If you ask people what is good corporate culture, some might say it is about having great benefits such as the dental perks Starbucks offers its staff, the sleeping lounges and pool tables in Google’s offices, or the option of working from home at Adobe, Xerox and Amazon.
A client I worked with for a marketing project in the past thought benefits such as massage chairs were in fact what constituted good corporate culture. They were struggling with low employee morale and to boost it they believed that installing some TVs and a coffee lounge, basically doing something similar to what Google had going on in its offices, would solve the issue. At the beginning the employees were excited, but then the excitement waned and their performance was not positively enhanced.
When establishing a company, I have noticed that some business owners do not invest as much in creating the right corporate culture as they do for their brand. In the case of the client I worked with, their brand was about offering the best wealth-management services to their customers. But their corporate culture did not reflect that. In fact, one of the reasons employee morale was down was because the company did not listen to their concerns or suggestions and good performance was not rewarded or acknowledged. One of their employees highlighted that what the company offered to its customers and how they worked were at opposite ends.
The thing is that having a distinct culture that is aligned with your specific brand is what reaps great results, not copying another company's culture. What made Google successful, for example, is the fact that it had aligned its corporate culture and brand values. Just because it worked for Google does not mean it will work for your company. It does not matter if your company culture is about competitiveness or efficiency - as long as your brand and corporate culture are aligned, not only will your staff perform better, your company will be authentic. If they are not aligned, you could have happy staff but wrong results, or vice versa.
Here are a couple of ways of ensuring that your corporate culture and brand values are aligned:
Ensure that your team understands your brand values. It is not enough that they are familiar with the dos and don'ts of how to use your brand's logo. They should know what differentiates your brand from competitors. They should be familiar with your target audience, their likes and dislikes and how they engage with your brand. They should know what your mission and values are and act as brand ambassadors whenever someone asks them about your business.
Your employees should be familiar with what they are delivering. If you aim to introduce a new product, test it in-house first. Take your team's feedback. Allow them to interact with your product the way your customers will so that when they talk about the product they deliver the right information. If you are delivering a technological application, then your staff should test it first. You cannot expect them to sell or market a product they have not used.
Once the brand values are set, you can work on aligning your corporate culture with them. If you manage a car company and your key selling point is engine performancethen you should foster a culture of excellence. If your brand is about social responsibility then your culture should cultivate a sense of purpose. Your corporate culture values should be incorporated into everything from the way your office is designed, training and development, to your policies and procedures.
Just keep in mind that how your company operates should be linked with how your customers perceive your brand. Once you do that, your company will be efficient, you will avoid miscommunication with your staff and, ultimately, save money. Your staff will provide a greater customer experience and you will be authentic and deliver on your brand's vision.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages a branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi. For more, follow her @manar_alhinai