How to Create and Nurture an Authentic Internal Culture

Embracing Culture

For Liz Gelb-O'Connor, ADP's global head of employer brand and marketing, defining her company's culture has been a years-long process that is still evolving.

Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines, famously defined corporate culture as "what you do when nobody is looking." But that doesn't mean cultures just happen.

"You don't get great cultures by accident," said Diane Adams, chief culture officer at Sprinklr.

"You need to define your values and be clear about who you are, integrate those values into everything you do, and do it with the full engagement of leadership. If you can do all that, culture can be a big differentiator."

For Liz Gelb-O'Connor, ADP's global head of employer brand and marketing, defining her company's culture has been a years-long process. "We did a lot of research and investigation, and it all came back to one thing I've felt since I walked in the door nine years ago: We're an embracing environment," she said. "There's a transparency, a kind of fun flexibility about this place, and it's resonated throughout the world."

That insight has contributed to the realization of ADP's core values: Treating everyone with honesty, fairness, and respect; conducting business with the highest levels of integrity; and open, informal communications, hard work, and prudent financial management.

Today, Gelb-O'Connor is activating those principles and culture across the 20 countries in which ADP hires. There is the ADP Foundation, which matches charitable contributions from employees. Gelb-Connor's team last year launched an employee advocacy program that is already global. And she is now working with a new tool, StandOut®, that allow managers to have more open dialogue with their direct reports.

Perhaps most important, Gelb-O'Connor enjoys the support of top leadership in promoting ADP's culture. "Our CEO takes a very active interest in driving us toward our unifying principles, and it really focuses the organization," she said.

Gelb-O'Connor spoke at the 2019 SXSW® Conference in Austin, Texas, where ADP was launching its new brand identity. The development of the new brand provided ADP with an opportunity to "redefine how we wanted to view ourselves," she said, which yielded insights that would resonate internally. "We're very passionate about the future of work."

Regardless of which company you work for, she noted, culture is something that must be intrinsic and constantly nurtured. "It has to be authentic, and it takes times to really build that culture and sustain it," she said. "It's about continuous learning, and it's something that doesn't stop."