Episode 52: Serious Social – Culture Eats Social for Breakfast

Episode 52: Serious Social – Culture Eats Social for Breakfast


Ep 52: Serious Social – Culture Eats Social for Breakfast

Social has turned what was once opaque to clear glass. as employees’ tweet and snap and Tik Tok their view of your business. It means your leadership is centre stage, your practices under scrutiny and your behaviours spotlighted. And today more than ever that public sharing of your company culture cannot be wallpapered over with some nice marketing. Katy Howell’s joined by the amazing, Jo Geraghty, partner at the Culture Consultancy and best-selling author to talk about how to shine on the inside and bring your employees to the fore on social.

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Full Transcript

Welcome to the Serious Social podcast, created by the straight-talking social media experts at immediate future.

– Hello, happy Friday and welcome to Serious Social. So social as you know is much more than Facebook or LinkedIn or TikToK. It’s even bigger than your company communications. It’s bigger than your marketing messages. Wider than your advertising and even more far-reaching than your tweets. It’s a reflection of who you are as a business. It is what you do on the inside that matters from your behaviours to the voices of your employees. There is nowhere to hide when it comes to social and you certainly can’t use social media to plaster over the cracks. It’s time to talk about why culture eats social for breakfast, just stealing from Drucker there. And if you want to drive meaningful impact, then you need to think about your social strategy from the inside out. If we’re going to get serious about culture, then we need to talk to an expert on culture, and I’m really delighted to welcome Jo.

– Hi Katy.

– Welcome, Jo Geraghty, partner and culture consultant at the Culture Consultancy. I tell you, you have to rehearse that–

– Yes a bit of a tongue twister.

– Is it? Honestly, some rude words slipped in occasionally. But you’re also best-selling author of “Building a Culture Of Innovation.” So massive welcome, Jo.

– Thank you, lovely being here.

– So this is a topic that’s really, as you know, very dear to my heart because I always feel that you can’t, social just is not wallpaper. It is much more representative of who you are. But before we dive in, I think I have to get something really straight in my head. And it probably, to you it probably seems like a daft question. And in fact, probably seems like a daft question to our listeners. But what is culture?

– Well is a big question, I don’t know about a daft question but it’s definitely a big question. So you’ll have all the academic views, they’ll come in and the experts come and say, well, it’s the norms and the rituals and the artefacts, but that gets a bit kind of complicated and not really meaningful. So if you think about it in real terms, it’s the behaviours and the attitudes that your staff display every day as they’re doing their work, it’s the way they interact with each other. It’s their working practices. It’s the leadership style of the organization and the way that all of those things are held together. So all the structures that you have, the systems that you have. So that means things like performance management or the policies that you have. All those bits that make those other behaviours really stick and easy way to think about it is just, what your people are doing when the boss isn’t looking.

– I love that, Oh my God, that’s terrible. Well, actually in this day and age,

– What are they doing?

– Could be anything. From your perspective? Cause I know what it is like from my perspective, how connected is culture and social media?

– I think more and more, as social rises, I think definitely more and more. So if you have the right culture, it needs to be aligned to your strategy. So there isn’t a one size fits all with culture, right? It depends on your business. Needs to be aligned to your strategy, to your brand, to your marketing. And there needs to be congruence through all of that. So you can’t be pumping out one message on social, into the market going we’re this, we’re that, we’re best at customer service, we’re great at innovation, and then on the inside, there’s nothing like that to be seen. So those things have to be, it has to be seamless. It has to be joined up.

– And do you know what, so many brands talk about company purpose, don’t they? I mean, particularly market is often lead the way. And especially when it comes to social media, they want to demonstrate that they’re kind of ethical and have direction or serve the greater good. But how does that fit into culture? How can you avoid it being just a marketing campaign?

– Yeah it’s a good one, when we think about purpose and vision and meaningful authentic values have been the foundations of culture. So that’s the piece that has to be there. Purpose is your, why do you exist? Why are you here? What are you trying to achieve? And if that’s not, if you’re bored, just sitting there, your executive team is sitting there going well, we’re only here for commercial ends, right? We’re just here to make money. But on the outside you’re pumping, you’d be saying, “Oh, let’s tack on a bit “of corporate social responsibility. “Yeah, we’ll push that on social. “What else have we, “Oh, we’ve done some good over here. “Some charity work, something else. “Look what our team’s done, oh, that’s brilliant.” But that’s not really part of your ethos. It’s not really part of your internal purpose and your people, your staff are not aligned to it, then again, we’re lacking in that kind of connection. It’s not gonna be brought to life. And especially if you look at Gen Z now, if you’re, trying to attract, you know, the younger generation into your organization, they’re not gonna buy it. They’re gonna smell it a mile off. There’s no room for smoke and mirrors in this world anymore. You can’t pretend, oh, let’s pretend we’ve got really good purpose. And I know it’s tough, right? I know it’s tough because lots of people would say to me, like, if you have got a really worthy purpose or you are a charity or something, obviously it’s much easier to put that message out. If you’re a B Corp, you can push that out. And I think if you’ve always been traditionally very commercial, you need to flip it on its head a bit. I’m not saying, you know, I’m a businesswoman, I’m not saying don’t make money, but I’m saying how could you create profit through purpose? Try and flip that internally to align people. And then again, you have that authenticity.

