Joining-up culture, brand & reputation

Over the past year, Watson Helsby has been conducting an extensive research study to explore the following questions:

  • To what degree is internal communications used and valued as an integral, strategic business discipline and what is the evidence for this?
  • Are organisations taking a more integrated and coherent approach to culture, brand, and communications and the overall employee experience? If so, what does this look like and how are they doing it?
  • If there is a missed opportunity, what does it look like and how could it be captured and realised?

We have conducted face-to-face interviews with over 50 senior executives, consultants and academics - from a range of disciplines including HR, culture, organisational development, communications and brand.

The thinking behind the research is this:

Over the years we have advised many communications and HR functions on building their capability in internal and change communications.

In doing so we often observe how very few roles are designed to have a genuinely broader and more transformational impact on communications. Where are the roles that create: a deeper connection between leaders and employees? And influence the behaviour as well as the communications of leaders in the business (to close the ‘what we say’ and ‘what we do’ gap)? And that leverage communications to create a more positive employee experience etc.

This often stems from a well established, even ingrained, misconception that internal communications is a less sophisticated and more transactional discipline that requires little more than content and channel management skills. Often it has little or no influence over the communications that really leave an indelible impression on employees. We also see, at first hand, how external stakeholder communications and relations roles receive higher salaries and greater senior executive attention than their internal counterparts. By extension, employees lag behind customers, investors, politicians, government, regulators and the media when it comes to resource, budget and focus, as well as reputation considerations.

Yet ironically it is employees who play a pivotal role in shaping reputation, in particular in the eyes of customers, but increasingly in the eyes of investors/analysts and other crucial external audiences.

Although things are changing, companies tend to put less effort, expertise and investment into understanding their culture and internal environment; how many have a conscious strategy to shape their culture, one that is comparable to the strategy they have to shape the external environment in which they operate. According to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report, culture is one of the most important business concerns, with 82% of survey respondents believing that “culture is a potential competitive advantage”.

And yet:

  •           only 28% of respondents believe they understand their culture well


  •           only 19% believe they have the “right culture”

Yet in this day and age, when culture, employer brand, employee experience and reputation are inextricably linked, they all need to be considered, managed and strategized in a coherent, joined-up manner.

The research will be published shortly, please let me know if you would like a copy.

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