Opinion

Brand culture is more than free food and snoozing pods

While a company's culture might look good on paper, implementing a true sense of teamwork takes more than free food and ping pong tables, writes Debbie O'Connor.

In the recent Google walkout where staff from around the world protested against Google’s mistreatment of women along with other workplace issues, it demonstrated to the world that brand culture runs far deeper than free food and snoozing pods.

It seems that Google over time has developed a culture of sexual misconduct that has been perpetuated or even encouraged through an arbitration clause in all employee contracts.

This ensures that all complaints are addressed and handled internally, leaving staff no avenue to sue or seek external council.

Culture by definition is a set of beliefs, customs and behaviours of a particular people or society.

How companies or organisations communicate their beliefs and customs is becoming more and more important. With social media and the internet, the world is watching 24/7 and news can spread like wild fire. So what can companies do to ensure that they have a healthy brand culture?

Here are some ways to go about changing a dysfunctional culture, or better still, ensuring that the culture in your brand is positive, engaging and inclusive.

Know, understand and communicate your brand values

Define, articulate and document what is important to your brand as far as values are concerned. Ensure that these values are inclusive, respectful and fair. Look at what values you are striving to achieve, how you’d like people to treat each other, how you want them to think and behave, and what are you not prepared to put up with? Where would you draw a line in the sand? Once you have these, share them with your team and encourage them to live by these values each and every day. Companies such as Zappo’s are so focused on their brand culture that they openly state the they will hire and fire according to these.

Value and appreciate your people

There are two little words that can have such a profound effect yet are not used enough. ‘Thank you’. It’s a simple concept to thank those who you work with, let them know that you appreciate them or the work that they do. Whether it’s a pat on the back, a thank you note or a box of chocolates, appreciation in any form goes a long way. We all want to feel valued and appreciated, and it’s incredible how much more loyalty you will receive from such a simple and easy to instil behaviour.

Share ideas and opinions

Do you allow collaboration within your team? I mean true collaboration where you don’t just let them have their say, but you actually listen, action or implement their ideas. Sometimes when we allow others the opportunity to share their opinions, we can address, refine and improve our business, service to our customers or products. Remember, your team are on the front line and are exposed to things you might not be aware of. Taking their ideas on board could result in proactive changes, but more importantly will empower and encourage your team to get involved.

Have your team’s back

Always have your teams back especially if they have followed your systems and procedures and maintained the brand values. Well structured and shared values means that when your team acts according to these set of rules they should whole heartedly be protected by the company. Likewise – if they act against them, they should feel the repercussions. If someone is overstepping the line and making others uncomfortable, a business should show them the door. In June this year, Netflix did just that when a senior communications executive was fired due to his descriptive use of the N-word on at least two known occasions. Netflix was not prepared to accept this type of behaviour, even though the staff member had been with them for six years. When your team know that they will be supported in their decisions and actions it enables them to step up and take responsibility of their role.

It starts at the top

More often than not, people leave their managers, not their jobs. This demonstrates how important it is for managers, leaders and business owners to ensure that they are setting a good example and ensuring that the culture of the brand is a healthy, positive and happy one. Managers who bully, bark orders and skulk around are less likely to have a healthy team culture than a manager who is interested, supportive and proactive.

Debbie O’Connor is an internationally award-winning brand strategist, keynote speaker, mentor, expert guest on the 12 part Build My Brand series.

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