How Empathetic Culture Drives Startup Development

Empathy is often viewed as a form of compassion or something that makes individuals feel good about themselves rather than a means of making policies. After two years of struggling against employee burnout caused by the pandemic, empathy is becoming increasingly important in corporate culture.

The fuzziness of home and work life has been one of the major challenges, leading to a rise in loneliness and depression. Startups, predominantly owned and run by young people, are demanded to be the leading example of companies that humanize their employees. So, how can empathetic culture drive startup development?

Why Empathetic Culture?

COVID-19 has tested everyone’s endurance. Businesses are losing talent in vast numbers either due to layoff or voluntary resignation. Many employees are emotionally and physically weary, resulting in workplace burnout, a WHO-defined syndrome defined as continuous job stress that has not been effectively handled. According to the Harvard Business Review, the duty to address burnout has been passed from the individuals to the corporation.

Lack of boundaries, increased financial stress, and concerns about job security have all contributed to a drop in mental health and anxiety. In a global survey conducted by Qualtrics, two-fifths of respondents (41.6%) claimed their mental health has deteriorated since the onset of COVID-19, while 57.2% indicated increased woe.

Increase Employee Engagement

Do you know that empathetic leaders tend to have positive impacts for employees in terms of engagement? This is why the empathetic culture needs to be implemented top down. According to recent research by Catalyst, 61% of respondents with highly empathetic senior leaders report being inventive at work either frequently or always, compared to those with less empathetic ones.

Meanwhile, 76% of those who work with highly empathetic senior leaders say they are engaged, unlike 32% of people who work with less empathetic bosses. These findings have underlined that empathy can be a key strategy for responding to crises, development, and a crucial factor for creating inclusive places of work in which everyone can connect, contribute, and succeed, not merely as a business strategy.

Read Also: What Do Successful Startups Have in Common

If you’re looking to embrace empathy in your startup culture, here’s how to do it right:

Have the Right Mindset

The first step in implementing a culture of empathy in your startup starts with the right mindset. This means that everyone should be on the same boat when it comes to realizing the importance of having an empathetic culture. As a leader, you can clarify some common misunderstandings about empathy, such as empathetic culture being only a gimmick. Clearly show that you are committed to empathy through your actions as a leader. If employees see you actualizing a culture of sympathy, they will come to the right mindset on how important this is.

Utilize Data to Track Progresses

Now that digitalization is inseparable from business operation, why not use it to enhance empathetic culture at your startup? You can track employees’ progresses and bottlenecks using a series of data-driven metrics. Data is essential for empathy since it allows you to identify any empathy gaps and potentials. The implementation of empathy may be broken down into smaller pieces: empowerment, value, belonging, reassurance, honesty, cooperation, and ethics.

Doing this can make arranging metrics easier. If you are distributing an employee survey, make sure it includes clear questions regarding empathy and this is to be done regularly instead of semiannually or annually.

Keep it Simple but Significant 

Empathy is not always about large movements; but rather a series of small-scale compassion and understanding approaches or low-cost, high-impact activities. For example, if you are financially earning more than your employees, you can casually buy them a few pans of pizza when the monthly salary payment is still far ahead.

This small gesture shows an empathy that those who earn more actually care about those who earn less without looking too intimidating, thanks to the magic of food. Aside from activities that involve money, caring is a form of empathy as well. Making a unique greeting card for employees during their birthdays and sending it to the teamwork group so others can say congratulations can be one of the simplest, no cost gestures.

Caring for the people in your startup should be a priority. Mental health, stress, and burnout are collective responsibilities for the company to deal with, thus  empathetic culture is about caring and making it actionable for everyone. Failure to use empathy results in less creativity, lesser engagement, and lower loyalty, which can be the start of a downfall. After all, business development can be easier to achieve when the people in it are happily engaged.

Source: How Empathetic Culture Drives Startup Development – StartUpJobs Asia Blog

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Don’t Let a Bad Tech Stack Hurt Employee Retention

A bad tech stack can make it difficult for companies to succeed against competitors in everything from customer engagement and sales to production and innovation. But, outdated, annoying or confusing technology can also harm your organization’s ability to attract and retain top talent, which will be increasingly difficult and important as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes and the labor market tightens.

