HR Dive: How HR is Driving Culture Transformation

A strong company culture and employee engagement are integral parts of a company's success, whether it is a small- or medium-sized company, or an enterprise-level organization. Without a thriving company culture, employees lack real value and meaning in their work, which affects their engagement and productivity, and ultimately leads to consequences for the bottom line. As companies grow and mature, culture evolves and transforms. Similar to business transformations, cultural transformations are not easy, and they bring numerous challenges and opportunities with them. If handled correctly, though, cultural transformations can propel a company towards its desired future state.

The last decade has been one of tremendous growth and change for Nutanix, marked with massive transformations on the business side and hypergrowth on the people side. Growth and change bring complexity. New circumstances demand changed behaviors. While the core values of Nutanix – Hungry, Humble, and Honest, with Heart - have remained unchanged, the evolving environment and changing business reality created a need for the company to define its culture more deeply and also seed some new ways of working that will be critical for the future. In this HR Dive interview, Nutanix Director of People Development and Culture, Deep Mahajan, describes the story of the company’s ongoing cultural transformation and how the People team and leadership are helping drive this transformation to accelerate their journey towards their “true north.”  

About a year ago, we realized that we needed a shift in the way we operate, behave and get the work done. Our Core Values – Hungry, Humble, Honest with Heart - still remain firm, but we recognized that we had to be more specific in what we were expecting people to do when they were practicing the values. We realized that we needed to define our culture – the “operating system” for values. Our 12 Culture Principles were born this way, and define the behaviors that embody our values.

Company leaders played an active role in defining these Culture Principles, which today not only adorn the hallways and conference rooms of Nutanix offices across the world but are also a common language used for communication across the company. Some of these Principles came from specific behaviors that were successful in the past and some came from new needs for Nutanix’s future success.

The company strategically thought about the communication cascade of the new Culture Principles: First, the People team brought them to the company’s leaders, and then took them to all employees. The company organized a unique, one-of-a-kind event, “Global Leadership Xperience,” gathering all its 400+ leaders under one roof. The goal of this summit was to build community, clarify company strategy, and emphasize the role of culture in the company’s success. The Culture Principles were launched during this day-and-a-half long event in Las Vegas.

Mahajan explained the success of the event and how it resulted in heightened engagement and learning around the company’s strategy and culture.

The Global Leadership Xperience was our starting point for emphasizing the importance and role of culture in our business. The event was very well-received and resulted in clarity around two things: Where we are going (the company strategy), and how we will get there (the company culture). Things like culture cannot be changed and delivered in a day, but by including our leaders in this process right off the bat, we were able to ensure that we were driving alignment and clarity along this journey we were all taking. Our leaders appreciated the community aspect of this event, which helped them take a pause to identify their commonalities and differences. The event was a perfect launch for a product called “culture” that is often seen as an abstract concept.

What measurable results can you share because of developing a new company culture?

Our initial goal with regard to the Culture Principles was awareness. How familiar are employees with the 12 Principles? When we first launched the Principles, we were surprised at the response we got. Moments after the launch, we saw employees sharing playlists, movie lists, videos, and stories based on the Principles. Hashtags, symbols, and logos soon followed. Our employees made the Culture Principles their own and found many applications for them. 

Our next goal is to drive adoption of the Principles at a behavioral level. We are in the process of adapting all our people programs to be drivers of our culture. For example, we encourage our managers and employees to give each other feedback and recognition using the language of the Culture Principles. We also reward and recognize people based on their culture championship.

The journey of bringing a cultural shift and alignment is not easy. But then, “Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable” is one of our Principles. It inspires us to keep charging forward through this cultural transformation. 

What advice can you share with Enterprise organizations that are going through a culture shift right now?

I would start by saying, buckle up for a wild ride. It will have its ups and downs. After all, you are changing the way work happens in your organization. It won’t be easy. You will likely find naysayers and missionaries along the way. Ultimately you will have more evangelists and champions. My advice is to stay focused on three very important factors. 

First, leadership support and involvement is critical, as is the support and inclusion of all employees. People often ask us, “Did you use a top-down or bottom-up approach to develop and cascade your new Culture Principles?” The answer is to do both in tandem. 

Second, communication plays an important role. Left to itself, culture communication can quickly go haywire. There is no such thing as overcommunication in this case. Communication drives clarity. 

Lastly, we are by no means done yet at Nutanix. This is merely the start of our journey. We are now on the path to morphing our entire employee experience around our new Culture Principles. This means that from recruiting to off-boarding we are re-engineering all our key employee processes to make sure they deliver a cultural experience to our employees. Our cultural transformation journey continues.

For Nutanix, an organization with over 5,000 global employees, transforming company culture has been a continuing journey: From defining new Culture Principles, to increasing awareness, and driving adoption of key behaviors, it continues on. The People team, leaders and employees continue to play an integral role throughout this process. 

 

About Nutanix

Nutanix is a global leader in cloud software and hyperconverged infrastructure solutions, making infrastructure invisible so that IT can focus on the applications and services that power their business. Companies around the world use Nutanix Enterprise Cloud OS software to bring one-click application management and mobility across public, private and distributed edge clouds so they can run any application at any scale with a dramatically lower total cost of ownership. The result is organizations that can rapidly deliver a high-performance IT environment on demand, giving application owners a true cloud-like experience. Learn more at www.nutanix.com or follow us on Twitter @nutanix.