Cultural Messaging – Stop Neglecting It

Ignoring your responsibilityWhen you cast about your organization, who epitomizes your organization’s values? Do you see it just in the executive suite, or do you see it in the line (or in walking among the cubes)? How is your messaging reinforcing the definition of success at your company?
Who actively communicates what your organization stands for, inside and outside the company? If you aren’t the mouthpiece – and can’t identify who is – your organization is probably missing one of the most significant opportunities for gaining time and emotion investment within your community.

“Organizational culture” and “cultural values” are often thought to simply happen organically, magically emerge. Just like high-performance teams. Just like breakthrough innovations. Just like fiscal responsibility.

Uh – right.

I often see the clearest messaging being communicated by the recruiting staff from HR. These are the folks that are seeking to “sell” the company to future employees, to help them see their future within the context of the company’s opportunities. But where are they getting their talking points? Are they describing a culture that folks will actually experience, or just pimping a promise of what could be? And who carries on this communication after a recruit becomes an employee?

I recently had a conversation with a senior manager about his first day on a new job. He had picked up his family, relocated several hundred miles, and was getting ready to make a change. But after all the love, all the courting as a candidate, this leader as employee sat in the lobby when he showed up, waiting for someone to buzz him in to begin his career here.

A very low-key reception. Grasshoppers, folks.

No agenda, no planned meetings for introductions, no opportunity to begin meaningful conversations when his excitement was at it’s highest. Missed opportunities to roll out this new leader to the masses, where his early energy could have really started to infect those folks that have maybe gotten a little soft on the organizational mission. Does it make sense that energy levels should be less after the first day of work than they were when first signing on the dotted line as a new employee? Gulp.

Is this how your organization on-boards new leader? Is this how you help new hires ramp into meaningful results in the first 30/60/90 day windows so critical to gaining credibility and setting change in motion? How do you measure alignment and performance of this new recruit if you’ve done nothing to set their talents to task in alignment with the organizational needs.

This isn’t just about the missed opportunity of a single hiring manager – this is about setting a cultural tone that emphasizes contribution, accountability, and active change management. If you aren’t setting expectations, communicating the alignment to organizational objectives and values, and monitoring delivery of results, you’ve missed out on the energy and “new guy sparkle” of your new hires.

If your organization doesn’t have a Cultural Evangelist, start squawking. Someone needs to be actively talking up organizational objectives, cultural norms and practices, and a process for managing ongoing change. Be it a lead in HR, internal communications, or just a social butterfly that loves to speak at new employee orientations, make cultural communications a defined task for which someone has clear accountability.

There is a lifecycle to be managed, and the lifecycle is employee awareness. Aware of cultural values, or the company mission, of the future direction and passion of the leadership team. For companies of 10 and 1,000 alike, the only risk in over-communicating is failure to deliver on the commitments made. We all want to be part of something great, to do more than just earn a check. We want to be part of the winning team, overcoming long odds to do amazing things (in ways great and small).

Clarify your corporate vision, articulate the alignment of values and opportunities, communication your passion, and lead your internal communications with cultural messages that reinforce your objectives.

This entry was posted in Branding, Change, Communication, Culture. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Cultural Messaging – Stop Neglecting It

  1. Rick Turoczy says:

    I would argue that adding a new empty figurehead position is not necessarily the right answer.

    Someone should already be doing this job. That someone’s name is the marketing department.

    And what the marketing department should be doing is turning its attention on the most important customers the company has: its employees.

    This is a communications issue. It’s not a hiring issue. It’s not a cultural issue. It’s a communications issue.

    And if it’s not happening? Your marketing department is failing. Miserably.

  2. Toby Lucich says:

    Expectations.

    When the expectation isn’t set, isn’t plastered all over everything that occurs within the company, the message is lost.

    I think companies come up short when they continue to point to Marketing and say, “they are to blame for weak messaging.” This is a communications issue, but one that reflects the value of leadership, and trickles through interactions even as the explicit message should be posted in the halls, on the intranet, and in all employee communications.

    Share the load.

  3. Rick Turoczy says:

    My point being: this line of reasoning is the one that tends to subjugate marketing to a supporting role, rather than the leadership role it should serve.

    It is an executive’s job to enlighten marketing on the company’s role and goals. To focus the that message, explicitly define that message, promote that message, and communicate that message to the larger organization–even to the point of finding the right words for the originating executive’s quiver? It’s marketing’s job to do that.

    This is the classic “marketing driven organization” versus “somebody else driven organization” conflict.

    I think it’s pretty clear where my favor falls.

    It’s not a matter of sharing the load. It’s a matter of using the right tools to move that load more effectively.

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