Ryan Kellogg is a veteran of the US Army, where he learned to adapt to his surroundings very quickly. He also realised the military has a very strong culture, something that was very different when transitioning into civilian life. Have a listen to learn more about corporate culture and how it reflects employer brand.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Ryan Kellogg. I am the host of the “Win the Talent War Podcast.” I grew up in New York, and I use to be in the military. I was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army, stationed in Germany and, at times, in Iraq. I spent 29 months in Iraq as a captain there, and I learned a lot about leadership, collaboration, and teamwork. After 6 years I decided to get out and try my hand in Corporate America.
After some different trials and tribulations of trying to find what my career path was, I landed in a health care role with a Fortune 500 company, where I found great traction, and I began to rise up the ranks through that experience as a leader in a large corporation. But, over the past few years, the shine on that just slowly came off, and I realized, there is a lot of challenges out there from a recruiting, development, and retention standpoint that is very frustrating. Very often, as a leader, I was spending all of my time with my head buried in a pile of resumes as opposed to driving vision, culture, and giving guidance to my employees. I lost a lot of the top talent on the back end for reasons that I had absolutely no control over. Whether it was corporate culture, or that employee-employer relationship, or for financial reasons, it was very frustrating.
So two years ago, I partnered up with a few other veterans, and we decided to create a platform that would help us identify different avenues to help the young Ryan Kelloggs who are getting out of the military and put them into position to get further traction and make sure that that transition from their military experience into their civilian experience was much more fluent. We started by launching the “Win the Talent War Podcast,” which is a weekly podcast. We talk to business leaders in regards to how they drive recruiting, development, retainment. We also launched something we’re calling VHIPO, Vetting High Potential, where we work with young veterans who are transitioning out of the military and help them identify where their career path is gonna be.
How would you describe the difference in culture from the military and in corporate America?
From a teamwork standpoint, there was so much collaboration there. To your left and to your right, you had your fellow soldiers that were in it for the same exact reason and we’re working hard towards a mission, and doing everything possible to accomplish that. So our goals were 100% aligned, which was fantastic. From a career standpoint, as an individual, I could envision what the next 20 years of my career were going to look like, maybe not necessarily where I was going to live, but I could identify what my next steps were going to be and how I would get there, which I didn’t realize before I got out of the military. That was something that really made me feel comfortable and something I definitely took for granted.
Why is corporate culture so important, and why now?
The days of having the same job for 20 to 30 years, working 9-to-5, and putting your job behind you when you get home from your commute, is not the case anymore. It used to be where people were so amped on working for a large corporation for years. But now, the sexy thing to do is to work for a startup. I think technology has played a significant role in that, identifying different types of areas in which people can make immediate impact. Millennials are so tuned in to doing something meaningful these days, having purpose, understanding long-term relationships, that in order to keep individuals at work, it’s imperative that you create that corporate culture to entice people to stay with where you’re at now. I think the average time span that people are spending with their current jobs is anywhere as little as 2 to 3 years and then they’re moving on, which the only way right now that people are making a significant impact on retaining those individuals is by being mindful of your culture.
Do you have a step-by-step guide to optimize the right corporate culture?
Everyone has to think about culture as something that they own, not necessarily something that you’re stepping into. So often corporate culture is a buzzword, something that people just close over, or they think about as the way it is here in their current role. But by owning that culture and creating your own environment, I think that that is going to make an immediate impact for you. Sometimes people have a hierarchy that doesn’t believe in corporate culture, but you need to think about, “What can I do today to influence either my direct report? What can I do to influence that environment in a positive way?” An acronym that I always run with over the past few years is culture. Can you lift teams you are engaging? Can you go to work today and make an immediate impact with the team that you are engaging on a daily basis? To me, that’s contagious, that’s culture. In a nutshell, it’s how you can impact it as an individual instead of complaining and constantly talking about it.
