Articulating & Enhancing a Corporate Culture

CLIENT:Essity, a spin-off Swedish hygiene and health company
LOCATION:A presence in 150 countries
SIZE:46,000 employees

Client Profile & Challenge

When the leaders of SCA, a Swedish hygiene and forest products company, decided to split their organization into 2 different corporations, they knew they needed help articulating and defining the culture of Essity, the corporation that would take SCA’s hygiene and health division.

SCA had already initiated a project with us to articulate, strengthen, and further capitalize on its culture. Now that effort transitioned to a more urgent goal: Define the culture for Essity that would retain the best elements of SCA’s established corporate culture, but would also include new beliefs and behaviors to give Essity a competitive advantage.

The challenge was to articulate a culture that could become a pillar for Essity’s strategic plan as the company prepared to go public and face larger established global competitors.

To make the new culture stick, it would need buy-in from all levels of the company — the executive team and associates at every level in multiple geographic markets.

And with the spin-off and IPO looming, the process had to be completed in a short period of time.

Setting a culture for Essity case study with the Center for Creative Leadership

Solution & Results

A few months before the IPO, we partnered with Essity executives to begin working through our 6-step process towards organizational culture change:

  1. Ask strategic questions. We worked with company leaders to identify what the new competitive environment would require.
  2. Grow from the bottom up. Essity gathered input from 8 focus groups involving hundreds of employees from several countries and functions to identify common themes and concerns about the old company culture, and see what they thought was important for future success.
  3. Elicit executive input. We interviewed 13 senior Essity executives to gather their thoughts on what the company’s culture should and shouldn’t do, ensuring alignment between staff input and the executive team’s strategic perspective.
  4. Decide on the final articulation of core company values. The 2 beliefs — care and collaboration — were hallmarks of the legacy SCA culture. In addition, 2 new beliefs, commitment and courage, were chosen based on a consensus for the new company’s success.
  5. Obtain executive team buy-in. Essity and CCL held a workshop for the executive team to think through the new beliefs and behaviors and explore how to help the business units start living them in order to bring the new company culture to life.
  6. Roll out the new culture broadly. The new beliefs and behaviors were rolled out across the company 3 months after Essity’s IPO. Because they resonated so strongly companywide, acceptance was immediate. Essity leaders quickly integrated the beliefs and behaviors into company hiring, promotion, and recognition practices. And the company shared its new culture with shareholders, suppliers, and customers.

Top company leaders have made it a priority to embrace and model the new culture by:

  • Practicing new values and behaviors as individuals and as a team,
  • Creating a culture of transparency,
  • Defining what “good” looks like, and
  • Communicating values through storytelling and anecdotes.

Participants Say

“New beliefs gave us the possibility of having a common ground where we could start to talk and start to see ‘How are we fitting together?’ … It’s easy to connect the beliefs and behaviors to our daily reality.”

Massimo Minaudo

Commercial Director,
Essity’s Italian Business

“Everybody in this company should have a relationship to the beliefs and behaviors. … Our senior leaders now talk about the beliefs and behaviors as an integrated part of how we are doing business.”

Karin Nyström

Vice President,
Human Resources Development

Partner With Us

Build a culture that makes strategy happen with our Organizational Leadership Culture Change service. Start cultural transformation with customized Executive Team Development, and then socialize it throughout the organization.

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