Business leaders may think that company culture is simply an internal recruiting tool or a talent retention strategy for current employees. But in a world of increasing focus on values and increasing transparency through sites like Glassdoor, internal culture can quickly turn the tide of external perception around your brand – with potentially very helpful or harmful results.
Gravity Payments, an entrepreneurial credit card processing company in Seattle, received national attention several years ago for its CEO’s decision to pay every employee a minimum wage of $70,000 a year. Publicity soared for the startup – as did business growth. Their revenue continues to climb, the company received thousands of applications for employment from top talent, and the customer base grew with those in support of this ethos. While Gravity Payments never intended to spark a national debate about paying employees a fair wage, the resulting publicity has certainly helped the company stand apart in a tech world that often seems to reward employees for bad behavior.
Speaking of bad behavior, it’s difficult to imagine any brand having more negative perceptions of their company culture right now than Uber. They have five criminal probes by the US Justice Department pending on a variety of fronts, from privacy violations to stealing intellectual property. Despite all of Uber’s public blunders and legal issues, it was the special report on their culture by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that ultimately moved the board to oust CEO and Founder Travis Kalanick and install new management, which is reportedly spending $500MM on advertising this year, starting with their “Moving Forward” campaign to shift public perception. Uber’s recent lost market share to Lyft proves that, no matter how sexy or useful your product is, in an age of transparency, internal business ethics really do matter to bottom line.
A healthy company culture isn’t just about paying people more money, or developing a diversity and inclusion program that ensures equal opportunities for advancement. A healthy internal company culture is a reflection of your values as a brand – and it’s a key differentiator in a crowded market where your customers have many options.
A Pew Study on Millennials in Adulthood found that only 19% of Millennials agree that “most people can be trusted” (compared with 31% of GenXers and 40% of Boomers), demonstrating the increasing challenge of building trust between brands and consumers. If trust is more difficult to gain and easier to lose, smaller touchpoints like the way companies treat their employees or how their CEO treats entry level employees will be even more critical for brand success in the future.