The Power Of A Positive Corporate Culture

Christopher is the co-founder, head strategist and CEO of The Go! Agency, a full-service digital marketing agency.

Social media has given brands limitless opportunities to engage with their audiences and potential customers, but many seem to forget that the door that platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer opens both ways.

Consumers have an unprecedented level of power in the social media marketplace. They are unafraid to call out top-name brands and are often undeterred by a lack of response. Oftentimes, tweets and mentions won’t stop until the company crafts a response; active social media users will make sure of that.

“Cancelling” is a nebulous term, but unavoidable transparency comes with being online. Many brands — even one’s largely considered untouchable, like Dell or McDonald’s — have found themselves in hot water. One of the most pervasive social media scandals has been employees coming forward about what working life is like at major corporations and how many of them suffer from a toxic workplace culture.

So, we must ask ourselves: How can companies avoid being labeled as “toxic”? How can they create a positive company culture? And what difference does a positive or toxic culture make to a brand’s marketing campaign?

First, we have to start with a definition. What exactly does a “positive company culture” mean? What actions would a company working to achieve a positive culture among employees have to do to qualify?

There is no set standard of what positive company culture is, but from available examples, we can pretty much isolate some pillars of what makes a workplace enjoyable: balance, respect and authenticity.

• Balance: There is an appropriate ratio of work and play. Employees aren’t chained to their desks and are free to engage in watercooler talk, but there is also a sufficient amount of meaningful work to be done. The higher-ups at the company don’t overload their employees with unsubstantial busywork just for the sake of cutting down on chit-chat and “maximizing productivity.”

• Respect: There is a sense of camaraderie and teamwork among all employees, regardless of position. The boss and supervisors don’t view the lowest tier of workers as indispensable wage slaves — they stress the importance of everybody’s jobs, show respect and earn it in return.

• Authenticity: When employees are supposed to be having fun, they’re actually having fun, not corporate-mandated fun. In an authentic environment, not every team outing is a covert team-building exercise, and spontaneous events like holiday parties aren’t gamified and used as rewards for employees undergoing the crunch to meet deadlines.

These are the core elements of a positive workplace culture, and their inverses are the causes of a toxic one. Imbalance means that employees either feel constantly under-the-gun or aimless and frustrated. A lack of respect makes both employees and employers resentful and unproductive. And so on.

Why Positivity Matters

Right now, the United States is facing what the media has dubbed the “Great Resignation.” More and more jobs of all levels and pay grades are sitting unfilled; not because former employees are being fired, but because they quit.

The reasons for this are myriad, and company culture is a large factor but not the only one. Many workplaces have opted not to make mandatory work protection against the Covid-19 pandemic, and wages for a significant portion of jobs have stagnated while living costs have continually inflated.

The main reason to strive for a positive work environment is to attract top talent and keep them around. Organizations that don’t invest effort into creating a positive company culture are often penalized with a rapidly revolving door of employees, with younger employees and senior talent alike leaving for less stressful opportunities.

It costs nearly twice as much to fire an employee and bring a new one up to speed as it does to bring a new employee on in the first place, once you factor in the slowdown in productivity that comes with reassigning tasks to remaining employees and training time. Although it might take time and effort for business owners to restructure their company in a way that makes day-to-day life more positive and enjoyable for employees, that expense pales in comparison to the financial hit of continued worker attrition.

However, your company’s culture also affects your standing in the market — especially with the much sought-after demographics of millennials and Gen Z.

What Does This Have to Do With Marketing?

The millennial and particularly Gen Z generations are very watchful of issues surrounding toxic workplace culture, both in their own careers and from the brands they support. Having a toxic workplace that leads to a scandal, like the history of sexual harassment that was recently uncovered at game developer Activision Blizzard — which victimized employees cite as having a “frat boy” culture — could end up in a significant loss of audience from valuable demographics.

Scandals do not happen overnight; they are the result of long-standing, unresolved issues that inevitably become uncovered. When they do, they not only create an uncomfortable and potentially unsafe space for employees but also a very awkward situation for a brand’s marketing campaign.

In the spring of 2018, a gender discrimination scandal was exposed at one of the largest global footwear manufacturers, Nike. At the same time, the company had fully committed to a focus on inclusive sportswear, including more sizes tailored to women and a sports hijab for Muslim athletes. What should have been a slam dunk for good publicity became mired by a controversy that exposed Nike as hypocritical, and a toxic environment for the same women it was claiming to support. Even though Nike has since dealt with the allegations, the brand’s female-centric campaigns from now on will likely face an uphill battle for credibility — one that could have been completely avoided.

Positivity matters — not just for your workforce, but for your brand’s overall reputation. Competition is rapidly increasing in nearly every industry, and the main determining factor between your brand and the closest competitor could end up being public perception. If you’re a key decision-maker at your company, ask yourself: Is toxicity a risk you’re willing to take?

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