Culture Development is Crucial to Brand Growth

Like a faceless army, people with jobs used to be known collectively as the “workforce.” They made things. Did things. Then they got paid. They may not have liked their jobs, but employers didn’t really have to care. It wasn’t supposed to be fun. That is why it’s called “work.”

Fast-forward to 2018. The benefits of having a job extend far beyond health insurance and take-home-pay. How employees feel about their work has become integral to the work itself. Employee fulfillment, engagement, and the collective environment where the work takes place have evolved into what is known as corporate culture. Yesterday’s workforce has changed. Today, culture is the force behind the work.

Larry Alton, contributor to Forbes magazine, writes that an increasing number of companies are shifting their attention to creating more thorough brand cultures, and preserving them through ongoing development. Why? According to Alton, “Millennials desire a strong company culture (in one dimension or another) more than anything else when deciding who to work for.”

How do you develop culture? How does culture help build a brand? How will internal culture impact sales and profits? Can an existing culture be changed? The answers can be found by looking at what two very successful companies are doing.

If the Shoe Fits

Everyone has heard of the culture at Google. It was among the first large corporations to take employee engagement and job satisfaction to the next level. From free meals and on-site workout rooms, to dog-friendly environments and open workspaces, Google implemented a culture designed to attract and retain an elite corps of talented, innovative employees.

Online retailer Zappos.com takes it, literally, two steps further.

Zappos, which stands atop a list of “10 Examples of Companies with Fantastic Cultures” by Entrepreneur magazine, shapes its work culture by starting with a “cultural fit” interview, which carries half the weight of whether the candidate is hired. Ten core values — including “Create Fun and a Little Weirdness,” and “Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded” — are to be embraced by every team member. Money is specifically piped into employee team building and culture promotion. Pages on the company website detail the “Zappos Family” spirit.

For Zappos, the return on culture investment is engagement, retention, a loyal customer base, and recognition. Zappos has won nine WorldBlu Freedom-Centered Workplace awards, given to companies that build high-performing, fear-free workplace cultures.

Observers say the strength of the Zappos brand is a result, in part, of a great company culture. “Zappos hires according to cultural fit first and foremost,” writes Sujan Patel, co-founder of Web Profits and VIP contributor to Entrepreneur. “This promotes the culture and happy employees, which ultimately leads to happy customers.”

What forms the link between employees and customers? Sometimes, it’s a uniform.

Cut from the Same Cloth

Corporate culture is more than free lunches and foosball tables. Millennials aren’t quite as shallow as the media often portrays. They are desperate for meaning in their work. Culture is the effort to satisfy those desires because it is all about people creating a connection. When people working for a company share a deep-rooted commonality and understanding of the customers they serve, it has a tremendous impact on culture and brand loyalty. Providing and receiving dedicated service can be immensely satisfying.

Take a look at USAA (United Services Automobile Association), the armed forces financial planning, insurance and banking company. USAA is a fixture on the Forbes list of “100 Best Companies to Work For,” and atop the Bloomberg BusinessWeek list of “Customer Service Champs.”

As with Zappos, USAA’s culture begins with hiring. The company not only serves military personnel — it hires lots of former military. According to the company, more than one in five of USAA’s top management and new hires have served in the military. That yields an insight and mutual respect for the client. One USAA member told BusinessWeek, “It’s not every day I get addressed ‘sergeant’ by a customer service agent.” This culture of understanding produces customer loyalty of immense proportions. USAA boasts a 98 percent retention rate for its 11 million clients.

USAA has built a company and brand that is the envy of its competition by basing its culture in understanding and diversity. “Our ability to attract, develop and retain the very best diverse talent reflective of our membership and community is vital to our continued success,” according to the USAA website. By creating such a culture, USAA illustrates the value of treating all of its “human resources” as resources.

Why Should We Reshape Our Culture?

Culture is increasingly becoming a driver; a deciding factor not only for millennials seeking a job but anyone looking for a product or service that reflects their feelings and values. In order to remain effective, culture has to be fluid, updated and enhanced as the world evolves. One of the best tools for advancing a culture and vision is a rebrand. It paves the way for a culture’s continued development, both internally and externally.

Reshaping the internal culture of an organization can have a positive impact upon employee retention. “Studies have indicated measurable increases in turnover for companies with poor or nonexistent culture,” says Forbes contributor Alton.

WorldBlu founder and CEO, Traci Fenton makes an even stronger argument. Companies that create a culture of freedom in their workplace, “in terms of how they operate and treat their employees, average almost seven times higher revenue growth compared to companies on the S&P 500 Index,” she says.

We at Daake have witnessed the positive effect a rebrand can have on corporate culture. When three prominent Omaha-area healthcare entities — The Nebraska Medical Center, Bellevue Medical Center and UNMC Physicians — formally joined forces as Nebraska Medicine, we led the creative team. The rebrand and a dramatic, unifying emblem for both Nebraska Medicine and its longstanding partner, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, signified a new internal culture that rallied 10,000 people together.

In the wake of that rebrand, employee engagement rose by nearly 200 percent.

When leadership has a mind to promote a united culture, statistics like that become common. For a deeper look into that specific example, feel free to read our Nebraska Medicine case study.

About Daake

We are brand design experts who deliver transformative ideas to the nation’s marketing professionals and CEOs as they seek guidance, clarity and excitement for their brand.

We would love to hear more about what you have in mind for your next project. Call Greg Daake at 402.933.1094.

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