Spread the culture: What the C-suite needs from HR

By Danone Simpson

CEOs, CFOs and COOs all require specific things from their HR department.

The CEO develops the mission, vision and direction of the company, fine-tuning the key words that express “why” you do what you do and for whom, and then where you are going as a company.

CFOs then have to budget and balance the dreams, and COOs create action plans with every department.

So while the C-suite is busy creating their 20 Mile Marches, per Jim Collins in his book “Great by Choice,” how does all of this truly get to the most important person in the company — the employee?

You don’t want CEOs just espousing this message from their office without ensuring the employees are a part of the planning, whether that’s in an intimate forum for a smaller office or throughout the world for large companies.

Beyond the C-suite, the answer is one of the most important departments — HR, the heart of the company.

Smart Business spoke with Danone Simpson, CEO of Montage Insurance Solutions, about getting your team involved in company planning and ensuring they understand and are committed to the plan, via HR.

Why is employee buy-in important?

Every employee has to understand the mission, purpose and values of the company. They have to want to be a part of the journey.

Zappos.com Inc. CEO Tony Hsieh identifies employees who are not on the same track with his mission and literally pays them to quit. Now, others have joined in such as Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, who offers $2,000 to any new employee that wants to leave, and up to $5,000 for more veteran employees who would prefer to seek employment elsewhere, according to a Huffington Post article.

Even here at Montage Insurance Solutions, employees know that we want to retain people who want to be a part of the team, and they should feel free to move on if that is where they feel they’d be more successful.

Companies today cannot afford to have employees who don’t care or show up just for the paycheck.

So, is creating the right culture the key?

Hsieh understood culture was where he had to start and created an internationally recognized three-day culture boot camp to train other CEOs how he did it. When Zappos was first started, it sounded strange to think of women buying shoes online. Yet today he not only proved the naysayers wrong, he built a profoundly successful business.

In 2011, Jamie Naughton, Zappos’ speaker of the house, spoke at the Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business and Management, where she shared the Zappos value proposition that, “Zappos is committed to WOWing every customer.” At that time they had over 10 million customers to wow.

Naughton clearly understood what Hsieh needed, and she became the courier of that message. She spoke at universities and HR organizations worldwide, ultimately becoming the company’s chief culture ambassador. This is what CEOs, presidents and business owners want and need.

How do you recommend HR help spread the culture?

The HR team should begin with this end in mind and hold no hostages — either the employee joins in or doesn’t.

HR executives who partner with their C-suite are the ones that work to ensure the company’s mission and vision are communicated consistently, from the first interview and continuing often thereafter.

It takes first wanting to be a part of that culture yourself, and then spreading it like wildfire. A company can be dry without a cohesive culture. It takes both ingredients, vision and culture, to create a company that can make a difference in this world — and is on the lips of its employees and customers.

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