This is a question all companies should ask themselves before they hire their next employee. It's definitely easier as a start-up, mainly because you have fewer employees. However, what you also have in your favor is a culture that is highly unique and staff that completely buys into the vision, values and mantra of the company. As a larger organization, effectively communicating company values or determining whether or not a culture shift should be in order can be like turning the Titanic around... a daunting task. However, if you don't make the turn, you could be headed for murky waters, one in which employees, departments and divisions can get off-track.
Where Does It All Begin?
Successful corporate communication really starts with a healthy business culture that promotes and models the same value system from the top down. Leaders of the company must clearly define the values of the organization, the vision of leadership and expected behaviors for employees. This is the DNA of your corporate culture. Having defined goals and values is where successful communication begins.
All aspects of a company are interconnected and employee actions directly impact others within the company, especially as frequent change occurs. I believe the inability to impart clearly defined values to employees could be a big reason companies fail to thrive. If employees don't understand the values of the company, they make decisions out of alignment, and soon you have departments and divisions off-track from the company at large. It's a dangerous, slippery slope. One employee that is off-track, soon affects a department, and then a division. Soon, you are nowhere near your forecasted goals, then what? You find yourself going in the wrong direction. All of this can start with a small number of employees who are misguided, misinformed, or maybe they have not received clear communication on company values.
The Value System Anti-Biotic
Early in my career, most companies I worked for did not have a plan in place that explained the corporate mission and values, and the employee's responsibility to align with that value system. Somebody should have thought to communicate the values of the company and furthermore, how those values translated into day-to-day, procedural operations. This is a difficult process, yet, it is one that needs to be frequently communicated and reinforced. Communicating the value system unilaterally is a key ingredient that will help form the desired company culture. It doesn't happen overnight, but it does work almost like an antibiotic. You must stay on it all the way through the prescribed period to get the desired result. In this case, the prescribed period is every calendar year the communication of corporate values must be addressed, especially with new employees as they come on board. As the value system anti-biotic takes effect and the communication plan gains momentum, it will create a well-rounded, healthier company, just as the doctor ordered.
Collaboration and Balance
Collaboration in business is critical in order to create a stronger, healthier company, regardless of the market segment. However, corporate health is not exclusively a sales and marketing function, although many seem to think that. Here's an excerpt from a Forbes article called Collaboration Rules: Five Reasons Why Collaboration Matters Now More Than Ever.
The more moving parts required to get work done, the more chance there is of creating confusion, rework, variance and other inefficiencies. The only known remedy is structured communication (aka collaboration)...
Like collaboration, balance also plays a critical role in the health and wealth of a company. Here's what I mean. Employees that are trained by their company tend to make better decisions based on the company value system and process. When the employee value system aligns with the company value system, then you have true corporate-employee balance. Once this occurs, the employee, department or division most likely will not make decisions that are adversely affecting the company. However, when the values and process are compromised, that's when problems can occur and balance is not achieved. Thus, a more reactionary employee model will occur.
Talk About The Corporate Culture
Every company has a culture, and it starts with the brand, which is typically not fully understood. The brand is not the exterior customer facing material like advertisements, the website, logos and taglines. The brand starts with the employees, which are the catalysts for a healthy company. What they say, how they act, how they talk to customers, and more importantly, how they buy into the company value system is critical.
A company's culture consists of many different types of people, personalities and work habits. It's a highly complex ecosystem that is difficult to manage and keep on course. Companies tend to fail because they do not have a consistent, clear and articulated corporate culture that informs employees of expectations. This is a cause -- effect model. When the culture is not thoroughly explained and continually reinforced, problems will materialize. These problems can be a preliminary symptom of why companies are unable to create and sustain healthy growth. If employees are unsure of the end goal, how can they achieve it? The lesson here is to make sure you are communicating to employees the culture, strategy and process for them to follow so they can succeed. Put it in writing, talk about it, repeat the process and brand it inside the company. Consistency and clarity is the key.
Reactive Not Proactive
Communication, values, culture and collaboration: these are all important, but if you are not achieving balance in how your employees and company interact, there will still be an ongoing problem. That problem will be unbalanced decision-making and a culture that is reactive, not proactive. This is counter-intuitive to a rational, healthy business strategy. My suggestion is to make sure all your employees and departments understand, adapt, and execute on the same value system, and embody the culture. A well-defined company culture creates balance, and balance creates a proactive workforce and a healthy company well positioned for growth.