Former Facebook Executive and Co-Founder of Arrive Hotels and Restaurants on Internal Branding and Workplace Culture
Internal communication in your company is just as important as your B2B external communication with clients and customers. Think about it: Why do you think Microsoft just paid $1.2 billion for Yammer, a digital social enterprise tool that allows leaders and employees alike to communicate internally, a digital space where C-suite executives can engage quickly with hot-button issues, and team members can feel heard.
In today’s crowded space of startups, innovators, and entrepreneurs, how do you set your company apart? One way is through internal communication — or cultivating meaningful workplace culture. Facebook’s first culture maker/communications guru, Ezra Callahan, recently spoke at Friday Coffee Meetup on the power of “Scaling Meaningful Workplace Culture”:
“Company culture is a lynchpin that needs as much intention, thought, research, and intention about it as almost anything else that a company does.”
The one-person internal communications team that Ezra began at Facebook in the early 2000s now has a large dedicated team. Since leaving Facebook, Ezra has gone on to apply what he learned at Facebook to the hospitality industry in his hyperlocal startup, Arrive Hotels and Restaurants. Ezra’s focus? How information flows within the company. (How does information flow within your company? Where are the bottlenecks? Are there perceived “cliques” or in-groups/out-groups?)
When a workplace culture is moving rapidly, it’s imperative that leaders actively manage that — as opposed to passively letting internal culture and communications take shape.
What Is Workplace Culture?
Think for a minute about your company. What’s your vision? What are you doing? How are you doing it?
Ezra explains that “culture is the amorphous cloud around all of this” — your vision, your strategy, your execution — and it’s built by leaders and employees alike. Culture is intentional, as opposed to being contrived, forced, or artificial. We all know a fake when we see one, right? Companies can be just as fake or genuine as people.
What Role Does Culture Play?
Motivation: Is there a sense of greater meaning for your employees?
Companies with strong cultures make employees care.
- Employee POV: “There’s meaning in what I’m doing” (Translation: “I’m happy.”)
- Leader POV: “Can we get people to believe in our vision?” (Translation: “How can we get employees to give us their best work and to stay?”)
Ezra recalled a study that found the key to employee happiness is having a best friend at work.
Productivity: Are you getting it done?
Is your culture helping employees be more productive? Or is the space so open and free that nothing is getting done?
Communications: Are you practicing transparency?
Does your company have healthy levels of transparency? How do you help people feel like they’re a part of the company and not just some cog being left out of the key conversations? For example, Ezra mentioned that at Apple there was an inner circle of people who were in on the important conversations, which left the outer circle feeling left out. Guess what they did? They jumped ship for Facebook because Facebook had cultural elements that people wanted.
This is a worker’s market: workers get to choose where they work (you have to try a lot harder to keep good people, if you want them to work for you). Culture is a key way to recruit and retain the best employees.
As far as start-ups, this is a key differentiator: Are people happy at their work? What’s the vibe? What are the people like who work here?
Let’s Get Started
In every company, there are problems that your workplace culture is creating and problems that your company needs to address through culture. Think of culture as internal branding — it is not passive, but active and creative. Culture is as goal-oriented, purposeful, and intentional as the product you are working on. So, how are you going to get there?