Your Culture is visible Online, more than ever

by | Jul 29, 2020 | Brand Expression, Corporate culture

Explicit and implicit ways your company culture is publicly displayed online

Have you attended more public webinars lately?

Having your staff network via virtual coffees or online events?

Noticed people are on social media more than ever, missing the face-to-face connection with others?

As we know, these online activities have all seen a massive increase since the pandemic began – many of us have had to grapple with how to perform our usual in-person business functions online. But this also means more is being communicated, through our staff and others, about our organisation… in a highly accessible public forum.

How do we get a sense of company culture online? I’d say there are implicit ways and explicit ways.

Let’s start with the explicit – and see how obvious they are to you!

Explicit ways your culture is displayed online

If you are in the news, the media’s representation of you will say something about your culture and your brand. And if you are proactively seeking media coverage to demonstrate your good news stories or your expertise – the perception of your organisation and you as a leader are still subject to how journalists and editors choose to portray the information you provide! As anyone who has tried this will know, it’s a bit of potluck as to how you’ll come across, despite your best efforts! Of course – how you are represented can highly depend on the publication you land in – I was recently misquoted (as in, words I did not say in a particular sentence were inserted, which changed the meaning) in an article in a tabloid with an enormous following!

With so many more people looking for jobs, there are more people looking to find out about your culture online, through social media and job search sites like Glass Door. These platforms reveal clear messages about how people see your organisation through reviews of leadership, culture, management, team members, brand, products and services.

Now here are some ways I can learn about your culture by reading between the lines…

Implicit ways your culture is displayed online

By attending a bunch of webinars on various professional topics recently, I have not only learned from the presenters… I have unintentionally learned about how some people see the organisations they work for. With people generally logging in (usually as a requirement) with their full name, and leaving comments and questions in the public chat during the webinar, you can see how some people feel about their organisation – and it wouldn’t be hard for the overly curious to find out where they work, even if it hasn’t been stated.

Certain comments left in the chat, in answer to a question posed by the presenter, inadvertently reveal how happy people are with leadership, management or work environment… or what they perceive the company stands for and the impact it makes. I wonder whether you’ve seen chat comments like these:

  • “Sometimes my suggestions are listened to, but not always.”
  • “I feel pigeon-holed in a certain skillset but I’d like to demonstrate that I can do other things.”
  • “We don’t really talk about what our team is trying to achieve.”

Questions written in the chat, or that I’ve heard people ask in an online networking event (where you can see their face and their name), have demonstrated to me that:

  • Someone was not receiving adequate professional development and training for their role
  • Someone was unclear how their role made a positive impact to the wider team and stakeholders
  • The financial health of a business was in question!

Consider also that these forums are often not a one-time event. Many presentations and discussions are recorded for sharing more widely with the professional community, through websites, email lists and social media platforms.

However innocently people engage during webinars, their natural and understandable enthusiasm to connect with ideas and to share with others can reveal some problems within your organisation. And while it would be wrong to attempt to control this, it is worth being aware of, since it highlights how necessary it is to prioritise a healthy culture, as well as to educate your people more broadly about how their actions represent the organisation online.

I’ve listed just a few examples… can you think of other ways a company culture is revealed online?

What to do about it?

Over the last couple of years I’ve been speaking and writing about building your awareness of how your culture is both portrayed and grown in the online space, and what you can do to become more proactive in guiding this, from within your organisation as well as at board level. In articles and presentations to business audiences, I have spoken about how culture is represented in internal and external, formal and informal ways. Now in 2020, not only do these points still hold true – they are more important than ever.

Some further reading:

What’s your board’s role in leading organisational culture online?

Ways culture is revealed through staff’s social media activity

Brand and culture expression through your people – creating a ‘net’ to catch and assess impression touch-points