IN THE MIDDLE | career advancement

Building Company Culture: Bringing Everyone on Board

By Alyanna Silvestre
Published October 14, 2021

When we talk about company culture and who exactly is responsible for it, most professionals would think of the C-suite executives and those in the human resources department, but believe it or not, the responsibility no longer revolves around these two groups of professionals alone.

In an HBR article about organizational culture written by author and brand expert Denise Lee Yohn, sticking to the dated approach of culture-building, which only involves the C-level executives and the HR department will no longer work considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the intensified push for DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), and the more competitive war for talent, "Culture has become a strategic priority with impact on the bottom line. It can't just be delegated and compartmentalized anymore."

Building a solid and desirable culture will now take more than just the C-suite executives and the HR department. To develop one, the company must shift to a culture-building approach based on shared responsibility. Three groups must also be on board to create and maintain said culture: the Board of Directors, the middle managers, and all employees in different departments.

In this article, we take a look at the role of these three groups in culture-building and why they are important.

Check out the reasons why company culture can make or break your organization here.

The Board, the Middle Managers, and the People

  • The Board of Directors

The Board of Directors comprises a group of people elected by a company's shareholders to represent their interests and govern the corporation. They are known to have little influence over corporate culture as they don't necessarily take part in the day-to-day company operations. Still, their role is vital because culture-building is no longer just a management issue. After all, culture may become an asset, but it can also create board-level problems and leave damaging effects on the company and its employees, and said problems might include:

  • Low employee engagement.
  • Higher rates of absenteeism.
  • An increase in employee turnover.
  • A bad reputation.

That being said, it makes sense for the board to take on an active role in cultivating a company culture that will work for both employees and the management. As mentioned in Lee Yohn’s article, the board of directors is the one to “guide the definition and development of the desired cultures." They can accomplish this on top of fulfilling their legal duties by pursuing a specific and deeper oversight of the organization's structure—taking great interest in underlying workplace issues, complications with the push for DEI, recruitment and retention rates, and key business and workforce trends. Once familiar with these aspects, the board must always check if the present culture being cultivated is in line with the company’s mission and establish accountabilities for specific actions or inactions.

  • Middle Managers

Middle managers can significantly influence organizational culture despite not being empowered enough the way the C-suite executives are. These leaders, who are often misunderstood and overlooked, act as a liaison between the senior management and the rest of the organization. They know of major organizational objectives, carry out strategies developed by executives, and have a direct impact on the morale of teams under their supervision, the personalities of professionals that the company will be welcoming on board, and the company’s retention rate. In other words, as they work closer to day-to-day operations, customers, and frontline employees, they know better than anyone where the problems are and they are able to make sense of areas of the company that the organization’s senior leaders can’t.

As middle managers, they are the very people to implement culture-building strategies defined by the leaders. Aside from this, they can influence the company's culture by taking care of the employees' wellbeing, providing opportunities for them to grow professionally, and role-modeling the desired culture.

  • Employees

As for the employees themselves, Lee Yohn said that those under the supervision of middle managers are responsible for “providing insights on how the desired culture aligns with or differs from the actual culture, customer perspectives, and employee needs and expectations.”

Basically, the role of employees is to follow the procedures and policies being enforced, provide the upper management with feedback on the existing culture or on the efforts to create one, and hopefully share their ideas on how to make things better at work. Their role is crucial in the shared responsibility approach to culture-building because it will cultivate a culture built with the company’s long-term stability and the employees’ satisfaction in mind.

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