Want to Improve Engagement? Maybe You Need a Chief Culture Officer

Deep inside C-Suites around the world, leadership teams are struggling with the business-critical impact of employee engagement.

The emergence of a new role – the Chief Culture Officer – has appeared as one way in which companies are working to inspire a jovial corporate soul in spite of drearier economic times.

In Lead by Greatness, author David Lapin writes,

Although cultivating a great culture demands a lot of emotional investment, leadership wisdom, and a genuine care for people, it is a financially low-cost investment with a high economic return. This is why great leaders pay attention to it. An authentic culture, at the very soul of a business, is something competitors cannot imitate. Like soul, culture is intangible. Yet given a little inspiration, this intangible commodity can be converted into untold wealth.”

Matching personal values with the company

Companies such as Southwest Airlines, Google, and Zappos share a long history of fostering noteworthy cultures that laud the worth of the employee. E-commerce giant Zappos even created Zappos Insights to showcase the company’s culture and its workforce, including their Culture Elf, Culture Magician, and Culture Fireball to name a few.

When it comes to managing company culture, hiring a Chief Culture Officer doesn’t mean looking for an executive with years of circus experience. In fact, there’s no specific set of characteristics in a CCO that you wouldn’t find in any other C-level leader. Rather, look for candidates whose values match closely with those of the company.

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Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly admits he questioned his fit when he first started. Sitting in his car that first week on the job wearing Hawaiian shorts, buttoned-up Kelly thought that maybe someone was playing a trick on him. He was wrong. It was just Hawaiian shorts day in the office. Nearly 30 years later, Kelly is an integral figure in continuing this culture.

Not every company culture needs to be quite so laid back, however, to successfully manage their culture, companies should:

  • Determine what values are most important to the company. At Hogan, we like employees who have a high hedonism score on their assessment because we like to have fun.
  • Ensure the C-Suite shares most of the company values. It’s central for the C-Suite to be on the same page with the company, even if each one is in a different place on that page.
  • Figure out how to work through employees who may not fit. Zappos goes so far as to offer employees incentives to quit their jobs if it doesn’t work out.
  • Onboard new employees to help them assimilate into the culture. By introducing employees to the culture early, they are more likely to stay engaged and contribute.