To be sure, it will be several years before the U.S. and global economies return to pre-COVID levels. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the U.S. won’t hit pre-pandemic employment levels until 2024. But given that major enterprise IT shifts can also take years, now is the time to evaluate your tech stack and ensure your organization has the right tools for a digital workforce that’s geographically dispersed, discerning when it comes to technology and willing to walk if an employer’s technology hinders their success.

Don’t believe me?

According the State of Software Happiness Report 2019 from G2:

  • 52% of workers said they have “become dissatisfied at work due to missing or mismatched software”
  • 24% of respondents said they have “considered looking for a new job” because they “didn’t have the right software”
  • 13% of employees said they have actually left a job because of the software their employer required them to use
  • 95% of workers said they would be “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with better software tools
  • 86% of respondents said they would be “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with more software tools

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to close offices and most office workers to become telecommuters, technology became and even more important factor in employee job satisfaction. According to Adobe Workfront’s State of Work 2021 report, released last week:

  • 32% of workers said they had left a job because the employer’s technology “was a barrier to their ability to do good work.” This was up from 22% pre-COVID.
  • 49% of U.S. workers said they are “likely to leave their current job if they’re unhappy or frustrated with the technology they use at work.”
  • 12 point increase in the number of people “who report turning down a job because the tech was out of date or hard to use” between February and March 2020 to November and December 2020
  •  7 point increase in the number of people “who reported applying for a job because they heard a company’s employees use great technology” between February and March 2020 to November and December 2020

Check out Dallon Adams’ article on ZDNet sibling site TechRepublic for more insights from the Workfront report on how Gen Xers are thriving in the world of remote work with millennials are struggling.

5 ways companies can improve employee IT satisfaction

So, as companies race to accelerate their digital transformation efforts to meet the needs of their customers in the new normal, they should also re-examine the hardware and software their employees are using. Here are few tips for building a tech stack that can help promote employee success, boost productivity, and build good will for IT.

  1. Make sure existing tools meet user needs and work as expected: Before you roll out new hardware and software, start with what you already have. Conduct a user satisfaction survey to find out if your current tech stack is meeting employee needs. A TechRepublic 2014 enterprise application software report found that only 26% of respondents were “very satisfied” with their software. IT can also use service desk call logs or reporting tools within their IT service management solution to detect applications and hardware that create regular pain points for end users.
  2. Give employees access to “new” technology: According to the Workfront report, employees are more interested in having access to “new” technology now compared to before the pandemic. The report showed a 5 point increase in the number of respondents who said that “old technology is making it harder to take on more work.” I know budget is always a consideration with any IT purchase, but if your staff is still using 7-year-old computers, it’s time to rethink your IT budget.
  3. Offer employees choice as a rule not an exception: Another data point from the Workfront report was that employees “expect their employers to trust and empower them to know how to achieve the right outcomes.” When I first started my IT career, there were Windows shops and then there was everything else. But today, and honestly for the last decade, modern device management tools and cloud services make it easier than ever to manage multiple operating systems, applications, and hardware platforms. With few exceptions, IT shouldn’t lock employees into (or more importantly out of) tools they believe will help them achieve company goals. I’m not suggesting you should run 5 different finance or CRM systems, but, there’s no reason not to support multiple productivity suites. If accounting needs Excel, sales wants PowerPoint, and everyone else wants Google Docs…fine. Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace can coexist. And if you’re thinking, “But Bill, we’ll get a price break if we use a single software platform.” Those initial low-price deals often expire in a few years (like an introductory interest rate on a credit card) and then you’re back to paying market rates. The same goes for hardware. If Legal wants Windows laptops, the Sales staff wants MacBooks, and your devs want Windows workstations make it happen. Sure, you can have a “standard” machine and drive image that you give to 80% of staff, but don’t just be the department of “no” when someone makes a legitimate business request.
  4. Support flexible/remote working environments: Even as COVID vaccines reach more workers, employees return to offices and public venues reopen, the nature of work has been forever changed by the pandemic. More people will work remotely than before COVID, and IT will need to switch from reactively supporting telecommuters to proactively empowering them. This means giving people have access to the hardware (monitors, keyboards, mice, trackpads, cables, external storage devices, etc.), software, and cloud services they need to work effectively from their home.
  5. Balance security with ease of use: If you make a security measure too onerous for people, they’ll find a way around it. This fact holds true for physical and cybersecurity. There’s no doubt in today’s world of constant cyberattacks everyone organization and individual needs to use strong security tools and follow best practices, there’s a fine line between doing security and overdoing security. For example, IBM released research in 2020 that shows simply deploying lots and lots os security tools doesn’t lead to stronger security. “The enterprise is slowly improving its response to cybersecurity incidents, but in the same breath, it is still investing in too many tools that can actually reduce the effectiveness of defense,” wrote Charlie Osborne for ZDNet’s Zero Day in her article on the report. For practical tips on balancing security and user accessibility, check out Scott Matteson’s list of cybersecurity do’s and don’ts.

