Often cited as a democratic, edgy and creative place to work, BrewDog has recently fallen foul of the barbed wrath of online reviewers. An open letter to CEO James Watt, signed by 60 former members of staff, suggests that a toxic culture exists behind the scenes, and has undone years of reputation building in a single post.
While BrewDog may dispute the allegations made in this letter, it does highlight how important it is for organisations to align the external persona of their brand with the employee experience.
From an employee engagement perspective, it also gives us a lot to think about.
Here, Jeremy Petty, managing director at scarlettabbott discusses why brands should be built from the inside out, creating an army of advocates who become ambassadors, evangelists and the fuel for growth and development.
A house of cards
In our age of citizen journalism viral content is king and, no matter how well-established the brand or organisation, reputations can topple like a house of cards in a matter of hours.
Of course, keyboard warriors always need to be treated with a degree of healthy scepticism, but brands can be built, damaged, and in extreme cases, destroyed by those who inhabit social media.
The situation can be compounded if your organisation is facing an internal culture crisis and you lack the ability to quash negative comments. In the worst cases, discontent staff might even get involved and fan the flames.
But how does a culture crisis happen and what can be done to prevent it?
Growing without listening to your team
While business growth is undoubtedly a positive and inevitable consequence of a successful organisation, rapid expansion can change team dynamics. Sometimes this is for the better, but sometimes senior teams are left paying the price, with staff suddenly feeling disconnected from one another and the business as a whole.
From our experience working with rapidly growing businesses, the main price paid is team culture. Rapid growth can narrow a senior leadership team’s lens to focus on other elements of the business, placing less emphasis on things like social events, employee rewards or simply reaching out to the team to check everything is working as it should.
Ensuring that your people strategy takes into account business growth but also the needs of your valued employees is crucial. Make sure new starters are introduced to the existing team and where possible, try to encourage them to collaborate on projects. Establishing team structures and implementing mentoring schemes can also offer employees the chance to interact with one another.
Ineffective communication channels
The ability to voice concerns, without fear of negative consequences is also massively important. If an employee feels they won’t be listened to or that they will be punished for raising an issue, you risk their discontent simmering over and them potentially deciding to leave the organisation all together.
Over a longer period of time, this could then lead to a mass exodus of unhappy ex-employees. This is not only disruptive it can impact the level of customer service you’re able to offer. It’s costly from a culture point of view, but also on the bottom line.
It’s important to also remember that employees can be valuable ‘eyes on the ground’ for senior teams, often the first to spot if something is going wrong. If they don’t feel they can speak up, they’ll stay silent and the problems will persist.
Checking that all staff know who to contact if they notice a problem is the first step, with things like anonymous staff surveys also proving hugely beneficial.
Remember, leaders set the tone across the organisation and ensuring the senior team adopts an inclusive approach, that’s reflected in your people strategy, can be the difference between an employee simply getting through each day or thriving in their role.
By establishing some key goals and objectives at the beginning of each year, you can hold yourself accountable to your own strategy. As employees begin returning to the office, these objectives might need to change – but be sure you seek advice from your team rather than applying a top-down approach to people management.
Get these three areas of focus right and you can create brand advocates out of your people. Creating an employee experience which gives them a connection to the brand they work for will reap dividends in terms of loyalty and discretionary effort, driving better outcomes for the business in terms of talent retention, sales, service, productivity and overall financial performance.
Getting it right from the inside out safeguards and drives your external reputation and fuels future growth.
To find out how scarlettabbott could help your business, visit https://scarlettabbott.co.uk/.