Who Owns Culture?

At Chromium we say that a company needs both a strong brand and a strong culture, united by a central strategy, in order to grow to the fullest potential.

The value that brand provides is pretty well understood, which is why brand strategy is often owned by the C-Suite, either by the CMO or the CEO. While there are brand managers within the marketing department, the work they do tends towards tactical support of the strategic initiatives set by leadership. With culture, the strategic value has not been as fully embraced by leadership, so ownership often defaults to the HR department, and is even handed entirely to mid-level managers there. After all, they deal with people, and people are what make up a culture, right?

There’s actually much more to a culture than just the people, though the people are certainly an essential component. If we look at what comprises a culture in the real world, we see not just a group of people who choose to congregate together, but also the rules they choose to abide by; The behaviors they think are acceptable; The language they use; The symbols they adopt; The infrastructure they build and maintain; The artifacts they deem important enough to protect for future generations.

In other words, there’s a lot more to culture than just the people, which is why at Chromium we believe that while HR has a role in defining and nurturing culture, the ultimate ownership and responsibility for building and maintaining culture should be the domain of leadership as it is for brand. This might be the CEO, it might be the CPO if they are innovative in their thinking and approach, or it could be an entirely new role, the Chief Culture Officer or CCO.

Culture should be of great strategic interest to the C-Suite, given its effect on both the top and bottom lines as well as for the vital innovation that can only come from a vibrant, healthy culture. That it currently does not enjoy that status is something we’re actively working to change, as we have seen firsthand the multiplier effect enjoyed by companies that give equal leadership attention to both brand and culture.

Photo Attribute: soluto.com/Creative Commons

Tagged with: