Businesses are increasingly becoming more “creative” when awarding titles to corporate executives. Examples include chief experience officers, chief customer officer, and chief knowledge officers to name a few.
One new leadership position that is gaining traction is the Chief Culture Officer. As the title suggests, the role of the CCO is to keep an eye on the company’s organizational culture and ensure that the company’s strategic vision is being carried out from top to bottom. For many companies, top concerns for a chief culture officer include brand consistency, corporate ethics, and employee compliance.
Google was one of the first companies to appoint a chief culture officer when it bestowed the title on its head of human resources in 2006. The role has grown more important as the company has grown from a search engine provider to a multi-national conglomerate. Other companies with a CCO include Sea World Entertainment Inc. and Zappos.com, Inc.
NJ Businesses Adopt Chief Culture Officers
Locally, a number of businesses across New Jersey are taking steps to address corporate culture. For example, Goya Foods places emphasis on making employees happy, which, in turn, makes them more productive. Accounting firm WithumSmith + Brown, which has several offices in New Jersey, actively monitors its culture.
WithumSmith CEO William “Bill” R. Hagaman told New Jersey Business Magazine
, “Culture is something like a flower: You need to water it, you need to prune it at times, and you need to take care of it. If you don’t, it is just going to wilt and go away. [Corporate culture] is not something of which you can say: ‘We’ve got a great culture, and all of a sudden I can sit back and just let it go.’ We need to be thinking about it every day, regarding how we can make it better.”
While concerns about company culture often arise during mergers and acquisitions
, proponents of the chief culture officer position argue that culture must be continually monitored and cultivated. “Cultures that encourage inappropriate behavior and inhibit change to more appropriate strategies tend to emerge slowly and quietly over a period of years, usually when firms are performing well,” according to John Kotter and James Heskett’s book Corporate Culture and Performance.
“Once these cultures exist, they can be enormously difficult to change because they are often invisible to the people involved, because they help support the existing power structure in the firm.”
However, as positions in the C-suite continue to grow, many are asking where to draw the line. After all, how many “chiefs” can one company have? The bottom-line is that corporate titles should mean something. Without the necessary authority, resources, and infrastructure to support the position, the office of chief culture officer may only serve as a window dressing.
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