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Culture is a big deal, but who “owns” it in a company? Can culture truly change or be “fixed”? Just how does culture change? If you’ve ever wondered about or struggled with issues around organizational culture, your company may benefit from a culture committee. Read on to learn more.

What Is a Culture Committee?

A culture committee is a cross-functional team of employees formed to ensure that different voices within the company are heard when decisions that impact workers are made. They are not responsible for company culture in itself. They are not responsible for “fixing” culture. That responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of executive leadership.

This committee can be considered a catalyst for change. It works to discuss, plan, and drive most issues that relate to company culture. It will be differently sized and structured, and focus on different things, based on the company’s size, the budget allotted, and levels of employee engagement.

Why Is a Culture Committee Important?

A culture committee can be important to a company for several reasons. Below are just some of the key benefits of having a culture committee.

  • Eyes and ears. Committee members can serve as your “boots on the ground” support in hearing and seeing how employees are truly feeling about their work, their managers, company direction, working conditions, or just about anything else.
  • Different perspectives. Executive leadership isn’t always right. Having a grassroots perspective about changes that impact employees could have a huge impact on their success.
  • Source new ideas. The best ideas often come from employees. A culture committee represents a formalized way to garner a continuous stream of new and fresh ideas.
  • Create buy-in. People adopt change more quickly when they have input. Prior to new processes or policies being rolled out, a culture committee can be sourced for input, feedback, and commitment from the employee base.

The Responsibilities of a Culture Committee

Remember that culture is actually an outcome of “how” things get done and serves to drive employee productivity, not the other way around.

Therefore, by focusing on “how” things get done and what things are important focal points, a culture committee can inspire change through the executive leadership team. Their work can touch a lot of areas in a company; here are a few of their responsibilities.

Review and Fine-tune Company Values

Values are at the core of how things get done. These are the behaviors espoused by the company both aspirationally and in actuality. The committee can determine the connection and relevance current values have with the employee base.

Act as Change Catalyst

While the committee doesn’t own the culture itself (that continues to be a product of employee engagement and productivity) they certainly can and should recommend changes to their executive sponsor and the executive leadership team. They need to be the active “voice of the people” and break down the barriers to change, not just a data repository for employees’ feelings.

Recognize and Celebrate Progress

Each time small goals are met is an opportunity to celebrate progress towards their ideal culture. This could include team-building events, anniversary or birthday celebrations, or even friendly competitions between departments.

Support External Employer Branding

An active culture committee can be a boon to the recruitment process. The candidate and onboarding experiences are areas where a culture committee can have a meaningful impact.

Additionally, investors may look to a culture committee’s work to make assessments on the executive leadership team and the company itself, particularly when combined with other metrics like revenue per employee or turnover.

How to Start a Culture Committee

Convinced your company needs a culture committee? Take the following steps to be on your way.

Step 1: Leadership Support

Without executive sponsorship, a culture committee will likely fail. A key member of the executive team—ideally the CEO or CHRO—should be the champion of this group. Your sponsor should be committed to sharing your findings with the company both formally and informally on a recurring basis. Goals and accomplishments should be a standing part of the executive updates. Make sure leadership is willing and committed to driving change recommendations forward.

Step 2: Be Diverse

Understand the various groups that need representation in your company. Female supervisors, administrative staff, long-tenure, and new employees, and ethnic groups are just a few examples.

Step 3: Volunteers

Your first members should be volunteers. Take advantage of the employees who already have a natural passion around bettering the company for employees. From there, based on your demographics, determine what voices may be underrepresented. Approach people you feel may add value, and be prepared to tell them why.

Step 4: Create a Budget

Determine a budget that will allow the committee to conduct a few events throughout the year. Even a small budget can be stretched to meet financial constraints: enough for coffee and pastries for sets of focus groups, or a pizza lunch to celebrate great results.

Step 5: Create a Charter and Set Process

Use a template (several are available online for free) to codify why the committee exists and how it will operate. Determine how long members will serve and how and when they will roll on/off the committee. Have all rules of engagement set in writing.

Step 6: Create Goals and a Stewardship Plan

Once your charter has been created, your committee goals should be captured and a process created for how, when, how often, and by whom your progress will be shared with your executive sponsor. Your progress should be reported to your sponsor at least the number of times they have formal updates due to their executive leadership team: if your sponsor reports to the leadership team or the company every quarter, then so should your committee. Remember, you want your committee’s update to become a part of the formal overall leadership update.

Qualities of a Great Culture Committee Member

This group is dedicated to representing all voices of the company and therefore should be composed of all facets of employees across the company. Here are various types of employees that could contribute valuable points of view.

Natural Leaders

These are the people—not always with ‘supervisor’ or ‘manager’ in their title—who altruistically tend to speak up in meetings, influence others, or ask productive and challenging questions about the company. They already have an interest in the way things operate outside of their individual role. They are viewed as leaders by their peers.

The Naysayers

Give consideration to the employees who tend to be most resistant to change, particularly those with longer tenure. While they may not serve best to lead the group, giving them the opportunity to voice the “down” side of things can uncover current cultural barriers that the group can then work to break down. Naysayers can make the most powerful converts when their inclusion is authentic and valued.

Cross-functional

The best committees represent each functional or divisional area on the organizational chart. This serves to mitigate the notion of “silos” occurring between functional areas and can reveal barriers faced in some functions but not in others.

Diverse

The group should represent a mix of all the experiences in the company: tenure, ethnicity, age, and other employee support groups. Consider the diversity of thought as well.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Culture Committee

Best practices indicate that no more than eight employees sit in the culture committee.
Determine what is realistic for your size of company, number of locations, complexity of goals and available budget. A minimum of monthly is recommended, but whatever the frequency, stay committed and consistent.
The culture committee reports to executive leadership: ideally the CEO or the CHRO.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training is helpful to create a baseline of common ground and understanding for the members of a culture committee who are themselves, ideally, very diverse.

Milly Christmann is a high energy, operationally oriented talent management leader with extensive expertise in human resources, sales management, service and operations. She is recognized for collaborating with leaders to achieve their business goals by unleashing the power of an engaged workforce. By using process improvement, technology and strong, impassioned people skills as well as by attracting, developing and retaining top talent, Ms. Christmann drives change that matters.

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