Fifty-six percent of employees do not understand or embrace their company’s culture.
With mergers and acquisitions at a 13-year high, there is a pandemic identity crisis in business today. This merging and melding of cultures presents a special challenge for companies. The outcome is that this blended-family organization becomes a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Many have no shared history, different management styles, conflicting values, and strategic confusion. It leaves employees wondering, “Who are we?”
This lack of identity confuses and confounds employees and customers.
Identity is more than image. A company’s identity comes from its culture. Culture unifies. It guides. It inspires loyalty. It provides a sense of purpose for its members. A company’s culture is its personality: principles, values, standard operating procedures, and practices. It captures beliefs and attitudes. It describes the fabric of its being. It should be the most obvious thing to your employees and customers.
There are two important questions to ask about your culture: First, how visible is your culture to your employees and your customers? Second, can your employees and customers identify with your culture? When customers say that you and the competition are all the same, they are really telling you that you have an identity problem. They cannot perceive any differences. If your customers cannot perceive the differences between you and the competition, chances are that your employees do not understand the culture well enough to communicate the differences.
We recently completed a study on top-performing organizations. We used metrics that reflected financial performance; valued brands; best managed and most admired companies; brand equity; customer satisfaction; and loyalty. Drawing from different lists from Fortune, Forbes, MSN Money, The American Customer Satisfaction Index, and other reputable sources, we amassed a list of companies that appeared on multiple lists.
Twenty-three companies appeared on at least half of the lists. From there, we studied their messaging to understand their cultures and found a pattern among them.
These are customer-centric organizations that value innovation, excellence, and integrity. Beyond their profit motives, they share a sense of connectedness with, and responsibility to, their customers, employees, communities, and environment. Their commitments to quality and service are central to their messaging. In visiting their websites, there is little confusion or doubt about who they are. They are brand leaders. They are innovators. They are profitable.
For those who work in these organizations, there is a strong sense of culture. They have an identity. For those who buy from these organizations, there is a clear sense of what makes them different. For those who compete with these organizations, they know what they are up against. Clarity is one of their strengths.
How much clarity exists in your organization? Distributors, by their nature, tend to share common denominators – if not brands – with their competition. This leads to too much sameness in products and services. It is tough to communicate your differences when there are too many similarities.
People crave to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Humans are wired that way. When a clear sense of identity is missing in your organization, you are missing an opportunity for your employees to invest and engage in your company. Additionally, you are missing an opportunity for your customers to join you. How can they join you if they do not understand who you are?
Begin with values. These form the foundation upon which you will build. From values, principles emanate. These form your business practices. Values, principles, and practices communicate what you believe in. They form the basis for your identity. Next, decide on your messaging. This is what you want to tell the world – employees, investors, and customers – about your company. This forms the basis for your image. Though you may share common values, principles, and practices with other organizations, your messaging can make you stand out. In the words of esteemed anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.”
Tom Reilly is the guy who literally wrote the book on Value-Added Selling. You can reach Tom through his website, www.TomReillyTraining.com.