Who owns workplace culture?

Building a positive workplace culture is key for companies who want to make sure their employees are engaged in and excited about their work. Building a thriving culture, though, takes strategic and thoughtful effort. IMO’s Chief People Officer, Charlie Judy, breaks down how to purposefully develop culture so that employees can thrive.

Who owns workplace culture? The short answer to this frequently asked question is, “we all do.”

Some will say it’s the CEO’s job, some will say it rests with HR, and others will say no one owns it – it is something which must develop organically. There’s not necessarily one right answer, but the thing I know for sure is this: on its own, “winging it”  just doesn’t work when building culture. I mean, sure, some aspects of workplace culture can grow organically. But if left alone, it will likely develop without structure and deviate from the culture you set out to create. And great organic growth – the way employees interact with their colleagues, the way they experience being part of a company – often happens specifically because there’s a dedicated team of people listening to employees and constantly revisiting how to make work work for them.

Few c-suite leaders would ever say (out loud) that culture isn’t an important dynamic in their business. Many of those leaders, though, won’t do much more than pay it lip service. They’ll throw the word around because everybody else does. They’ll use it as a veneer-softener – as a means for making themselves appear a bit more human. That’s where it will stop, though.

If culture were really as important as we all say it is, then we’d treat it just like we do every other important operating system in our business. We’d invest in it, we’d dedicate resources to it. We’d have objectives, plans, and accountability around developing and fostering it. We’d talk about culture in ways that weren’t so fluffy. We’d maybe even define it, measure it, analyze it, and then act on it. If culture were treated like an operating system in our business, we’d monitor its performance while making sure it was in fact driving distinct success in our business. We wouldn’t think of it as a “nice to have,” we’d treat it as a “must have.” We’d treat it as a differentiator – as something that can either make us or break us.

All of that is much easier said then done. It sounds like work, doesn’t it? It doesn’t have to be hard, though. And the good news is that you’ll be hard pressed to find people in your organization who aren’t already champing at the bit to help. We saw that recently, when we created a dedicated group to “own” culture at IMO. This group will actively work to make sure culture is treated like an important operating system in our business.

IMO’s new Culture Council kicked off it’s 2020 operating cycle this week. Comprised of ten high-performing employees across all levels, functions, and geographies, this is its charge:

Give energy to and sustain momentum behind our distinct culture by (1) bringing an appropriately informed expertise around “who we really are” and “how we really work”, (2) maintaining a deep understanding of and appreciation for our workforce’s individual and collective needs (i.e. what will drive our success), (3) marrying the former two so as to identify imperatives for culture alignment, and then 4) becoming stewards (and holding us all accountable) to the Culture Backlog & Action Plans that IMO will implement, instill accountability around, and monitor progress toward.

This is serious business for us at IMO, and it’s exciting to be building this team that will work to build culture intentionally, in a way that supports our employees so they can thrive and do what they’re here to do. Our culture, how it aligns with our success-drivers, and how it fuels a meaningful employee experience for each of our people warrants it. This month the Council will head off as a self-managed team with direction and purpose. This will allow them to make incremental, intentional, and thoughtful adjustments to enhance our workplace culture.

They’ll be intentional about this important work.

They’ll be committed to delivering results.

And they’ll make sure each and every one of us owns culture at IMO.  

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