Excerpted from SHRM Blog By David Kovacovich

We’ve been tackling culture within organizations since the turn of the century when the pendulum began to swing from micro-management to employee empowerment. Companies like Zappos and Google put their brand on the map by offering corporate campuses that resembled summer camps. Suddenly HR was being heard as creators of employee experience as opposed to the employee police. As benefits budgets swelled, compensation and medical support became qualifiers. As we entered 2010, recruitment was driven by office tours by way of scooter.

At some point, Culture started to become an enigma….

How do we measure the ROI of beer pong?

Does everybody want to meet in bean bags chairs?

Let’s explore what we’ve learned and how to improve culture.

Leadership Endorsement

Our CEO’s have jobs that encompass legal debate over ticket items beyond the average pay grade. Most executive discipline exists behind the scenes. Your CEO has larger concerns than keeping every employee happy…. it’s simply an occupational hazard.

…. So then …..

We expect only one thing from our chief executives:

The ability to articulate vision with undeniable confidence to a crowd of millions!

Culture starts with articulation of vision, then it’s the responsibility of unit managers to take the mission into the trenches and tactically apply it.


There are four distinct corners of culture, all of which require technical application:

• Learning
• Gamification
• Collaboration
• Recognition

Events on campus can be a blast, but these experiences need to connect to organizational directives. It does not need to be forced; there simply needs to be a connection from the message to the strategy of implementing it.

Employee training should be direct and limited to five to ten minutes a day. This way, employees get snacks to chew upon in succession that elevate them at their own pace.

Badges, missions, leaderboards and virtual competitions work because individuals have an intrinsic need to compete. Internal competition driven by ego kills culture! Designed on a level playing field, game dynamics can propel every employee to over-exceed their potential. Those who say they care not for competition think differently when they win.

Don’t want to put your employees in the octagon against each other? No problem, you can use gamification to reward contribution in community format. This can be in the form of a blog post, use case sharing or contributions to role assigned skill sets.

I’ve been in the rewards and recognition space for 12 years…. one certain rings true: Cash is an expectation. Rewards that incentivize behavioral development create advancement.

Killing Entitlement

Want to test organizational culture? Ask to sit in on a team meeting before you take a job. If the loudest voice comes from the guy in the back of the room who has consistently been in the bottom 50 percent of performance throughout his ten-year tenure… run for the exits.

No CEO in the world can control the reverberation of negativity in the trenches. It is up to everyone on the team to negate the influence of employees who assume themselves culture regulators.

Managers need to stop allowing interface with negative employees to their new hires. It is further important to limit the interaction in team meetings that drive vision to blindness. If managers allow their worst employees to be the voice of the organization, raising stars will quit and you’ll be left with mediocrity.

When those who cannot control their impulse to criticize are given the conch you create a Culture of Can’t…. the only result is failure!