CHRO Action Recording: The CHRO's Role During a Culture Renovation - 12/18/20


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 unpredictable time. 

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 call:

  • 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 stones.
  • 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 changes.
  • 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 process.
  • To learn more about the book and the culture renovation research it expands on, see the i4cp website

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.


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