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What is a Culture Committee? And do you need one? (The short answer is “Yes!”)
Last month, I wrote a two-part series about how to stand up your team of CX Champions. Without a doubt, they are an important part of the customer experience transformation governance structure and transformation success.
Another team that’s important to your transformation is a Culture Committee. While executives must ensure core values are established and communicated and the associated behaviors are modeled, they can’t promote culture and drive culture change alone. Similarly, culture cannot be assigned to – or be driven by – HR. But culture doesn’t just happen, either. There must be a grassroots effort among employees – a groundswell of sorts – to create and then to perpetuate and live the desired culture.
This is where the Culture Committee comes in to play.
What is a Culture Committee?
A Culture Committee is a group of cross-functional employees who meet to identify, discuss, and plan ways to promote and to drive the desired culture throughout the organization. You must have cross-functional representation on the Committee, as that diversity ensures that no one area of the company has greater influence over culture development and change than any other.
What traits or qualities do Culture Committee members have?
Committee members are well-respected and are often recognized as role models when it comes to living and breathing your core values and the culture. They are company advocates and love to talk about where they work, are strongly aligned with the company purpose, and want to see the business succeed. Similar to the CX Champions, they are team players, work well with others, and have – or can build – strong cross-functional relationships. They are excellent communicators. They are influential in their departments and, perhaps, across the organization.
What does the Culture Committee do?
The Committee helps to create that groundswell of adoption of the culture traits as defined by the core values and guiding principles through (a) communicating and modeling the values and (b) brainstorming and developing programs, actions, and events that support the company’s mission, purpose, and values. (These programs or events might be fun, educational, and healthy/wellness events that bring employees together, again, in support of the company’s purpose or values.) The Committee may even help to define (or revisit) the core values.
One of the things that Committee members must do is talk to fellow employees to keep a pulse on the culture and what’s happening in the workplace. Do employees feel like the culture is evolving or eroding? What’s working and what’s not? What matters to them? This is important information to bring into the Committee meetings so that members can identify ways to support the evolution or mitigate the erosion. They may also review feedback from employee surveys to identify opportunities to shift the behavior and the thinking.
Note that the Committee isn’t a skunkworks project or team; it is a dedicated group of employees who have the support and commitment from executives. The Committee advises the executives on culture matters and initiatives, and executives must review, approve, and pony up the resources for any programs or events initiated by the Committee.
How many Committee members are there?
That depends on how many cross-functional departments you have. And if you’ve got multiple business units, is there a corporate shared services group from which you can pull folks? If not, be sure to get business unit representation, too. If you’ve got global office locations, you’ll want to consider representation across the globe.
Who does the Committee report to?
Typically, HR will organize and host the Committee.
How do you find Culture Committee members?
There are at least two approaches to finding your Culture Committee members. (1) You can set some parameters and definitions (are they a good culture fit? do they ooze your company DNA? etc.) and then ask for volunteers based on that; or (2) you can accept nominations based on those same parameters.
How else can I identify these folks?
You might already have some people in mind as ideal Culture Committee candidates. To confirm, you can ask these individuals what they like and don’t like about the company’s culture and why culture matters.
Why do I need a Culture Committee?
Your Culture Committee brings together employees from across the company to provide a more-organized and holistic approach to driving culture change and other culture-focused initiatives. Executives, HR, and Customer Experience leaders can’t change culture on their own; the cross-functional Committee members can help with that. They can facilitate speeding up the transformation because they are your boots on the ground around the company helping the change initiatives move forward and advocating for and promoting culture change organization-wide. They are living the change; they are living the culture. And they are helping to weave fun and wellness into the culture.
How often does the Culture Committee meet?
I’ve seen the cadence vary, for sure. In some companies, the Committee meets every other week; in others, it meets monthly. Early on, they should meet more frequently (i.e., weekly or bi-weekly); as they start to establish how they will work together and what they will do, perhaps the frequency can shift to monthly.
Who attends the meetings?
In addition to the Culture Committee members, typically the head of HR (or the head of People & Culture) attends. The Customer Experience team also has a presence. And, ideally, the CEO will also participate in some of these meetings.
For how long do they serve as Committee members?
Some organizations engage their Culture Committee members for two-year terms. As with the CX Champions, I suggest keeping the initial set of Committee members on the team at least long enough to gain a foothold in the movement or transformation, which tends to be about two years. Subsequent members may be limited to one-year terms to keep the ideas fresh and to give more employees the opportunity to be a part of this Committee.
On what do we need to train the Culture Committee?
Culture Committee members should be trained on what culture is, and they must know what your core values are. Likely, they already know these things, but it’s good to revisit to ensure everyone is on the same page. You might also wa
nt to give them some guide rails within which they can plan events and programs, propose initiatives, etc.
In a nutshell, the Culture Committee will be your culture champions or your culture cheerleaders. They might plan wellness programs and events, company outings, and other fun events inline with the company culture. They might also assist with new employee orientation and onboarding to help indoctrinate new employees into the new culture. And they might suggest developing a culture book similar to what Zappos does every year so that all employees have the opportunity to share what the culture means to them.
In addition to getting feedback from employees around them, the Committee members can also help by answering a few questions themselves, including:
- What does culture mean to you?
- And, more specifically, what does our culture mean to you? How would you describe it to someone outside of the organization?
- Do you believe employees are living the core values?
- If not, what’s keeping them from doing so?
- Ask them to identify something in their daily work that is inconsistent with your core values.
You might also ask them to participate in a culture mapping exercise to understand the culture and what the workplace is like for employees and to identify where improvement opportunities exist.
Suffice it to say there are a lot of ways that the Culture Committee can promote the current culture or help to transform the culture to what you/employees desire and need it to be.
Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first. -Simon Sinek
I'm a little sceptical about this Annette.
Is culture all important – yes
Will a culture committee fix it – yes, if… The CEO drives it
But if your CEO is driving your culture (proactively) then do you really need a culture committee?
Yes… because the CEO can't be everywhere. Also, always good to have a grassroots groundswell to ensure that culture is ultimately owned by the people who live it.