Source: Can Stock Photo
There is a lot of hype in Silicon Valley about the importance of culture. And while many companies, organizations, MBA programs and execs benefit from using or hiring culture specialists, many others are merely bragging about their "passion" for "culture change" without really doing anything other than replacing "HR" with "People Specialists" or something along those lines.
So, what is a Culture Influencer and why all organizations should get one? Here are my 7 cents:
1. The Culture & Influence of Hierarchy. Everybody agrees how important is a good organizational culture, but the tricky part is that the meaning of "good culture" has changed significantly. During the industrial era, hierarchy and rigid communication were considered indispensable for a business to be successful. It is the entrepreneurs all over the world who have disrupted the organizational cultures and obligate business leaders to rethink leadership and hierarchy, to the point that rigid, highly hierarchical organizations are now doomed to fail.
A Culture Influencer is an individual who has the training, skills and experience to help a culture achieve its full potential. One of the main tasks involves culture building and optimization, so it is crucial that Culture Influencers are skilled at mediating human interactions and relationships, and use specific culture metrics, such as behavior related to power, hierarchy, and uncertainty.
Can you believe that SYSCO says this? (Photo by C. Gheorghe)
2. Culture & HR. Entrepreneurship and technology has been seriously disrupting the organizational system, to the point that even Human Resources admits the importance of treating employees like humans rather than consumable resources. However, as Deloitte points out in its 2015 Global Human Capital Trends research report, the gap between readiness and actual improvement is rather widening. "Business leaders gave HR a D-plus (an average of 1.32 on a five-point scale), while HR departments themselves "rated their teams the equivalent of a C-minus (an average of 1.65 on a five-point scale)".
A Culture Influencer uses his skills and knowledge to adjust and maintain the company culture, by adequately involving all levels employees, avoiding the conflict of interests in which HR staff often gets entangled.
3. The Multicultural Culture. Whether we like it or not, global economy is reaching a complexity that cannot be understood anymore by reading the news during lunch time. Businesses and teams include now people who are born and raised in very different cultures, defined by values and habits that are often misinterpreted or not leveraged properly.
Culture Influencers optimize professional relationships between culturally diverse employees. Their intercultural management skills allow them to assess and integrate employees' cultural values into the organizational culture.
4. Marketing and Culture. Not only that your business is hiring talent from all over the world, which needs to be managed accordingly. But also products and services need to be sold differently according to the culture where they are marketed.
Culture Influencers help your marketing team identify what cultural particularities need to be addressed when promoting your product in a foreign country, as well as what kind of cultural messages have chances to cultural boundaries.
5. Culture & Expats. Expat assignments can be stressful and lead to multiple errors that can cost companies money, time and even legal liability.
Culture Influencers use their people and intercultural skills to coach company founders, managers and HR professionals and help them develop their cultural intelligence. A comprehensive model has to include assessment and coaching of intercultural motivation, knowledge, strategy and behavior.
6. Globalization and Customer Culture in a Network Economy. It used to be easy: throw tons of money into advertising, make lots of noise about your product, and people will buy it. While that might be still true in some remote villages, the reality is that entrepreneurship and social networks have created a clever, informed customer culture.
Culture Influencers can help optimize UX and customer retention, by creating authentic, truthful, transparent and long lasting relationships with brands, products and services.
7. The Culture of Busy. It well known that startups and entrepreneurs experience huge levels of stress while working under pressure and uncertainty.
Culture Influencers are trained to assess and coach execs and employees to create and maintain a low-stress culture, which involves much more than the "balancing life and work" cliche. I have written before about the addiction to busyness and its negative outcomes. The reality is, it's very difficult to make a significant change if a culture glamorizes the concept of being busy.