How an employee-led committee can elevate your culture

Executives should embody and spread your company’s core values, but they can’t do it alone. Here’s how—and why—to create a groundswell of internal engagement.

Culture committee tips

Company culture cannot come strictly from HR—nor from any one department.

To create a thriving, employee-centric culture, there must be a grassroots effort among employees—a groundswell of sorts—to create accountability, momentum and widespread buy-in.

That’s where a culture committee comes into play.

What is a culture committee?
A culture committee is a group of cross-functional, diverse employees who regularly meet to identify issues and plan ways to to create a desired culture throughout the organization. Anyone in your organization should be eligible to join, but you should prioritize diversity and inclusion. You want to ensure that no one area of the company has greater influence over culture development than any other.

What traits or qualities do culture committee members have?
Committee members should be role models who embody your core values. Committee members are company advocates who love to talk about where they work and who want to see the business succeed. They are team players who can build relationships with all sorts of colleagues.

Culture committee members are, ideally, excellent communicators who are respected in the workplace.

What does the culture committee do?
Culture committees should work to create a groundswell of support for the culture traits and behaviors you’re keen to spread. Committees do this by:

  • Communicating and modeling your desired values
  • Brainstorming and developing programs, actions and events that support the company’s mission, purpose and values.

Committee-driven programs or events could be fun, educational or wellness-themed events that bring employees together. The committee might even help to define (or revisit) an organization’s core values.

Committee members must be willing to talk to fellow employees. Do workers feel the culture is evolving, or eroding? What’s working? What’s dysfunctional? What matters to staffers?

Raw employee feedback provides crucial information that members can use as proof to push in specific directions. Members may also review insights from employee surveys to identify opportunities to shift behaviors, policies and attitudes.

Of course, executive buy-in and support are crucial. The culture committee should advise and debrief executives on culture matters and initiatives, and executives should review, approve and pony up funding for reasonable requests for resources, programs or events.

How many committee members should there be?
That depends on how many cross-functional departments you have. If you have multiple business units, is there a corporate shared services group you can draw from? However you go about it, be sure to get broad representation.

If you have global office locations, you’ll want to consider worldwide representation.

Who does the committee report to?
Typically, HR will organize and host the committee.

How do you find culture committee members?
You can set desired parameters and then ask for volunteers, or you can accept nominations based on those same parameters.

How else can I identify these folks?
You might already have ideal culture committee candidates in mind. To weed out prospects, you can ask people what they like and don’t like about the company’s current culture. Ask them:

  • What does culture mean to you?
  • What does our culture mean to you? How would you describe it to someone outside the organization?
  • Do you believe employees are living the core values? Do they understand the company’s core values?
  • If not, what’s keeping them from doing so?
  • What’s something in your daily work that is inconsistent with the company’s core values?

Why do I need a culture committee?
Creating a thriving culture takes a team effort. Executives, HR, communicators and customer experience leaders can’t change culture on their own.

Culture change is more meaningful (and sustainable) when it’s driven by a diverse cross-section of empowered employees.

How often should culture committees meet?
It varies. Some meet every other week; others meet monthly.

Early on, culture committees should meet more frequently. As your members gain confidence and momentum, a monthly meeting should suffice.

Who attends the meetings?
In addition to the committee members, typically the head of HR attends—as well as someone from the customer experience team (or a related customer-facing department). Ideally, the CEO or another top executive should participate in at least some of the meetings.

How long do committee members serve?
Some organizations set two-year terms, but it’s up to you. However you divvy up service terms, I suggest keeping the initial set of members on the team at least long enough to gain traction toward initial objectives. This typically takes about two years.

Subsequent members may be limited to one-year terms to keep ideas fresh and to give more employees the chance to participate.

What sort of training should members receive?
Make sure everyone is on the same page regarding roles, responsibilities and chief objectives. You’ll also want to provide guidelines and boundaries for planning events, programs and initiatives.

What’s the true worth of a culture committee?
The idea is to assemble a team of charismatic culture champions and cheerleaders. Your culture committee can assist with employee orientation, and they might even develop a culture book similar to what Zappos does every year.

Creating and empowering such a group can do wonders for employee engagement. Your culture committee can help with culture mapping, which can uncover invaluable insights of what the workplace is really like for employees. This is a great way to identify where employee engagement gaps (and improvement opportunities) exist, and it’s an easy way to empower workers.

Regardless of your company size or industry, it’s worth a try. Creating a culture committee could be the initiative you need to lift morale, increase engagement and discover—and solve—underlying workplace problems.

A version of this post first appeared on CX Journey.

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