Developing a Great Corporate Culture: DIY vs Hiring a Pro

By Candace Coleman, CultureWise Content Manager
February 1, 2021

You’ve read some books about corporate culture and maybe attended a webinar to learn more about it. Every source you checked made a convincing argument about the multiple benefits of having a strong organizational culture.

Now you’re sold. A more dynamic culture is what your company needs to push it to the next level.

Which leads you to your first decision: Should I work on improving my company’s culture myself, or do I need to hire professional help?

The answer is…it depends.

This is a question we hear at CultureWise all the time, and we have a lot of information that will help you make the right choice for your company. While we sell a complete system to enhance and operationalize culture that works for many businesses, we understand that our product may not be the right fit for you.

The important thing is that you choose the option that works best for your organization. Several considerations should factor into your decision of whether to go it alone or hire a pro. We’ll break them down in this article.

3 Reasons to Develop your Own Culture Initiative

When you were doing your research, you probably came across examples of companies with great cultures that are thriving. Some of these businesses may have successfully implemented their own culture initiative, and you think you might be able to do the same. You can!  And there may be some compelling reasons to do it on your own.

The top three reasons people choose to DIY are:

  1. Cost
  2. In-house Expertise
  3. Time  

COST 

Deciding to spend money on a new initiative like this is a big step, and cost is the primary reason people hold back.

Let’s face it, when you hire a professional, you’re going to spend some money.

If worrying about the cost of professional help for your culture is going to keep you up at night, you may want to avoid that stress by doing the project on your own.  

IN-HOUSE EXPERTISE 

Every company has people with a variety of talents.

Yours might include people who you think have the appropriate skill sets to develop and implement a great culture initiative for your business. If it does, you may be able to pull this off without hiring a pro.

To help you determine this, we’ll go over the necessary skills later in this article.

TIME

The staff you’ve selected to implement your culture initiative will need the time and capacity to make it a priority.

Your company may be structured in a way that people can be flexible with their responsibilities.

An internal operation might be the right solution for you if your team has sufficient time and energy to make this program successful.

What You’ll Need for a DIY Culture Initiative

If any of the things listed above sound like a description of your company, then tackling this project on your own may be the perfect path for you. But to do it well, and for your culture to have the impact you admire in other companies, you need to do it right.

To activate your culture so that it has the power to transform your company, you should create a systematic approach to integrating it into your team.

The first step is to determine whether you have the internal staff with the capability to conceptualize, develop, and implement your culture initiative.  

There are 4 roles with specific skills or resources that you’ll need someone on your team to fulfill: 

  1. Facilitator
  2. Writer 
  3. Content creator
  4. Project owner

FACILITATOR

Your culture may be built on values that you’ve adopted to inspire your team and want the public to associate with your business. To operationalize your culture, you’ll need to make a list of the behaviors you want your staff to follow that will bring those values to life. 

This list is typically hammered out with your leadership team in one or more brainstorming sessions where everyone’s input can be weighed. Because your perspective is critical, it’s helpful to have someone else facilitate those conversations.

It will be the facilitator’s responsibility to extract ideas from the group and keep things moving along. That way, you can remain focused because your attention isn’t divided between being the meeting leader and a participant.

The facilitator should also be skillful enough to guide the rollout sessions that introduce this set of behaviors to your team members. Effective rollout sessions encourage active participation from your staff. When done well, these sessions energize your team and get the ball rolling on operationalizing your culture.

You may have someone from your training or HR department who would be a good fit for the role of the facilitator.

WRITER

After you’ve developed your list of behaviors, you’ll want to create clear titles and descriptions for each one. These will become part of your company’s vocabulary and will be used to reinforce how you want your people to undertake each task.

For example, at CultureWise, one of our behaviors (we call them Fundamentals) is:

Get Clear on Expectations. Create clarity and avoid misunderstandings by discussing expectations upfront. Set expectations for others and ask when    you’re not clear on what they expect of you. End all meetings with clarity about action items, responsibilities, and due dates.

Notice that the description outlines exactly the kind of actions and attitude it takes to consistently perform this behavior well. A lot of thought went into crafting the best way to convey what we want people to absorb about this, and each of our Fundamentals.

If you’d like some help with this task, CultureWise Consultant Jake Friedman offers a full explanation of how to frame your behaviors in his blog, “How to Write Effective Fundamentals.”

You probably have a healthy list of behaviors that you’d like for your staff to consistently follow. Making them crystal clear will be a top priority in establishing your culture’s operating system. To accomplish this, you’ll need a skilled writer on staff who can craft them with clarity and precision.

While culture isn’t a marketing function, someone in your marketing department may have the writing skills necessary for this task.

CONTENT CREATOR

To get these behaviors to stick, you’ll need to teach them week after week so that they become internalized in each team member. The best way to do that is to develop some tools to help your team leaders be great coaches.

You’ll want to identify someone to create this important content. This person will decide what tools will work for your staff, and then plan, develop, and generate the appropriate materials. This shared curriculum will ensure that everyone on your team understands and executes your behaviors the same way.  

The content creator must be very good at getting information across in an easily understood way. Creating enough content to build an effective curriculum will take some time and should be a primary focus for the person in this role.

If they have the capacity, the person you’ve chosen as the writer could also perform this task.

