HR, Culture and The Corporate Soul

HR, Culture and the Corporate Soul

The HR world has certainly changed since I joined the workforce over 35 years ago.  Back then, HR, was referred to as the Personnel Department.  Because of the increased burden of government regulations and lawsuits, the focus of today’s HR world has morphed into something that I am not sure was ever intended.  In fact, today’s HR Group could be renamed in many organizations as CLPG (Compliance and Lawsuit Protection Group).  We are long overdue for leaders of organizations, especially leaders of HR teams, to step back and take a look at the purpose of HR today and then ask the question, “Is that what we really need or what our people really want?”  All of this behavior helps formulate the culture of any organization.


The Culture of any organization can be identified by what the people in the organization do.  Culture is the “doing” part of the organization.  How do we solve problems?  How do we strategize?  How do we interact with one another?  How do we reward success?  How do we hold each other accountable?  It is through the doing, that we define our culture as an organization.


A much deeper part of any organization is its Corporate Soul.  The soul of any organization can be identified through feelings. This is much more important aspect of an organization because it impacts every part of the organization, in particular the “doing” or the culture aspect.  If the people in the organization feel engaged, valued, empowered, recognized, they are much more likely to solve problems, strategize, interact, reward and hold each other accountable in a healthier and productive manner.  A healthy, vibrant and nurtured Corporate Soul is the essence of an organization’s long-term success and legacy.  The Corporate Soul is the life of the organization.


We can all identify the culture of an organization because it is easy to come up with procedures on what we do as a group.  Leaders have a hard time identifying the corporate soul of their organization because it can be very difficult to identify how people feel within an organization, especially the larger the organization becomes over time.  Feeling is an intangible.  The key is to watch for the symptoms of a damaged corporate soul.  Are you seeing a proliferation of silos within your organization causing a break down in healthy communication and collaboration? Is customer service declining because your staff is not engaged?  Customer service surveys may point to signs of Zombies (just going through the motions) rather than organizational Zealots handling customer needs.  Turnover seems to be on the rise.  It has become more difficult to attract the best talent.  Training seems to be just something that is on everyone’s checklist rather than well thought out, funded, executed and cherished.


So what can the HR of today do to help organizations nurture their corporate soul? HR should raise issues that pertain to the above symptoms quickly and honestly to the highest levels of leadership.  After all, isn’t HR really the eyes and ears of the organization internally?  Make sure you have a strong mentoring program to help people learn the culture but also feel valued and connected.  Make sure your training curriculum is helping people excel in their jobs.  Training should be a building process over many years not one-shot wonder programs.  Review your reward system.  Are you really rewarding the behavior your organization seeks?  Accountability is the key to integrity.  All members of an organization should be held to the same levels of accountability.  HR should be heavily involved in implementing an accountability system.  Integrity should be at the forefront of everything you do.  It will not happen without accountability.


HR can and does influence the culture of any organization.  Sometimes it reflects it.  Have your HR resources of funding and staff morphed into focusing on compliance and people crisis management?  Focus on the core reasons for success and failure rather than just constantly putting out fires because no one is paying attention to your organization’s corporate soul.  Make sure your HR group does not overlook the feeling aspect of your people.  For it is only through feeling that you will rediscover your corporate soul.  Once it is identified, you can nurture it and not have to worry about setting up policies and procedures for culture.  The culture will grow and be strong in a very positive manner when built on the foundation of a healthy corporate soul.



About the author, Ron Mercer has over 30 years of experience as a commercial banker and leader.  Over his career spanning three major economic cycles, he discovered key traits of organizations that thrived and built legacies in any type of economic environment.  You can read more about Ron, his insights and “The Corporate Soul Handbook” and subscribe to his inspirational Thought of the Day on his website …

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