Your corporate reputation is about how people see your brand. They form a perception based on a number of different factors, which can include everything from the media coverage of your business to your CEO’s comments on social media. Add in customer reviews and feedback and employee opinions, and you have the mix of contributory factors towards your company culture and reputation.
But what if your employees aren’t happy and talk openly about a poor company culture? This can quickly filter through to the online message about your business and impact the way your customers, partners and potential customers see you. Before we go further into the link between corporate culture and your corporate reputation, let’s look at exactly what we mean by ‘workplace culture’.
What is company culture?
Company culture (also known as workplace culture and corporate culture) is a term used to describe a company’s internal vibe. It’s about your corporate behaviours, belief system, values and mission and dictates how the business operates internally and externally.
Your workplace culture impacts the following:
- The way in which customers feel about your organization.
- The way in which employees engage and buy in to the culture.
- The way in which stakeholders of all kinds think of, perceive and interact with the brand.
A healthy workplace culture actively lives the company’s values, focuses on employee wellbeing and reflects its core values. And all of this contributes towards the company’s external reputation.
Why is a positive company culture important for your reputation?
Ensuring a lasting positive corporate culture that works with your core values is vital to building a resilient reputation. While a lot of your general reputation relies on the quality of your products and services, a significant amount is also about the emotional connection you can maintain with your audience.
A major factor in building, developing and maintaining this level of trust lies in your internal corporate culture. This is largely because your workplace culture shows how much the business as a whole reflects its mission and values and how much it cares about its workforce.
What are the benefits of a positive company culture?
A positive corporate culture helps to attract and retain employees, partners and customers. Conversely, a toxic workplace culture can easily damage your corporate reputation and lead to employees, customers and partners going elsewhere.
The majority of employees react well to a strong corporate culture because it goes along with honest and open communication. This goes on to build a mutual level of respect between the leadership and the bulk of the workforce.
These two groups of employees need to work towards the same corporate values, and without this cohesion, employees will become confused and unmotivated.
Why is the link between company culture and reputation so strong?
Authenticity underlines the importance of a positive work culture. Without authentic employee engagement, it’s incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to build a workable culture internally.
And this means the lack of cohesion and authenticity will filter through to external customers and other stakeholders. A company’s core values are immediately obvious to an external audience through a number of key touchpoints.
These touchpoints could be the tone and style of your own website and marketing collateral, the company’s social media channels – or employee’s social media channels – press releases, media coverage and the way your CEO is portrayed.
Customers form an opinion based on your internal culture
Every company has a distinct corporate culture that shapes its audience perceptions. Everything from the mission statement, business success and work environment combines to inform this perception.
A positive corporate culture demonstrates authenticity, reliability, honesty and trustworthiness. For obvious reasons, all of these behaviours translate well to the external audience.
Any business that fails to ensure employee wellbeing is important or fails to implement the kinds of strategies that underline open communication, employee empowerment and professional development is unwittingly creating a toxic work environment.
This often will negatively impact the company’s reputation and informs the external perception of the effectiveness of the leadership and management.
Corporate culture ultimately drives brand loyalty
Workplace culture reflects the company’s brand identity and powers brand loyalty for customers. It also influences employee engagement and satisfaction, which organically boosts advocacy.
Ensuring a strong positive work culture helps to increase this loyalty and advocacy, as the different stakeholders continue to feel valued. The workplace can also encourage collaboration, problem solving and create a safe space that allows for personal responsibility.
If the existing culture is negative, then it will have a significant negative impact on everything from employee morale to workforce buy in. This makes it harder to retain quality employees and eventually breaks down brand loyalty.
Proper assessment of workplace culture
It’s important to accurately assess and evaluate where your corporate culture stands right now before attempting any changes. Healthy corporate cultures reflect a positive environment where workers feel valued and feel that their wellbeing is prioritised.
As a business leader, you may not know whether employees feel empowered. That’s a sign to implement some assessments surrounding the general company culture. This can be implemented via various methodologies including internal surveys, employee interviews, external focus groups with customers, partners and stakeholders and general feedback gathering.
Using specific tools to measure workplace culture can also be a good idea as it closely identifies the ways in which is working (or not working) with your mission and values.
How to create a positive workplace culture
Following assessment, you have all the data to inform any changes you decide to make in order to align the culture with your values and goals. Below are some steps you can take towards this:
- Implement a positive internal communication strategy that reinforces your mission, vision and values.
- Ensure that the vision and values are reflected in all company policies, practices and processes.
- Engage and empower employees, partners and customers.
- Encourage feedback, participation and an open channel of communication with employees, partners and stakeholders.
- Consistently measure these changes and their impact.
Workplace culture and corporate reputation
When workplace cultures filter through to the outside world in a negative way, this can damage corporate reputation. Unchecked, this can lead to a reputational crisis. For example, if potential job candidates feel the corporate culture is off putting through their interview process, there’s nothing to stop them sharing this online.
This can quickly escalate into criticism and a negative reputation, which can be triggered by any of the following:
- Ethical breaches.
- Negative customer reviews.
- Customer complaints.
- Negative media coverage.
- Scandals involving CEOs or senior leadership.
How to avoid a reputational crisis caused by toxic culture
Be proactive, accountable, transparent and honest about your company culture. This can underpin meaningful adjustments to the general workplace culture and go a long way to building trust internally and externally.
Find out more about improving business reputation
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.