When Your Corporate Culture is Employee-Driven

September 7, 2017

By Lynn Johnson

Every business combination – whether a merger of equals or an acquisition — is built upon the expectation of value creation.

The most-common talking point you’ll see in these situations is “one plus one equals three” – or some variation of that message. And, in the case of combinations that work out as hoped for, that assertion nearly always turns out to ring true.

Here at Cast & Crew, we have the same optimism about our acquisitions last year of Final Draft and CAPS Payroll. Our operational integration is on track, as is our initiative to bring all three companies together under one roof in Burbank. (It will be complete this fall.)

But what’s been truly special over the past year of integration is watching first hand – and participating as an individual – as a new combined Cast & Crew culture is created from the existing cultures of the three companies. And what makes it especially fascinating is that our new culture isn’t being orchestrated from the top-down from some preordained management strategic plan. Instead, our staff is doing it, working collaboratively to share experiences, insights and – quite frankly – great ideas based upon their experiences over the years. And this is incredibly exciting and a positive contribution to value creation in its own right. Our respective cultures present an opportunity to clarify – and even redefine — our purpose … and in doing so, create a new and unifying corporate culture that the employees believe in.

Why? Because it is being built by our employees.

So what do we mean when we talk about an employee-driven approach? Most companies, of course, are managed in a top-down manner in which objectives and strategies are created by the Chief Executive Officer and his or her senior leadership team, approved by a Board of Directors and then implemented across all levels of the company. Top-down models, of course, have their critics, many of whom believe they stifle creativity and innovation.

In an employee-driven model, one could argue that all team members contribute to the execution and management of goals. With all team members working together to tackle a given problem or reach a certain goal, there is a greater sense of camaraderie and togetherness where individuals feel they add and gain more value throughout the process.

While that’s all true, I would suggest that an employee-driven culture has another interesting characteristic: much of it happens organically.  Or, in other words, by accident. And, in my mind, that makes the elements of the culture “truer” and probably more enduring and satisfying.

John Hall, co-founder and CEO of Influence & Co., writes in Forbes that, “your team is made up of individuals who, collectively, create an ecosystem of interconnected ideas, perspective, and insight.” He goes on to say, “leverage that ecosystem, and you’ll be running a company full of thought leaders.”

As all three of our companies co-locate in Cast & Crew’s Burbank headquarters, thought leaders from each different culture are coming together. And while we don’t exactly have a “one-plus-one-equals-three” situation, we absolutely have a “one-plus-one-plus-one-equals-four” situation. And, going forward, we will be the better for it and ready to embrace our future.

We’re already benefiting from the fact our CAPS colleagues bring a sense of pride that links back directly to what the team has accomplished in carving out leading market positions in multiple entertainment industry verticals. And we’re learning lessons from Final Draft’s day-in and day-out attitude to “move the needle” each and every day —  from user interface and experience, to quality service and support to online presence. Cast & Crew’s staffers, meanwhile, know a great deal about what our colleagues are going through at this point in each company’s development – as we’ve been there before ourselves.

Our culture is being built in our cafeterias (while waiting for the microwave to beep); at impromptu evenings out at karaoke; in going through (and surviving) several months of construction and remodeling, and in sharing some common goals that we didn’t know we shared. We are listening and learning from one another. We also believe in our core values that drive Cast & Crew of Quality, Integrity and Security.

Employee-driven culture also ensures that a company’s diversity has a voice. When we talk about a culture that is driven from our employees, it’s significant to recognize that diverse teams from different backgrounds will be more agile and adept at problem-solving and achieving goals. A diversity of thought brings in much-needed perspective that will not only grow our new ecosystem, but it will allow us to think and thrive outside of the box.

We celebrate diversity at Cast & Crew. Our combined company has over 650 global employees from every generation and we embrace a multicultural workforce.

Lynn Johnson is the Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Cast & Crew Entertainment Services. She oversees the company’s human capital strategy, culture and leadership development, talent management, compensation and executive development, health and welfare benefits, and training.

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