When done together, these steps can go a long way to build a tech stack that fosters employee satisfaction with IT and the company as a whole, which as research shows is important for hiring and keeping top talent.

By:

Source: Don’t let a bad tech stack hurt employee retention, use these tips to improve worker IT satisfaction | ZDNet

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Financial Targets Don’t Motivate Employees

Would you be excited if your boss started a meeting saying: “I want to remind you that you’re a cog in a machine whose primary purpose is to hit our financial targets”?

It’s hard to imagine that you would feel much joy or pride of ownership in your work if your contribution was reduced to your financial output. While this specific wording may be a bit exaggerated, it’s not a far departure from the message that many employees hear on a daily basis.

As we move into what (we hope) will be a growth period, it’s natural for leaders to emphasize the importance of hitting financial targets. Financial performance is crucial, of course. But making numbers the centerpiece of your leadership narrative is a costly mistake.

Financial results are an outcome, not a root driver for employee performance. A growing body of evidence tells us that overemphasizing financial targets erodes morale and undermines long-term strategy. When a leader spends the majority of their airtime on a “make the numbers” narrative, it creates a transactional relationship with their employees, making them more likely to create transactional relationships with their teammates and customers.

The events of 2020 remind us: Employee engagement is the lifeblood of an organization. What your team thinks, feels, and believes about your organization, and their own work, drives their behavior — and their behavior is what determines your success or failure.

Leaders seeking to ignite creativity and drive exponential effort must go upstream, using their time with their teams to build belief in the organizational purpose, the intrinsic value of the employees’ work, and the impact the teams have on customers, and each other. Here are three ways to do that:

1. Evaluate your leadership “airtime.”

When Mike Gianoni took over as the CEO of SaaS firm Blackbaud, he flipped the way they conduct town halls. Previous leaders spent the majority of their airtime sharing financial results. Gianoni took a different approach. He began using his time to discuss the impact Blackbaud was having on customers, and he directed his leaders to do the same.

“Shifting our airtime from internal metrics to customer outcomes jump-started the next level of customer empathy and value,” explains Blackbaud President and GM Patrick Hodges. “Over time, your attrition goes down. When people feel good about what they do and they’re more successful, they’re not going to look for another job.”

We recommend leaders aim for a 50/50 split, spending at least half their leadership airtime building belief in the meaning and external impact of the work, and half on internal metrics and deliverables. It’s not without coincidence that six months after Blackbaud adjusted their leadership airtime, they had an innovation breakthrough, employee engagement rose dramatically, market share increased, and revenue grew exponentially.

2. Discuss individual customers with emotion and specificity.

The more clearly an employee understands their direct impact, the more likely they are to go the extra mile; they also experience greater fulfillment in doing so.

Consider this research from organizational psychologist Adam Grant, who studied paid employees at a public university call center who were hired to solicit donations to the school from alumni. He divided the team into two groups. One group went about their day as usual, phoning potential donors. The other group, before jumping on the phones, had a short conversation with a scholarship student, someone who was able to get an education because of donations that the call center produced. After a month, callers who had spoken with the scholarship recipient spent more than two times as many minutes on the phone, and brought in vastly more money: a weekly average of $503.22, up from $185.94.

