What Comes First - Ping Pong or Human Resources?

Kristina Finseth

 

I recently came across a Wall Street Journal article centered around startup clichés, and how a few growing companies have gone beyond offering beer fridges, casual dress codes, and ping pong tables. Instead, some companies are giving more oversight and jurisdiction to Human Resources in order to form a strong company culture.

Company culture is under intense scrutiny at the moment with ride-hailing service Uber dominating the headlines due to numerous accusations of sexual harassment and mistreatment. Is Human Resources to blame? Should HR even be responsible for spearheading culture in a company?

HR today has too much on its plate, including Recruiting, HR Development, Benefits, Compensation, Safety, Labor Relations… and now Culture. The proverbial “buck” shouldn’t stop at the CHRO.

While major culture initiatives can be exciting for any HR executive, siloing the initiative to any department has consequences. One worst possible outcome is turning the complex and nuanced exercise of developing a culture into some sort of “checking the boxes” task. Although HR may or may not be well-suited for that sort of work – that is not what builds real culture.

Culture impacts sales performance, revenue, public image, and every other facet of the business. It determines how employees prioritize work, interact with clients and co-workers, and how they perceive themselves and the company they work for. Unless the leadership from each department is on board, committed, and pushing in the same direction – it is impossible to create real transformation in a company.

If these leaders believe that culture is the responsibility of HR, they will never feel the need to take responsibility themselves. That’s why there needs to be close coordination and partnership between HR and the rest of the leadership team to cultivate the right culture for the company.

There are things that HR can and should do to help bring about real change. For one, HR can be a motivating force for getting leadership on board, and convincing them to take responsibility in the first place. Additionally, HR has the right experience and resources to help leadership determine what a great culture should look like, the steps to achieve it, and how to measure it along the way. When the initiatives are complete, employees shouldn’t feel as if HR has checked the last box. They should have the feeling of accomplishment that only comes after putting in the hard work yourself.

Maybe ping pong tables and beer fridges aren’t the greatest indicators of a successful company culture. Asking HR to take on more responsibility (and blame) is not the answer either. Effective culture development and change is only possible when everyone is all-in, leadership supports the initiatives, and HR is allowed to do its job.

--- What do you think about company culture? Who’s responsible for creating a culture?