Planning your return to office strategy? Looking to boost performance through shared values and behaviours? Elevating diversity and inclusion as critical needs? Bringing employees together in a merger? Almost every communicator we know would raise their hands at one or more of these.
Stepping out and into the big picture, these questions feed into a larger (and growing) focus on organisational culture – that is, our ways of working and relating to each other. It’s an important lever for getting our companies ready for the future. McKinsey shared earlier this year that 53% of top companies have bold culture plans or pilots in the works, while 17% have already made bold culture moves to do just that.1
So, it wasn’t totally surprising to our Kademy team when invitations to our recent Culture Communications Roundtable were snapped up. Over a virtual hour, comms leaders swapped stories about the culture communications work underway at their organisations and sorted through a few related challenges. Three big ideas came out of that hour:
1. Keep it simple
Authentic values and behaviours anchor organisational culture – and the communications we put out to affirm, strengthen and sustain it. Yet, our efforts to bring authenticity to culture comms can get too specific, inadvertently promote one ‘right way’ of working, and inadvertently confine culture to particular interactions, processes, and roles.
Consensus from the Roundtable was that culture communications are most effective when kept simple, giving plenty of room for employees across the globe and within different business units to imagine how, where and when they fit in. For communicators, keeping values, behaviours (and feelings) in balance becomes critical as we mix – or even toggle back and forth between each – depending on the size and scope of our employee segments, helping them translate what leadership wants culture to be, into what it looks like on the ground.
2. Place culture in context
Organisational culture works within our business strategy and operations to accomplish its objectives – so our culture communications must connect and complement any outreach on these two pillars rather than standing alone. Infusing culture into every nook and cranny of communications beyond the foundational culture campaign or values programme will keep culture at the heart of what we all do.
To be successful, communicators working on culture comms planning need to get intimate with strategic and operational sides of the business as well as employee segment needs, concerns, and characteristics. In some cases, comms leaders will have to open doors, find resources, and roll up their coaching sleeves to help their communicators succeed if they haven’t worked in this shared space before.
3. Work in the “Goldilocks Zone”
Organisational culture has a “Goldilocks Zone” for communicators – a band where communication resources respond to environments, people, processes, and goals to help build, strengthen, and sustain culture in a way that’s ‘just right’. Outside this Goldilocks Zone, communications resources risk becoming less responsive, being deployed too early or late; with messaging that’s too commanding or unstructured; around values and behaviours that are too abstract or technical.
What can you do to protect this cultural Goldilocks Zone? One of the most important things is to help your leaders, and proactively seek out opportunities to work together with them. They’ll likely be setting the pace around culture but will need to be reminded to listen well, to affirm both shared and local ways of working, and to keep discussions active and relevant by using the gathered evidence, stories and data that you have at your disposal.
We covered a lot of ground together on this roundtable. The Kademy team is unpacking these ideas further over the next few months, with learning resources that can help you bring each to life in your organisation. First up, our new Culture Communications Planning Template is a helpful tool for organising your early planning work on culture communications – it’s available for members now in the online Kademy Resource Toolbox.
If you’d like to chat about culture communications or learn more about how Kademy could help you and your comms team raise the bar on performance, please get in touch.