RIP Leonard Nimoy, the actor who brought Star Trek’s Spock to life. Nimoy’s characterization of the Vulcan-human hybrid turned him into the moral compass of the Enterprise — and the enterprise. Despite his internal conflicts, Spock was the invaluable right hand to Captain Kirk.
The Enterprise was its own organization, predictive of today’s world of work: global, multigenerational, never-a-dull-moment, constantly disrupted (Oncoming!), and led by a brilliant, stubborn, charismatic captain / CEO. Seen in that light, Spock was a Chief Culture Officer (CCO), and he set the bar high. His judgment calls bolstered Kirk’s bravado decision-making and (often) reassured the crew. His sense of logic was grounding, aligning the mission, the task at hand, and the values of the ship — in short, the company culture.
Here are the top four advantages a Chief Cultural Officer bring to an organization:
Bring HR to the C suite
No matter the best intentions of HR to forge talent strategy, the C-Suite’s part is critical. And yes, we are hearing a lot lately about CEOs re-shaping the company culture to embrace the well-being of their workforce (not just to be a good person; it drives profits too). But not every CEO is going to have the brainspace or, let’s be honest, the desire to make it happen. A CCO would be able to make sure talent strategies are aligned with mission, all the way from recruitment to succession.
Represent the Mission
The many facets that go into a company culture include mission, purpose, values, and an authentic story. With the latter, all the others seem empty. Authenticity, however, is tricky. It requires a presence, a clear voice, a figurehead (as opposed to a talking head) with three dimensions. The CCO is that presence, representing mission, and identifying, shaping, and retelling the firm’s narrative as a part of its ongoing culture. As such, the CCO keeps employees engaged and aligned with mission.
Provide an Even Keel
Geographic shifts, tech innovations, the surge to cloud and mobile, profound changes in the way we communicate, economic factors — the highly disruptive environment of work today requires an even keel, a way to rebalance strategic planning. A CCO can ensure an organization’s culture isn’t compromised as operations adjust, and can keep that culture building.
Just what a company culture is has been subject to endless debate, yes. But here, a CEO’s concept has been the driving force too many times, and often, ineffective, resulting in hiring missteps, talent gaps, and a host of other issues. Yes, Google has foosball tables, but it also has a lot more. What tech firms have shown all of us is that architecture certainly enhances employee satisfaction, but it’s not enough. It’s the depth and scope of a culture, and that culture’s ability to join boardroom and operations, recruitment and brand. That takes dedication. That takes a Spock.
The goal of most companies is to Live Long and Prosper. We’ll survive by having a strong cultural core that encompasses a strong mission and translates into a productive, highly engaged workplace, as well as an authentically appealing brand. The time has come to make that part of the C-Suite. But make no mistake: it’s a full-time job.
A version of this was first posted on Forbes.
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