Curating an Exceptional Culture 

An organization’s culture is central to success in attracting and retaining great people. According to a new report from Blue Rock Search, for business leaders it all starts with understanding purpose and what’s important to their employees.

March 30, 2022 – Culture is what draws individuals to an organization, and it is the glue that, more often than not, keeps them there. More simply put, culture is why people join and it’s why they stay. Culture is a mindset, rooted in a philosophy. It’s mission in action. “Every organization has a culture. It exists in the presence or absence of leadership,” concludes a new report from Blue Rock Search. “If there is a lack of leadership, the organization creates conflicting dynamics, and that becomes the culture. It’s impossible to eliminate culture. Like matter, it simply changes form.” How do we capture and keep employees so that they perform at their fullest potential year after year?

As important as culture is, if you ask 10 employees to define their organization’s culture, you’ll likely get 10 different answers. Blue Rock notes that culture should be easily understood and articulated and says a great way to achieve that is by creating a culture code. “Once you have the code, bring it to life,” the firm said. “Create laminated copies for everyone, turn into a piece of office wall art. Put it to work for you. Use it as a cornerstone of your talent acquisition efforts. Make it a tangible, visible part of your organizational ecosystem.”

Get Aligned

Once culture is defined, we need to align, according to the Blue Rock report. “Alignment requires two important shifts,” it said. “The first shift happens within leadership.  Leaders must realize it isn’t about them. The second shift is even more important and depends on the success of the first. This shift happens within the organization itself. Everyone must believe…that leadership believes…that it’s not about them. Why? Because in the end, it’s what they believe that matters. What they believe determines how they behave. How they behave will determine how they perform.”

Make the Investment

Making it about them requires consistent, focused investment of time and attention. Blue Rocks says to start with understanding purpose. Purpose inspires and drives people. What’s important to them personally? Professionally? Financially? “Paint pictures of how exceptional performance will lead to outcomes serving the very things that are most important to them,” the search firm said. “The historical boundaries of location and time relative to work are forever blurred. Work/life balance has dissolved into…life. Listen. Learn about people. Within reason, the things that are important to them should become important to you.”

Quit Managing. Start Leading. 

Leadership guru Warren Bennis defines leadership as, “the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Blue Rock adds to that: “The leader’s role is to cast vision, provide resources, remove obstacles, drive execution, and deliver results,” the firm said. “Most people would much rather be led than managed. What’s the difference? Visualize standing over someone vs. walking beside them. Don’t just tell them you’re in it with them – they need to feel that you’re in it with them.”

Transforming Corporate Culture and Driving Performance in the New Workplace
As organizations begin to look at the matter of if, when and how they will transition back to traditional workplaces, leaders are fielding a number of questions: What will the office look like? Will it be safe? Will it ever be the same again? Can we have a high-performance culture with so many people working remotely?

“We know that some team members will happily return to offices, while others will choose to visit the office as needed, and yet others will continue to use their home office as a base of operations,” Marty Parker, president and CEO of Waterstone Human Capital, said in a new report. “The impact of these changes on corporate culture cannot be overlooked; nor can the fact that now more than ever, organizational culture will be the driver of competitive advantage and performance. Your culture will differentiate your organization more than anything.”

How? Blue Rocks says to ask people, “What can I do for you today?” Ask it daily and when they need something, do it promptly. “This doesn’t mean you’re going to do their work, nor does it mean they aren’t accountable for their results,” the firm said. “Rather, it demonstrates to them that you’ve made that oh-so-important shift.”

Keep Things Simple

The world is a complicated, noisy place. “Inputs assail us all day long, competing for our attention and challenging our ability to focus,” the Blue Rock report said. “Culture creates clarity. Leaders who curate culture are consistently on-message. They remind everyone of fundamental truths about the culture and the business to keep people grounded during challenging periods of time.”

Be the Cultural Immune System

Curating exceptional culture also means protecting it and threats must be identified and eliminated, according to the report. In “A Failure of Nerve,” author Edwin Friedman likens organizational culture to human organisms. “Our bodies are programmed to protect us from harm,” he said. “Infection is met with an assault of white blood cells. Pepper in our nose triggers sneezes. Bad sushi is met with…. well, you know.” Mr. Friedman draws a parallel with organizational culture and declares that leaders that must serve as the immune systems of their organizations.

Related: Five Things to Consider When Creating a Company Culture

“Few organizations have an exceptional culture,” the Blue Rock report said. “That’s because it’s hard to do. But if you want to capture and keep the heart of supremely able people who perform at their very best, it’s absolutely worth the effort.”

“Leadership has a responsibility to proactively establish, manage to, and reinforce their desired culture at multiple levels,” said Ruben Moreno, HR practice lead for Blue Rock Search. “While this is not new ‘news’ to CEOs and CHROs, their ability to quickly and effectively build a winning culture is being directly challenged. They’re facing intense external competition for their workforce, employee expectations regarding the workplace and hybrid/remote flexibility, and a marketplace rich with growth opportunities for organizations that adjust and respond swiftly.”

While many will play their part, the role of the CHRO is perfectly situated to be the developer, driver, enabler, and at times custodian, of the corporate culture. Said differently, they are the chief culture officer. In fact, in 2021 Blue Rock has seen several trends arise in the titling, scoping, and candidate backgrounds for the head of HR role.

The title chief people and culture officer is gaining momentum, according to Mr. Moreno. “We are often seeing responsibility for corporate communications responsibilities bolted onto the position, and we’re recently seeing individuals with deep corporate communications backgrounds being selected for the top HR role,” he said. “Corporate communication expertise is a logical extension of HR skills because employee communications are critical to spreading ideas internally—particularly as we make the shift to a world where hybrid and virtual work are common. Great days and great things lie ahead for companies that make deliberate choices on the path leading toward a better future, supported by a strong, positive culture.”

Blue Rock Search is a 100 percent minority/female-owned executive search firm and a noted Hunt Scanlon HR/Diversity Recruiting Power 65 recruiter. The firm’s consultants specialize in the targeted identification, assessment, and placement of executives across four distinct practice areas: human resources, franchising, customer experience and operational excellence. Blue Rock’s processes, technology, tools, and search methodology are designed to flex to the needs of its clients.

Related: Why Total Well-Being is the Biggest Culture Shift to Happen in Decades

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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