The Role of the Chief Culture and Talent Officer in Transformation

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Today’s digital economy is being defined by a new wave of young talent, new business models that are upending traditional companies, emerging social media customer-relationship models and increasing challenges to keep pace with technology and innovation. 

One could argue there’s never been a more challenging time for businesses that need to transform, and to do so quickly. As Chief Culture and Talent Officer at Sprinklr, and previously at a number of high-tech firms such as Qlik Technologies, Allscripts, and Cisco Systems, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside transformational leaders who’ve embraced the “change” agenda, and allowed our Culture and Talent and Human Resources teams to work with them on building transformational journeys to keep their enterprises on the cutting edge. 

And while technologies and tools continue to evolve at an unprecedented pace, there are some fundamental principles around culture that stand the test of time. Namely, people want to be treated with dignity and respect, they want to be a part of something special and bigger than themselves, and they want to feel valued — while being at their best personally and professionally.

If you’re a Chief Culture and Talent Officer faced with the job of transformation, I offer the following five steps as guidance to building a high-performing, values-based culture.

1) Drive Alignment through a Cultural Aspiration Statement and Roadmap (Vision, Mission, Values) —

The first step is to acknowledge that culture is intentional. C-levels have a choice. Let culture evolve organically, or to take control of defining the culture you want and need. My teams and I often start by drafting a cultural aspiration statement that includes a definition on what the C-Suite wants our culture to be, as well as how we want to treat each other. This should be developed in tandem with your company vision, mission and values. At Sprinklr, our culture aspiration statement is that we are customer obsessed, treat each other like family, and take extreme pride in who we are, what we build and what we do. Your company core values, which serve as the guideposts for behaviors, are also a very important part of your plan to build your culture.

In addition, it’s critical that you ensure there is complete understanding and buy-in of your company vision, mission and strategy. We typically deploy a quarterly pulse survey to gauge understanding and then develop specific campaigns such as “Get the Message” or “All In” alignment campaigns that combine online training, social media and real-time measurement to ensure the organization is aligned and moving forward. In many situations, we’ve been successful in aligning more than 90% of the organization to shared principles, values and business understanding.

2) Hire for Culture and Develop Your Talent :

You can’t have a great company if you don’t hire the best people. At Sprinklr, and other companies where I’ve been a part of the leadership team, we build a system of hiring based on our values and cultural fit. And to ensure that fit, we have no fewer than six people conduct values-based interviews to determine how diverse candidates can contribute to our overall vision, mission and strategy. On top of that, we look for people with a high-degree of positivity and people who can solve problems, because we are all in the business of coming up with the best and most innovative solutions. Next, take your training and development agenda to your team members. We’re in the process of developing our leaders around the world so they can bring out the best in their teams and direct reports.

3) Really Understand Your Customers:

As Chief Culture and Talent Officer, you have to have meaningful data that spans global trends, your industry, your candidate pool, and most important, your current population of team members. At Sprinklr, we’ve created an Employee Delight Assurance Program that measures “employee happiness” on a scale of 1-10. Managers engage in weekly 1:1 conversations, and on a monthly basis, roll-up information on direct reports’ overall happiness, along with three recommended actions that managers and team members can work on together to improve that number. One interesting thing we’ve found is that while there are plenty of recommendations for improvement, there is also a real willingness for people to “own” their happiness and exert control over those changes they can immediately make to increase their overall delight.

4) Champion Your Individual Team Members:

To be truly successful in leading company transformations, Cultural and Human Resources leaders need to advocate on behalf of the company team members at the C-level meetings where decisions are being made. One great example at Sprinklr is that we were recently faced with rising healthcare benefits costs across our North American base. After careful analysis, we were faced with two choices: to pass that costs along to our employees, or to come up with an innovative solution that created a win-win. In the end, through great partnership with our CFO, we offered a world-class Wellness option that includes an overall health assessment, and healthy lifestyle plans. Employees who take advantage of this benefit will hold their health-care costs flat for 2019! 

5) Tie it All Together as One Ecosystem: 

True cultural transformation success is achieved when you’ve successfully built an ecosystem of shared beliefs and values that lead to shared behaviors. Further, it occurs when all team members share a common vision for the company and what success looks like. To capture that transformational “holy grail,” cultural leaders need to partner closely not only with the C-Suite, but also their marketing and internal communications functions. These functions are pivotal in reinforcing your brand, bringing clarity through words and actions, and driving campaigns and buy-in around the world. My teams and I typically reinforce our culture through communications and specialized campaigns that drive understanding and action, and are also reinforced by our external-facing activities. One such initiative, 24-4-U — is a program that allows team members to take the day off to focus on their personal development. And this includes any topic – whether related to their job, or not. It’s one way to show how deeply we care about our team members and that’s what culture is all about. It also gives us the platform to share internally, and externally, through social media — the many ways we are making a difference around the world.

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Diane K Adams, Chief Culture and Talent Officer at Sprinklr, Author, Speaker. A global “culture and talent” expert who builds high-performing organizations across technology verticals. Expertise in leading Fortune 500 Human Resources organizations, as, well as consulting, and coaching small business, entrepreneurial ventures, and nonprofits. Prior to that, she had a similar position at McGraw-Hill Education. Prior to McGraw-Hill Education, she led the global human resources organization of Qlik, one of the fastest-growing technology companies in the world with more than 2,300 people around the globe.

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