This article is from the Company Culture session during ISRI2021. This session, along with others, are available to attendees on demand. 

Rarely can organizational change occur without changing culture. At the Company Culture session during ISRI2021, panelists discussed transforming a company’s culture from a workplace perspective, a safety perspective, and a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) perspective. 

HOBI International’s Three Ws

For Craig Boswell, co-founder and president of HOBI International, Inc., a strong culture means emphasizing words, workplace, and work process.


Words influence workplace culture, especially those from management. Management should remember their words can influence how employees work. Words are important in interacting with customers. Boswell believes all customer feedback is valuable and measures the quality of the company’s products. If the customer is unhappy with a product, HOBI International reconsiders the product quality. Words are essential in how management communicates the importance of quality vs. speed to employees. Boswell encourages employees to speak up if they need more time to complete a task to find the right solution.


A company operating in chaos will likely develop a chaotic product. To address this issue, HOBI International created a “5S program” — sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain — for an orderly work environment. On a personal level, the toughest S is sustainment, Boswell says, but changing your work environment results in sustainment. Taking an extra minute to be orderly pays off in the long run.

Work Process

Feedback fosters an environment of continuous improvement. A process based on continuous improvement begins building a culture of quality; one where a company strives to keep one step ahead. Feedback helps employees continuously improve quality and keep customers satisfied.

Creating a Culture That Supports Safety

A safe work culture requires employee buy-in, which, in turn, requires good leadership and management. Leadership and management are different, explains Tony Smith, ISRI’s vice president of safety, but go hand-in-hand for an organization’s success.

Leadership vs. Management

Leaders and managers should work together to accomplish a company’s goals. According to Smith, the leader creates and communicates a vision for the future and monitors it. The manager develops the plan and finds the resources. The leader motivates workers, while the manager monitors situations. Leaders adapt to challenging circumstances, and managers focus on order/efficiency. “The leaders in the organization need to be tied to the managers, and they both need to make sure they are following and staying on path,” Smith says.

Building a Safe Culture

A Stop Work Authority (SWA) can help build a safe culture. It allows a workforce to examine the big picture and ensure quality products are going out, or a safe decision is being made. It’s “one of the best wins you can have in a safety culture at your operation,” Smith says.

Respond immediately after an unsafe act and have a constructive conversation with the employee. Working with employees, good communication, and discussing safety issues will help build a strong safety culture, Smith says.

Transforming Company Culture

You can transform your company’s safety culture with several steps:

  • Have an equal standing policy (i.e., everyone listens to and accepts everyone’s unique perspective),
  • Conduct regular toolbox talks/tailgate meetings (this helps make a safety connection, Smith says),
  • Have safety committees or self-inspection teams (Smith recommends putting people on an inspection team for a facility area they don’t work in),
  • Document and share safety issues (near miss reports, employee injury reports, equipment damage reports, good safety observation reports, and safety at-home reports), both internally and externally to show everyone how to avoid issues across departments. Sharing these amongst industry peers creates safer workplaces within the industry,
  • Cardinal safety rules (some organizations raise specific rules to higher levels within a safety program).

ISRI provides resources to help transform a culture into a safer one, including conducting a culture blueprint where the safety team visits a facility in-person or virtually and discusses 14 different areas of its operation.

A Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Culture

Over the last 18 months, Ingram Micro Commerce and Lifecycle Services examined its internal culture, particularly its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. “In every area of our business…we have goals and OKRs (objectives and key results), and we are consistently challenging ourselves to get better,” says Jean Francois, head of partnerships at Ingram.

Listening Sessions

Ingram employees should feel they belong and have space to thrive and perform their best, Francois says. To help facilitate this, the company conducted listening sessions to understand how its associates feel about the company. These sessions revealed growth opportunities. “Hearing our people share their ideas and suggestions for creating a brighter future…it was not only inspiring, but it was also actionable for us,” Francois says. People and their talents make a company’s culture, and their unique perspectives generate innovation. “Our lived differences help us find new features and double down on our growth,” he says.

Together Ingram Micro

Ingram’s “Together Ingram Micro” program celebrates employees’ unique qualities. Ingram created five strategies for its listening sessions to help the company engage with its associate base and executives. During the listening sessions, associates discussed having more diversity in hiring, especially at the leadership level, more visibility for diverse voices, and better career development.

To make its culture more inclusive, Ingram hired two firms to help tackle the issue. As a result, Ingram created a film featuring associates sharing their stories. Ingram shared the film with its associates. “We all have a perspective that’s informed by our lived experiences,” Francois says. “The only way to get to know one another is to understand each other’s lived experience.”

In the film, people answered questions including “what has been made possible to you today that wasn’t possible before, and what about yourself makes you unique that you haven’t felt comfortable to share at work?” The questions reached each individual, Francois says. Ultimately, if you respect people for who they are, “it’s almost impossible for us to not include one another in the day to day of the culture at work,” he says.

From a DEI perspective, Ingram began rolling out employee resource groups to help empower and engage associates around their identities and things they care about. Ingram documented DEI success stories, and made them accessible so associates could see opportunities for career growth and development.

Photo caption: Jean Francois (middle), head of partnerships at Ingram Micro Commerce and Lifecycle Services, discusses the steps that Ingram has taken to foster a more diverse, equitable and inclusive culture.