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The Culture Manager

If a killer corporate culture is the secret sauce for success, then the culture manager is the means to spread it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014
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It should come as no surprise to any leader that a great corporate culture is one of the leading influencers of employee success. Consider the greats out there - Zappos, Google, Disney - exceptionally successful businesses that also happen to be shortlisted as some of the most desired places to work. Their employees are engaged, results driven and can't get enough of the company Kool-Aid.

How did that happen? In some cases, these organizations have been focused for several years on creating an environment where employees want to do more than just show up to work every day. They've realized, as you probably have, that it's not just about the pay anymore. The workforce has evolved to include Gen Y and Millennial employees, and their motivators go way beyond salary. They want modern perks, recognition and real-time feedback. They demand the ability to voice concerns, communicate when things don't line up to the vision of the company, and to influence change and innovation. They come in wanting to be part of something, they're focused on contributing and delivering results and they don't mind spending the extra time or going the extra mile because, truthfully, "that's what everyone does," and that's what culture is really about.

Great. So you get it. You know the definition of culture. We highly doubt this is the first article you've read on this topic so let's get to the point. Having a culture manager is just as essential to your business as your controller in finance, as social media in marketing, or as recruiting in HR. "Huh?" you say. Are we kidding? No.

The culture manager is a key element to the success of your organizations' culture strategy, and here's why: it's all about the L.O.V.E.

Bringing Values to Life

Your company values are the most important part of directing how your business operates. Do you know them? Maybe, but perhaps not off the top of your head. Do you know where to find them? Somewhere on the website, maybe in a frame near the reception desk? The number of your employees who could answer yes to both questions is probably fewer than you can count on your toes, and to recite them well, fewer than you would count on one hand. Kind of disheartening, right? It doesn't have to be that way.

At Achievers, the culture manager's role is to L.O.V.E. (Live Our Values Everyday), and demonstrate our values at every opportunity. Living our values is so important that we take time at our daily stand-up meeting to read out a message sent from one employee to another that recognizes how that employee demonstrated a company value. We call this the "L.O.V.E. Moment of the Day" and it's part of a communication initiative driven by our culture manager.

The culture manager is a person who embodies company values and qualities; the very things you would want in your ideal employee, and the things your recruiting team looks for in a new hire. They don't need to know every facet of your business, or every person on payroll, but they do need to have top-notch communication skills, be accessible to employees, have the confidence of leaders and the respect of their peers. They must be positive, creative and driven and, above all, live and breathe the values of the organization.

Bridging the Gap

Try to recall a recent communication sent from a department other than your own. What was different about it? Was it the voice, the tone, the delivery method, the goals or maybe even the underlying message? While a communication sent from another department leader may make sense to their department, to the greater employee population, including other leaders, it can create a common sense of confusion: Why am receiving this message? What does this have to do with my goals or me? Does this change where we're headed? The culture manager acts as an effective enabler of change and adoption by helping centralize, socialize and deliver messaging in a way that keeps true to the vision of your business.

When it comes to delivery you can count on the culture manager for innovative ways to promote initiatives, generate interest and buzz, and gain buy-in from employees.

So how would this be any different than an internal communications role, or sending information off to marketing? It's simple: The medium is the message. The culture manager's overarching directives always tie into the vision of your company, so when he or she becomes a regular part of the communication plan, it really acts to provide a clear and consistent voice that engages employees and helps them connect the dots.

Walk the Talk

You want to increase retention and attract top talent, so you've committed to providing a great space to work with perks that most other companies would only dream about. This is a great strategy to differentiate your company when the demand for top talent is at an all-time high, but as best put by author Bill Aulet in his recent post on TechCrunch, "culture eats strategy for breakfast."  

Top perks and benefits don't equate to being a top employer. It's culture that dictates how the people within your organization work and essentially influences how the business operates. Hiring a Culture Manager is a clear demonstration of your unwavering commitment to preserving and growing amazing corporate cultural. That's not to say you should hire because you have something to prove, but throwing perks and parties is merely smoke and mirrors unless you have someone to stand behind your internal brand. John Coleman, in his article Six Components of a Great Corporate Culture says "if an organization professes, 'people are our greatest asset,' it should also be ready to invest in people in visible ways."

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Investing in a culture manager has bottom-line positive results for the business. If your employees love coming to work, feel connected and embody the values of the company and live and breath they culture, they tell others!  Great people know other great people. It's a strategy at Achievers to ensure that all of our employees feel connected and refer other A-Players into our culture. We have achieved incredible results through our internal referral programs and hire 40 percent of our hires through employee referrals.

Growing the Awesomeness

Scalability: It's one word that terrifies so many. The idea of scaling can be a daunting task, one which we're sure, in your experiences, you've outsourced, partnered with or hired a consultant to help guide you through the process.

So ask yourself: Is culture really any different? We've already established that culture plays a significant role in the success of your business, so why risk going it alone? Perhaps you think it's because culture is organic, something all employees have a part in upholding, and yes, that's true, but have you considered what happens when you open a new location? What about launching in a new country? Consider a division of departments, old employees versus new, and even remote employees!

Our culture hasn't just changed, it's been interpreted and adapted in new environments with new teams, yet in some respect it's similar, but it's certainly not the same. To be clear, that's not what we're looking for or encouraging. No company with this rate of growth could sustain using discount websites as a means of booking travel, or continuing to use spreadsheets to track employee information, long before the time of HRIS.

Instead our culture manager focuses on evaluating reach and significance to our employees, opening up the floor in culture chats for feedback and bright ideas on how we can innovate to better communicate with other locations, instills values in remote employees, and most importantly, provides an inclusive and meaningful employee experience that reflects and supports the mission and vision of our company.

No matter the size your company, whether it's a startup or Fortune 500 business, it is possible to create a strong, positive company culture. The culture manager will be your biggest ally and advocate for the preservation, adoption and growth of culture and cultural initiatives. And a killer corporate culture is really what attracts and keeps top talent.

Cheryl Kerrigan is vice president of employee success at Achievers.

 

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