Culture is recognised as the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a society. When it comes to business, it’s importance can carry even more weight. When we think about a business’ culture, we think of the values, behaviours and attributes of your people.

2015_OCT_ALL_PEOPLE - Are Brand and Culture Interchangeable?

When it comes down to it, your culture is your brand, and your brand is your culture. This is demonstrated throughout the entire customer journey. It’s the feelings that your customers and your employees have when they think about your company. When it’s done well, it’s pervasive, deep and embraces every organisational touch point. From the way that you respond to a phone call, to an email or any engagement with customers, vendors and your fellow employees.

For a brand to come to life, it needs to be internally aligned to the company’s values. A great workplace culture revolves around people. They must be engaged, empowered and believe in the company vision.

The importance of alignment was highlighted in ‘Managing brand performance: aligning positioning, execution and experience’ in the Journal of Brand Management:

“For internal branding the company must align its people, resources and operations. The most important asset for a company is its employees, who need to be fully engaged to deliver on the brand promise… The company culture is the leader of the brand is it guides decisions for the staff.”

Without a clear vision set in place, employees will struggle to understand what the company stands for and what differentiates them from the competition. It was recently reported that only one in four employees is fully engaged at work. This would suggest that most organisations are not doing a great job communicating brand values to their staff.

The bottom line is, in order to create a successful culture and brand, your employees should be living and breathing your company values. To build that kind of ecosystem, a company has to be committed to its long term vision that expresses the brand’s core values. Without this, there’s a disconnect between what you say, how you act and what your customer thinks and feels.

So, how do you build a strong ‘brand’ culture?

1. Define The Purpose

It begins with a meaningfully differentiated, purpose-driven idea. One that the organisation can rally around. Here, a top down approach works to share the purpose. A leader who can define the values, vision and expected behaviours. One who shares with simple, clear and easily demonstrated behaviours. Companies like Apple, Tesla, Facebook and Amazon each have brilliant leaders who share the core values with their employees. This is the beginning of the business values spreading into culture. Key leaders sharing their ideas with an additional injection of personality.

2. Hire the right people

Before the business landscape changed, there was an old management mantra that said “Hire slowly, fire fast.” Many companies are still doing this, but often the best practice to create innovative workplaces is to move fast in both areas, instead using the phrase “Hire fast, fire fast.”

With the right framework in place, there’s no reason not to take a chance on employees who you believe will be a great cultural fit for the organisation. On the same token, when someone isn’t pulling their weight or doesn’t believe in the company’s values, it’s important to be honest to both yourself and to the employee. Soon, you’ll have a team of people who have the right attitude, believe in your company and who are a cultural fit.

3. Make sure your HR and Marketing work together as one

Within your organisation, human resources and marketing departments must work together as one to embed brand driven value across elements like position descriptions, key performance criteria and ensure feedback. Creating cascading goals from the company values enable every employee to understand how the tasks that they’re completing fit into the greater organisational vision.

Engaging in regular feedback using survey software like Tinypulse is another great way to make sure that the vision isn’t falling behind at any point. Regularly checking in on employees establishes ongoing communication, vital to understanding what’s going on in the day-to-day runnings of the company and when changes need to be made.

4. Celebrate Behaviours

Just as you should open up communication channels with your employees, it’s important recognise their wins, and celebrate the behaviours that are developing and growing the company’s culture to where you ultimately want it to be.

Morning meetings to check in on what’s happening for the day, quarterly themes and reward and recognition programs are great examples of activities that a company can quickly set up that go a long way in engaging employees. A structured reward and recognition program, like Power2Motivate, encourages not only management, but employees to recognise and reward one another for helping each other out.

Ultimately, the culture that you create from within is what will define what your customers, future candidates, vendors and competitors say about you when you’re not around. Culture isn’t something that comes just from a marketing or HR department’s exercises and activities. Culture comes from your employees passionately living and breathing it. Your culture and your brand are a state of mind. Done well, it’s an intoxicating and rewarding journey.

Ari Kopoulos Employment Innovations