Corporate culture. A term that may have lost its meaning due execs throwing it around like water balloons. But it’s not jargon, it’s a vital concept.
Scholars found that the better a company’s internal culture, the better its ROI. Same goes for its operating cash flow. Forbes determined that with a strong corporate culture comes high employee retention rates and strong employee brand loyalty to their employer. Researchers at the University of Minnesota found strong corporate culture was THE most important factor for “driving innovation.”
But what exactly is corporate culture? Here’s the definition, according to the Harvard Business Review:
Culture is the tacit social order of an organization: It shapes attitudes and behaviors in wide-ranging and durable ways. Cultural norms define what is encouraged, discouraged, accepted, or rejected within a group. When properly aligned with personal values, drives, and needs, culture can unleash tremendous amounts of energy toward a shared purpose and foster an organization’s capacity to thrive.
Media can have a huge role in shaping attitudes and behaviors within a company. In a poll done by LinkedIn, employees feel they fit a company’s social order and culture when they are: recognized for their accomplishments, can express their opinions freely and feel like their contributions are valued by higher-ups.
Strategic media usage can foster all three of these attributes, which can improve overall corporate culture one employee at a time.
Recognizing Employee Accomplishments
Disengaged employees can cost companies almost $550 billion dollars in lost productivity. A company can re-engage employees by developing a strategy to recognize their accomplishments (in and out of the office) through strategic media use. Something as simple as a post on social media highlighting their accomplishments or a website devoted to the endeavors of employees outside of their work can increase an employee’s buy in to improve corporate culture. 69 percent of employees said they’d work harder if they felt recognized and appreciated.
Sophisticated technology can aid a company’s media strategies in this regard. Both employee recognition apps and software exist so “Tom’s workplace anniversary” never falls through the cracks again.
Companies can also skip the guesswork on what employees want to be recognized for and tailor it to them individually.
Button executive Stephen Milbank, in an interview with Bonus.ly, described his company’s process:
At Button, we have each new employee fill out an orientation survey on their first day. One of the questions we ask is, tell us about a time you felt appreciated for your work. This provides the management team with insight into how to make sure all Buttonians are able to be recognized in ways that they feel appreciated.
Based on this information we have implemented different manners of recognizing our team, some very public and others more private.
This tiny step ensures that a private person isn’t highlighted on social media when all they want from their supervisor is just a “good job” in an email. Moreover, it places value on the employee’s input.
Value Employee Contributions
A strong and successful corporate culture is built from employees feeling their contributions are valued and that they belong, according to reesmarx. Employee input in turn can actually help the bottom line. The humble Starbucks Frappuccino was developed by employees in So-Cal and now is a billion-dollar staple for the company.
What employees think and feel matters – and a company can develop a media strategy around that. Debby Johnson, Executive Vice President for Strategy and Planning at Ackerman McQueen shared this story with AM Insights regarding a former client:
One of our clients had new management, was making changes and some of the old guard (and some of the new) weren't happy. We did a baseline employee survey to discover their frustrations. Management listened.
We then produced some videos on corporate culture and showed the videos in a theater at a big event [the company] sponsored for employees and their family members at the OKC Zoo. Working closely with management, we then produced more videos on a variety of topics and released them (both to employees and the public) throughout the year. We then followed up with the same survey to see if we had changed employee perceptions. And, guess what? We had. Lots less grumbling. Lots more agreement on attributes like "management listens to me and my concerns." The video was just one of several things [the company] did to positively affect the culture, improve safety and improve employee retention.
As seen in this example, a company can leverage media to show that it values employee input on a large scale. Employees feeling free to discuss their work lives can be liberating, especially when a company is open to connecting with employees in this discourse.
When employees are asked for feedback, it increases employee satisfaction, performance and engagement with a company. Just see poster child of positive corporate culture Google, who asks employees for supervisor feedback purely just for that supervisor’s edification, not tied to performance reviews or salaries.
Freedom of Expression
A way of encouraging freedom of expression is encouraging employees to have informal social outings. In an interview with AM Insights, Leigh Dodson King, Vice President of Operations for Encore Live, said
The average worker wants “to be a part of something that connects them to others when they come together with a group of people – old friends and new friends – and leave feeling changed, even if just in a small way, that is the measure of a great event.”
According to the Columbia Business School, this can start the process of feeling like employees are “living life” together, expressing themselves freely and, of course, feeling like they belong to something greater than themselves.
Another area in which a company can encourage freedom of expression is on social media. 50 percent of employees discuss their workplace and work-life on social media. This is a good thing. According to Glassdoor, “33 percent of employers who encourage employees to share info about the company see a 50 percent increase in employees recommending the company’s products or services.”
A company encouraging honesty on social media can also increase a sense of belonging. Personal care company L’Oréal started a hashtag #LifeatLoreal to learn how employees were doing at their satellite offices. The hashtag now also connects all L'Oréal employees to each other – a sign of a positive corporate culture.
While media strategies alone cannot improve corporate culture, they are certainly tools in the toolbox that enhance the positive relationships at the core of a healthy culture. Utilizing media to foster these relationships will both inspire current employees’ loyalty and attract top-performing new employees – making for a healthier bottom line.