– And because it’s so true, I think the word authenticity and transparency are just bandied about. The reality is we, part of why I think I wanted to do this session with you Jo, is that we’ve talked off and on about this inside, outside bit. But if what you’re saying is that often purposes led by the wrong direction or there is no real purpose because the ultimate aim of the company is to make money. And in fact, the really sad bit is that recent research just shows that only four in 10 employees can actually describe to others what they actually do. So there’s even more basic. They don’t even know what their goals are. And only three in 10 employees are deeply engaged with their companies. And there’s a mismatch that then is sort of obfuscated on social. So if we’re to improve culture, have purpose in our kind of DNA, as they say, is it all about changing pony leadership?

– Leadership is definitely a factor. Firstly, I’d say, get to understand your culture. So sometimes people, companies have a great culture, but they just can’t articulate it. But couldn’t really tell you that exactly that point people go, well, it’s great and we’re doing really well and it’s lovely to work here and our clients love us, but what is it? So we do a lot of cultural audits. We assess cultures, we go in and we sort of unearth it. what really works? What are the enablers? What are the drivers of this great culture? And if there are inhibitors, then we unearth those as well. So we’ll say well, actually, you might have pivoted. You might have changed your strategy. You might have merged with another company and that shifted the business. That means that you’ve got to change your culture. You change that direction and what used to serve you well, might not serve you anymore. So really understanding what’s the What’s your culture today? And then you can look at it and say, well, is this the right one? Is this fit for purpose? Because we want to go over in this direction, this is where we’re heading. Do we actually need a different culture? Do we need different behaviours? A good example, if you suddenly say, well, we want to drive innovation in our business but you don’t have an innovation culture. You’re going to have to do more than just plaster that on the wall. Or go out on social and go, we’re an innovation culture. You have to change the working practices. The way people think, the way they work has to change. So assessing what you’ve got and then designing the future. It’s true that the leaders, in an ideal world, would upskill your leaders to lead that change and they will be at the forefront of it and they will be driving it. And especially now, post-COVID and the rate of change, we’ve got those leadership skills are changing. The leadership skills of the future are much more about sort of empathy and adaptability and horizon scanning and these things than they ever were before. So leadership is a big part but really sort of delving your culture is another piece of that.

– Leadership is a really interesting question for me because is that leadership of the teens or is this fundamentally something that has to be led? And that’s not just run but led by the boardroom?

– In an ideal world, yes. I’ve been doing this for over 10 years now. So there was very much at the beginning that sort of the board would get together, this is what the culture is gonna be. And then it will be cascaded by calms coming down the organization. And then they would sheep-dipped a few people over here and sheep-dipped people over there. I mean, the world has changed a lot now, nobody wants to be sheep-dipped for a start. So you’ve got to work much harder.

– I love that, sorry. No, I just have this vision of all these employees queuing up to be dipped in the business culture.

– There you go, you’re done. You’re in the new mould. It’s much harder because people, you know, your staff see straight through it. So you’ve got to engage them in the need for it. You’ve got to pull them into it. So why are we doing this? So we’ve seen a bit of a shift in that. So in an ideal world, yes, it would be much quicker. It would be much easier if the leadership team were fully on board and leading it. However, we’ve seen a big shift in the last few years of divisions in especially incorporates just getting on with it because quite frankly they can’t wait for the top team to move. And we’re almost creating movements within organizations. So one division will say, well, we want better results at the end of the year. We want our staff to be more engaged. We wanna hire the best talent. And what you’re seeing is they’re creating their own hub within the organization and then people are sort of trying to move in because they’re like, well, we want some of what’s going on over there. And then the next division will say, well, we do the same for us. And we’re sort of creating a movement, more of a team-based embedding across the organization. And the hope is obviously you reached critical mass and eventually pushes upwards but northwards.