PROJECT OWNER

Nothing will kill an initiative faster than the lack of a clear owner. As the head of your organization, you have a lot of issues competing for your attention. As much as you’re committed to having an effective culture at your company, somebody else should be tapped to own this initiative.

The job of the project owner is to ensure that the program keeps moving after it’s launched. More importantly, when the newness wears off, they will maintain the drive and focus so your culture initiative doesn’t become the “flavor of the month.”

The project owner will be the point person that your managers can approach for all issues relating to the cultural system you’ve built. They will help sort out issues that arise with team members and work with the content creator when new materials are needed. This individual will also be your source of information about everything relating to the cultural operation.

Often, someone in the HR department will assume this responsibility.

What Do You Think?

You may have great people in your company who would be perfect fits for each of these roles. The question you need to ask yourself is whether they have the time. If you’ve made this culture initiative a priority so it can advance your business, your people can’t just fit it into overloaded schedules. But,

  • If you’re on a tight budget, or this is not the right time to add an expense,  
  • you’ve got people on your team who possess the right skills, and
  • they’ve got space in their schedule they can commit to this initiative,

then tackling this project on your own may be the perfect path for you.

Why Choose a Culture Pro?

Now let’s turn our attention to reasons people hire a professional – whether it’s to paint their house, fix their car, or improve their company’s culture. You hire a pro because:

  • they know how to get a task done and have a proven track record, and/or
  • you don’t have the time or skills to get the job accomplished.

There are five things that corporate culture professionals offer that might make you consider going that route instead of taking the project on by yourself.

Professionals bring:   

  • Experience
  • Focus
  • Facilitation Skills
  • Writing Skills
  • Content and Tools

Here’s why these attributes might make a difference to you.

EXPERIENCE

A mechanic who has repaired hundreds of engines is more likely to do a better job fixing your car than you would after watching a YouTube video. You might do an adequate job, but the mechanic’s experience could mean the difference between your car operating reasonably well or running like new.

If you choose to hire a professional to help you with your company’s culture initiative, you won’t endure the pitfalls and mistakes every novice makes. You can take advantage of their knowledge and expertise and you won’t have to reinvent the wheel because you can leverage the assets they bring to the table.

FOCUS

How many initiatives have you started and then abandoned when the crush of day-to-day issues took over? No matter how important the new initiative may be, there are only so many hours in every day. There’s no point in trying to operationalize your company’s culture if you only devote attention to it when you have “extra” time. It just won’t work.  

A professional can bring the focus and accountability necessary to make sure the project gets completed. They won’t be distracted by the pressures of running your business, so they can remain zeroed in on making your culture successful. Their only responsibility will be to make sure your culture is fully implemented and improving your organization.

FACILITATION SKILLS    

To activate your company’s culture, you’ll need to articulate the behaviors that will drive your company’s success. As mentioned above, that will involve brainstorming sessions where you and your team can develop a list of preferred behaviors.

A professional facilitator would allow you to fully engage in this process without having to keep one eye on where the meetings are going and keep track of everyone’s ideas. They direct the flow of conversation, drive participation, and then distill all the input so an actionable plan can be developed.

WRITING SKILLS  

The right professional adds a level of writing skill that may not exist in your company. 

And word choice is very important because the goal is to create a common language that can be clearly understood by everyone on your staff.

CONTENT AND TOOLS  

We noted earlier the importance of creating the curriculum to teach your culture with consistency. A skilled professional can bring that educational content and provide the tools to help you deliver it.  

How Would an Outsider Get What We Do?

There’s one other question people ask when they’re trying to make this decision:

“No one can know our culture as well as we do, so doesn’t this need to come from us?”

The truth is that no one will know your culture like you do. But that’s not a good reason to choose to do it on your own.  

Think of it this way. If you plan to build a new home, no one will understand your needs, dreams, and desires as you do. But a good architect would know how to translate those dreams into a set of drawings. And they’d have the skills and experience to oversee the project and turn those drawings into the building you envisioned. That’s what professionals do.

It’s the same thing with your culture. It’s not the professional’s job to tell you what your culture should be, just like it’s not the architect’s job to tell you what kind of house you should build. 

Their job is to translate your vision about your culture and then bring it to life.

Culture Decision Time

Here’s the bottom line. 

There’s no right or wrong way to do this. It’s more a question of what feels appropriate for you, given your company’s resources and skills. Whether you do it yourself or hire a pro, few things are going to have more impact on your success than creating a true operating system for your culture.

If you’ve decided you want to implement a culture initiative on your own, one of the best resources to guide you through the process is Culture by Design by David Friedman, CultureWise founder and CEO. This book is an excellent “how-to” manual with simple, practical steps to improve and operationalize your culture.

Or, if you’ve decided that you need some help after assessing your company’s resources, CultureWise may be exactly what you need. Our complete operating system for culture has helped hundreds of companies become more successful.

CultureWise has two options that let you choose the level of professional involvement for this project. Both include a powerful mobile app and a vast library of teaching content.

The Standard Edition is almost a blend of the DIY approach and hiring an expert. It offers all the tools necessary to successfully implement the renowned CultureWise system on your own. And it comes with unlimited phone support.

The Custom Edition is a fully facilitated process of integrating CultureWise into your company, led by an expert consultant. They write Fundamentals tailored to your company, help you establish the appropriate rituals, conduct the rollout sessions, and guide you through every step of the process.

Send an email to info@CultureWise.com if you’d like more information about either option or help with making the right decision for your company.