With so many stories currently in the media about PR crises, including the findings of the current Royal Commission into the banking and finance industries, and with HR departments reporting in a recent survey that they are having trouble finding people who fit their organisations’ values, it’s clear that there needs to be a strong focus on the development of positive cultures and alignment of people with brand values.
With the tech boom and disruption in every industry, there is a lot going on for business right now. But the fact remains that along with great tech and the systems to integrate it, we also need great people working in great cultural environments.
Part of the cultural puzzle is having a strong, values-driven, humanistic brand – and another essential component is developing a team of values-driven people who resonate with and powerfully represent that brand. This is what we call people and company brand alignment.
Like anything to do with the internal worlds and external behaviours of human beings, brand alignment is a complex thing. For very small businesses and new start-ups, it’s pretty easy to achieve people and company brand alignment: the founder leads the way, passionate about why they started the business and what they want to achieve, and they attract like-minded people to bring along for the ride… why? Because their vision, mission and values are fresh in their minds and they express them easily, naturally and often to their small community.
For larger and more established organisations, this is much harder. In Find Your Why (Simon Sinek, David Mead & Peter Docker) the authors talk about the often inevitable deviation from the founder’s original intent or purpose, as time progresses and different people exit and enter. The company’s real brand values – what is actually happening – can look quite different from what’s stated on the website.
Has your organisation lost its sense of purpose? Do your team members authentically live out the values the company states that it stands for? Do the messages of your official online content (such as your website) AND your unofficial online activity (such as staff members’ ‘private’ comments about work on Facebook) match the messages in the official brand profile you had created by an expensive branding agency?
As vital parts of a healthy company culture, brand messages and people/company brand alignment need to be considered. Here are a few points to get you thinking:
- If you randomly picked staff members at different levels of the organisation, are you confident they would be able to summarise 3 of your company values in their own words, and state with conviction what this means for their own day-to-day work?
- Does your recruitment process focus on carefully designed questions to discover people whose personal values work harmoniously with your company values (prioritising this above teachable skills)?
- What evidence can you see of a company culture that reflects a clear set of positive values in terms of WHO you are and HOW you work?
- Do your online communications (social media, website, emails, newsletter, webinars, media…) consistently represent your brand’s key messages?
- Does the outward appearance (clothing, grooming, body language, facial expression, tone of voice, language) of all your staff members represent a professional, confident brand (assuming you are going for this impression)?
These are not easy questions to answer, and when I ask them, most people’s answer is ‘Sometimes.’ But ‘sometimes’ does not make for a consistent brand, either internally (think ‘culture’) or externally (PR, ‘online culture’, reputation, brand awareness).
As companies both large and small are becoming aware of the great need to develop their people along with their tech, these sorts of questions are being addressed with education and strategy planning.