The Rise of the Company Culture Chief

Posted June 19, 2012

In this job market, culture often can be one of the biggest differentiators for job candidates, or the key to getting a talented employee to want to work for you over another company. So every company, no matter how large or small, has something to say about their culture these days.

Usually a company’s culture is established by the founders or employees who have been with the company since day one. If they’re still there and the company is relatively stable, the culture may be able to manage itself. But when companies grow rapidly and more employees enter the mix, culture needs to be actively managed.

“As you get bigger, you have to be more proactive about defending your culture because there are more people and outside influences,” says Tim Delbrugge, culture chief and chief administrative officer for Welocalize.

After joining Welocalize in 2009, Delbrugge quickly picked up on some of the unhealthier aspects of the organization including politics and the lack of transparency throughout the company.

“I started pushing executives to accept and practice the culture they wanted,” Delbrugge told me. “It’s one thing to have a culture chief for window dressing, but you have to have buy-in from everyone, and the key to that is the CEO. Our CEO has made culture one of our key objectives as an organization.”

Your company may also be on the hunt for a culture chief if executives are looking to sustain and grow a company culture they’ve already built. In 2010, Impact Advisors hired Michael Nutter as its Director of Firm Culture and Associate Satisfaction to help sustain the company’s unique culture and 2 percent turnover rate as the workforce continued to grow.

“Our founders had instilled a culture from day one, but they had the foresight to say, ‘we need someone to work on this full time and continue to grow it to sustain our unique culture’, ” says Nutter.

So, What Does a Culture Chief Look Like?

Maybe your company culture is in need of an intervention. Or perhaps you’re growing rapidly and want to make sure you can sustain the great culture you already have. A culture chief could be your dedicated resource to managing those aspects and more of your company’s culture.

If you’re looking for a culture chief, here are three traits you might look for in a candidate:

Organizational management skills: As organizations grow, leaders often need to restructure teams, budgets and responsibilities. A culture chief who understands how a company’s structure influences its culture could be instrumental in managing culture shifts during times of transitions, even during mergers or acquisitions.

Experience with employment branding: One of your culture chief’s responsibilities should be to help shape the messaging of your company’s mission and values to build a strong employment brand. How prospective applicants and employees perceive your company is critical to instilling your culture internally and communicating it externally as part of your recruiting strategy.

Emotional intelligence: For many companies, the culture chief serves as the eyes and ears of the organization and is a trusted person who employees can consult regarding morale and workplace issues. This person should be able to connect with employees empathetically, and then bring up tough conversations with company leaders as needed.

What other traits would you look for in a culture chief?

Other Articles Written by Jennifer King
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