Your business has totally revamped its product portfolio to deliver new, highly relevant services to the market. The effort is being reinforced by a well-executed brand marketing program. Yet the program is not reaching its performance goals, and you know it’s a result of a less-than-optimal service effort by your team. How can you help them understand how their work is tied to the brand’s promise?
You’ve been at the helm of a highly distinguished brand for 25 years. You’ve built a remarkable leadership team that has been with you from the very beginning. Now they have retirement on their minds, as well. You can sense the wake in leadership that your departure, and that of your revered colleagues, will leave. How can you make sure you’ve instilled standards that will transfer to the next generation of leaders?
You’re starting a new business, and you know you’re hitting the market at exactly the right time. What you’ve got is on trend, in high demand, and you’re all set to deliver it in an entirely refreshing way. How do you find the right kind of employees who can understand and execute your vision?
These scenarios are but a glimpse into the myriad situations leaders face when working to create, evolve or pivot their organization. While the business strategy may be sound and the marketing program brilliant, there’s an element that overrides every other factor in your ability to create a lasting and preferred distinction in the market.
It’s called Organizational Health, and it demands your full attention.
What does Organizational Health mean?
Simply put, it’s the practice of instilling purpose and intentionality into the human capital of an organization.
What comprises Organizational Health?
Many people make the mistake of defining Organizational Health as merely human resources. While a well-run HR department is central to hiring, benefits and payroll management, these traditional practices alone are no substitute for strategic cultural direction and effective employee engagement.
Here’s a quick, holistic view of Organizational Health:
Organizational health starts and ends with the leader – the individual and/or team that sets the course for the enterprise. Influential leaders are those who have the ability to clearly articulate and demonstrate the organization’s vision and bring people along on that journey. Their style is governed by servant leadership as well as the ability to lead with a high level of emotional intelligence, which helps them guide teams through both positive and challenging times. Influential leaders place a premium on organizational clarity, brand values and responsible business practices, and they are committed to the ongoing investment of time, money and manpower in organizational health as a business strategy.
Corporate culture broke into the management scene in 2004 with the arrival of Jim Collin’s seminal work, “Built to Last.” We learned the importance of organizational purpose and values, how its cultural code could impact an organization’s ability to consistently outperform competitors. Since that time — and in no small part due to the millennial workforce — we now recognize the bottom-line ROI of a healthy culture. From national conversations on “understanding our why” to “the purpose-driven economy,” culture has now stepped forward as the last and greatest avenue out of commoditization.
All roads associated with Organizational Health ultimately lead back to intentional communications. It starts with the recruiting and onboarding process, making sure you’re providing 100% clarity around what your organization stands for, the promise it makes to its customers, and the role each new team member plays in upholding that promise. Historically, many organizations have taken the time to do this well during the hiring process and then reduced communications to employee newsletters and performance reviews. Effective internal communications, however, are managed by professionals who know how to move from one-way, broadcast communications and facilitate real organizational conversations.
Never before has there been a greater demand for professional development and employee engagement. While some employers have considered professional development opportunities as somewhat of an optional perk, the most successful leaders understand the value of hiring people for cultural fit, tying their work to the organization’s purpose and vision, then helping them develop their skills and gain new experiences that inspire them and further connect them to the organization.
There’s no shortage of conversation around diversity in Organizational Health. Diversity, however, is different than inclusion, and both are essential to a sound and productive workplace. Diversity is tied to representation in hiring practices: gender, race, LGBT, age, etc. Inclusion is what happens every day within the culture, fostering an environment in which everyone’s contributions are valued and where people are inspired to support each other.
It started with a limited definition of Corporate Social Responsibility 20 years ago, which focused on an organization’s practices around environmental sustainability. Today, an organization’s commitment to social impact includes traditional philanthropy, board service, hands-on volunteerism, professional pro bono work, social enterprises, cause marketing, environmental standards, B Corp status, and more. It’s all part of demonstrating a company’s promise of stewardship to the communities it serves.
Consciousness refers to the innermost integrity of the organization: Its promise to do no harm to its employees, its customers, and the world. Beyond doing the right thing, it’s a new standard of ethical business practices being driven by online financial transparency, social media and 24/7 news. Beyond accepting accountability in crisis situations, it also demands a proactive approach, searching to uncover redeeming human value in the development of a company’s products, services and experiences.
So why is a marcomm agency talking about this?
No significant problem in life can ever be solved without effective communications. And with the calling of today’s organizations to deliver more enduring human value — from small businesses to global NGOS — we believe effective internal communications is central to the positive experiences employees want and consumers demand.
To those who say this is a rather altruistic notion, we say look around; specifically, the C-suite. There, you’re likely to bump into the new Chief Cultural Officer. The emergence of this position is evidence that CEOs understand that Organizational Health is now on par with — if not more important than — other key functions in the C-suite. They see the advantages of a healthy, purpose-driven organization and the direct line to product innovation and brand building. They know their brands start and end with their people.
While not every organization is ready for a Chief Cultural Officer beyond the CEO, what matters most is the commitment to leading an enterprise with intention — be that a growing business or a public institution. That’s precisely the kind of client we’re best positioned to serve.