Aligning Brand and Culture Through HR Leadership: Dolf Berle, President and Chief Operating Officer, Dave & Buster’s Inc.

On November 15, 2012, at a session of the human capital leadership forum in Dallas, Dolf Berle of Dave & Busters addressed an audience on the subject of corporate culture and brand management. Berle began by stating the importance of truly understanding one’s brand before attempting to synchronize brand and culture. However, if an effective and successful business is going to be fostered, synchronizing those two aspects is an absolute must. Aligning the nobility of purpose of a brand or a company with the culture, Berle said, was what firms moving forward should be concerned with. Successfully aligning nobility of purpose with corporate culture can create a scenario in which employees feel like they are working towards a higher purpose. Berle went on to relay some anecdotes about his experience working for companies like Waste Management, which dealt with chemical waste, and Taco Bell. At those companies, he said, he was challenged by the fact that at every company, a successful human resources strategy is the first step in establishing an effective and permeating corporate culture. Calling upon his audience to remember what their career goals were when they were children, he said that understanding both limitations, goals, and what one stands for are extremely important: “I would invite you to think about the fact that if you are in a company today where there’s just a vast divide between what you cared about at nine and what they do today, I’m not sure how fulfilled you can be.  I think you can probably be very fulfilled in your role in the community and as a parent, possibly, as a friend and all sorts of other things, but you’re probably not getting your mojo on in terms of the company.”

Overall, Berle said, understanding that emotion can be far stronger than cognition when talking about employees and fostering corporate culture. Creating an emotional connection between employees and the firm for which they work can be an invaluable tool for human resources professionals. Berle referenced the culture that was prevailing   when he first started in the HR profession, which put an enormous amount of importance on employees taking on corporate goals as their own personal goals. At companies like his, Dave & Busters, he said, sometimes the culture was more readily accessible and relatable to the individual employees than it might be at other kinds of firms: “I think for companies where it’s less obvious – for example, technology companies and so on – often the hook is what are you doing charitably or what are you doing in terms of supporting your fellow employees?  We have a lot of employees in my business.  We have 8,000 employees at Dave & Buster’s and most of them are hourly and paycheck-to-paycheck, so when you have a set of circumstances, such as what we experienced in the Northeast recently, you have many people who are really in tough shape.”