Kriegel at REACH: ‘Culture is the Nature of Workplace Humanity’

Jessica Kriegel, author and chief scientist of workplace culture at Culture Partners.
Jessica Kriegel, author and chief scientist of workplace culture at Culture Partners.

“Intentional culture” took center stage during REACH 2022 in Palm Desert, CA as Jessica Kriegel — author and chief scientist of workplace culture at Culture Partners — discussed what workplace and corporate culture really means in today’s world on the last morning of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues’ annual conference.

(View/download conference and event photos from the REACH 2022 Photo Gallery)

“The war for talent is over — and the talent has won,” Kriegel said, noting how defining and developing culture must start at the very top of every company or organization. Also, it doesn’t end at the top since “there is no commonly defined definition of workplace culture today.”

According to surveys, 35 percent of American workers say they would “pass” on the perfect job if they felt the company’s culture wasn’t a good fit for them.

“You could hand your candidate a dream job, and there’s a good chance they’ll pass,” Kriegel said. “What’s more, nearly 70 percent of Americans place greater importance on benefits and corporate culture than on salaries.”

She told credit union leaders that if they are operating in a culture of fear, that’s part of the problem. Today, organizations should start with “equanimity”: staying calm during the storm. For instance, when it comes to today’s fears of an economic recession, most companies and organizations should stay calm and not institute mass layoffs, which only leads to efforts to make up for lost time over the long run.

“But what is culture?,” Kriegel said. “It’s been defined by many as ‘the way we do things around here.’ Or it’s, ‘I know it when I see it.’ Or it’s the ‘complex whole.’ These all sound good, but how do you transform culture when you’re dealing with all of these definitions?”

Culture, one prominent researcher says, is “the smell of the place.” To that, Kriegel added, culture is “the smell test.” There are some companies creating a downtown city culture, but unfortunately they are simultaneously expecting employees to act like they are working in a beautiful forest.

“Culture is not about feelings; it’s not about making people feel happy,” she said. “Leaders who do this are failing to leverage the power of culture to get results. And culture is what gets results.”

It doesn’t take making people happy through setting up ping-pong tables, fun spaces, scheduled nap times, or “thirsty Thursdays.” These don’t drive results.

Instead, culture is the experiences shaping our beliefs, which drive our actions and bring results. The normal course of action for leaders and professionals is to take actions, adopt beliefs, draw conclusions, make assumptions, add meanings, select data, and observe data. However, defining and developing culture is much more than this.

Kriegel gave an inspired perspective on managing and championing culture transformation — that it’s entirely possible, and even simple. She laid out proven steps to cultivate an intentional culture that powers credit union business strategy and accelerates performance.

Culture is much more than meets the eye. “It’s not some cool workplace trick — it is the nature of workplace humanity,” she said.

Stay Engaged During REACH
Attendees and League staff will be sharing photos, comments and memories through Twitter (@CUatREACH), LinkedIn (#CUatREACH), and the REACH 2022 Photo Gallery. 

REACH is one of the credit union industry’s premier annual events, attracting leaders and system partners from across California, Nevada and the United States. This year it’s held from Nov. 1 – 4 at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa in Palm Desert, CA!

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