In late September, about 100 HR leaders from across North America gathered in the historic Concert Hall at McLean & Company’s Toronto offices for our Signature 2018 event. This year’s overarching theme was organizational culture, and there was so much great discussion, learning, and sharing that the McLean team is still buzzing about it!
Some key themes emerged from the nine keynotes, five think tank sessions, two workshops, and a lively CHRO panel:
- Culture is more important than ever, with tightening labor markets, the shifting business landscape, and employees increasingly expecting a work experience that matches their heightened experiences in the customer world. As Tchernavia Rocker, the CHRO of Harley-Davidson, said: “Now is not the time to step back, but to clamp down even harder to fight for people and the employee experience.”
- Culture is not “just an HR thing,” it is a company thing. Executive support for, and modelling of, the culture is critical. HR has a big role to play in supporting the senior team in holding leaders to account for this. One attendee shared a story about a defining moment for their organization – their CEO let a top-performing executive go because that person’s behavior was out of line with the target culture. This was a huge reinforcement, right from the top, of the desired culture.
- Organizational cultures are unique. “It’s not about keeping up with the Joneses,” as Tamara Heimonen, Director of HR Research & Advisory Services here at McLean & Company, said. Design organizational cultures with the organizational strategy in mind and align all HR programs. One innovative example of this came from Cathy Fraser, CHRO of the Mayo Clinic, who shared how their focus on culture extends beyond employees to their families and the community, going so far as to post helpful information and HR policies outside the organizational firewall so non-employees can access it.
- Hold a listening tour, as Sharon Ramalho did when she took on the Chief People Officer role at McDonald’s Canada, speaking with directly employees across the organization to hear what matters to them when it comes to the culture and employee experience.
- “Crowd out old habits with the new.” – Cathy Fraser, CHRO of the Mayo Clinic, shared that trying to stop the old habits of employees (and leaders) is too hard; rather she advocates introducing new habits and focusing on those.
- Leverage influential employees as cultural ambassadors. Matt Bertman, Director of Leadership and Organization Development at Amerisure Insurance Company, shared how they identify, train, and engage influential employees as cultural ambassadors in the recruitment process as part of their employer branding efforts.
- When it comes to building resiliency into the culture, start by developing the HR team’s own resilience. HR professionals often occupy a highly visible place in an organization, and employees look to them to model resilience and other culturally aligned behaviors.
“You can’t do it without people. No one with an O at the end of their title can do it without people and an incredible culture.”
– Sharon Ramalho, former Chief People Officer, McDonald’s Canada
When it comes to culture, there are a variety of practical actions HR can take. Here are just a few of the many examples that were shared at Signature 2018:
- Rachel Fehl of Caterpillar challenged us all to “Be deliberate and intentional about diversity and inclusion”…both for visible aspects of diversity and for things that are not as visible, in order drive an inclusive culture.
- Train and onboard managers consistently, clearly outlining the behaviors you expect them to exhibit. “For every single person in the organization, the culture of the organization starts with their boss.” (Thomas Tesoro, VP Human Resources, Standard Motor Products)
I’ll leave you with this quote from Tchernavia Rocker that has stuck with many of us here at McLean & Company: “HR should obsess about employees. If Finance can obsess over the numbers and Operations can obsess over the equipment, HR should obsess over the employees.”
Hope you can join us next year for an energizing two days of networking and sharing experiences with other HR leaders at McLean & Company’s Signature 2019 event!
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