To develop a strong culture, build and support a dedicated committee

A panel of diverse employees—spanning all departments and generations—can build an esprit de corps that advances your business objectives. Include these five crucial elements.

Conceptions of company culture are changing.

Many companies recognize the importance of senior management and proactive champions in driving culture, but just as many push the work off to HR. When just one department in the company is driving key initiatives, the well of ideas can dry up quickly.

The need for a more holistic, organized and thoughtful approach is clear. If culture is to be strategic, it needs more input, collaboration and co-creation from the people it’s supposed to be helping.

Enter the company culture committee.

Culture committees are cross-functional teams that discuss, plan and drive all company culture matters. They generate employee buy-in for culture organically, because employees are building it. They help the company’s central principles and values permeate the day-to-day work experience.

Strong company cultures have a competitive edge because they produce more engaged employees. In a study analyzing more than 110,000 engagement surveys over 10 years, companies with engaged cultures saw up to 30 percent greater levels of customer satisfaction.

Committees counteract one of culture’s biggest threats: stagnancy. They bring together employees from an array of departments, ensuring that new ideas emerge companywide and that no single function exerts too much influence over the direction culture takes.

That alone does not a great company culture committee make, though. Here are five key ingredients for successful culture committees:

1. Representation

Companies that prioritize diversity perform better than those that don’t. Yet to make a difference, those faces and voices must have seats on your committee.

Its makeup should represent the company in every respect possible. Your committee needs diversity across your organizational chart in terms of employee roles, tenure, seniority and departments to ensure everyone has a voice, no matter which floor they work on. You also need diversity regarding age, race and gender to promote inclusivity and a positive atmosphere.

2. Purpose

Company culture isn’t all about bake-offs and team-building events. Every component must be motivated by a clear purpose driven by business needs. Likewise, company culture committees must be purposeful in their actions. Every initiative must be planned with intent and forethought. Sure, things can be planned because they’re fun, but your committee should have a solid understanding of the bigger function these initiatives serve.

To an outsider, a committee-organized food drive might look like a plain old food drive. From the committee’s perspective, it invokes employees’ compassion and altruism—feelings that make work more meaningful and engender company loyalty.

3. Leadership buy-in

Sometimes you need a budget (usually a small one) to run culture initiatives, but leaders’ support amounts to more than deep pockets.

The employees on the committee have obligations to their professional roles. Their effort for the spirit of culture is discretionary. Support from leaders validates the committee’s work, showing approval of their time and effort toward the betterment of the culture. The power of that recognition can’t come from anybody else.

4. Commitment

It’s easier to see the committee’s output than its input. A committee embedded in the DNA of a company’s culture might have its fingerprints on everything from team-building events to core value statements to onboarding. That all takes time and effort.

Part of HR’s job will be to communicate that time investment up front. There should be no shame in turning down someone who isn’t the right fit. If a committee member can’t (or won’t) put in the requisite effort that the staff deserves, it will limit what you can accomplish.

5 Curation and iteration

Your committee could be full of dedicated culture champions, but they must offer fresh proposals. Stagnancy is still a risk, even when you have plenty of contributors. Culture thrives on new ideas and the buoyancy of creative thinking. Enact policies to ensure that no one member wears out their stay and so fresh blood can rotate in.

Consider term limits. Perhaps each member serves 12 months but has the option to participate in multiple and consecutive terms. At the same time, encourage other employees to reach out to managers if they wish to join. The leadership team then determines nominations and committee membership.

Rob Seay is the HR director for Bonfyre. A version of this post first appeared on the Gather Around blog.

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