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Five Ways to Enhance Board Oversight Culture

This resource was developed for board members in recognition that culture is a growing priority in the boardroom. The board is responsible for holding management accountable for the correlation between culture and business strategy, and it includes five ways to help boards govern culture in their organizations:

  1. Oversee how culture is defined and aligned to strategy: Include the cultural attributes needed to achieve the company’s overall strategic objectives.
  2. Create accountability for how culture is communicated and lived – internally and to key external stakeholder: Organizations should clearly identify the right behaviours, manage performance against those behaviours, and reinforce the board and executive team with incentive structures.
  3. Monitor how culture and talent metrics are measured to keep a pulse on how culture is evolving: Use analytics of cultural trends, benchmarking to other entities or standards to measure performance and accountability, inclusion and wellbeing, etc.
  4. Oversee intentional culture shifts to stay in step with strategy shifts: Understand the social network of the company and identify the “influencers” within the organization, and use both top-down approaches (e.g. performance and rewards systems) and bottom-up approaches (e.g. decisions and behavioural changes in local teams that create new norms).
  5. Challenge the board’s culture: The board sets the tone at the top regarding corporate culture – not just in the way that the board prioritizes and oversees the company’s culture but also in the composition, dynamics, and culture of the board itself.

This resource also includes questions for the board to consider, including:

  1. Does the board set the right tone at the top and give sufficient attention to culture as a key enabler of purpose and strategy?
  2. Does the board itself embody and reflect the company’s values?
  3. How comprehensively and specifically has the board discussed the importance of culture and helped define the desired culture?

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