Let’s take ownership there. What can I do for my company? But from a company standpoint, that’s your mentality. And if you can hire individuals who have that mentality or you can empower individuals to begin thinking that way, you will be in a much better place. As a senior leader, as an organization, you need to take a step back and look at your plan, look at your company and be honest with yourself, be mindful of your culture, and determine what you need to do to change it if it requires change. Sometimes it’s small tweaks with a change in leadership or an adjustment in a role, but other times it takes a full-on rehab plan that people need to be aggressive with. I would say there’s no better time to plant a tree than today. This is the time to take action and change things. As a senior leader, I would completely start from scratch, take a step back, identify different ways that you can survey your company and gauge that culture, gauge specific attributes that you want to make sure that your company is fulfilling and then measure it.
I interviewed David Shanklin, who is the chief culture officer for a company called CultureIQ. And what CultureIQ does is they go into organizations, and they give an aggressive survey to test things like agility, collaboration, communication, and support. Each attribute there is measured, and then it rolls up into a score, and you get an idea of where that is. As a senior leader, to start to get an idea of where your culture is compared to where you think your culture is would be a good eye-opener.
In a Fortune 500 company, I have a unique vantage point of sitting with senior leaders and gauging what they thought their culture was in the company and then working with different types of teams, people who are on the ground working directly with customers and getting a real deal of what the culture was. Seeing that disconnect, looking back and forth was unnerving. It’s important for leaders to make sure that they have those touch points, that they’re out there, they’re working with those that are customer-facing, they’re working with those that are on the grounds, to make sure that they are checking themselves and level-setting their own expectations from a culture standpoint.
What companies out there have enviable cultures?
GE to me has a fantastic corporate culture. I’d interviewed their global brand ambassador, Shaunda Zilich, who talked a lot about everything that GE is trying to do to stay in front of their corporate culture. It’s interesting, as a large organization like that, the small things that they can do to continue to realm with corporate culture. Another is Trader Joe’s, which is something that’s grown considerably in the States. They have this kind of fantastic corporate culture. They’ve got a costumer-friendly attitude. Every time you walk in, I have not a complaint to pass on the employees there. They’re innovative. Everything that they put forward is really interesting.
What’s going on with corporate culture right now inside tech companies?
A lot of tech companies these days are growing at astronomical numbers, and the rates that they’re moving at are so fast that very often the culture is having a tough time keeping up with that. Or maybe there’s no cultural plan at all. It could be a few individuals who are launching something, and they’re moving so fast that they really didn’t have a plan for that. And what happens there is, particularly in a case like in Uber, if you have their leadership, and tarnished their reputation, all of a sudden that trickles down to the entire company. So it’s really hard. You can have leadership that is top heavy, and one false move can impact the entire company immediately.
Mark Zuckerberg in Facebook, I think he did the right thing when he realized that he’s the figure head of the company and the guy with the vision. But then he got Sheryl Sandberg in place to be the COO. He’s basically structuring things up and got the right departments in place and so on. So that company has done well from a culture perspective, at least from what I can see, whereas Uber, they just haven’t. Their infrastructure didn’t keep up with the growth.
How can we measure ROI on corporate culture?
You can do simple things like the surveys that I had talked about earlier, but to me, it’s really simple. If you have people who are remaining with you, who are working with you, and you can grow a following through that, and people who are loyal and passionate about your company vision and ultimately become those brand ambassadors for you, that return on investment is invaluable.
What do you think is the next big thing for corporate culture?
I can’t stress enough the mentally piece of it. I think people will start taking full-blown ownership of corporate culture down to the individual. Accountability, ownership are two buzzwords that I love to run with, and from a corporate culture standpoint, you need that if you want to be successful in today’s market that’s constantly evolving. The workforce has never seen such changes, and if you can’t own your own corporate culture, you will never be happy. You will show up to work, and you will be miserable, and people will be frustrated, and the fittest will survive. The other thing is, your brand ambassadorship can never be undervalued. If you can have employees that are openly discussing your message, you know you’ve done a really good job. I think leveraging social media will become more and more prevalent as we go forward, as corporate culture grows.
You and I host podcasts. Podcasts at the corporate level, I believe will become more and more of a focus as a way to get your message across and project your corporate culture amongst your employees.