The same findings have been echoed in studies of lifeguards, hospital workers, and sales teams. When we know our work matters to an individual person, we rise to the occasion. Discussing customers in the aggregate does not create the same emotional pull. Instead, when you speak about customers, even if your team does not interact with them directly, use their real names, talk about the businesses they have, and show your team that real people are counting on them.

3. Resist the pull of the “FYI.” 

In our consulting practice we routinely observe well-intended leaders who in an effort “to keep their team informed” pass along everything that pertains to financial performance. It’s natural, because the gravitational pull of most organizations leans towards the numbers; it’s what gets reported and thus it’s routinely forwarded down.

But when a leader send their team decks filled with financial targets employees are often left to their own devices to figure out how to translate broader financial goals into their daily behavior. It’s confusing at best, dispiriting at worst.

Emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman says, “A primary task of leadership is to direct attention. To do so, leaders must learn to focus their own attention.” Instead of routinely hitting forward on every financial report, think about where you want to direct the attention of your team.

You can decide what to share and what not to share by asking yourself questions like: What does my team need to be thinking about on a daily basis to accomplish these goals? How do I want them to behave with customers and each other? Filter out the noise coming from other places in the organization and focus your language on the two things that are 100% within the control of your team: their mindset and their behavior.

The research is telling us what we already knew in our hearts to be true: You cannot spreadsheet your way to passion. With ambitious goals on the horizon, it’s tempting to double-down on financial metrics. But hitting financial targets requires employees who are excited and care about their work.

As we face a future of potential uncertainty and unrest, it’s crucial for leaders to help their teams stay engaged. You can improve your team’s performance (and their emotional well-being) by making sure your airtime, your metrics, and your language communicate one simple message: Your work matters.

5 Workplace Behaviors That Impact Employee Mental Health

Even companies with the best intentions can sometimes take a wrong turn when trying to do right by their employees. Damaging habits and behaviors can inadvertently get absorbed into company culture; and when this happens, it can send the wrong signal about a company’s priorities and values. One of the biggest challenges lies in finding the sweet spot between business needs and employee welfare and happiness. Naturally, you want a high-performing team; but not at the expense of employee well-being and mental health.

Here, we take a closer look at some common workplace conventions—and the ways that they might be inadvertently undermining your mental health objectives.

    1. Having a “hustle” culture

It’s great to be productive, but over-emphasizing hard work and profitability can be a slippery slope to toxic productivity. It can lead to individuals attaching their feelings of self-worth to the amount of work they’re doing, and feeling like performance metrics are more important than their mental well-being.

Similarly, celebrating employees who stay late—or even lightly teasing those who start late and leave (or log-off) early (or on time)—can subtly contribute to a culture of overwork and performative busy-ness. Left unchecked, this can result in resentment and burnout among other employees who feel compelled to prove their own commitment to work .

A small fix:

Instead of celebrating regular overtime, try opening up communication about ways to include breaks and downtime throughout the day. You can support this with anecdotes about the healthy mental habits of people in the team (assuming they are open to sharing). For example: “Hey guys, Dave’s found a clever way to schedule regular breaks into his day around meetings!”

Also be sure to address long hours and overwork if you see a rising trend in the company, as it could be an indicator of unachievable work expectations.

2. Sending work emails or messages after hours

It happens to us all: maybe you only received a response on something late in the day, or you had an out-of-hours brainwave.

Sending the occasional evening or weekend message is fine, but doing it regularly implies that after-hours work is expected—which could pressure people into feeling they have to respond immediately.

The same goes for emails sent at the end of a working day with next-day deadlines (or, for example, Monday morning deadlines for work given out on Friday). These practices put a hefty burden on the recipient, which adds to stress and can contribute to burnout.

Now, it gets a bit harder to draw a line when you take into account the increasingly globalized world of work, which necessitates out-of-hours communications due to different time zones. But even in these cases, it helps to be explicit about expectations when sending messages, especially when you know the recipient is either about to log off or has signed off for the day.

A small fix:

If you need to send emails after hours or on weekends, be sure to add a note about how the email can be read or dealt with on the next working day. This takes pressure off the recipient and assures them that they won’t be penalized for not responding on the spot.

If you have a global team, it also helps to establish clear working hours for different countries, and to be clear about the fact that nobody is expected to read or respond to emails out of hours.

