As we all know, unhealthy culture can be the undoing of an organization. We watched it play out once again with the employee ultimatum at Twitter and charges of misconduct at Wells Fargo. A failure to act fairly and ethically regarding employees and customers can have huge–and expensive–consequences. And while company leadership is largely responsible for setting and steering company culture, ultimate accountability lies with the board.
But what is the board’s role in establishing a healthy corporate culture? How much involvement is enough, without overstepping boundaries between the board and leadership? How has the board’s role changed over the past decade, and even over just the past couple of years?
In The Board’s Changing Role in Culture, a recent webcast presented by Boardspan partner Teneo and Extraordinary Women on Boards (EWOB), Boardspan CEO Abby Adlerman joined Ginni Rometty, former Chairman, President, and CEO of IBM, and Teresa Clarke, Chairman and CEO of Africa.com to examine how boards today can best contribute to a strong corporate culture and set the Tone at the Top. It was a great discussion, with all three panelists bringing their own unique perspectives and agreeing on some critical best practices.
Here are some of our key takeaways. And if you get a chance, watch the whole thing. There’s a lot of wisdom on culture and boards in a short hour.
Alignment is the starting point
It’s not the board’s job to set and enforce culture; that falls to the CEO and company leadership. But it is the board’s job to oversee how the CEO is approaching and creating culture in the organization. To do so effectively is all about alignment on culture, both within the board and with leadership.
Can you measure culture?
There are metrics that indicate strong culture in an organization: low turnover, employee referrals, high productivity, and more. But there are more intangible ways to gauge the health of a company culture. Boards aren’t responsible for monitoring metrics, but communicating with leadership, and staying informed are critical.
Don’t forget about the culture of the board
A board can’t be effective in guiding an organization if its own culture is unhealthy. Fostering an environment of open communication, healthy conflict, respect, and diversity needs to happen within the board before it can affect positive change outside the board. Assessments and feedback loops go a long way toward bolstering board culture.
Will we see more of the CHRO in the boardroom?
As culture becomes more of a priority, we predict that there will be some shifts in the comp committee to focus more on human capital, and the CHRO will play a role.
Watch the full webcast
Those are some highlights of a rich and valuable discussion on culture with great input from Abby, Ginni, Teresa, and terrific moderation by Micah Alpern, Senior Managing Director at Teneo People Advisory. If you want to see the rest of the webcast, you can find it here. We hope you find it as useful and interesting as we did.
(Photo by Wout Vanacker at Unsplash)