– Yeah. I love that for two reasons. One is it becomes a groundswell from anywhere that can change culture positively. It can also do the other way, but anyway, and the second is it empowers CMOs. It empowers a department who often is sort of satellite to the main body function of the every day to actually drive change. And that’s the bit that I think when we’ve spoken before about, it gave me some hope that in order to have this inside out view that that can be actually driven by the marketing department. We don’t have to wait for HR and the board or customer service or anything else. We don’t have to wait which will be heaven.

– But if you’re in a position to do that, you could do it anyway, because even if you think, Oh, well, this organization is huge. I’m never gonna be able change it. Oh, the leadership are never gonna listen. You can certainly make a difference in your area. And the hope is that you drive that movement and it does expand. But even just creating a really great employee experience for the team that you’ve got, better results in, the space that your leading, is worth it, right?

– Yeah, absolutely. Right, so employees have many social platforms on which they can air their grievances, talk about their horrible bosses and everything in between. And that often has an opposite reaction, which is that many companies become fearful that their employees will destroy their reputation with kind of one click of a share button. It’s even more terrifying when you realize that 50% of employees are already posting videos, photos, and messages about what life is like at the company without any encouragement from the company leadership. So I guess, yeah, I guess the big question, is this is a really sensitive question I’d say, which is, how do you manage your employees? Should you manage your employees?

– Well, I think the worst thing you can do is try and gag them. So there are companies that still just say, nothing on social, nothing don’t do it. If that’s not in your book description, don’t touch it. I think that’s horrible. I think you’ve gotta set some ground rules. You’ve got to train people. We have a kind of four E’s methodology that we use for change generally, but I think it works quite well for this is educate, engage, empower, and enable. And I think if you’re educating people as to what social is, why it’s important, how it can be used. You’re engaging them, you’re empowering them to go out there and do it. And you’re enabling them, which is really the training on how to then you should allow them to do that. And listen, they’re gonna mess up every now and then you’re gonna get people who mess up and then that’s how the company deals with that and how they respond. So just the same way as when you get customer complaints, right? You have to be seen to be dealing with that in the moment online, right there. And it’s the same, but if you don’t let people do it, I mean, I’m not saying you should force everybody to do it either. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea. The best things I’ve seen work are really where you get pooled content from across the organization, that you get all the best bits that then people are putting out. But yeah, you should let them. And I think if they want to talk about things that are personal to them and they understand the parameters, then you should let them talk about, Me Too Or Black Lives Matter or stuff that’s personal. It’s not necessarily about the company. It’s how they feel about something. And I think the key is not to go off on a mad rant, the guidelines and the training and the parameters have gotta be in and frankly make it part of the culture.

– Yeah do you know, I don’t know if you saw this yesterday, but Dulux has… Dulux has had a little bit of a rogue employee and its social media manager has been less than careened on social media, about their sponsorship of a football club without kind of getting into the details. They have been rather disparaging that Dulux has chosen to support this particular football club and Dolux have had to come out with, we’re really sorry. Our employee does not represent our views of our sponsorship. Cause they’ve just obviously spent a lot of money on this sponsorship and they don’t want this to happen, but it is a really classic example of what you’ve just talked about, which is setting out the parameters, but also bringing, your social media managers should understand, it should be taught and trained. I don’t know who this person is, but it feels to me like they were not on board with this scenario. And often what happens in for those that are communicating through social and this was obviously somebody doing so on behalf of the brand is that they are excluded from these bigger conversations. They’re not seen as being important that they’re included in them. And it’s a great example for me of a slightly fractured culture where there isn’t trust and responsibility. There’s just and also, there’s just an assumption. An assumption that staff will think the same way as the people who organized the sponsorship or the leaders of the business. It’s a terrible assumption that everything we think everybody else must understand.

– Yeah and that’s that internal communication piece. I mean, trust is a really good point. So especially the way that most of the world is working remotely, trust is bigger than ever. I mean, you’re going to have to trust your people. And I know lots of companies are still not happy. We’ve got lots of clients desperate to get everybody back in the office because they want to see what they’re doing, they want to see that they’re working. But trust is huge and you’re gonna have to, and in order to trust them, you have to delegate effectively. You have to give them the right information. You have to have really good two way communication so that you are listening. I mean, look at the chairman of KPMG with those comments. I mean, there was no listening going on. I mean, okay he heard moaning, you know, why you’ll moaning, stop moaning, but he wasn’t really listening. He wasn’t, well, what’s going on for you? Why are you this so difficult? Where my empathy, let me understand. And yeah.

– It’s a bit like Boris saying, “Well, you’ve all had, “you’re been furloughed “and you’ve all been working from home. “So now it’s time to get to work.” And I think we there’s a whole question. We all just deflated, even if he didn’t feel particularly strongly about it, you just kind of went, Oh my God, I’m exhausted. How are we meant to get out? It’s just so not understanding. And it’s not… I don’t think and maybe it’s just, I’ve been around a long time, I don’t think this is terribly difficult to be able to read these kind of very big signals which is people are exhausted and COVID has had a huge impact on people. And trust is part of building that bit up again, Isn’t it? It’s making your employees feel like they are part of a unified organization, not just the people who do.

– Yeah and it shows that there were cracks in your culture. So a lot of people were saying, well, our culture was really great when we were all in the office, but actually it was much easier to paper over the culture cracks, quite frankly, because people could pick up bits of information by osmosis. They could quickly go and ask a friend. They could earwig on the bosses conversations to see what is it I’m really supposed to be doing. Whereas now you need to be an excellent leader. Your managers need to be really skilled at delegating. They really need to, if you delegate effectively, it’s not just, Oh, could you just do this for me? You’ve got to kind of say to people, what am I expecting as an end result of this? Where have I already tried and it hasn’t worked? Who have I already spoken to? what do they need to do? Where are the checkpoints? Need to set all of that out. The objectives need to be crystal clear. And that’s just showing that. So it’s showing these cracks, it’s showing the lack of capability that the organization had and now needs to quickly rectify.

– Well, what if you have a cracking culture and a brilliant company, but nobody speaks up. How can you encourage your teams to be passionate advocates for the business?

– Yeah, that’s a good one. And actually I often see really, really good cultures and they don’t speak about it. And I think it’s, often that people don’t feel empowered. If are not the social media, if you’re not the marketing manager or you don’t even sit in that team, has anybody ever said to you that that is okay. Because you might think, well, part of our culture makes us really good, is we’re really careful with confidential data. We’ve got Chinese walls going on in our business. We pride ourselves on being professional. And does this really look professional? So sometimes it’s just about giving people permission. There’s the training element as well, but it’s literally saying actually, you do know you’re allowed, you can talk about this. And often, I mean, it’s funny in large companies. Cause sometimes I think they hear more about what’s going on internally through social than they do through the internal channels, which can be fantastic. So it can really help innovation and collaboration and co-creation and all those things ’cause you suddenly like, Oh wow, I didn’t know that team were working on this thing and we’re working on this that would really match really nicely. I’ll go and speak to them. But yeah, I think just empowering them and getting them to start speaking up. But again, making them, you know, sometimes the guidelines are to make other people feel comfortable. So where you are sitting on one side of a Chinese wall thinking, am I allowed to say that? Am I not allowed to say that? It’s having those processes in place that make it easy for people to do?

– Yes ’cause in general, even happy employees are nervous about talking about their own business. I think it’s natural. You don’t want to say something that might go against the grain and you might not feel fully informed. So sometimes what we find is just simply having those guidelines makes life a little bit easier without being kind of draconian and saying, “You can only say this.” But it actually just free it liberates people.

– Yeah or just some sort of sense check, you know, a group that you can take it to and go, I really wanna talk about this great thing that I’m working on. Is this okay? Just some way of sense checking it internally. But yeah, but definitely giving people permission and allowing them because they’ll be thinking, I don’t want to be that rogue employee that causes damage and does harm to our brands. So where’s that balance, finding the balance.

– Exactly, exactly. And there is really good news in that 33, sort of 33%. So about 1/3 of those that share comments, share praise and positive comments about employees, which is quite good, which when you compare it to about 16% of shed criticism and negativity, it’s kind of on balance. Actually, most employees don’t really wish to, they’re almost driven quite hard to the point where they actually feel that they have to say something negatively, publicly. I always think, I think at that point you’ve probably got somebody who’s been living quite a lot of frustration for some time.

– Yeah and I think at that point you’re either this person probably isn’t a good fit anyway. Understands where they’re probably not a good culture fit or their issues have gone or it’s a performance issue that actually should be dealt with the same way even if it wasn’t being viewed the world on social. It needs to be dealt with as a performance-related issues.

– Exactly. Now we’ve touched on a bit of this, but I do wanna just focus again on reversing this scenario rather than how culture plays out in social, but look at how social media itself impacts company culture, because you’ve touched on a few bits, but it might be nice to bring it together and just say like, how does social media kind of focus back in on the business?

