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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 CCO?

This responsibility has never been more critical, 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 salesperson for three years instead of two yields a difference of $1.3 million in net value to the Company over just three years.

What is the 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 ensured 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 typically hire a CCO during a period of rapid growth (or decline), after a merger or acquisition, or to support a change in an overall strategy. A useful tool used by some of the world's top companies in 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, a 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 CCO 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 essential because, as Alexander Osterwalder describes: "Corporate cultures of many organizations are outdated. Indeed, companies with a chief culture officer or similar roles tend to retain more employees and cultivate a better culture of excellence. That said, as a typical Indeed search for chief culture officer jobs shows, the jobs are differentiated among technology, human resources, and executive leadership positions. Why is this position so important again? It is because the contemporary workforce is still dealing with issues from past decades. Cultures from the not so long ago era were much different, dominated by manufacturing and rigid hierarchies.

Today, our world dominated is by knowledge and information, digitization, and a globally distributed workforce. Take Netflix, for example. The streaming service revolutionized HR manuals around the globe when its CCO and co-founder Patty McCord released a 124-page document called "Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility." In summary, Netflix's 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."

Cultivating a Better Workplace

A great deal of this has to do with the growing importance of cultural compatibility in the workplace — think emotional intelligence. 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 percent 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 an executive who deals with the scope of organizational culture would be doing the following to ensure your organization is completing these goals, including:

  • Competitor Trend Analysis
  • SERP Thought Leadership
  • Human Resource Playbooks
  • Analyze Performances and Personalities
  • Does Culture Mapping
  • Approaches New Ways for Decision Making and Collaboration
  • Design Thinking, Service Thinking, and Strategic Brainstorming
  • Work Across the C-Suite, with Brand Positioning and Risks
  • Regular Assessment of HR and Leadership
  • Conducts Performance Assessments, Leadership Workshops and One-on-Ones
  • Ensures the Company Knows its Customer through Surveys and other forms of support and service.

On our blog, our focus is to discuss the changing nature of the organization in today's marketplace. Both in Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia, indeed the global marketplace, culture shapes a business's performance in many ways. And not only in expanding company profitability, cultivating cultural intelligence helps to cement what makes a business successful. In other words, cultural intelligence is an essential skill for competitive companies today who seek to both attract talent and gain the most productivity. People that work in a company with a good culture, more often than not, love and appreciate their work. A consequence of this is having people there contribute at the highest level.

Culture and Business

Culture is generally thought of and considered as rules and meanings. However, in business, there are other considerations, like what are our core values? Are we expressing the collective passions, talent, and uniqueness in our Company? Do all our employees know why they are working here? In our experience, this starts with determining what strategies, operations and performance plans you have in place for your employees and customers. 

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." 

Managing the Process of Working Together

The rise of the executive in charge of culture arises from, in our view,  the voice of the customer. Social media and the increasing lack of separation between work and private life today have put a strong focus on the corporation for what it offers in terms of personality. Significantly, this is a characteristic of the organization as a whole, suggesting the field of organizational psychology. But, returning to the purpose of this article, what happens when a company doesn't manage culture well? 

How business professionals can learn from failure is limitless. Take, for example, the firing of Chip Wilson from Lulu Lemon after his negative public outbursts. The resultant crisis that hurt the Lululemon brand for a moment is much different than negative reviews on Glassdoor. Here we find the context of the voice of the customer. Customers, or stakeholders, can be both internal and external to the corporation. For that reason, any business that does business with people must understand that culture gets created whether awareness of making that culture is conscious or not. 

The CCO makes sure this awareness gets focused on the corporation at all times. And, as mentioned, whereas avoiding negative past-employee reviews and problematic outbursts from leadership is essential, getting the most productivity from staff is also a key indicator of workplace efficiency that can be managed. So the CCO has much to do in a company that has strategic plans in place, junior and intermediate employees, and leaders in different departments. Surfacing new ways to understand the job is also essential. 

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