Implications for Belonging and Leaders: Who is responsible for culture?

Who is primarily accountable for culture? Where can people turn for advice ad guidance on cultural issues? The answers to these questions are often ambiguous. Everyone contributes to the culture of an organisation, which means finding the balance between ownership and accountability is challenging.

The quick answer is: everyone is responsible, and the Board is accountable. But of course it’s not as straightforward as that. With multiple leaders, teams and systems that span across businesses, accountability for culture can become confused. When EY surveyed 100 Board members from the FTS 350, 19% said they felt the Board was primarily accountable for culture, 31% felt it rested with the Head of HR and 39% felt it is the CEO’s responsibility. This shows that there is currently no universal answer for who is accountable.

When no-one is certain of who is accountable for culture, the risk is no one takes responsibility for it. This can lead to unchecked cultural issues growing out of control. This, in turn, can lead to anything from inefficiencies between teams, to fines for unethical behaviours. Lacking clarity of accountability also means there is no know place to turn for guidance, or to report cultural bad practice.

Ultimately, the accountability for culture lies with the board, but this does not detract responsibility from the organisations as a whole. Culture belongs to everyone and is always shared. A healthy corporate culture encourages people at all levels to voice their concerns and discuss them. We encourage a culture of candour that provides open and active dialogue across the organisation will prevent this uncertainty.