The term chief culture officer gained notoriety in 2006 when the title was given to Stacy Sullivan, head of HR at Google. With Google growing leaps and bounds, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin wanted Google employees to stay, well, Google-y. Sullivan was tasked with keeping the culture one of innovation, collaboration and selflessness.
Since then, many companies followed suit, designating time, money and people to creating and maintaining culture.
The important question here—are you, as the founder, attending to the culture of your company? Someone should be.
Why a Chief Culture Officer in Female-Founded Tech Companies?
A business doesn’t grow without people…attracting, hiring and retaining the right people.
And where people are, a culture exists. It can be a well-crafted one that embodies the mission of the company, or it can be left to form on its own, much like a patch of weeds with scraggly blades pointing in all directions.
“If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening.” Edgar Schein, professor at MIT Sloan School of Management
It is no secret that female founders are vastly outnumbered in the tech field. Rather than focus on deficits, how about we create an ecosystem using insights that give you a competitive advantage as we transition from early stage into future stages of growth?
For all the female tech founders creating a great cultures, what if you could go beyond breaking the “glass ceiling?” With an ecosystem, we could explode the glass ceiling…creating companies so audacious, so innovative and so collaborative that the right people seek your company for employment.
If you want other women (and men) to join your quest, the culture of your company is crucial for growth. Culture must be defined, cultivated and strengthened.
This is where the mindset of a Chief Culture Officer comes in.
The Role of the Chief Culture Officer
Different titles like Chief People Officer, Culture Coordinator and Director of People and Culture are sometimes used. But the idea is similar—this leader is tasked with taking care of the people that take care of the company.
Google’s Stacy Sullivan describes her job, “I work with employees around the world to figure out ways to maintain and enhance and develop our culture and how to keep the core values we had in the very beginning…”
Someone who acts as the company’s Chief Culture Officer spends time talking with employees, listening in on team meetings, creating and implementing initiatives that promote the company’s principles, analyzing employee-satisfaction surveys and understanding the business’s strategic plans and how employees fit into those plans.
Company Culture Defined
A business’s culture encompasses how the organization respects and interacts with its employees, clients, society as a whole and the environment.
Culture is more than company picnics, a Thanksgiving lunch in November, a foosball table in the break room and a 5K run. It is more than the day-to-day tasks of the HR department too. Mallory Maske, the director of people and culture for 5 years at Rubicon Project states, “What culture truly is, is not happy hour, not free pizza—those are all elements of a strategy of a culture.”
Company culture is a defined set of core values that permeates all aspects of the business. It is both simple and complex.
You Are the Chief Culture Officer
The good news…as the founder, you are your company’s first Chief Culture Officer. You help to create the company’s culture from the outset.
The bad news…as the founder, you are the long-standing Chief Culture Officer in the company, even if someone else officially holds the title. You juggle many responsibilities, and attending to the company’s culture must be on the list as well. Hiring someone for this role doesn’t negate your responsibility.
The Bottom Line
Almost 27% of the 430 female founder CEOs surveyed in the 2017 Business Outlook Survey reported that culture would be the most significant aspect in their growth plans for 2017.
And nearly a quarter of those women stated that “the biggest bottom-line threat is finding and retaining quality employees.”
Growth is about people. A company’s strategic growth plans are only as good as the people who are in place and capable of implementing them—and, why developing a robust talent acquisition and retention strategy is critical.
As Peter Drucker summarized so efficiently, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
The cost of creating a culture while scaling is very high. If you want to grow your company with velocity, protect the culture you are committed to so that you have a reliable foundation for growth.
The talent you worked so hard to attract and retain, are future leaders who can attract and retain others as you scale.
This blog written by Rachel Eubanks and Lynn Miller.