Why intentional culture creation is about action, not amenities

Hale: Company leaders must be committed to strategic approach to building equitable environment

Pingpong tables in the office are nice. So are unlimited kombucha and coffee.

But, don’t confuse office amenities for company culture. So said Brittany Hale, founder and CEO of BND Consulting Group, a Burlington Township-based firm that helps companies develop their culture by creating authentic identities.

Hale, speaking recently at a nonprofit webinar sponsored by SobelCo entitled, “Culture Can Be Costly: Why You Need Intentional Culture Creation,” said companies need to do more than just create a party atmosphere.

“The presence of an intentional culture runs much deeper — it is a framework for decision-making within an organization that informs needs of the internal community in a meaningful way,” she said. “Fun accommodations contribute to a pleasant atmosphere, but an intentional culture depends on the leaders’ commitment to a strategic approach to building an equitable environment.”

For both corporate business owners and nonprofit leaders, the process of identifying, attracting and retaining extraordinary, diverse talent always has relied on smart, engaged leaders taking responsibility for building and maintaining an intentional culture, Hale said.

Having a strong culture in place enables the organization to consistently recruit the best and brightest team members. In today’s marketplace especially, nurturing a positive culture is an essential benefit. But this important role cannot be handed off to human resources or a “chief culture officer” to accomplish on their own. Instead, creating a supportive, lasting culture must be the objective of every leader, Hale said.

Throughout the virtual presentation, Hale described a three-step process toward success.

  • Step One: It all starts with the organization’s leaders, Hale said. To overcome bias, leaders need to go through a discovery phase, seeking out honest feedback regarding the employee’s experience. By asking critical questions and listening to the responses, they have taken the important first step. By asking the team members to provide insights on what matters most to them, decision-makers can begin to seriously address the most critical issues. It takes leaders with vision and courage to ask tough questions and, at the same time, to provide a safe place for the employees to reply without being judged or fearing retaliation.
  • Step Two: After a culture checkup and assessment have been completed, the leadership group can began working with the employees to establish the company or nonprofit’s goals for structuring an intentional culture, Hale said. Aligning the employees’ concerns and values with the company’s stated goals can be solidified by asking two questions: “How are we doing so far?” and “What do you/we want to accomplish?” This is one of the most difficult aspects of this process, because it relies on complete transparency, curiosity and trust between all the participants.
  • Step Three: The goal is to operationalize the aspirational values of the employees and create an intentional culture based on the knowledge gathered during the first two steps. The employees’ own perspectives and ideals contribute to a strong foundation built intentionally on common beliefs and shared ethics.

All of this sounds good, Hale said, but it won’t take place unless there is buy-in — and accountability at every step.

The leaders of the organization must be willing to invest resources such as financial support, time and talent into developing their people, Hale said. It is the expectation that leaders will actively and enthusiastically support this strategy by providing everyone in the workforce with the opportunity to hone their skills, grow their understanding of the organization and develop the transformational skills to become true leaders.

Hale said the effort will be worth the end result — and that the end result not only will be increased revenue but increased employee engagement. That’s what an intentional culture produces, she said.

Sally Glick, well-known in New Jersey business circles, has become a contributor for ROI-NJ.