The Culture Equation

Town Hall Insights
Southern California CHRO Community

Dr. Jessica Kriegel

Chief Scientist of Workplace Culture

Culture Partners


Grace Lee

EVP, Chief Human Resources and Diversity Officer



Chris Courneen

Vice President, Global Head of HR

MSI Surfaces


Melinda Kimbro

Chief People Officer

Alignment Healthcare


CHROs know the value of a strong organizational culture, but continuous disruption is altering how it is defined, implemented and experienced by the workforce. Currently, the most pressing factors putting a strain on culture are the economic landscape, changing workplace environment and a surge in business transformation, and according to Gartner, “During times of significant change, over 80% of employees experience ‘cultural tensions’ or competing priorities they don’t know how to balance.”

HR leaders are unyielding in their efforts to keep culture alive during these times, and recently, CHROs in the Southern California Community came together for a town hall to discuss how they can be better leaders of cultural change. 

The program was moderated by Dr. Jessica Kriegel, Chief Scientist of Workplace Culture at Culture Partners. Co-Chair of the community Grace Lee, EVP Chief Human Resources and Diversity Officer at Lumentum and Governing Body Members Chris Courneen, Vice President, Global Head of HR at MSI Surfaces, and Melinda Kimbro, Chief People Officer at Alignment Healthcare helped guide the conversations as discussion leaders.

Championing the Cultural Equation

Dr. Kriegel kicked off the program by asking the question, “Does culture actually drive business results?” She presented Culture Partner’s latest research performed in conjunction with Stanford University where they studied hundreds of companies over the course of three years to answer this question. They found that organizations cannot achieve transformational results without a strong culture, and those with strong cultures are driving four times the revenue growth as those with weak cultures.

For CHROs struggling in this area, Dr. Kriegel stated that it is important to understand the difference between perks and culture. Leadership retreats and ping pong tables are perks that can make some employees happy, but they’re not going to drive results. CHROs need to align their culture to their purpose and strategy to achieve desired outcomes, and she detailed how this works through their validated framework called the Results Pyramid:

  1. Results (top of the pyramid)
  2. Actions
  3. Beliefs
  4. Experiences (foundation of the pyramid)

The research states, “Employee experiences influence perceptions, which determine beliefs. Beliefs influence behavior, which drives actions. Actions are influenced by intentions and end up driving business results. To change results, experiences must be changed first.”

Often when businesses are not performing, they change their actions (strategy) until they do so, and Dr. Kriegel called this the “Action Trap.” Their research shows that businesses caught in this cycle see less growth than businesses that address their experiences and culture instead.

Dr. Kriegel shared steps CHROs can take to activate this pyramid to their advantage, and then the participants gathered in small groups to further discuss how they can build intentional cultures to drive revenue growth.

Here, we share their key takeaways:

  • Culture should be a business priority.
    CHROs expressed how culture “requires engagement across the organization,” and it cannot solely be the responsibility of the HR function. A benefit of the past few years is that people from outside of HR became culture champions, especially during the pandemic and with the move to hybrid work environments, and HR leaders need to keep that momentum going.

  • Culture must be intentional.
    One CHRO said, “Culture by default happens more than it should. The intentionality and strategy behind it needs to be there.” Another HR leader added that although culture is constantly evolving, it is important to identify a core, centralized value system and build a culture that supports that core. They added, “This may help reduce tensions around changing cultures.”

    A few participants described how they are embedding culture into their business, including through recognition programs, thank you cards and peer-to-peer recognition. One CHRO shared that they have a “purpose month” where employees discuss their personal and organizational beliefs in a virtual environment. They said this is helping to bridge some of the cultural gaps they were experiencing in their hybrid workplace.
  • Track and measure your success.
    As mentioned in Dr. Kriegel’s research, the CHROs discussed how they can measure if their culture is influencing their overall business results. In addition, another CHRO proposed looking at existing data, but from a different, cultural lens. They said, “There are so many ways to think about and measure culture, and some are data points we already have that we are not looking at with a culture lens. We can use data already available to us.”

The Southern California CHRO Community will be continuing this conversation at their annual Executive Summit on December 7, 2023. If you’d like to participate, apply to join the community and register for the program here.

Not in Southern California? Evanta, a Gartner Company, has regional CHRO communities all over the world. Apply to join your local CHRO community, and connect with like-minded HR leaders on the mission critical priorities impacting your role.

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