Also, no matter where in the world you or your recipient are, be sure to schedule enough time for them to deal with the task during their office hours! And remember—they may have other pre-existing work on their plate that might need to take precedence.

3. Only engaging in “shop-talk”

It’s easy to find things to talk about around the water cooler in the office. But take those organic run-ins out of the equation, and what you’re left with is often work chat and little else.

Working from home has made it harder to bond with colleagues. The natural tendency is to get work done and to only chat about the process, rarely (if ever) about other things.

This removes a big social aspect from work, which can take a significant mental toll on employees and affect their enjoyment of work. This is especially apparent for employees who don’t already have solid work friend groups, either because they’re new or because their friends have since left the company.

A small fix:

There’s so much more to people than just who they are at work. To get some non-work conversations going, design interactions that aren’t work related.

You could set up a monthly ‘coffee roulette’ to group random employees up for a chat. This can help to break the ice a bit and link up individuals who might not otherwise speak during work hours. Or you could arrange sharing sessions where people are encouraged to talk about their challenges and triumphs from life outside the workplace.

Another alternative is to set up interest groups in the company, to help like-minded employees find each other and bond over a shared interest in certain hobbies or things.

4. Only having group chats and check-ins

Big group check-ins and catch-up meetings are important. But group settings can pressure people to put a good spin on things, or cause them to feel like they’re being irrational or weak for struggling when everyone else seems to be doing well. 

This could result in problems being missed and getting out of hand, which in turn can take a big toll on mental health and well-being.

A small fix:

Some people may not be willing to speak candidly to a large group, so be sure to set aside time for employees to speak one-to-one to a manager who can  address any problems that may arise. It’s also important to make sure everyone understands that they won’t be penalized or looked down on for speaking up about any issues they may be having.

5. Not talking about mental wellness

Perhaps the biggest way your company might be undermining mental health is simply by… not talking about it.

Some managers may not feel equipped to have these conversations, or may not be sure about the etiquette or convention around holding these conversations. But by not broaching these topics at all, employees may feel like they can’t speak out about things they’re struggling with.

The result is a rose-tinted veneer that may be hiding deeper problems under the surface. And studies show there likely are problems. According to the CDC, 1 in 5 employed adults in the U.S. experienced a mental health issue back in the previous year, with 71% of adults reporting at least one symptom of stress. That number has likely shot up now.

A small fix:

Be candid about mental health and encourage people to share their burdens and struggles—especially leaders. You can help by actively promoting good habits like mindfulness and meditation, proper work-life balance, and reaching out for help when necessary.

By being more honest about struggles and mental wellness challenges, managers can reduce the stigma and create a more open culture where people feel able to admit they’re struggling.

As a company, it’s important to be careful about the ripple effects that even small actions—or, in some cases, inaction—may have on employees. The simple fact is that the signals you send may be reinforcing unhealthy habits.

That’s why it’s so important to be aware of deeper currents that run in your organization and to proactively address any harmful behaviors.

By staying aware and making a few small tweaks and behavioral changes, you can hit the reset button when necessary and encourage good habits that protect employee mental wellness.

For more tips on how to build a more inclusive workplace culture that supports your employees’ mental well-being and happiness, check out:

By: https://www.calm.com/

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TEDx Talks

Is Mental Health important​ in the workplace? Tom explores all things related to workplace mental health, including mental health in school workplaces, in this insightful video. Tom helps employers figure out mental health at work. He reviews workplaces, trains managers and writes plans. Since 2012 he has interviewed more than 130 people, surveyed thousands and worked across the UK with corporations, civil service, charities, the public sector, schools and small business. Tom has worked with national mental health charities Mind and Time to Change and consults widely across the UK. He lives in Norfolk and is mildly obsessed with cricket and camping.

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What Does Your Content Say About Your Company Culture

It’s more important than ever before to build a positive and inspiring company culture. The culture of your organization affects the talent you attract, how engaged your employees are at work, and also the customers who choose your brand over others.

Your company culture is a reflection of your core brand values and mission. And those values can be an important factor in the decision-making process when someone chooses to spend their money or do business with you.

