An employee at Apple might say something like, “We make it easy for anyone to use a computer and get more out of life.”
An engineer at Tesla Motors might say, “We build a new kind of electric car -- one that is friendly to the environment but even friendlier to the driver.”
A Zappos employee would say, “Shoe shopping here is fun, simple and hassle-free.”
None of these phrases are the official mottos of these companies. A company’s identity message is not a phrase taken from its mission statement or even the tagline we hear in its advertising.
A company’s identity message is the motivating core value that lives in the hearts and minds of a company’s employees. A well-instituted identity message flows off the lips of all the employees within an organization, not just the salespeople.
What would your employees say your company’s core value is? How would your team members define your company and what it stands for? Does a common identity message exist amongst your employees?
These are important questions on two fronts. First, they are significant to the cultural welfare of those in your organization. Everyone wants a sense of purpose -- a reason for putting in long hours that goes beyond receiving a paycheck.
Identity messages are also important from the perspective of your customers. People do not want to merely buy a product -- they want to be a part of a movement. (We have all heard folks identify themselves as “Apple people” or as “a Mac person.”) The ultimate consumer experience is when making a purchase makes one a part of something bigger and better.
Here are three ideas for creating and sustaining a culture-identity message for your company.
Call an all-hands meeting and give every employee an opportunity to contribute to the conversation. Ask for their honest perceptions -- and be willing to hear them. Ask what they think the company is known for. Ask what they want to be known for. You can come up with great-sounding phrases all day long, but if your employees are not vested in the concepts behind them, you are wasting your time.
Once you have taken all of the input into consideration and created a meaningful cultural-identity statement, you will be excited to share it with your team. Brace yourself -- don’t be surprised if the response to your meticulously-crafted message is blank stares or even cynicism.
Initially, employees will be wondering if this is yet another “flavor of the month” idea. The only way to counter this response is to broadcast the message in various ways over a long period of time.
Start every meeting by reinforcing the message. Have it printed on company memos. Make it part of your email signature. Heck, scribble it on the bathroom wall! Most importantly, keep it going. The message will not soak in overnight, but if you live it and speak it consistently, it will eventually take root.
It’s one thing for an employee to hear a cultural-identity message from leadership. It is another thing for them to know it and say it themselves. Train your people to explain and recite the message in the words you have chosen as well as their own words.
Make it a game. Have people share the statement in fun and crazy ways. Get the families of your employees involved. Do whatever you need to do to make it enjoyable and real for everyone.
Finally, ask yourself how your company’s identity sets you apart. Is your company getting credit for what makes it unique? Does the rest of the world see what you see? If not, it might be time to start trumpeting the message from the rooftops.
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