Are your internal and external cultures in sync?

September 30, 2020
By iQ Staff
Two hands connecting puzzle pieces against a dark backdrop.

The current environment, with its fragile economy, heightened social awareness, and uncertain future, has companies publicly leaning into their brand identities and, by extension, their corporate cultures. Brands are taking every opportunity to maintain a connection with customers, and, in doing so, project a strong company culture that reflects their authentic values.

It is only logical that the corporate culture a company projects externally must align with its internal culture. For example, a company whose brand embraces an active lifestyle should provide employees with fitness and wellness benefits. A company that prides itself on promoting diversity should hire and promote diverse talent.

Surprisingly, this is not always the case. Dissonance between internal and external culture manifests a host of issues that erode employee commitment and eventually lead to increasing dysfunction within organizations. This disconnect could eventually lead to a public fiasco similar to what we’ve seen at Bon Appetit Magazine and the Ellen Show, which leads to an erosion of trust and loyalty to your brand.

Company leadership must actively ensure that internal and external culture are in sync. This should be done formally, when making decisions on policies, and also informally, on a daily basis in behaviors big and small. For example, what content leadership chooses to promote via social media, or how accessible they make themselves to employees.

Below are four warning signs that your internal culture and external corporate brand are diverging.


Employees do not feel comfortable sharing ideas and speaking up

If your internal culture is such that employees do not feel comfortable sharing their workplace concerns with their managers, you have a looming issue. Just having the right policies in place is not sufficient where a culture of silence has taken hold. Employees may have great ideas for improving processes or increasing revenue but are afraid of being penalized for criticizing current policies or systems. If the company purports to value all voices, this is a major disconnect that is clearly a sign of dysfunction. 


“‘Selling’ lofty ideals as part of the brand only works if the employees feel a part of that mission.”


Customers receive better treatment than employees

When thinking about overall company culture, business leaders should take a keen interest in ensuring that hiring policies, benefits, and compensation are reflective of the values that the company embraces publicly. If you prioritize listening to your customers’ feedback and criticisms, but don’t extend the same privileges to your own employees, you are undervaluing your internal culture. “Selling” lofty ideals as part of the brand only works if the employees feel a part of that mission.

Employees are not able to resolve concerns through company channels

If employees are not able to voice concerns and resolve issues through workplace channels, they will find other means to make their voices heard, particularly in the face of injustice. Twitter and other social media platforms have become the default public forum for policing bad corporate behavior. Company leadership should prioritize internal HR processes that provide employees with a means to voice their concerns and be taken seriously or risk having their people take their issues public. Then, embrace these processes wholeheartedly.

The leadership team is not communicating with the rest of the company

To ensure that external culture consistently aligns with a company’s internal culture and beliefs, leadership needs to communicate internally about expectations, priorities, and decisions being made at the management level that could impact day-to-day operations. Failure to do so will result in missed opportunities to ensure that the larger team is on board when the company needs to pivot or make tweaks to messaging that is being conveyed externally. Management and employees must be on the same page when it comes to culture, and communication lapses will lead to drifting apart on both sides.

Alignment of internal and external culture should be a priority for leaders today. A thriving business is dependent on its leaders monitoring employee morale and cultivating a strong company culture. Watch for and address the warning signs of culture drift before it’s too late.