Company culture is defined much the same way that country or city culture is defined.

Think about it. Before you visit, or much less move to a new place – you read about it, talk to other people about it, read reviews online, find out what the food is like, what language(s) you need to know, what to wear, where to go, what to avoid. Once you arrive, you take in (consciously and subconsciously) all that is around you – the smells, smiles (or lack thereof), habits, food, art, rituals, traffic, social norms, etc. that surround you. It can be pretty overwhelming. And you decide pretty quickly how much (or how little) you fit in.

We often underestimate how much value people place in the simple connection between what a brand stands for (it’s purpose, values, etc.) and how it goes about getting it done every day (its people and culture). For example, if a brand says it stands for innovation, that should be demonstrated by fresh thinking, team members who share stories of when they’ve made mistakes in pursuit of something new and different, and office space that lends itself to creativity. Or the option to work remotely in places that do.

Companies that connect their people to their brand have much greater success in attracting and retaining top talent. It’s crucial for companies to create a brand their employees can be excited about, one that supports employees’ ambitions, values and goals. Employees should feel a sense of pride in where they work as it creates a positive ripple effect for your brand in the world, where your employees can be your top advocates.

A few fundamental things you can do to help build this connection and make it real for people.

  1. Keep it simple.  Our research shows that simpler workplaces—those where employees easily get their work done and feel productive and fulfilled in doing so—engender more advocacy, innovation, and retention. The positive impact is pretty incredible —95% of employees trust their company’s leadership more, 84% of employees plan to stay longer at their jobs, and 65% are more likely to recommend someone to work at their company. Having a clear north star enables employees to understand and appreciate how they impact the business. It also allows them to tell your (their) story in a clear, compelling and consistent way – leading to better customer experiences as well.
  2. Own your weirdness. ‘Bring your whole self to work’ has been used a lot in the HR/employee engagement universe. However, we often hear brands and companies described in the same boring, overused terminology. How can we expect people to bring their unique talents and individuality to our teams when we are not openly celebrating some of our own differences/originality as a company?
  3. Have a dialogue, not a monologue. Daily we are overloaded with information and ‘propaganda.’ In business, vulnerability can serve as a strength. Share as much as possible about what’s going on in the business—financially, culturally, within the context of the rest of the world and the broader industry. A lack of transparency forces people to make assumptions, which can lead to misperceptions. Employee engagement is a two-way street. It’s a long-term effort in which you need to commit to continually ask questions, listen to your people, and make incremental improvements.

Much like customers who are willing to pay a premium for simpler brand experiences, employees are willing to go the extra mile—essentially paying a premium of their time and effort— for simple workplaces that clearly and honestly demonstrate the connection between their brand and their people.

Kerry is going to be speaking at The Wellbeing @ Work event in New York on June 6 – for further details please go to the event website here.

Kerry Held

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