– I think definitely having a good social presence and talking about all the positive things that the company is doing, it definitely adds to the overall employee experience, making much more positive the employee value proposition. What you’re promising to your people that you’ll give them. It gives them that pride in where they work, which is really important and more so for younger generations. But I think these days for everybody to kind of say, I identify with this brand, this is the brand I worked for, I identify with this, identify with what they’re doing. It means something to me, it’s meaningful. So I think that’s really important. I think the dangerous piece is where you do have that disconnect where the company is pushing out on social the positive and you’re looking around going, I’m quite sure that’s– On the inside, but yeah, for attracting talent, all those things will just be so much easier if you’ve got that external presence sewn up. But yeah, I would say just make sure it marries with the what’s going on the inside.

– I think in the last couple of weeks, Citrix had just won employee of the year and it was very interesting because if you go and Google Citrix or love where you work, there were two hashtag love where you work. It’s really interesting, Twitter it rather. But what you see is not only is, they’ve won this accolade, but actually you can see months to month to month’s worth of happiness from their employees. And this I think is quite remarkable because Citrix is a cost culture company. What I mean by that is that their audiences, their employees are spread out across the globe. And an HQ in America or a division in Japan were also have this challenge of a really differing national culture. I mean, how do you give them one… You know what I mean, I won’t say culture again. Sorry, but one culture? How do you do that?

– Well, yeah, I mean it’s always a tricky one though the big sort of global projects. The key really is no company is ever gonna change national working culture, right? Trust me, I’ve worked for some of the biggest companies in the world and they’re never gonna change what the working practices in the U.S or Japan or China. I mean, even nationally, we have companies that have an office in Hull London in let’s say, each one of those is gonna have a subculture. For a start, you can’t go surfing in your lunchtime in two of those offices. There’s always gonna be that variance. So what we look for is really the red thread piece, the classic kind of stick of rock. What, the essence of it? So going back to the purpose and the values and building blocks. What’s the essence that you want to have running all the way through your organization? No matter whereabouts in the world you touch that. But underneath that, we often allow, we work with the teams so we allow them to it translate into but what does that, in terms of behaviours and working practices and policies, what does that mean for your jurisdiction? What does that mean for your local region? I mean, I’ve seen it go horribly wrong in a few places. We had one Japanese client that they’re one of their values just didn’t translate. It was a very specific Japanese word. It just didn’t translate into anything. Not directly, it didn’t translate to anything else in any other language. And so you sort of end up with this kind of wooliness of, well, what is that value? And it doesn’t, sort of hang together very well. But then someone was reminding me actually about sort of marketing messages. I don’t know if you remember, like in the ’60s, Pepsi had some sort of, come alive with Pepsi type thing. I mean, when you translated it into Chinese, it said like, bring your ancestors back from the dead with Pepsi. There are things like that, you have to be really careful because one little translation issue internally can take you off in a completely different cultural time.

– I love that. I love it. It just shows you the art of communication, particularly at national level.

– Good translation.

– Will cause a huge amount of focus. And actually that’s part of that, isn’t it? Company culture does in my view an absolutely, it is the perfect part of illustrating a company’s personality, especially when it comes to social media. So as we draw to a close, do you have one piece of advice to give? I know, I don’t know how you could find one piece of advice. To give CMOs about they can positively impact culture to be kind of more authentic and transparent.

– I think the good thing is I’ve seen lots of more CMOs getting involved. My one piece of advice is really muscling, like muscling. I mean, it’s been in the domain of HR for too long. It really is a job for, HR and the marketing team together. So, if no one’s doing culture in your organization, make it you, lead it. If HR are doing it, muscling, get a seat at the table and be part of that and be part of the change, make the change happen.

– Good, you know what, Jo, I could talk to you for hours. I really could, because I am fascinated by this. It’s such a big job. And it’s the thing that for many brands, when they think about social media is the bit that they don’t think about. They only think about the communication, but not how the whole organization that if it was aligned in the right way, could actually be so much more powerful and I feel like we’ve just scratched a bit of the surface. I think it’s fairly clear, culture is the cornerstone of social strategy and you have to kind of do more than dress the part if you want to be a brand that’s genuine and open. And I think that’s what our customers want, what audiences want, what consumers want. I think they’re demanding this. That’s what they mean when they say we want transparent organizations. That’s what they’re really talking about. But thank you so much, Jo. I’m just popping in for that where I can, I’ve just put up your LinkedIn profile because honestly, talk to Jo, if this is something that you have a challenge with, because it seems like such a simple thing, Oh we just need to improve our culture. But actually it is in my view, it’s multiple moving parts and there is nothing like having somebody who really understands where the pitfalls are and also how best to structure everything so that you can start your journey to a better culture. So thank you so much, Jo.

– Well thank you,

– And we will be back with another Serious Social, but in the meantime, here in England, the sun is shining and I hope you have an absolutely terrific weekend. Take care.


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