Understanding organisational culture and what it means for corporate messaging

May 11, 2021

Organisations know they need to pay attention to their people, not only to protect profits but to maintain engagement, encourage productivity and build a sustainable business. As a result, it has become increasingly important for Internal Communications to understand the culture of the company to be able to accurately craft messaging that engages and informs at an individual level.

What is organisational culture?

A Glassdoor study showed us that there is an important link between company intangibles and the bottom line, with businesses rated highly for employee satisfaction in their ‘Best Places to Work’ rankings outperforming the overall market by 115.6% since 2009. Those intangibles are the things that make up the company culture – power structures, demographics, leadership styles, personality mix, ethics, levels of empathy and ambition, and levels of natural socialisation. And many other factors. Company culture is imposed from the top and undermined from the bottom – or the other way around. It’s split into sub and counter-cultures and rapidly fragments, reforming and being made new. Ultimately, company culture manifests as boundaries, goals, ways of working and how people speak to and behave with one another. These are the stories that hold corporate structures together.

The communication problem

Often leaders distil culture into value statements such as ‘We value passionate people’. These statements can be seen as vague and lacking in action. What does this mean for the individual? Internal Comms can play a valuable role in delivering messaging to explode these strategic values into measurable actions that resonate with people on a measurable level, creating engagement and alignment throughout the business.

4 ways internal communicators can measure culture

To understand the culture, it’s a matter of finding tangible ways of measuring the intangible. You start to build a picture with the suggestions below.

1. Movers and leavers

Almost 30 percent of job seekers have left a job within the first 90 days of starting

Image courtesy of Jobvite’s ‘2018 Job-Seeker Nation Study’

In 2018, 46 percent of (US) job-seekers cited culture as “very important” when looking for work. Talented people want to join companies that can demonstrate they have an appealing culture – and those people will jump ship if companies fail to practice what they preach. Culture is the glue that makes people want to stick around, so it’s useful to look at the speed of attrition for new hires as a metric to gauge successful messaging.

2. Employee feedback

Implement feedback mechanisms, such as pulse surveys, to check in on stress levels, happiness, empowerment and employee morale. Personal stories from individuals who have struggled with unsympathetic managers show the impact our company culture can have on mental health in the UK. It could be that, if employee morale is low, then your internal communications are not resonating, and certainly that your communication streams may be floundering. Use the feedback to drill down into areas of concern and identify the root cause.

3. Content campaign engagement

Increased prevalence of digital communication channels at the heart of internal communications gives IC teams far more scope to plan and track engagement with the content they are producing. Tools such as Ripple’s publishing feature structure content into campaigns with strategic goals that can be planned to execute over months, even years. Analytics tools, like Ripple’s unique insights, then give you the ability to measure the success of these campaigns looking at:

  • Traffic
  • Open rates, and engagements with CTAs
  • Comments and reactions
  • Sentiment
  • Top influencers

Like any customer-facing marketing campaign, corporate messaging must be driven by a strong understanding of the audience it is trying to engage, and good analytics gives you the tools to develop that understanding. While internal communications can shape the narrative of company culture, it must also be adaptive, reacting to feedback and becoming a reliable reflection of a shifting reality. In short, your internal communication strategy must be tuned to your company culture to be successful, in the same way as any communication should understand its audience to achieve the levels of engagement it sets out to.