In Conversation: Jozef Opdeweegh on the Importance of Corporate Culture



Steve Hannam, Communications Director; Connect Group:

Jos, we wanted to talk today about driving transformation through corporate culture. It’s a phrase we hear a lot, corporate culture. What does it actually mean for you?

Jozef ‘Jos’ Opdeweegh, CEO; Connect Group:

Corporate culture in my mind is the combination of a set of core behaviors and values that unifies a group. Unifies, if you want, a group of people, whether it’s a corporation, whether it’s an association of people, and so on. The corporate context it is the set of core behaviors, core values that unify. In our particular case, the ‘citizens,’ if you want, of Connect Group. It’s hard to encourage in a bigger company, but there are a lot of factors in the environment that also determine obviously how hard it is to implement cultural change. Legacy of the business is one of them, right? You may have a small company that has a certain legacy that stems from a much larger PLC background, or you may have had a much larger market gap, and in this context Connect Group is a good example. I would say there are other elements, such as the average tenure of the workforce. If you have a younger workforce, it’s easier to implement cultural change than if you have an older work force. If you work in a very competitive environment where you have to show agility because of the competitive framework, where you have to be creative and you have to come up with new ideas or new products, that’s an easier environment because it’s much less change than other environments. So, there are a lot of sort of dynamic aspects that surround an organization that determine how quickly you can implement change. But as a rule, it’s easier, obviously, in smaller organizations than in large organizations.


Jos, you have a lot of experience in evolving corporate cultures. What would your tips be? How should we go about that?


I think it’s about repeat, repeat, repeat. I think it’s about starting every meeting, after you do your safety message, with the core behaviors that typify the citizens of Connect Group. And not just in a sense of, ‘hey these are our six or behaviors or core values.’  No, utilize specific examples of how adhering to those core behaviors has helped the organization or the individual, and in terms of achieving certain personal goals or certain professional goals. And that’s the way to start, I think, every meeting. In addition to that we have to carry the message. The leadership team has to carry the message. When we do our town halls, we have to talk about culture time and time and time again. I always say if you don’t get tired of hearing yourself talking about the core behaviors you haven’t spoken about them enough. It’s almost a politician’s life in terms of talking about that specific topic, but it’s extremely important, and one of the things that I would say is the larger the task is – the transformational task that’s in front of you – the larger the importance becomes of corporate culture and the larger the importance of having everybody aligned in terms of behaviors becomes right. So, I would say corporate culture is also a very important tool in accelerating large transformational tasks. We shouldn’t, of course, engage in an exercise of self-deception. Cultural change takes time, but most certainly you can accelerate the process by talking about it and by giving specific examples and by making it a living conversation rather than some words on a poster or somewhere written on the wall.


Jos, thank you very much for sharing your views, thank you.