If I gave you three words to describe your organization, which words would you choose? Could you do it? Would they resonate with the employee base? How about with your leadership team? Do you think your competitors and your customers would agree?
I have worked in many organizations where they were wearing blinders. The internal talk was great, but it is a problem when you literally have to create talking points for your employees to use when they are at parties, or out in the community. Seriously, I am not making this up. In one organization, employees were even mailed cards on a quarterly basis to hand out to friends or family members who had issues with their customer service. I would hear people say our name on the train, or in an airport, and you could literally hear the condescension in their voice. It is a shame too, because it was and is actually a great product, and there are a lot of great people in the company.
I do not mean to pick on this one company, this happens in all industries and so many companies struggle with their internal and external brand. They have illusions of grandeur. Just look at the Wall Street firms and all of the issues they have.
I know a lot of good people in the financial sector. If you asked them, they would not put hubris or greed as one of the three words to describe their company, but 90% of the general population probably would. Trust has been squandered. It is a tough time for many of our established companies. They are feeling the winds of change grow to hurricane strength. They are deeply entrenched and positioned; it has been a long haul for many of them.
The reality is, it is not going to get easier. Competition continues to increase; new ventures are more nimble and exciting for many people. This puts even greater pressure on our roles as strategic HR partners. We need to help build an employee value proposition that resonates internally and externally. We also need to help ensure that the three words that are used internally are reinforced in our interactions with external audiences.
Finally, it is our responsibility to take senior leaders to task to implement the structures and the culture that will enable the internal talk to become the external reality. A company or a culture is not innovative just by saying so, it is the role of senior leaders to build a culture that supports true innovation.
It is the role of senior leaders to be out front in describing the organization in just three words … and hopefully, the same three words.