How TIAA-CREF Shapes Corporate Culture



Leah Williams
09/28/2015

Skip Spriggs, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at TIAA-CREF, discusses key success factors for effectively shaping company culture.

What are the key success factors to shaping company culture?

It really starts with purposeful leadership. Purposeful leadership really means starting at the top of the house, which means the leadership team really shapes company culture.

Next, is sustinability. Shaping company culture isn't a one-time event, it's over the lifetime of the organization. Really, having top down/bottoms up engagement from all employees is very important around shaping the culture.If it's just the bottoms up or top down, that typically doesn't work very well. Having that coordinated effort really does matter.

Then, there's what we call "unfreezing," which is having employees get to what we call a neutral state to make sure you can take in the culture of the organization.

Why are company values important in shaping company culture?

Most organizations have stated values, but there are also values that are expressed in a practical way. At TIAA-CREF, we have six values that are part of everything we do. We start our hiring decisions with our values, we start promotions with our values. We live our values every day.

How do you ensure that values are part of your organization's DNA?

We ensure that our values are a part of all decisions, whether it's developing strategy, making hiring decisions, promotion decisions, performance management. Everything that we do at TIAA-CREF really is rooted in our values.

How do you sustain corporate values in a time of rapid growth?

It's very challenging. In an organization where you have inorganic growth, such as acquisitions, making sure that the values are part of all decisions help sustain those values.

Communication is very important. There's no such thing as overr communicating your values. We have a value of the month. It's on our website, it's a part of all of our recruiting collateral, it's a part of every town hall that we have. Making sure that it's embedded in the DNA is very important.

How do you sustain a corporate cultural movement?

It starts from the bottom up. At TIAA-CREF, all of our employees are involved in what we call a movement. Employees are regularly showcased on our website talking about how the values matter to them. Our employees share the values with our clients .

Why is engagement from the top down and bottom up so important?

Often, cultural movements and value sharing fail because they either start from the top down as a mandate or sometimes they start from grassroots - the bottom up. Having a coordinated effort helps sustainability.

Have you observed value differences between generations?

The new generation - the Gen X, Gen Y, the millennials - really are looking for a different value proposition when they join the firm. They are looking for a sense of purpose, they are looking ensuring that the organization shares their personal beliefs, they are looking to be heard; not to be talked at, but to be talked with. It's a really interesting dynamic as the Baby Boomers start to retire and the Gen X, Gen Y, the millennials start to run the organization.

How do you manage different generations?

Often, companies get stuck in tradition, prefrence and convenience. Ensuring that the organization is fact based and all employees can be heard is important. At TIAA-CREF, we have 91 percent participation in our engagement survey. Ninety six percent of all employees say that they understand what our values are and support the values.

Watch the video interview.