Culture Chat

And other musings on humanizing the workplace
The Culture Chat Podcast: Getting Intentional About Brand and Culture

The Culture Chat Podcast: Getting Intentional About Brand and Culture

June 9, 2016
Maddie Grant

How should employers get intentional about making sure their brand - consumer, employer, internal, external - authentically reflects their culture? That's our big question for this episode's conversation with Tim Padgett, CEO of the Chicago-based marketing agency the Pepper Group.

Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:

It's the details that people can feel and they can recognize. You know, when people see the kick ass board, it's something they take pictures of when they're here because they know that we've done something that has created momentum. It's not that program de jour that we tried once, this has been going on for nine years. We have another, one of our core values is be smarter tomorrow. Which has the implication that you have to be learning every day and so we have a little traveling trophy that moves around the company that signifies peer-to-peer learning.
So for instance, if I had it on my desk this week, anyone who comes into my office will see it immediately. So it forms a mechanism to them and they feel a responsibility to teach me something and we don't care what it is. Because all knowledge can be leveraged later, and so you know they might point something out on how to do something with an app, or they might tell me how to tie my shoes.
It really doesn't matter because I will be improved by new knowledge and then on Monday morning I will bring the Higgie in with me...we called it "the Higgie," it's a long story, but this little statue and I will say "I learned this from Todd and I learned this from Madison and I learned this from Jesse but the coolest thing I learned was from George."
So now that learning has spread to everyone in the company and if they didn't know already know it, they can learn more about each one of those things as they go. Coming back to your point is the Higgie has been traveling for over 20 years in our company. So if you look at inciting learning, over 20 years, 50 weeks a year, 4 or 5 times a week, 15 to 20 people learning something new each time that's revealed, that turns into big numbers. And those types of things are, once they're established you have a responsibility to them. You cannot let them fail. You have to stay behind them and working them...because, not because you have to, but because you want to, because you know that they're reaping great rewards.
Charlie: Well and so much of this is about, and I think that some people would say that you know trophies and walls of the fame, etc are a little old hat, maybe a little cliche, maybe even a little cheesy but the fact of the matter is is that they're artifacts. They're institutional artifacts. And if there's authenticity behind them, then they will last for nine years, they won't be the flavor of the day because cheesy or not, people identify with them, they understand them, they get what's behind it and obviously they are receiving some value from it. 
This is this kind of...I love this, the concept of enviro branding. I mean it's like you've got to have this ecosystem around your brand that's reinforced, and it's reinforced with words and actions and even physical artifacts.
Jamie:  But it's the details that people can feel I think it's huge, like Charlie, your point about the cheesiness, I mean I'm thinking like, you know employee of the month wall with the little photos, and they're like, "really?" Well, that's because it's just a picture in an employees of the month board, like there's no detail with that. There's no here are the five things I learned details, there's no here's literally what Mary said that you did that kicked ass. Like those details is what makes it alive and I think that's what brings it past the cheesy and obviously towards the productive.
Tim: Yeah, on enviro branding, we're talking a lot with our clients about how to create a place in which you have things such as, we call them culture kiosks. So how can you create a little alcove within your place of work, or multiple alcoves, to signify who your people are and why they make a difference. And where did they come from and what are their passions and what are the things that they are really excited about and how can you display these things, either in a graphically enticing way or maybe you're doing it through infographics where you're using a lot of numbers and showing proportions and so forth.
If you have a very diverse employee population, maybe you want to celebrate a country in that kiosk once a month so that you learn what are the customs there, what are the foods, the music, things like that. So you're celebrating where people came from and they're coming into your community. 
Speaking of community, I think that's one more thing that we should talk about before we end this. The basic definition of a community, and you can think about this as a residential community, in the same way you think about it as an employee community. So the definition is a social group of any size, whose members reside in a specific locality, share government and often have a common cultural and historical heritage. And so if you build on the fact that we are a community and that we should celebrate things, and we should share things then I think you're going to have a leg up on understanding how to do this well.
Jamie: Absolutely. This is one thing I say in almost every speaking gig I'm at now. When people sort of say "where are we headed with the future of work?" I'm like we are headed towards a future of work where human-ness and human community is actually at the heart of management, not engineering and sort of the mechanical approach that we've had for the last hundred years. We're not abandoning engineering, engineering's lovely but we're going to put community at the heart and again, it sounds like you've already figured that out Tim. So cheers to you for that.

Love that as much as I do?  Listen to the whole conversation here, subscribe over on Podbean or subscribe in iTunes by clicking that link or searching for The Culture Chat!  Oh and by the way, if you are doing cool stuff around organizational culture, we want to chat with YOU! Contact us to let us know and we'll set it up.


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