In response to the ongoing coronavirus
outbreak and its unprecedented impact to business and employers, i4cp holds
a weekly series of standing calls to help HR leaders navigate this
On i4cp’s December 18, 2020 CHRO/HR
Strategy Action series call, the tables were turned as i4cp CEO and co-founder
Kevin Oakes was interviewed by i4cp Chief Research Officer Kevin Martin,
with an emphasis on Oakes'
forthcoming book, Culture Renovation: 18
Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company (McGraw Hill, 2021). Here are some highlights from the
- Oakes firmly
believes that if you get culture right, business success will follow.
Culture is often seen as an ethereal, amorphous trait of organizations,
one that is difficult to define, measure, or change. So i4cp undertook
research in 2019 to try to determine what makes some companies--only about
15% according to a survey with over 7,000 participants--successful in
changing their culture.
- Oakes noted a
culture-promoting practice at Booz Allen Hamilton, where they give out
representative stones to employees who exhibit each of the company's five
values. Many employees eagerly try to act in ways to collect all five
- Culture changes
are often referred to as a transformation, but in reality it is usually
more of a renovation--keeping some key elements of the culture, while
changing others. For example, often some core tenets or values are
retained, while other aspects of the culture are altered to ready the
organization for the future.
- Oakes emphasized
the importance of taking the time to listen to your workforce in order to
best renovate the culture. As an example of a company that did this, he
talked about the story of T-Mobile and the renovation of their culture
that CEO John Legere led under the "uncarrier" mantra. In
particular, Legere didn't assume he knew everything about their existing
culture and where they needed to change, so he emphasized having an
increased listening strategy.
- Microsoft was one
of the many other companies highlighted in the book. CEO Satya Nadella's
leading of a culture renovation has made a huge difference not only for
Microsoft's employees and customers, but for their ultimate business
outcomes: it has gone from a company widely seen as on the decline, to one
of three most valuable companies by market valuation.
- Nadella didn't
pursue that culture renovation alone of course. In particular, he
partnered with CHRO Kathleen Hogan -- a partnership that is increasingly
common at successful organizations who are focused on culture and who want
to maximize the people aspects of the company. In fact, more corporate
boards are including people leaders to gain that important perspective at
the highest level.
- There is a strong
connection between culture and good leaders and critical leadership
behaviors. In short, the best leaders value and focus on culture.
- Interviews for
the book spanned many levels at organizations, from CEOs to lower-level
leaders and employees. Related to this, an important step in renovating a
culture is to look for the influencers and energizers in the organization,
and ideally leverage Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) as often these
are not the individuals that leaders assume. Similarly, you need to locate
the skeptics and blockers, those that will hinder your desired culture
- About two-thirds
of companies that are successful in renovating their culture determine
upfront metrics to measure their success. Conversely, 90% of companies
that were not successful failed to determine such metrics upfront in the
- To learn more
about the book and the culture renovation research it expands on, see the
i4cp website www.culturerenovation.com.
In addition to this recording, please
see the i4cp Coronavirus Employer Resource Center for new research and next
practices to help address the COVID-19 pandemic.