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Company culture moves to the top of the list for CEOs.

What a year 2020 has been so far. And we’re only just over half-way through it! How’s your company culture holding up?

  • 6 months and counting of a worldwide pandemic. Businesses shut. Opened. And closed again.

  • Ongoing national and global protests demanding change in systemic inequities, leading to talk of significant changes in police practices and conduct, pay, and positional equity. And new laws protecting those who identify as LGBTQ in the workplace.

  • Popular consumer brands renaming and rebranding long-standing household products.

One case in point  – Eskimo Pies.

I remember as a kid, enjoying ice cream bars encased in a scrumptious, milk chocolate shell. Perfect on a hot summer’s day! Had they been called by their original name, ‘Scream Bars’, my love for them likely would have been the same, or perhaps even greater, since as a kid, anything with scream in the name would have likely inspired me to do the same.

In a growing list of popular brands committing to rename products that are now considered culturally insensitive (I would argue they’ve always been culturally insensitive, and it’s only now due to the mounting pressure to change them that it’s become a business imperative), Dryer’s Ice Cream has announced they are discontinuing the name Eskimo Pie for their tasty ice cream treat.

While I applaud them and others for reaching the conclusion that such insensitivities are no longer appropriate, and that the use of culturally insensitive names do not represent what the company says it stands for, I am left with the question of why it’s only now that they’ve chosen to make a change? Why didn’t they make these changes sooner when the reasons cited for making them have been with us for decades?

This isn’t an attempt to shame this or other companies. Any change is better than no change when it comes to eradicating racially discriminatory influences. But what’s niggling at me is the question of to what extent does making a name change affect the collective environment and internal company culture in which it’s existed for all of these years?

Although the original creators of the Eskimo Pie name are long gone from the organization, the sentiment around the name likely continues in some subtle, if not overt, ways within the company. If that weren’t the case, they would have changed the name well before now. That leads me to ask what is being done within these (and any) organizations to not just mitigate the systemic racism that likely exists within their company cultures, but to completely eradicate it?

There is a lot of energy focused on ending racism in the US and elsewhere, but so far it seems like these efforts are directed at the symptoms and not the systemic factors that created them.

Take defunding police services. It is something that’s highly visible and easy to point to as an example of disparate treatment of people of an underserved and underrepresented group. But if the system continues to go unchanged, if the reallocation of funds does not go directly to changing the system, the symptoms may shift, but as we’ve already seen, they will likely continue.

The same is true within organizations. Time and again the same situations lead to calling in a consultant to resolve the issues, but few leaders are willing to make the investment in time, and especially the cost, of exploring and resolving the large-scale systemic issues that created them. Instead, the problems return and the process becomes a repeating, and expensive cycle, costing more in consultant fees, more in employee turnover and the cost of replacement, and more in brand reputation.

If your organization experiences the repetitive issues over and over again, you have a deeper systemic problem within your company that’s pulling the strings. A culture spotlight is a quick and easy way to identify potential problems within your organization based on an outside-in point of view that can then help you identify the cause of the problem(s). Problems that are hindering your company’s ability to excel.

To learn more about what a culture spotlight is and how we can help you and your company email me or call us at +1 952.496.1444

Social changes often create pressure for organizational changes, such as choosing to rebrand what have always been culturally insensitive product names. But making a true change within the culture takes an understanding of what aspects of the business environment allowed those names to persist for so long. Evolving the cultural mindset to align with an improved company identity that truly no longer accepts or tolerates such inequities won’t happen overnight. It will take time. As those shifts take place, we’ll begin to see those companies that lead this change out-perform those in their industry that resisted adapting in favor of maintaining the status quo. Except the status quo is what’s changing.

Your company culture has to evolve.

What was once considered acceptable is not anymore. There is a new normal in creation, and those companies who recognize and act upon that now are the ones who will be leading us into what emerges as the norms of tomorrow.

Where does your company stand? Do you as a leader accept the social changes that are taking place or are you resistant to them or hopeful that they won’t affect you? Are you ready to lead your company to a new more inclusive and equitable future or would you rather take a wait-and-see approach to see what sticks and what doesn’t?

Whether you’re aware of it or not, how you respond to the current social changes are being watched by your employees as well as your customers. Many won’t tell you, but they will in some way, shape or form, show you. And your company culture will reflect your sentiments whether you want it to or not. If you are reluctant to make changes towards a welcoming and inclusive environment, then it’s likely the current environment is neither of those things now.

When you’re ready to make a change, doing so on-the-fly often creates bigger problems. It is important to know at the forefront of any culture or organization change what will take the place of what’s there now. When the current way isn’t serving, making a change without knowing the desired outcome invites more of what is, only in a slightly different form. When you truly want a systemic change to occur, the more you involve all stakeholders – not just key decision-makers – in the design of the desired outcome, the more buy-in, effective your communications, and smoother the transition for all involved with be. 

If traversing the world of change is outside of your comfort zone, let us help you. Performance, culture, and change are our things, allowing you to focus on yours.

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