In our last article on Culture Works, we addressed why it’s essential for brands to focus on developing a positive culture within their organizations. As we outlined, there is often a triggering event or compelling motivation that pushes a brand to assess their culture, and how they respond can make or break an organization. Whether it’s a corporate crisis, rebrand or simply a shift in a brand’s promise and positioning, some companies wait until the issue of culture bubbles to the surface. Forward-thinking brands are seizing the opportunity to develop not only a response to a particular set of circumstances, but to create a sustainable, ongoing culture program across their organizations.
For most brands, the question is not whether they need an emphasis on culture, but how they develop a program with positive, sustainable outcomes. At Adrenaline, our culture team believes that leadership is essential. Jules Hefley, Vice President and Senior Account Executive, says, “Our first step is to bring the leadership team together in an ideation session. This allows us to get everyone on the same page and gain consensus about not only where they want to go but also a commitment to the culture initiative. To be effective, it really starts at the top and leaders should show they are dedicated to investing in the culture of their organization and recognizing that it's not one-and-done. It always evolves.”
“Productive activities, such as Adrenaline’s ideation sessions, helped our management team pinpoint both our strengths and challenges as an organization. These developmental sessions helped pave the way to a clear understanding of what the roadmap for our new brand needed to be.”
- Lisa Otomo, CMO at UNIFY Financial Credit Union
At an ideation session, the role of an outside culture consultancy like Adrenaline is to uncover and discover the pressing culture issues and develop a realistic and sustainable plan for empowering staff to address them. Jules Hefley says, “Following an ideation, our deliverable is to go back to an organization and say ‘here's what we heard’ and provide recommendations for how to implement a program in digestible pieces, because you can't change things overnight.” The best programs will require ongoing check-ins, benchmarking, training, and culture immersion with key executives and staff. To affect cultural change, sustainment has to be baked in to the process from the outset.
Once key pillars of cultural values are identified and a program is developed, a brand needs to cultivate processes for how it’s going to deploy the program across the organization. Rebecca Doepke, Adrenaline's Director of Culture, says, “We’re helping clients develop a consistent process for improving performance with their team members. It includes everything from on-boarding and how to hold team huddles and meetings to one-on-one coaching and giving feedback. We even cover things like accountability in cross-functional teams. We provide coaching templates for numerous scenarios tailored specifically to a company’s needs to help them develop that brand-wide cultural consistency.”
In an ideal world, a focus on culture would start on day one for every team member. For example, when a new employee starts at a company, people often talk about training that employee, but it’s also critical to have new employees understand what the brand stands for and that their role is a representation of those brand values. In other words, on-boarding. The best culture programs help organizations define employee roles and responsibilities alongside culture immersion. Jules Hefley says, “I think the three key buckets we work in for culture ultimately come down to coaching, mentoring and managing – and understanding the difference between those practices.”
One of the biggest challenges for companies in developing culture programs is recognizing when to seek outside expertise. Executives and staff may be able to identify the culture issues their organization faces, but may not necessarily have the tools, techniques or talent to develop a program to address them. Rebecca Doepke says, “We look at the organization from a holistic point of view. It's not just about one particular initiative. It's not about training on this or fixing that. We look at the organization as a whole – all of its interrelated parts. For example, whether leadership effectiveness is something a company wants to do or not, we are going to look at that because it’s important to the whole organization.”
Another essential area that can be particularly tricky for organizations is putting together a program that ties corporate culture to the overarching brand. According to Rebecca Doepke, “Whether you already have a great brand or are rebranding, alignment to the brand is fundamental and foundational to any culture program. There is a big difference between culture and training. Training is about a specific skillset, whereas culture is aligned to the brand – what it stands for, how it lives out its promise every day. If there isn’t alignment, all other efforts will fall flat. Since we understand the interrelation of brand and culture, we’re in a good position to help brands develop those sustainable programs.”
“The efforts by Adrenaline have helped set the table for the execution of our new brand. From internal culture vision to our communication and engagement with members, we now have clear direction for our next phase of growth and beyond.”
- Lisa Otomo, CMO at UNIFY Financial Credit Union