A group is meeting with their chief culture officer.

It’s been 13 years since Google added the Chief Culture Officer title to HR head Stacy Sullivan. Since then, companies large and small have inserted a CCO position into their teams to preserve the “sanctity,” as Fortune magazine calls it, of a company’s corporate culture.

Is the addition of a Chief Culture Officer something that more nonprofit organizations need to pay attention to? And why?

Culture Contributes to Tangibles

Most organizations have a hard time defining their culture, for themselves or their employees. But it really isn’t so elusive anymore. There is a body of work on the DNA of workplace culture, how to change or better it, and why it contributes to workplace cohesiveness and employee satisfaction. As the CEO of an organizational development company, I can tell you that much of our business comes from organizations that want help nailing down their corporate culture.

A Chief Culture Officer (CCO) would oversee and manage an organization’s culture – and even define it if your organization needs to start from ground zero to create a good workplace culture. What’s really important to understand, however, is that for nonprofit organizations whose sustainability is tied to maintaining a slim bottom-line, corporate culture can be a huge deal.

The refinement of talent data analytics has bridged the connection between employees and dollar outcomes. We know that employee engagement is a response to behavior in the workplace (i.e., organizational culture), and engagement or the lack of it affects absenteeism, performance, productivity, and other measurable components that impact the bottom line. Employees connected to and supported by their organization’s culture fare better – and so does the organization, by saving money through less rehiring, retraining, and loss of productivity from turnover.

Talent and Outcomes

Nonprofits have just as much at stake as any organization in getting the talent piece of the puzzle right. Smart leaders know that investing in employees always positively affects an organization’s outcomes – not only in measurable recruitment, retention, and productivity, but also in performance skills that can project an organizational culture externally. That external reflection of culture is often what successfully draws donors and funders.

A CCO, then, hand in hand with talent management, manages the organization’s relationship with its community of stakeholders.

Relationships that support organizational outcomes can mean many things, depending on the scope of your organization. Some examples are:

  • Boots-on-the ground culture ambassadors who connect well with donors in small communities
  • Employees with the sophistication to make cultural connections with funders from national or global organizations
  • Grant writers who understand how to wrap proposal language in a blanket of corporate culture that appeals to target grant makers

Something to Consider

Author Stephanie Neal of DDI World, an international leadership development consultancy, says, “Whether or not a culture has been intentionally designed, it can either advance or disintegrate a company’s reputation and success, based on how well employees thrive (or don’t thrive) in their environment.”

If your organization is embarking on self-examination, it’s appropriate to view your culture as a potential source for improvement. You may also want to consider if you could benefit from the oversight of a Chief Culture Officer – the fulfillment of your mission may depend on it.


Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash