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Branding Inside Out – Part II: 5 Parts to Achieving an Intentional Culture

A brand is so much more than a product or a label. It’s the essence of a business. In my previous post, Branding Inside Out, we delved into how to become a customer-centric company by being employee-centric first.

The crucial piece is that once you recognize that the individuals representing your brand are essential components to the big picture, you can take steps to building a cultural identity that appeals to your customers. After all, the little potato in the big soup is a key ingredient to achieving the desired flavor.

Now that you know what you want your customers to experience, it’s time to look deeper into how to make it all come together by creating an intentional company culture.

Culture today is more vital than ever to the health and prosperity of a company. Simply put, culture is what people say about your company. It’s the way an employee answers the question “How do you like working for…?”

Business leaders have a responsibility and opportunity to guide and define the culture. As a consultant, I advise leaders to start with the end in mind. What type of culture do you want to create and harness?

Really give that some thought. Dig deep into what that looks, sounds and feels like. What type of people will you need to help create it?

Cultivating the culture you want is a matter of defining the culture and then acting consistently in a way that positively impacts how people around you think, feel, and behave.

However, culture is not something you delegate to others. It is a consistent, collaborative effort that starts at the top.

I have been fortunate enough to have helped shape cultures inside companies in two different capacities – once while working within a large international company.

Building a common culture within a single company across multiple cultures, customs, and languages was as equally challenging as it was rewarding. What I really took away from it is that culture isn’t a one-size-fits-all. In the end, it was about being grounded in a shared set of values that could be understood and lived across the world.

More recently, I’ve become involved in helping a company define and cultivate their culture as a catalyst for positive change. As a consultant, I am helping to advise, to steer in the right direction, and to formalize their pursuit of building an intentional culture.

What is an intentional culture?

The word “intentional” here is key. To have intent is to have a purpose, and if that is realized, then it should manifest itself in the following ways:

An intentional culture…
Is winning the hearts and minds of employees
Is leading by example
Is creating a human-to-human connection with employees and getting to know them on a personal level
Is creating opportunities for personal and professional development
Is clearly communicating the vision and how each person can contribute to it
Is allowing people to have a voice
Is instilling personal ownership of themselves, others, and the company
Is having a shared set of values that exemplify your beliefs

Roadmap to Success: The Five Parts
  1. PULSE
  2. Put your finger on the company’s pulse and find out how people currently perceive the culture. Prior notions of reality can often cloud perceptions of what is possible. Understanding current perceptions will help guide what actions are needed to create a positive shift. The goal here is to capture and honor the strengths of the current culture and build from there.

  4. Developing meaningful connections with people is the cornerstone to building an intentional culture and you have to help people understand how they contribute to your bottom line.

    Don’t assume they understand how their role benefits the company. In fact, they probably don’t. A Robert Half Management Resources survey found only 47% of workers can make the connection between their day-to-day duties and how they impact the company’s financials. That leaves 53% that don’t understand how what they do on a daily basis is actually helping improve or grow the company.

  6. Smart companies take care of their most important asset – their people. Creating a culture of learning is one of the pillars of developing, retaining, and recruiting talent.

    Make the investment today, and you shall reap the benefits. By creating and offering tools and programs to enhance their skills, it empowers people to take pride in relationships inside and outside the company. All employees should experience the same high-quality training, knowledge, and industry research available to ultimately help promote your values and mission.

    You don’t build a business you build people, and the people build the business.”

  8. Disengaged employees stop your business from performing at its best. From how you onboard a new hire to how well you capture tenured employees’ feedback determines their sustained level of commitment and engagement.

    Conducting a survey can help determine what holds people back from doing their jobs well. Furthermore, the data can help focus on precisely where changes need to be made in order to have the biggest impact on individual and business performance.

    Ultimately, understanding what motivates and enables your people to give their best will lead to better decision making and planning, wiser investments, and deeper customer loyalty.

    It’s no surprise that most organizations use employee surveys. But asking the question isn’t enough. The true benefits come when employee feedback is translated into meaningful action.

  10. Having the ability to move up or laterally within a company is at the top of most people’s minds, especially for the career-minded millennials who will represent 75% of the workforce by 2030.
    Companies that provide opportunities for career progression have higher retention rates, improved morale, and productivity.

    In a fiercely competitive job market, a career path vs. a career voyage can make the difference in winning the war on talent. The distinction between a career voyage and path are significant.

    A career path indicates a clearly defined set of achievements or requirements to move up the ladder. The metaphor of a path implies that one’s career is visible, stable and predictable.

    Conversely, with a career voyage, there is some degree of control, but there is also a degree of happenstance – the wind changing direction or water currents are variables.

    Game-changing companies are backed by a powerful sense of collective pride and respect for individuals’ need to grow.

    Final Thoughts…

    Culture is all that invisible stuff that glues organizations together. But, because it evolves over time, it’s imperative to begin with steps ensuring your culture goals are actualized.

    After all, culture trumps strategy every time. Culture or “the way we do things around here” permeates every organization that can either support or destroy even the most critical initiatives.

    In the end, one element feeds the other: a positive company culture leads to positive employee performances, which leads to a positive consumer experience, which brings about positive increases to the bottom line.

    And it doesn’t stop there – it circles back around. When consumers are bringing in a higher volume of sales because of their positive experience with the brand, the employees’ satisfaction increases and they contribute even further to taking part in a positive company culture.

    Have you ever been challenged with the goal of changing a company’s culture? What strategies worked for you? Share in the comments below!


    Michelle Mariola is founder & director of ISH-Productions, a Chicago-based branding and marketing company whose mission is to help emerging to mid-market companies develop their marketing strategies and brand identities.

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