Comstock's magazine 0219 - February 2019 - Page 29

How has your company aligned its brand with its culture? TWEET US @COMSTOCKSMAG the outside — and is ideally supported by external-facing employees in mar- keting and sales. Culture is the norms, values and beliefs practiced in an orga- nization — how you behave internally — and while driven by leaders, it is usu- ally supported by human resources. However, some organizations have started to experiment with integrated HR and marketing teams. Back in 2010, Bill Taylor wrote in Harvard Business Re- view that, “the new ‘power couple’ inside the best companies … was an ironclad partnership between marketing leader- ship and HR leadership. Your brand is your culture, your culture is your brand.” Taylor cites Corner Bank of Kansas City, which employs a senior vice president of human resources and marketing. Corner Bank understands that as a service orga- nization, its brand equity is created by its employees. The more positive the inter- nal culture, the more positive its brand will be perceived. This idea is catching on, and there is increasingly more discussion of merg- ing these two fields. Taylor also points to the major insurance and financial services company USAA, which solely serves active or retired members of the U.S. military and their families. As part of their employee training, customer service representatives develop a sense of empathy for clients, in part through immersive activities that illuminate life as a member of the military. As a result, according to the report, “Its customer- loyalty rankings are off the charts and it has become a legendary brand.” So, which came first: the brand or the organizational culture? The answer for successful organizations is culture. Too many company leaders believe that if they get the corporate brand right, the culture will naturally follow. That is hopeful, but lazy, thinking. Focusing on how an organization is perceived exter- nally only scratches the surface while improving culture is deep, systemic work that takes time. How does a company ensure its brand aligns with its culture? tive are its teams? Understanding how employees perceive culture will help in- form your branding strategy. 3 GET A READING ON CULTURE FROM 1 FOCUS ON CULTURE FIRST CLIENTS Your organization must identify what culture aligns with your overarching mission. For example, Amazon pro- motes a culture of entrepreneurship and risk-taking. It’s not right or wrong; it’s what works for Amazon’s mission. Your culture might be more risk-averse and therefore create a culture of controlling and micromanaging employees. For ex- ample, one local financial services orga- nization has a reputation of delivering predictable results to their clients and embraces that in their culture. Innova- tion is not encouraged across the board and that works for them. Leadership must embrace the or- ganization’s purpose and then create a system internally that facilitates the kinds of behaviors you want to see from employees. Culture is defined by the be- haviors practiced within an organiza- tion, formed over time because they are rewarded or punished by formal and in- formal rules, rituals and incentives. And while HR has a heavy hand in facilitat- ing cultural norms, it is ultimately the purview of the organization’s leader. Every interaction clients have with your employees informs their perception of your brand. Questions to ask clients in- clude: What is our company’s first im- pression? How do you feel about our sales process? What are your ongoing interactions like? How does trouble- shooting or problem-solving typically manifest? Your clients will have an im- pression of your culture based on all these interactions that may or may not align with what employees are saying. In order to ensure alignment between your brand and culture, you need to know what messages are being commu- nicated to your clients. 2 GET A READING ON CULTURE FROM EMPLOYEES Any branding effort should include a non-biased assessment of the organi- zation’s culture, which means engag- ing with employees in interviews, focus groups or surveys. Ultimately, the goal is to identify if the CEO and HR have been successful in creating a culture that aligns with the mission. Questions to ask include: What leadership styles are prevalent among managers? Is col- laboration embraced? What is the orga- nization’s risk tolerance? How innova- 4 IDENTIFY THE GAPS Compare what your employees and cli- ents say about your organizational cul- ture. Are you touting agility internally, but viewed as a slow-moving organiza- tion to your clients? Are you selling in- tegrated solutions, but your clients can tell your employees aren’t communicat- ing with one another? Comparing the two perceptions will allow you to iden- tify what needs to change about your culture in order for your brand to follow. Finally, to truly align your brand and culture you have to understand that you can’t superficially change the brand to fix your culture. Change comes from the inside out. If you try to update your brand to get culture change, you end up with misalignment. n Jessica Kriegel, Ph.D., is an organiza- tional development consultant and an expert on generational issues. For more, visit February 2019 | 29