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4 minutes

How Healthy Company Culture is an Evolving One

Cassandra Rose, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

“The cul­ture has changed” is very often framed as some­thing neg­a­tive, but that’s not what Alex From­mey­er, Founder and CEO at Beam Ben­e­fits believes. In fact, speak­ing of change, the last time that Alex appeared on The Brag­Wor­thy Cul­ture the com­pa­ny was named Beam Den­tal. Alex walked us through that piv­ot and rebrand and then went on to dis­cuss, among oth­er things, why cul­ture changes…and that’s a good thing.


Cul­ture changes as the com­pa­ny changes and the rebrand for Beam Ben­e­fits was less about chang­ing what they were already doing because the new com­pa­ny still does den­tal ben­e­fits and still has a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed approach to den­tal insur­ance. But adding ben­e­fits was much more about rec­og­niz­ing the company’s ambi­tion. Why solve only the den­tal prob­lem when you can solve more prob­lems for employ­ees and employers?

Alex hasn’t stopped grow­ing the busi­ness dur­ing the rebrand. This has dri­ven home what we’ve already men­tioned: as a com­pa­ny changes so does its cul­ture. When you add a lot of new peo­ple, in a way, it’s almost an entire­ly dif­fer­ent com­pa­ny! That’s why the cul­ture has to change. The com­pa­ny has to be what it needs to be next, and the cul­ture has to adjust — and keep adjust­ing. And those changes, those adjust­ments have to be com­mu­ni­cat­ed to the whole team.

That’s where Alex thinks a lot of com­pa­nies can lose great peo­ple. If some­one says they left ​“because the cul­ture changed,” Alex con­sid­ers that a missed oppor­tu­ni­ty. ​“What prob­a­bly hap­pened,” says Alex, ​“is that the com­pa­ny had new needs, and the lead­er­ship didn’t point at those new needs and call them out proac­tive­ly. Hence when the cul­ture ​‘changed,’ it was a sur­prise to some peo­ple. In fact, those peo­ple feel like the com­pa­ny left them, instead of them leav­ing the company…even though they end up leav­ing the com­pa­ny anyway.”

Chief Communicator

So with this talk of lead­er­ship being proac­tive when cul­ture changes, you’d imag­ine Alex would want to lead by exam­ple. He does that by watch­ing and shar­ing. ​“I am the observ­er of the cul­ture. I then try to bot­tle it up and artic­u­late it back to the com­pa­ny.” An exam­ple of that in prac­tice could be at an all-hands meet­ing in which Alex talks about how the cul­ture may be chang­ing, not just for sea­soned employ­ees, but how new employ­ees might see things as well.

In fact, with new employ­ees, Alex tries to spend time with them indi­vid­u­al­ly dur­ing their first week in the busi­ness to ​“indoc­tri­nate” them, as he puts it. ​“Indoc­tri­nate in a real­ly pos­i­tive sense, though. I want peo­ple to be onboard­ed into the cul­ture as much as they are onboard­ed into their actu­al job training.”

How­ev­er, Alex knows that this approach doesn’t scale, and so part of what he has been work­ing with his team on is how to take what he’s doing, the all-hands, the new employ­ee onboard­ing, cul­tur­al round­ta­bles, etc., and make sure that oth­er lev­els of the busi­ness are dupli­cat­ing those activ­i­ties, with­out his pres­ence or initiative.

Those sorts of activ­i­ties can help to embed val­ues into the rela­tion­ship build­ing done between man­agers and team mem­bers so that the com­pa­ny DNA can be woven into dai­ly work life. In that way, a cul­ture can change and morph itself as needed.

Developing Leaders

As Alex push­es for more of his team to bear the load of com­mu­ni­cat­ing the cul­ture, he also has to beware of bal­anc­ing what those lead­ers look like: he has to bal­ance giv­ing new lead­ers a chance to grow into senior posi­tions while also keep­ing some tenured lead­ers around to offer guid­ance and experience.

Some­times that prob­lem solves itself. For exam­ple, if the com­pa­ny moves into new direc­tions or strate­gies or tech­nolo­gies, and a senior leader doesn’t feel aligned or com­fort­able with this, they may take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to step down. Oth­er times, those new strate­gies or direc­tions mean bring­ing in an out­sider who has the expe­ri­ence nec­es­sary to help with those chal­lenges. What makes these changes slight­ly eas­i­er (and Alex thinks they are always chal­leng­ing in their own way) is con­sis­tent­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ing a ​“brush burn­ing” strat­e­gy: the tal­ent bar is going to be raised every year and Beam wants to ​“clear the brush” so that tal­ent can thrive.

What Doesn’t Change

But don’t let that enthu­si­asm and space for change that Alex advo­cates for, make you think that he doesn’t see some things as immov­able. ​“For exam­ple, tenac­i­ty is one of our core val­ues, so we always look for that in employ­ees. That’s not going to change. Or the fact that we care deeply about help­ing small busi­ness­es get mod­ern ben­e­fits. That’s not going to change.”

But some­times a com­pa­ny’s view may change because of cir­cum­stances. Covid led to Beam updat­ing its views on work­style and PTO. As work envi­ron­ments con­tin­ue to evolve post-pan­dem­ic, Beam is try­ing to be flex­i­ble with how their team mem­bers are working.

Alex also doesn’t believe in ​“polic­ing” com­pa­ny val­ues. ​“I believe peo­ple vote with their feet; they’ll use the core val­ues if they’re valu­able, and they won’t if they don’t find them applicable.”

Recessions are Opportunities

As the wor­ries about a reces­sion con­tin­ue to cir­cu­late, Alex sees an oppor­tu­ni­ty. ​“Don’t lose sight of the cul­ture-build­ing moments pro­vid­ed by bad mar­kets,” he notes. Dur­ing bad times, peo­ple tend to be more focused, as they don’t want to lose their job. Lever­age that focus because ​“there’s always a way to take advantage.”

Check Out the Full Episode

Learn more about Alex and the impor­tance of com­mu­ni­ca­tion through cul­tur­al change by lis­ten­ing to our full inter­view on Apple or Spo­ti­fy.

Look­ing to build your own Brag­Wor­thy Cul­ture? Fringe can help. Fringe is the num­ber one lifestyle ben­e­fits mar­ket­place. Give your peo­ple the pow­er of choice and save a ton of admin­is­tra­tive headaches by con­sol­i­dat­ing exist­ing ven­dors and pro­grams into a sim­ple, auto­mat­ed plat­form. Talk to our team to get started.

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