Canada’s Top 100 Employers have one thing in common: great organizational culture. They encourage growth and development, provide work-life balance and focus on collaboration and innovation. Culture makes the difference between a company that is mediocre and one that is top performing.
On a mild November evening, communicators from across the city gathered at CIRA’s modern digs to hear about The Role of Communications in Creating a Great Place to Work. The panel was made up of three industry experts, each with a unique perspective on internal communications and culture:
- Allison Maclachlan, Director, Internal and Strategic Communications, CBC
- Sanita Alias, Director of Human Resources, CIRA
- François Ducharme, Ph.D., Senior Client Partner, Korn Ferry
To communicate something that is as intangible as culture presents us with a very interesting challenge. Here are some of the highlights of the session:
Create brand ambassadors
It’s our role as communicators to ensure that we build a culture where the brand is understood, believed and lived. Allison Maclachlan and her team at CBC/Radio-Canada know that the only way a company can have a strong brand is to have employees who champion it.
“In a large organization like CBC/Radio-Canada, it’s the managers that play the biggest role in solidifying culture,” said Allison. She and her team find the managers that do culture well and give them a platform to amplify their voices, setting an example for other managers. They recently launched a leader’s forum to bring managers together to discuss issues and trends in the workplace.
CBC/Radio-Canada is rolling out their four values across the organization. Looking to do things differently, they took a grassroots approach to developing and communicating these values. Employees from various departments are sharing what the values mean to them and on how they apply them to their work in a video series. Allison explains, “it’s less about the company itself and more about how each person feels and acts within the company”.
Authenticity is key
François Ducharme has seen many types of organizational culture across the world. He has found that culture is most influenced by senior leaders. While working with the UK Education System, he found that the culture of a school can shift within 30 minutes of onboarding a new principal.
As the workforce demographic shifts, François is finding that authentic leaders have the most impact. “If leaders talk to employees about profit margins and nothing else, it makes them difficult to connect with,” said François. Communicators should encourage leaders to tell their stories. One of his clients, a tech company in Kanata, encourages its senior executives to take turns presenting to employees on a book they had read and how it influenced their leadership journey.
To have influence, leaders need to walk the culture talk. How do you know if you have good culture? If your employees are giving that extra 10% effort. If you still aren’t sure, a quick browse of Glassdoor will reveal which companies invest in culture and which do not.
Hire for fit
Good culture is a recruitment tool. When someone steps into an interview, culture is felt immediately and shapes the candidate’s opinion of the organization. In her role at CIRA, Sanita takes measures to ensure that candidates are getting a realistic preview of what they can expect in terms of culture.
Fit is key when it comes to retaining new talent. “If I were to look at a set of CVs that are similar in experience, I base my decision on fit. If the candidate is passionate about the organization and believes in our values then they will be much more engaged,” said Sanita.
CIRA builds their culture by creating physical spaces where employees can communicate and collaborate. The cafeteria is used for Ask Me Anything sessions with the CEO and the outdoor patio serves as a yoga studio during the lunch hour. These spaces help her keep the pulse on CIRA’s culture.