evaluate culture

Many organizations regularly do formal measures of brand culture and employee engagement. These studies can provide regular, statistically relevant benchmarks for how the organization is doing. However, if you’re a smaller organization that hasn’t implemented these types of studies, or if you simply want to find grass roots ways to evaluate culture in between the formal studies, there are a number of things you can do to get meaningful indicators of the status of brand culture in your organization.

Is the brand being talked about?

When the brand is healthy, you will hear it spoken about in numerous ways. Company leaders speak about it in meetings and write about it in other communication – from blog posts to emails to annual reports. It becomes a lens and consideration for nearly every communication.

And it’s not just leaders who talk about the brand. Employees also talk about it in everyday activities, and it impacts their behavior and decisions in numerous ways. We’ve witnessed meetings where a team might be stuck on how to resolve a particular issue. Often what allows the group to proceed is when they consider how the brand plays a role in whatever they’re grappling with. It can make the path to move forward very obvious and clear while also reducing the influence of personal agendas.

As you walk about your organization, what do you hear? Is the brand part of the vocabulary of the organization and does it influence decisions and actions? Or is it never referenced? Positive brand chatter is a good grass roots indicator of the strength of your culture.

Do employees know the brand promise?

Brands are ultimately a gut feeling by customers about the products and services of your organization. These gut feelings come from experiences. Ideally, the experiences meet or surpass what a customer expects based on the promise you have been communicating.

Successful organizations are become increasingly clear on their brand promise, and they’re doing a better job of sharing it with customers and employees. Regardless of how well a brand sets the expectation of its promise, customers always have an idea of what they feel the promise is from the brands they interact with. The success of your brand will ultimately be based on your ability to deliver that experience.

If your team is going to successfully deliver the brand promise, they first need to be abundantly clear on what it is. Simply ask team members what they think the brand promises. What do you hear? Is there general alignment on the brand promise, or are you hearing a range of views?

Asking this question as you interact with team members across the organization can be a great indicator of how aligned your organization is around your promise to customers. Pretty quickly you will be able to see whether or not it’s top of mind for the team members who are delivering the experience.

How is your brand seen compared to competitors?

Another simple indicator of the strength of your brand culture is how employees feel about your reputation compared to obvious competitors. Is there a sense of pride in your brand? How do they describe your brand compared to competitors? Do they see your company as the leader, an aggressive challenger or inferior to the competition? When we feel positive about the company we work for, we talk about it to family, friends and customers. When we don’t feel positive, or when we feel inferior to other brands, that message gets shared as well.

It can be extremely telling to simply ask team members how they feel about the reputation of competitors, and how they feel about the reputation of their own company. By listening closely, you can gain early indicators of issues that can ultimately impact the strength of your brand in many ways.

If you are doing formal brand culture assessments, keep doing them. But it can also be useful to do some simple temperature-taking along with way. The formal assessments would validate and formalize what you are already aware of, which will put you in a better position to respond and strategize ways to more strongly align your culture behind your brand promise.

For other thoughts on brand culture, be sure to check out these articles:

How Brand Culture Contributes to Sales

Company Culture Should Be All About the Brand

Five Key Elements of Company Culture

About Kurt Kennedy

Kurt founded Kennedy Communications in 1988 as a media production company. Since then, Kennedy Global has evolved into the leading internal-external brand alignment agency. Kurt and his team create strategic business solutions that align a company’s external customer promise with an engaged internal culture that generates tremendous results at every level of an organization. Kurt and his team have created strategic programs for some of the world’s most recognized brands including Intel, Nike, Office Depot, Starbucks, Albertsons, Adobe, Dell, LensCrafters, Target Optical, Sunglass Hut, Safeway, Unilever and many others. In addition to consulting with clients, Kurt frequently serves as a speaker and facilitator at a variety of business events around the world including strategy sessions with executive leadership teams, interactive workshops and training sessions at corporate summits, and keynote presentations at industry events. Kurt earned his BA in Mass Communications from Walla Walla University. He enjoys traveling in his spare time.