A company’s reputation is all about how other people view the brand. Their perception derives from a number of factors, including media coverage, the CEO’s social media sites, customer reviews and whether there is a healthy workplace culture internally.
What employees think about company and workplace culture is hugely important when it comes to its external reputation. If employees leave the business due to the work culture or because they can’t achieve the work life balance they want, then there is nothing to stop them hopping online and explaining exactly why.
Before we go into the link between reputation and corporate culture, let’s dial back and examine exactly what we mean by workplace culture.
What do we mean by company culture?
Company culture is a catch all term for its set of behaviours, values and belief systems that dictate how it operates both externally and internally.
Workplace culture, then, impacts and influences the following:
- How customers perceive the organization’s culture (its external reputation).
- How employee engagement manifests.
- How all stakeholders view and interact with the company/brand.
From this, we can extrapolate that a healthy workplace culture that accurately reflects and lives the company’s core values boosts employee happiness, its reputation and organizational success.
Why a positive workplace culture is important
Creating a positive workplace culture that consistently aligns with clear core values is the way forward to ensure these shared values contribute towards a positive reputation.
While much of a company’s reputation and customer loyalty is determined by how good its products and services are, a significant chunk is impacted by something more esoteric – the emotional connection between the business and its audience.
And a key factor in building, maintaining and developing trust is the internal workplace culture. This is because it reflects a company’s mission, a company’s values and how much it cares about the mental health of its employees.
Benefits of a positive work culture
A positive culture will help you attract and retain employees, customers and work partners. It will help build trust and boost retention in all of these areas, and underscore your general organizational culture both internally and externally.
Conversely, a toxic workplace culture will ultimately damage your corporate reputation and lead to the loss of employees, customers and partners. Most employees will react well to a strong culture, partly because it goes along with transparent communication.
An organization’s success depends on mutual respect between its leadership team and other employees. Without these groups working with the same values, employee performance will dip due to confusion, poor communication and general dissatisfaction.
Why is a positive culture so important for a company’s reputation?
If you’re wondering how a positive work culture can be so important for your external reputation, it’s largely down to authenticity.
Faking employee engagement and a positive workplace culture is extremely difficult, if not completely impossible. Your core values are visible to the external audience at a number of key touchpoints.
These include the content of your own website and social media channels, the press releases you release, media coverage of your business and what your employees say online.
Your company culture shapes how potential customers see you
A company’s distinct corporate culture reflects shapes how its audience perceives everything from its mission statement, work environment and business success.
Because a consistent and positive workplace culture can help to demonstrate trustworthiness, authenticity, differentiation and reliability, it contributes significantly to your company reputation.
A company that doesn’t ensure employees are happy or that fails to implement strategies to ensure open communication, professional development and to help employees feel empowered are promoting a toxic work environment.
This can – and often will – harm its corporate reputation as it lays bare a toxic culture that suggests business leaders are expecting employees to deal with less than ideal conditions.
Workplace culture drives brand loyalty
Your workplace culture doesn’t solely reflect your brand identity, it actually forms and powers any brand loyalty you have.
Positive cultures influence the level of engagement and satisfaction your employees and customers associate with your brand. This then turns into organic advocacy – stronger cultures benefit from stronger levels of customer advocacy.
Keeping work cultures positive and consistent helps to grow this loyalty and advocacy as it helps the different stakeholders feel valued. By creating a positive culture, a workplace can encourage collaboration, solve problems in useful ways and ensure personal responsibility is taken in a safe place.
On the flipside, if your existing culture is negative it can have a significant impact on team morale and encourage employees to look for a position elsewhere. This goes on to break down brand loyalty.
Assessing workplace culture
Before attempting to alter a company culture, it’s necessary to evaluate its current state. Healthy cultures reflect a positive environment where workers feel valued and employee wellbeing is high on the list of priorities.
If you’re not sure whether your employees feel empowered and the current state of your company’s culture, then strategic assessment is needed. This could be implemented through a variety of methodologies and analysis, including (but not limited to) internal surveys, employee interviews, external focus groups with customers, partners and stakeholders and general feedback.
It can also be a good idea to use specific tools to measure workplace culture, in order to closely identify how it is working with – or clashing with – your company values.
Are you dealing with a toxic environment?
When business leaders initially assess whether they are propagating a positive work culture and a positive feeling among employees, they may find that in reality there is much to improve.
Work cultures may not be as inclusive or problem free as the executive function assumes, and that means changes need to be made. Whether that’s promoting diversity in more meaningful ways, revamping performance management protocols, shifting focus to prioritize work life balance or turning attention to improving job satisfaction for employees, there are plenty of avenues to follow to improve workplace culture.
How to create a strong workplace culture
Following a thorough assessment of your workplace culture, you are in a position to change and adjust it in order for it to properly reflect your company goals and values. Here are some ways to start this process:
- Create a positive internal communication strategy that reinforces the company’s brand mission, vision and values.
- Ensure that the company’s vision and values are properly reflected in policies, practices and processes.
- Engage and empower employees, partners and customers.
- Encourage feedback, recognition, participation and a two-way communication channel with your workforce and external stakeholders.
- Continue measuring these changes to work culture to understand their real world impact.
- Adjust your approach along the way to create a positive work culture.
Why is workplace culture important for corporate reputation?
When workplace cultures become notorious, either internally or externally, then this can lead to a reputational crisis.
For example, if job candidates form a certain perception of a company via the interview process, they may comment online criticising the work culture.
This then becomes a viral source of criticism or some form of backlash that can, quite quickly, become a real threat to a brand’s reputation and therefore customer loyalty.
A reputational crisis caused by a negative work culture can be kicked off by any kind of internal or external factors, such as:
- Ethical breaches.
- Negative customer reviews.
- Customer complaints.
- Negative media coverage.
- Scandals involving CEOs or senior leadership.
How to avoid a reputational crisis caused by work culture
Being proactive, accountable, transparent and honest while improving processes surrounding workplace culture will go a long way to building trust with employees and customers alike.
By taking fast action to improve workplace culture, whether that’s implementing training programs, improving policies to better reflect values or by communicating effectively, you will avoid the risk of a reputational crisis arising from poor work culture.
To find out more about improving corporate reputation, click here.
Managing Director at Igniyte – The Reputation Experts
Roz is an industry spokesperson on all areas of online reputation management and our resident digital media expert. She regularly writes about reputation management research, online reputation risk and industry best practice.