In today’s fast-paced world, where speed and innovation are crucial skills for survival, corporate culture is either the wind in your sails or the anchor that slows you down.
While most senior leaders grasp this concept, reality suggests that most companies are not moving fast enough to keep pace with post-pandemic workplace trends.
According to a report published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in September 2021:
- Awareness is not the problem.
- 94% of managers said a positive culture creates more effective and resilient employees.
- The differences in perspective are significant.
- Nearly three-quarters (72%) of executives believe their company culture has improved during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to just 14% of American workers.
- The pace of change is tiring.
- More than 60% of HR professionals said maintaining a healthy company culture during the pandemic has been extremely difficult.
So how can you swim against the tide and be proactive in building a healthy company culture that becomes your brand’s greatest benefit?
Build a marquee culture
Whether you like it or not, your employees are the bright sign above your brand, making a loud and clear statement about what your company truly values.
Imagine having a corporate culture that:
- Equips staff to consistently deliver on your brand promise.
- Engages employees and turns them into your biggest advocates.
- Aligns internal systems and empowers the staff they are meant to support.
It’s a “marquee culture”, an upside-down alignment of brand and culture that builds advocacy, delivers on your brand promise, and builds tribes of followers by creating brand experiences irresistible to employees and customers. This is how big consumer brands like Southwest, Netflix and Apple have maintained their growth and scale.
Related Article: Your Next Pandemic Priority: Strengthening Company Culture
The 6 layers of a marquee culture
Building brand culture starts with aligning the six layers of company culture with your brand’s unique value and promise so your employees become brand ambassadors who turn every customer touchpoint into an authentic brand experience. and convincing.
Let’s unbox each layer of Marquee Culture.
Principles are the specific behaviors that shape the internal and external brand experience.
Most brands have some form of guiding values. But too often these values are abstract and dangerously vague. They function more as belief systems than behavior-shaping statements that inform the decisions your employees make.
If your values are abstract and unclear, create principles – specific behaviors that clarify how you expect your people to live your brand.
Architecture includes the systems and structures that support people and shape internal operations.
In some organizations, people operate in a way that is contrary to the brand they are meant to support. For example, the brand may have a core value of “taking care of people”. If this value has not been instilled and operationalized into organizational systems and structures (such as in supervision, compensation, etc.), employees will not get the attention that their brand claims to stand for. This lack of attention can compound employee cynicism and eventually impact the customer experience.
Rituals are recurring employee activities that create positive energy and reinforce brand values. Rituals can be led by leaders and include things like activities for all staff. The best rituals, however, are organically driven by employees, growing within the organization.
A good example is NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Every October, the staff uses their time and resources to hold an over-the-top pumpkin carving contest. This is an employee-led activity that gives engineers the opportunity to apply their rocket building skills to something fun and unconventional.
Identify employee-led activities already in motion that reflect your values, then fan the flame of those brand rituals. And remember: support does not mean control.
Every organization has a handful of stories that build or break the brand from within.
One organization we worked with had the unofficial mantra, “You’re just one plane ride away from losing your job. Whenever the CEO went on a business trip, the employees were afraid that he would offer their job to the person sitting next to him on the plane. This had only happened a few times, but the lore highlighted the organization’s toxic borderline competitive culture.
But lore can also be positive or neutral. Your role as a leader is to know what stories are circulating and to tell the ones that shape the culture you want.
Hear the stories people are telling, then proactively share the ones that elevate your principles and showcase your brand differentiation.
“Words create worlds,” said Rabbi Abraham Heschel. Vocabulary includes words and phrases that have specific meaning in your organization. Your vocabulary shouldn’t be a long list of fancy terms, but should reflect your values, principles, and other layers of brand culture. All you need is a handful of sticky words and phrases that help your employees understand what matters most in your organization.
Take stock of your vocabulary and eliminate words that don’t support your brand’s success. Identify the words and phrases that will help your people remember the key concepts that drive your brand. Use them often to build them into your vocabulary.
Artifacts are the layer of culture that everyone sees – the tangible objects your employees can touch and the spaces where they work.
Swag is great, but it rarely shapes your culture the way artifacts should. An artifact refers to your brand, creating value for your staff and reminding them of your principles.
At Keap, a CRM and marketing automation company, there is an artificial grass soccer field in the middle of the building. This physical asset reminds employees that they win together by working as a team.
Whether simple or complicated, customize and design your artifacts to resonate with your team and connect with your brand.
By aligning these six layers in a marquee culture, you’ll create brilliant on-brand experiences inside and out.
Ted Vaughn is the co-founder of Historic Agency, where he leads client transformation and specializes in executive leadership, brand development and strategic clarity. Ted has served hundreds of for-profit and non-profit brands.