Ask people how to develop a good company culture, and most will immediately start suggesting great employee benefits, or a relaxed dress code. Rarely do people suggest encouraging employees to disagree with their managers or firing their top performers. But it’s having a distinct company culture that allows organizations like Amazon, GE, and Starbucks to produce phenomenal results. Each of these companies has aligned its culture and brand to create a powerful competitive engine.
That’s because the brand and culture of a company reflect each other in an interconnected system. The brand is how the company presents itself to the outside world, the culture is where your brand is born. The culture influences management decisions and all business functions ranging production to marketing to accounting.
It doesn’t matter if your company culture is friendly or competitive, nurturing, or analytical. If your culture and your brand are driven by the same purpose and values, and you’ve weaved them into a single guiding force for your company, you will have a competitive advantage for customers and employees. When your culture is clear, your employees will able to understand and embrace what makes you unique and what value you provide to your customers. You do this by creating a clear, strong, and distinctive brand-led culture.
If your culture and brand are mismatched, you may end up with productive, happy employees who produce the wrong results. Without using your brand purpose and values to give your culture a direction, you’re likely to waste a lot of money. For example, to attract top talent, you may think you need to invest a lot of money in things like a ping pong table, generous employee perks, and/or office renovations that are more conducive to team work. But doing this could make it difficult to turn a profit. So while you will have happy employees, it comes at the expense of the company.
But if you have a single, unifying drive behind both your culture and your brand, you reap the benefits of a focused and aligned workforce. So how can you tell if your brand and culture are out of sync? A disconnect between your employee experiences and your customer experiences is a telltale sign. If you’re engaging with your employees differently than how you expect them to engage with your customers, your organization is operating with two sets of values.
Once you know what type of brand you’re aiming for, you can identify the values that your organization should embrace. For example, if you’re a performance brand like Nike, you should work on cultivating a culture of achievement, excellence, and competition inside your organization. When there is clarity on the values necessary to support your desired brand, you can use it to inform and create other culture efforts.
How you operate on the inside should be completely linked with how your are perceived on the outside. Just as brands differ, there is no single right culture. Identify the distinct cultural elements that allow you to achieve your desired brand, and then deliberately cultivate them.