From theme park rides (real or virtual) to the classic animations streaming on Disney Plus, The Walt Disney Company’s brand promise is evident. That consistency of brand experience comes from the strength of its company culture

Disney’s corporate culture seems practically perfect in every way. While the end result feels enchanting, Disney’s culture strategy is anything but mythical. Internally and externally, the company works hard to illuminate its mission: “We seek to develop the most creative, innovative, and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world.” From movie producers to theme park safety crews to the consumers themselves, Disney’s purpose is clear to — and embraced by — all. 

Not every company’s culture is fun and games — but every company needs a purpose that employees can … [+] embrace.

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While your business may not have the global presence of Disney, you can still build a corporate culture that inspires both workers and customers. Right now, most businesses are missing the culture mark. A culture study from Gallup indicates that only 41 percent of workers really understand their employer’s unique cultural identity, the characteristics that make it stand out.

Making Your Culture a Priority at All Levels 

This cultural disconnect often rides on management and communication. Often, business leaders work toward an identified mission, yet they neglect to cascade that purpose down. Consequently, most employees are at a loss when it comes to the significance of their job. According to Gallup, “culture is the organization’s GPS, giving its employees routes and pathways for living the organization’s purpose and delivering on its brand promise.”

Especially during this pandemic era, when many are working remotely, you can’t afford to let your culture decay. Instead, you must invigorate employees’ desire to do their best work by helping your leaders embody and disseminate your corporate culture. Gallup research also shows that managers impact as much as 70 percent of team member engagement. While you don’t want to dictate culture and become a cult, you do want your managers to ensure cultural awareness and the communication of common values. 

Here are a few strategies to empower your team to create the company culture you want.

1. Draw boundary lines.

United Airlines workers aren’t just told to “follow established procedures,” an inflexible command that can lead workers to make questionable decisions — at least, not anymore. A 2017 incident forced the airline to revise its guidelines. Here’s what went wrong: Corporate guidelines had insisted on following protocol instead of prioritizing customer needs. 

Rather than offer the vague advice to “do the right thing,” the carrier now offers parameters to guide team members’ decisions, asking them to make sure all choices reflect efficiency, safety, care, and dependability. These guides psychologically empower workers while maintaining cultural consistency.

As you consider your corporate culture, examine whether you’ve set up enough safeguards to bolster employee decision-making. Which characteristics best describe your own cultural values? If the United worker had been focused on customer care and dependability instead of following prescribed processes, the customer — and company — may have been content. 

Do yourself and your employees a big favor by drawing boundaries instead of giving workers rote prescriptions or complete freedom. Both send workers beyond the realm of cultural expectations. Be sure to communicate your guidelines, along with your culture statement, to everyone. Stay accountable to them yourself.

2. Show customer impact. 

Can your managers explain to employees how significant their actions are, or how they impact clients by showcasing your culture? Employees like to feel good about their work and decisions, particularly if they know they’ve delivered on the brand promise. As seen in Gallup’s culture report, just 26 percent of U.S. employees believe their company follows through on its promises. Dare to be different by ensuring your culture brings positive brand outcomes to the customers it serves. 

What tools can you use to connect internal employee work with its customer-related results? Seaboard Foods, for instance, relied on workforce communications platform Beekeeper to educate employees about the impact they had on end users. The food production company shared images of its farms and information about the final destinations (supermarkets and restaurants) of the food it was producing. 

Using social media listening tools to analyze customer sentiment is another way to demonstrate your company’s customer impact. Display the positive metrics (even for specific posts) with your team, but make sure to share areas for growth, too. When you connect internal initiatives with customer feedback, employees can see how their work helps the company deliver on its brand promise.

3. Connect socially distant co-workers. 

There are certainly people on your payroll who work in remote or non-desk capacities, especially right now. Every employee deserves to be involved in company culture conversations and experiences. Your management team should consistently engage all workers, including part-timers and contractors. Email, Slack channels, and virtual conferencing help keep people in communication with each other, but remember that sharing personal wins can be just as important as recognizing professional wins. 

Encourage supervisors to infuse cultural relevance into meetings. Take Groove as an example. The sales engagement platform company holds team standup meetings for just 10 minutes daily. But on Mondays, the conversations are allowed to go over the usual limit, as long as they involve topics unrelated to work. Team members remember they’re all human and solidify personal connections to start the week. This practice fosters natural, rather than forced, culture-building and boosts camaraderie. 

A strong company culture is a game changer. However, leadership’s vision for the organizational culture doesn’t always trickle down through the ranks. In that case, the vision doesn’t reflect the real culture at all. These strategies will help you build a culture that keeps everyone on your team empowered and engaged — even when your kingdom is tethered together virtually.