Thursday 24 October 2019

Communicating corporate culture is key ingredient

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Gina London

Problems, challenges or opportunities. No matter how you describe the issues you may be facing in your particular place of work, I guarantee plenty of other people in plenty of other companies are experiencing them too. There's solace and comfort knowing you are not alone but, more importantly, there is also a variety of solution sources.

Take the challenges I heard as I led a masterclass on transformational communication in conjunction with Invest NI and the DCU Business School.

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Nine senior leaders of subsidiaries of multinationals gathered together at the Culloden Estate and Spa in Belfast last week to share their experiences and explore topics taught by myself and other leading experts, including establishing and earning employee trust, three-horizon goal-setting and positive leadership.

In planet in Australia the week before, I worked with dozens of department heads from some 20 diverse organisations. The issues raised by these company representatives largely echoed the themes discussed more locally in the Robinson Room at Culloden Estate.

The stand-out among them, and what we're going to explore today, is how to create and curate a corporate culture. You won't be surprised to discover that this requires effective communication.

Outside of your service or products, culture is the most essential ingredient determining whether a business succeeds or fails. Your culture is the foundation for everything. It signals, outlines and clarifies for employees: "how we treat each other", "how we represent the company as everyday brand ambassadors" and "how we do things around here". So, where to begin?

1 Commit to the importance of culture

As a leader, you know culture needs to be front and centre. But if your senior leadership team, your middle managers and front-line employees don't agree and share your commitment, you simply don't have it.

Gallup recently conducted a survey which reported a whopping 87pc of global employees do not feel engaged.

That's shocking and means that a clear culture of valuing employees has not been established and supported in way too many businesses.

Couple that statistic with the World Health Organisation's figure that a trillion dollars is spent every year to deal with mental health issues in the workplace and you will begin to understand how important curating a positive and value-based culture in the workplace is today.

2 Involve everyone to contribute ideas

If you want to ignite or re-ignite your culture, ask open-ended questions about what it means to work for your company. What are the values your products or services represent to customers - or should do? What kind of spirit do you want to reinforce?

These kinds of questions should be asked to as many employees as possible in myriad ways. Imagine an all-hands town-hall meeting, a series of smaller, perhaps departmental, team brain-storming sessions, a bespoke software platform, a company-wide survey, or even several clip-board lists on bulletin boards in the canteen.

Seek widespread input to gain buy-in and unity. Naturally, you're going to predict that I recommend an outside person or group to kick this off and help your HR or comms team guide this process, and you're right.

3 Establish two-way communications to continually nurture culture

Once you have collectively established your unique guiding principles for your company's culture, you cannot etch a string of words on some glass office wall and be done with it. Being intentional about culture means you find ways to reinforce it through every facet of the company.

Your policies, your employee systems, your org chart, your benefits packages all need to consistently reflect the culture you have created. A critical component of this is ensuring communication about preserving and protecting your culture is two-ways.

There are plenty of platforms that support this. If your managers are only busy "pushing out" messages - and not actively seeking feedback from front-line workers - your culture will lose vigour and relevancy in no time.

4 Embody your culture personally

The number one roadblock to success in culture implementation? The CEO. I already mentioned the need for two-way communication to allow employees to freely share with managers, but this can't stop before the top. Don't be afraid of transparency. If you are the leader of your organisation, you are its primary cultural emissary. Full stop.

At the same time, I recommend organisations launch peer-to-peer recognition and awards programmes to empower employees working beneath the penthouse office to identify and encourage each other around behaviours and actions which exemplify their corporate culture.

If you and your team cannot articulate your values or know what it means to personally work and live as a representative of your culture, you need a booster shot.

5 Rinse and repeat

Which leads me to the last point of this cycle. And it is a cycle. Think of creating and curating culture as a bicycle wheel. It needs to keep spinning to keep you moving forward. If you don't feel like you're moving forward any more, your culture wheel has ground to a halt. Go back up to point number one and repeat the process.

Sunday Indo Business

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