Developing a Culture Brand

To thrive in today’s marketplace, companies need more than a good product or service. Branding is central to having your company stand out in a crowded market. For years, we’ve focused on the market brand, how we’re seen in the eyes of our customer. But today, market brand is not enough.

In the ever-increasing competition for employees, companies and organization need to pay close attention to their internal culture brand. With the choices workers have today, your ability to succeed may hinge as much on your internal reputation, your culture brand as it does on your external market brand.

It’s no longer just about money. In today’s wired social network, word of an organization’s reputation spreads quickly. It’s no longer the case that employees hire on only to leave later because of the culture. Today, they make a decision to not even apply and go somewhere else based on culture. Couple that with a generation of workers that value mobility and short-term employment and you have a situation where the inability to attract and retain can be very limiting for a business.

To avoid the problem, it’s important that companies be intentional and thoughtful about creating an internal culture that pulls in and retains the best talent.

Know yourself
Internal culture is not what management says it is. It’s what the employees say it is. Listen to what others say about their experience. It’s hard for an organization to act consistently if they haven’t defined who they are and what values they stand for. Senior leadership must first define the organization’s core values, the heart and soul of the business, to make it part of the culture.

A mistake made by many organizations is to define the words without a clear connection to behaviors. Who doesn’t want a culture where everyone acts with integrity. It’s a great statement, but what does it mean? We assume that everyone knows what that looks like in action. They don’t. Every organization is going to define it differently. Management should take the time to clearly identify what they believe about each cultural value and describe the behaviors that would result from that belief. This give employees the opportunity to see it in action, to give context and meaning to the words.

Hire for culture
Once the internal cultural attributes are defined it should be integrated into the talent selection process. The goal is to go beyond just skill to looking for individuals who value what the organization values. Hiring for culture does not mean hiring people of like personality. It means hiring on similar beliefs. There can be differences around personality with likeness in values.

New employee orientation for many amounts to little more than covering the requisite topics and administration of HR.  But some organizations use it as a strategic opportunity to share their personality, their culture with new arrivals. Rather than just focusing on compliance and administration, they dive deeper into presentations, stories and examples of their core values and behavioral expectations. The goal is to set the stage for future performance and how every member of the team is expected to live up to what the internal brand stands for.

Consistency matters
Actions speak louder than words and for the desired culture to take hold, employees need to see the cultural attributes reflected in the actions of the organization’s leaders. It’s not enough to speak to the cultural values, they need to demonstrate them through their own behavior. Every interaction is an opportunity to affirm your values in the eyes of employees and customers.

 Spread the word
Embedding the values into everyday life involves repetition and recognition of the right behaviors. Organizations should recognize and reward the people who exhibit the values leadership proclaims or the culture is in trouble. In small organizations leaders can tell stories of living out cultural values. In larger and geographically diverse situations company intranets, videos and internal social media systems can carry the message. What’s more important than the method is the frequency. The more frequent and inspiring the stories, the more they’ll become cemented into the everyday actions of the organization.

If you’re diligent with the process and patient enough to see your work take root, your internal brand can become so well-known and attractive that you begin to draw in employees who share your values. You’ll be able to hire people who believe what you believe, individuals who need little assimilation into your culture because it’s already who they are. When that happens, things can get exciting.

If you’d like more information on how to leverage your culture brand, reach out to me through our website or the “contact us” tab on this page.

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