the way you do.It is also a differentiating factor between success and failure in today’s competitive business landscape.Large and enterprise-level companies normally hire a Chief Culture Officer during a period of rapid growth (or decline), after a merger or acquisition, or to support a change in overall strategy.An effective tool used by some of the world’s top companies is the Strategyzer Culture Map. It is an employee development tool that includes mapping employee behaviours, outcomes, enablers and blockers. It was created by Alexander Osterwalder, world renowned consultant and creator of the Business Model Canvas. The Strategyzer is trusted by over 5 million companies worldwide and is now being taught at Harvard, Yale and many of the world’s most prestigious business programs. The strategic management tool has been used by Fortune 100 enterprises such as Coca Cola, General Electric, P&G, Mastercard, Ericsson, LEGO and 3M.

A Chief Culture Officer must be familiar with these fundamentals and use them to assess the cultural identity of your brand and how it relates to your value proposition, one of the first signifiers of success.This cultural identity is important because, as Alexander Osterwalder describes:“Corporate cultures of many organizations are outdated. These cultures come from a different era that was dominated by manufacturing and rigid hierarchies; and not a world dominated by knowledge work, digitization, and an opinionated globally distributed workforce.”Take Netflix for example. The streaming service revolutionized HR manuals around the globe when its Chief Culture Officer and co-founder Patty McCord released a 124-page document called "Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility." In summary, Netflix’ staff were evaluated based on output — not on the times that an employee clocked in and out. Patty describes this as “hire, reward, and tolerate only fully formed adults.”

A great deal of this has to do with the growing importance of cultural compatibility in the workplace — think emotional intelligence. In fact, millennials have surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the labour force. Companies are grappling with how to incentivize this new generation since it’s not about productivity. It’s about employee loyalty.And this is a cause for concern since 60 per cent of millennials leave an employer before the three year mark. This is due to the fundamental differences between how previous generations viewed ‘“work” compared to Gen Y.Millennials measure productivity based on the result of their output, not by the sheer number of hours worked. They view work as a ‘thing’ and not a ‘place.’”The CCO ties HR with business processes to create a culture of productivity. This is why the position is now gaining prominence as Human Resources documentation protocols have become mundane and outdated. Smart, successful companies are now emphasizing conversations around workplace development and emotional fulfillment.

Therefore, for service companies, the value of the chief culture officer would be doing the following to ensure your organization is completing these goals, including:

  • Competitor Trend Analysis
  • SERP Thought Leadership
  • Business Canvas and Value Proposition Training and Facilitation
  • Culture Mapping
  • Design Thinking Facilitation
  • Strategic Brainstorming
  • Brand Positioning
  • Regular Assessment of HR and Leadership
  • Bi-Annual Strategic Planning
  • Customer Surveys

Our goal in writing about the Chief Culture Officer is to talk about the changing nature of the organization in today's marketplace. Both in Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia, indeed very market, culture shapes a business' performance in many ways. And not only in expanding company profitability, culture knowldge development increases employee engagement and can help to create a cohesive company identity.This means analyzing not only the “what” and “why” of a company’s vision, but also the “who”.

Culture is norrmally thought of and considered as rules and meaninegs. In business there are other considerations like core values, passions and the talent in your company. In our experience, this starts with determining what strategies, operations and performance you have for employees and customers.

To finish, let's look at a quote from Val Jon Farris, CEO of Diamius  Consulting who elegantly puts the value of cultural intelligence as such:

Business is a “human experience that must be nurtured, promoted and developed if a company is to thrive.”
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