Do You Need a Culture Council?
Culture doesn’t just happen at an organization. Well, it will “just happen,” but it will likely happen in a way you neither want it nor need it to happen. Culture is an active, evolving entity - an ecosystem, if you must - that should be measured, analyzed, and managed. Managed just like we would any other really important operating system in our business. One of the best ways to do so is to establish a group tasked with guiding a culture as a company grows — and that’s just what Ed Baldwin, vice president of human resources at CW Hemp, has done.
Founded by a tight-knit group of seven brothers, the company develops high-CBD strains of hemp extract for use in improving people’s lives. “CW” stands for “Charlotte’s Web,” named after a young girl with epilepsy who was experiencing multiple devastating seizures a day. After using the extract, her seizures abated, and a company was born. Since then, it has grown to encompass more than 170 people in six locations. As the company has grown, the direct impact each of the brothers has on employees and in the company has changed, and Baldwin soon realized it was time to create a formal entity to help preserve the cultural foundations of the company.
“Culture is everything in our organization,” he says. “There’s always been a robust amount of passion and purpose, and the vast majority of people who join want to be a part of that mission. Some elements of culture we want to progress and evolve, but there are some elements people worry might become too corporate, or that we’ll lose the essence of what attracts people to come here.” The council helps shepherd, identify and champion that essence within the company, Baldwin says.
So, does your company need one? Here’s how to tell.
Yes, if You Want to Formally Define Your Culture
What are some of the hallmarks of your culture? Would the ones you list be the same ones your employees do? If you don’t have a formal definition for the culture at your organization, you may find that everyone has a different idea of what it is — and that can make it move in different directions. “Culture is easy to feel but hard to describe, document and define,” Baldwin says. “And it’s a moving target, particularly when the organization has the growth dynamics that we do.”
CW Hemp’s culture is deeply rooted in helping others, and getting access to the founding brothers was easy in the early days. The company started in a small, open space, where people could walk up and down the hall and talk. “Now, we’re so spread out, there isn’t the exposure to the brothers the way there used to be, and that’s a big deal,” Baldwin says. Putting together a council to oversee culture helps “extract” the values that were important to the founders, define them and reinforce them with every new hire, Baldwin says.
Yes, if You Want to Be Strategic About Culture
Being deliberate about culture means measuring it and managing it in a way that helps the bottom line. As a result, CW Hemp’s nine-member culture council is focused on cross-functional middle managers who represent geographically diverse areas, picked by Baldwin and Matt Lindsey, the company’s social responsibility director. “Matt and I identified people who were passionate about culture and try to represent that diversity,” Baldwin says.
The council wants to identify the core concepts and priorities in its culture as well as the company’s social-responsibility outreach efforts, which are connected to its culture, Baldwin says. The council will also help communicate culture ideals internally and externally, and determine the media, tactics and messages about company culture and how employees are experiencing it. And the council will hold the organization accountable to the priorities they will continue to identify and manage.
Yes, if You Plan on Growing or Scaling
Any change affects your culture, but probably none more than growth. “We’re doing a tremendous amount of hiring, and culture pushes out those who don’t fit and attracts those who align with it,” Baldwin says. “But it’s not perfect, especially when you’re in the speed-dating arena known as recruiting.”
Mapping the company’s culture has highlighted the fact that it likes to defend its culture and might be resistant to evolution and change. “But as we grow, our culture has to evolve and
cannot remain the same,” Baldwin says. “We’re doubling or tripling each year. That level of talent infusion and growth is tricky.” As the company grows, there’s a propensity for people in one area to assume that if there’s a culture problem, it’s in a different department or location, Baldwin says. A culture council can help serve as a central authority for deciding the best way to keep culture uniform.
“We’ve been an extension of family through the brothers, and we’re trying to reinforce that you’re being adopted into our family,” Baldwin says. “So many companies say that and might think we’re not doing anything unique here with the culture, but the difference is that we really believe it enough that we’re asking people to make this a visible, vocal, and tangible part of their role with the organization; enough that we’re willing to do the work around it; and enough that we’re willing to ask everyone to help us with it.”