According to a 2020 survey of consumer behavior, over 70% said it was important that companies they bought from aligned with their values.There are many factors that go into your company culture. It’s important to mold the working environment and the sort of business you do around the type of culture you want to cultivate.

But have you considered how the content you are publishing affects how your company culture is perceived?

Quick Takeaways

  • Expressing your true company culture is critical for attracting the right talent and the right customers.
  • The content you publish can be a valuable way to demonstrate your brand culture.
  • Get your brand values and mission statement set in stone to create a solid base for all your content marketing efforts.

Why Your Content Is a Reflection of Your Culture

Have a think about the brands you regularly consume content from and how the content has a unique personality that affects how you would describe the brand.

For example, take a look at this tweet from smoothie company Innocent Drinks:

Even if you’d never heard of the company before, you’d probably start forming an impression of their company culture just from seeing this small piece of content.

Some things that spring to mind include:

  • Young and fun
  • Friendly
  • Caring about the environment

A quick look at the Innocent Drinks page shows that this first impression aligns pretty closely with the brand’s stated values.

How about another example?

Social media automation tool Buffer actually dedicates a whole section of its blog to the importance of “open” culture.

You can see that Buffer values transparency, sustainability, and work-life balance from their blog articles on subjects including calculating the carbon footprint of remote work, moving to a four-day workweek, and why their transparent email policy stopped working.

Buffer is a brand that really understands the importance of content marketing and makes the effort to ensure that all content reflects its core values:

  • Default to transparency
  • Cultivate positivity
  • Show gratitude
  • Practice reflection
  • Improve consistently
  • Act beyond yourself

Does Your Content Promote Your Company Culture?

Take a look through some of your existing content online with fresh eyes. Does it really reflect your brand and values? If your content was all someone had to go on, would they have an accurate picture of what it might be like to work for your company?

Some brands naturally do a great job of creating values-focused content. The ones that do succeed not only because they have a talented team of marketers and content creators working for them, but also because they have a clear idea of the company culture they want to cultivate and promote.

So if you don’t yet have a clear handle on how to describe your company culture, or you’re waiting for it to develop organically, you must focus on building a positive culture first.

Your people are one of the cornerstones of your company culture so make sure they’re involved. Getting together to officially nail down your brand values or mission statement can be a great starting point for an official company culture to flourish.

But when it comes to brand culture, actions matter more than words. There’s no point in claiming you have an open and honest culture and care about the environment if this isn’t true.

Developing your true company culture will take some time, but it can be helped along by working with people who share your values.

Hiring the right people is essential, of course. But marketing to the right audience is equally as important. If you can create content that attracts an audience that shares your brand values, you’ll be well on the way to success.

Creating Content Around Your Culture

Once you’ve put the hard work into building a great brand culture, you can use your content to show off what a great company you are.

If you’ve come up with a list of official brand values, this can be a great way to get started with your content plan, as you can make sure any new content you create falls into one of these “buckets”.

Make sure to take advantage of content to tell the story of your brand. When working through your content strategy, it’s natural to want to make sure that each piece of content is fulfilling a specific purpose and aligning with the customer journey.

But not all content has to or should funnel a potential customer toward a sale. Your content should also work to build your brand slowly but consistently with each piece you produce.

Great authors don’t have to work to market their books. People eagerly anticipate them and buy them automatically because they know they like their style and subjects.

If you approach your marketing content in the same way romance novelists tackle their books, you’re sure to be well on the road to building a dedicated audience that is interested in what you have to say.

Activating your employees to create their own content is another fail-safe way of creating authentic, engaging content.

Nobody knows your company and its culture better than your employees. Utilizing their knowledge, expertise, and passion is often the most effective way to tell the world about your company culture.

At the very least, make sure your employees are involved in your content process, whether that’s by brainstorming ideas for content topics or sharing your content on their own social media accounts.

Ready to Tell the Story of Your Brand Culture?

If you are ready to get more traffic to your site with quality content published consistently, check out our Content Builder Service.

Set up a quick consultation, and I’ll send you a free PDF version of my books. Get started today–and generate more traffic and leads for your business.

By Michael Brenner

Marketing Insider Group

The Marketing Insider Group provides content marketing workshops and content development services. Scale your content and start showing Content Marketing ROI today. Free Consultation

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