Is Your Advertised Organisational Culture Real?

Posted on January 19, 2021
Risk Vortex Series Part 2

Is Your Advertised Organisational Culture Real?

You probably have some concept of an organisational culture that you pitch to both potential and current employees. But does the culture that you pitch actually exist, or is it just a series of well-crafted lines that you reiterate mindlessly in order to bring people on board?

Maybe your culture isn’t fully developed, but you are working on it. Are you disclosing this to potential employees, letting them know that there may be a gap between the current culture and the desired one?

Many organisations oversell their culture in order to recruit new employees and curate a favourable public image. This isn’t easy to see from the outside. While this may be good marketing on the front end, it can lead to major problems once employees start figuring out that an organisation does not offer the advantages that it claimed. This can greatly elevate the organisation’s risk profile.

If your organisation is advertising a culture that is at odds with reality, you are running the risk of creating disengaged and disgruntled employees. This will ultimately lead to lower productivity and could even make for a hostile work environment – likely the opposite of what you pitched to them when you hired them. Despite your best efforts, you are likely to be creating the very environment you are trying to avoid.

How Should You Pitch Your Culture?

Organisational Culture is a combination of the beliefs, assumptions, values, and ways of interacting that contribute to the social and psychological environment. People are drawn to organisations with similar beliefs and values as themselves, as well as the work environment that is advertised.

Having values that align is important for employees, because it gives them a reason to show up every day. Without a cohesive culture, there is no connection between the employee and the organisation.

So how can you create a strong, persuasive pitch without overselling?

The key is to be transparent and authentic. It is not just about marketing and image. Let employees know that they are part of a team but that there are certain expectations. Don’t just play up some fun-loving façade. The farce will eventually be exposed.

I love John F Kennedy’s famous “We choose to go to the moon” speech in which he said, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone.”

More than just a speech, JFK’s message was also a pitch, and a bold one at that. It is one that certainly would have lured me in. It resonates with my passion for pushing boundaries and my constant desire to make positive changes. We choose to go to the moon demands collaboration and cooperation. It asks citizens not to focus on what could go wrong, but to set expectations above and beyond what was previously thought impossible – even if the challenge is a great one.

Kennedy wasn’t pitching to a corporation; he was pitching to a nation. But like the CEO of a company, he had a vision and a mission. His speech was a rallying cry to the country and to the people who desired to use their talents and work ethic to become an integral part of history.

And his people delivered. But it wasn’t easy.

The JFK speech was successful in luring many types of skilled and motivated people to the moon program. But now consider the type of work environment they were entering. They were the first to ever attempt such a feat, with the eyes of the nation – no, the eyes of the world – watching their every step.

The overwhelming attitude was that losing was not an option. The USA simply could not let the Soviet Union win the race to the moon. The focus was on the outcome.

Think about the pressure. Now think about the era in which this took place. Technology was far more primitive than what we have today, and these brave people were responsible for getting men to the moon. Many people who signed up to be part of the program put the mission before their own well-being, and that requires a certain type of predisposition that most don’t have.

We can only imagine that not everything ran as smoothly as expected, and that working conditions were not always as advertised. After all, there was no precedent set for such a mission, and thus no way of knowing how things would actually work out. It follows that some people naturally felt victimised and overworked.

There were accidents along the way, and many people found themselves drained, anxious, and unhealthy. The cost of landing on the moon took a toll on many people.

The difference between JFK and many CEOs is that Kennedy was brutally honest about the expectations. He didn’t use marketing spin and lingo to make the task seem easier than it was going to be. He knew from the start that this was going to be a challenge, and he was as transparent as he could possibly be about that. Still, people rallied around him.

There is a lesson that CEOs, Executives and Leaders can take from Kennedy’s pitch, that even in challenging times, honesty and transparency works.  It helps to attract the right people with the right skills and disposition to tackle the organisational challenge.

What if Your Pitch is Untrue?

I originally asked if you actually believe in the culture that your organisation is pitching. If you don’t, then you really need to be reconsidering your pitch.

If your advertised culture is something that you are aspiring to rather than one that already exists, then you need to be up front about this with prospective candidates. They will appreciate the candor and might even decide that they want to be part of a team that brings that culture together.

Not being honest and transparent means employees could enter a work environment that could actually do them harm and expose the organisation to a disengaged or disgruntled worker.

This means that the employees risk profile is elevated. If more and more people develop elevated risk profiles, the organisation’s overall risk profile also becomes elevated. This can have a negative effect on performance, not to mentioned ultimately drive down revenue and increasing risk related costs.

What you really want is to find people who share the values and the goals of the organisation. When team members share a vision, they are more likely to work together, promoting a stronger, more collaborative work environment.

Conclusion

There is really no benefit to overselling your company’s culture. By overselling, you are creating greater risk to the organisation’s reputation, people and bottom line.

Never Stop Improving

You can always work on improving the culture and minimising risk. Create a culture of transparency and honesty and the payoff will be far greater than any marketing can provide.

If you want to learn more about keeping your employees engaged, visit my next blog post, Part 3 of the Risk Vortex Series, to help you determine just how engaged they may or may not already be.

Don’t forget to share any thoughts or insights from this blog or any information we have provided, we would welcome hearing from you through hello@unearth.com.au

About the Author

Author, speaker and founder of global risk consultancy, Unearth, Lisa Sisson is driven by a strong sense of purpose. Her mission in life and business is the same – to create a safer world. Lisa believes when people feel safe, they are empowered to give their best efforts without fear of failure. This purpose underpins her work at Unearth and has driven a unique perspective within the risk industry.

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