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How Communications Can Help Influence Organizational Culture

With unemployment at historic lows, many organizations are revisiting their recruitment efforts. It's just not enough to find qualified individuals, retaining them is equally vital to success. That's probably why terms like teammate, asset, and caregiver are replacing words like staff to illustrate the employee's value within an organization.


The Evolving Employee Experience

As Baby Boomers retire, younger generations are either maturing into their careers or entering into the workforce. This shift doesn't just infuse companies with fresh talent and ideas, it reveals evolving employee sensibilities. While the Christmas party, desk ashtray and gold watch may be relics of the past, workers are now being enticed with offers to work remotely, maintain flexible schedules or bring Fluffy to work with them. Some companies have invested in onsite “towns” where conveniences like day care and dry cleaners are but a stroll away. One could say the employee experience is rivaled only to the customer experience, but in a growing number of organizations, the employee is first. Just ask Sir Richard Branson!


Head of the Virgin empire, Branson has long credited his employees for Virgin's success. This approach catapulted his company from a modest music store into the stratosphere of global industry including galactic travel. Not every company is led by a visionary who appreciates the human condition when it's operationally empowered, but it is exactly this approach that can benefit the Fortune 50 CEO to the mom-and-pop and help answer the million dollar question: How do I recruit and retain the right talent?


Enticing job prospects is like dating. There's the introduction, the first meeting, some due diligence, and then the recognition that there's more worth pursuing. In best case scenarios, what follows is a marriage proposal or job offer. (Sometimes they're one in the same.) Joking aside, there is something to be said about marriage and work: relationships require constant care in order to thrive. On-boarding is merely the first step to mutual long-term success and it begins with a company's culture and is communicated in a multitude of ways.


The company's communications (public affairs, community relations, governmental affairs) division can assist the c-suite with the necessary intelligence to craft resonant messaging and meaningful strategies. A word of caution to those assuming marketing or sales can just as easily administer communications counsel--it cannot nor should it. Lastly, cultural development will benefit from tactical execution from the top down. Walk the talk, always.


Brands are not Cultures

While a company's reputation relies on elements like influencer mentions, merchandising, product quality, social reviews and advertising, a company's culture is more subtle. Culture may take inspiration from a creative campaign, but its success starts with leadership acting in alignment with company values. This should cascade throughout the organization. In other words, it's the mission in motion.


Technology's Role in Shaping Culture

As technology becomes a greater tool for busy HR managers, it will continue to inadvertently weed-out solid candidates or generate tone-deaf emails that negatively impact company culture. Leadership as well as stakeholders should understand that culture is established in every exchange, meeting, email, ad, charity effort and more. It's the embodiment of values as reflected by sincerity, kindness, empathy, attention, generosity and patience that can't be relegated to software. If you can't list your company's values or worse, don't have any, now is the time to start. Reflect and honesty assess how these guiding principles help shape workforce behaviors, including your own.


Culture Develops Two Ways

Company cultures are as unique as the company and develop either because of its reinforcement or due to lack of its reinforcement. Depending on the workforce, this can cause unnecessary turmoil with companion churn costs and low morale or, conversely, turn a skeleton department into a high-performance and profitable machine. The secret sauce will be the investment made in communicating expectations, removing barriers to success and recognizing benchmarks in meaningful ways to the individuals involved.


Dignity Not Just Dollars

If money was truly the remedy for problems, we'd be complaining about lack of problems. It would be ridiculous to suggest people don't seek a good salary and benefits but it's not the only factor used when joining or remaining with a firm. Numerous studies show that successful work cultures provide opportunities to learn and grow, communicate clear goals, trust their employees, and recognize personal and professional milestones. These elements, especially when expressed by leadership, help breed purposeful collaboration and increase job satisfaction and retention.


Hire For Attitude

Another consequence of a short labor market is the willingness of many companies to hire for attitude over skill. This isn't to say a surgeon can learn entirely on-the-job, but an inherently curious problem solver with an abundance of empathy will be superior in their service as a surgeon to both their patients and their employer. Five decades ago, many employees started in entry level jobs only to promote to the top. Today, that trend is making a welcome return in a growing number of companies who are finding that skills can be taught more readily than honesty, earnestness, tenacity and the like.


Progress Not Perfection

Amazing company cultures continue to be works in progress. They're built not bought. That's why the majority of employees recognize a company made of people is imperfect. Mistakes and missteps are to be expected but as long as course correction occurs promptly and honestly, it'll be little than a bump in the road to continued success.


Still not convinced that creating an enviable culture is worth the effort? If the prospect of increased profitability through recruitment and retention of the best human capital isn't enough to inspire you, read how companies like Southwest Airlines, Zappos, Warby Parker, and Costco not only improved their brands but their industries.

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