Leveraging a Make-or-Break Moment for Corporate Culture

July 15, 2020
By iQ Staff
Giant hands cradling small people among plants.

Under normal circumstances, corporate culture provides a guiding framework for employees, and can even project a brand’s distinct values and identity to a broader external audience. In times of uncertainty and economic instability, corporate culture can make or break an organization.

In light of the universal transition to remote work during the pandemic, corporate culture has taken on an elevated role, emerging as the glue that holds organizations together. It serves as a lifeline that keeps employees committed to their work, a foundational structure that trust and engagement are built upon.

Despite being physically separated, most of us are communicating and collaborating with colleagues more than ever. Every day brings new challenges and realities, forcing management to pivot and swerve, and forcing employees to be flexible. Whether or not companies can carry on with this new normal is tied very closely to the culture of each organization. In short, corporate culture is having a moment.

However, corporate culture fails to serve its purpose if it’s not communicated distinctly, regularly, and consistently. Employees need to have a clear understanding of the culture and how to put it into practice if it is to have any impact.

 

What is corporate culture?

By definition, corporate culture is the manifestation of a company’s purpose and values. In practice, it’s a framework that helps employees navigate interactions and make decisions throughout the day.

A good corporate culture makes it easier for everyone to act in a way that aligns with the company’s values. It’s shorthand for the expected code of behavior at work, whether an employee is prioritizing tasks, interacting with customers or engaging with fellow employees.

So, what is “good” corporate culture? That depends on who you ask. What works specifically for any particular organization will depend on its industry, audience and the values its leaders and employees hold.

However, there are some universal guidelines. Good corporate culture is inclusive and respectful. It promotes diversity and openness, and crucially, it must be consistently embraced. An inconsistent corporate culture can sow confusion or resentment, destroy morale and create a sense of futility among employees.

 

How to create corporate culture

Sometimes, culture happens organically. Many organizations, especially smaller ones, tend to attract employees that share similar values and priorities, creating an informal corporate culture as they grow.

For most entities, however, culture has to be cultivated deliberately, with buy-in from all employees. It has to be reinforced and demonstrated at the highest levels of an organization. And, manifestations of company culture — such as examples of employees going above and beyond to help each other out — should be acknowledged and celebrated.

Corporate culture that has been cultivated with intention is especially invaluable when times are tough. It may be the thread that binds a company together and prevents it from inadvertently drifting in an unproductive direction. If everyone is clear on the culture and acts in line with that culture every day, the odds of staying on a path to success will be exponentially greater.

 

Corporate culture and communication

In order to have a culture that sticks, organizations need to be able to communicate that culture effectively so employees old and new have a deep understanding of what it is.

Saying it, writing it, and engraving it on plaques is good, but it is not enough. A company’s leaders can equip their employees with tools to help them leverage, reinforce and maintain consistency in how corporate culture is expressed, which builds staying power. These tools might include:

  • A guide to conscious and inclusive language choices: words we use, and words we don’t use
  • Scenario videos featuring management
  • Events and virtual events that underscore values and priorities
  • Philanthropic measures
  • Guidelines for choosing vendors and suppliers, with a commitment to supporting diverse partners

Frequent Zoom meetings and virtual togetherness are conducive to reinforcing culture and watching it thrive. Any virtual event is an opportunity to showcase a company’s values and distinct culture.

It should be noted that culture is not exclusively the domain of internal communications. A robust corporate culture can and should be shared externally, not only to attract potential employees, but also to engage current and future customers.

For example, companies that embrace sustainable business practices may want to share their journey of selecting vendors that share these values. Telling these stories to an external audience reinforces the extent to which this value is a priority. Employees are often your most enthusiastic brand ambassadors in presenting your culture to the world, so explore ways to let them shine in your content and storytelling.

 

Takeaway

Corporate culture is vital to the success of brands today. The pandemic, a newly remote workforce, and a struggling economy have made it even more crucial for companies to cultivate a healthy corporate culture to improve morale, build trust and increase engagement.

Organizations have a make-or-break opportunity to strengthen their corporate culture by leveraging communications to reinforce it regularly. How companies choose to do so reflects their values and priorities in a rapidly evolving business environment.

 

Want more? Read our related posts on how the pandemic has affected communications in the workplace and in the public eye: