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Does your company need a culture audit?

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Ironically, a company's defined culture, that intrinsic aspect of branding and communications, is never measured when we want to know the effectiveness of communications programs. Traditional measures such as awareness, recall, engagement and market share often mask a more endemic problem within companies-a lack of cultural alignment.

A culture audit can help companies align and effectively deploy all their assets, including their overall communications targeted at both internal and external audiences.

It starts with a measurement of cultural alignment, morale, connectedness and other emotional components regarding how employees relate to their company, its mission and its communications (both internal and external). All internal and external communications are held to this measure. Even the contracts that are presented to customers are reviewed-especially so.

Danger signs are then easier to pinpoint, such as when executive managers are using the same words but using them with entirely different meanings. This miscommunication can sabotage an otherwise strong culture, and it's essential to get to the heart of identifying any disconnects before there's significant fallout.

An example is the word "service." To the chief information officer charged with purchasing and upgrading the company's entire IT system, the meaning of the word was very basic: Fix it when it breaks.

But to the company's IT vendor, particularly to the chief marketing officer at the tech company, service had an entirely different meaning. Service meant the relationship between them and their customers.

This lack of definition accuracy means the most basic of technology service agreements must go beyond simply purchasing the bare box of hardware and must also provide a venue for shared goals management.

Successful companies in the global outsourced environment need to get their cultural issues resolved or risk being outsourced as no longer competitive.

Culture permeates everything: from the way staffers dress, to the office decor, to the company's training program, to the advertising, to what the company chairman says on CNBC, to promises made in the service agreement and whether they're fulfilled-everything must be in alignment.

As one CIO put it: "Companies might be wise to stop putting in their ads how they can offer me solutions and start talking about their culture. Because if I buy into their culture, I'll trust that they'll always give me the best solutions."

A. Louis Rubin is exec VP at Doremus and managing director at DPrime Consulting. He can be reached at info@dprimeconsulting.com.

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