What is this great culture of which you speak?

Mind the gap

It’s a day of awards and recognition and being a “best company” and thrilled-employee videos.  Appearing on lists, cake in the break room, “top 100” logos on Careers pages.  It’s all good.  If nothing else, there’s a lot better benchmarking going on between companies and daylight into each others’ best practices or pitfalls.

Good for everybody, except the people who aren’t feeling the love.

In one company, our communications function became so effective at garnering external plaudits for our work culture that we got concerned about the new problem of alienating people, especially—and most critically—managers who were having a hard time delivering the goods.  That’s what prompted our team leader to return from a trip to London with the ubiquitous Tube sign above.

“Mind the Gap” became a mantra for us.  How can we bring everybody along?  Not just the 20% in the 80/20 rule, but those whole pockets of people who can be left out even in an awesome culture—sort of the corporate equivalent of those cut-off soldiers still fighting World War II.  Aside from disengagement, in this environment of easy trolling, dissatisfied and overworked employees can find the time to post blistering reviews of company life online.

And those managers, who are supposed to mediate the culture to their teams—even to the point of being evaluated for it.  One manager is truly struggling when all of his team’s empowered women professionals are out on mat leave at the same time, and he’s now lobbying for a revised maternity policy.  Another has drained her L&D budget, swamped by requests for tuition assistance.  Another had team members reading about the benefits enjoyed in another department, and the lateral-move defections have begun.

This kind of problem really ratchets up the need for the communicators to do audience segmentation and targeted outreach, with just the right metrics for results.  The communications metric can’t be did everybody click on the benefits brochure?  It’s got to be a smarter assessment of how the situation should change for the team or the office or the beleaguered business unit.

Winning the award is Part One.  Follow-through is Part Two.  How is your communications function acting as a trusted advisor to move the culture forward and not merely promote it?

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