“Rules of the Playground”: Culture Change at Crayola
July 22, 2018
For over 115 years, Crayola has helped parents and educators raise ‘creatively alive’ kids. What Crayola stands for is refreshing — they celebrate children’s originality and self-expression, encourage wonder, adventure, and dreaming. Simply put – “inspire everything imaginable.” What’s also refreshing is that this authenticity carries over internally, and Crayola recognizes the culture they create with their people is the key to making what they stand for a reality. At ALI’s recent Strategic Internal Communications conference in Boston, Karen Kelly, the Executive Communications & Employee Engagement Manager took us on a journey through Crayola’s culture over the past few years. She talked about how they have driven behavioral change at the company. What stood out to me most of all during Karen’s talk is how wonderfully Crayola “owns” who they are and how they strive to bring a playful, creative spirit to everything they do internally. A brief history of Crayola’s culture In 2009, their cultural behaviors felt like words on paper — lengthy and hard to remember. Their CEO challenged the team to adapt the cultural behaviors to reflect who Crayola is and what they stand for (hint: kid friendly and playful). The result? “Rules for our playground” were established that set cultural behaviors that were genuine, easy to remember, and provoked child-like wonder. Examples include:
- Play nice and share (collaborative and team-based)
- Be brave (innovative and risk-oriented)
- Best friends forever (obsessed with consumer needs)
- Ensuring executive leadership alignment.
- Educating managers on the new behaviors and leadership competencies.
- Sharing the revised behaviors and leadership competencies at an all-hands meeting (Something I personally loved is how they gave out a box of four crayons with the leadership competencies on the crayons’ labels at the meeting.)
- Leveraging digital and physical channels where they could continue to reinforce these behaviors and educate employees on why these are important, such as their company newsletter (including hard copies for manufacturing employees), intranet, digital signage, and posters.
- Creating tangible reminders in true Crayola fashion. Think colorful t-shirts with the culture graphics, clever environmental branding in conference rooms and offices, and peer recognition boards to acknowledge cultural behaviors.