In discussions around the technological and workforce transformations occurring in the manufacturing industry, one topic repeatedly arises as an obstacle that can derail the transformation companies need to make in order to succeed as Connected Enterprises.

It's not cybersecurity or isolated data silos. It's culture.

But ask a lot of business leaders, most employees and just about any engineer what "culture" means, and you'll get a mission statement at best and, more often, a shrug.

If you're equally confused by all things culture, Tressa Knutson Bruggink, director, internal communications and engagement at Rockwell Automation, feels your pain. She knows how difficult it can be to even define culture, let alone transform it.

But she also knows the payoff that happens when you make culture a priority: higher employee engagement; increased flexibility and acceptance of change; better ideas, better products and improved customer service.

And if a global company with 22,500 employees can nurture a culture change that contributes to measurable business outcomes, then it probably has a thing or two to share on the subject.

"Every company we talk to is struggling with the issue of culture," Knutson Bruggink said during a conversation at the company's Automation Fair event in Chicago. "And, yet, when we talk with customers and mention a recognition we've received for ethics or equality or supplier diversity, they ask us, ‘Why aren't you talking about that more?' I guess before we thought it was immodest to talk about these things, but now we see that we can help our customers with their own culture struggles by sharing what we've learned. Plus, our customers like to know that they are doing business with a company that's recognized for its standards and practices around ethics, diversity and the environment."