Technology & Culture: Digital Tools can help Transmit your Values
Culture can be defined as a set of core values that permeate a business and its people, from headquarters to the front line. While franchisees are granted the freedom to create their own internal cultures, some purposely replicate the franchisor's cultural identity for complete brand consistency. In both cases, a strong and cultivated business culture and set of core values will instill focus, arming employees with clear values and direction, while exciting and inspiring stakeholders and customers.
Eight in 10 (82 percent) CEOs and HR leaders believe culture gives businesses a potential competitive advantage, according to Deloitte's 2016 Global Human Capital Trends survey. However, the same survey also found that culture is not a well-understood concept: fewer than three in 10 (28 percent) leaders surveyed believed they understood their culture well, while less one in five (19 percent) believed they had the "right culture."
Businesses that have managed to pin down and transform culture from an ethereal and confusing construct into a robust business strategy deserve a gold star. But they risk diluting their carefully cultivated, recognizable, and consistent brand and cultures once franchisees get involved. How can franchisors mitigate this risk and maintain their culture across the system? One handy answer is technology. According to Deloitte, "Today, new tools can help leaders measure and manage culture toward alignment with business goals."
Print to digital
Traditional printed internal communications, while not extinct, are at least endangered. Since they are expensive to produce on a relatively small scale and tough to track in terms of readership and response, it's easy to see why in-house magazines and newsletters are on the wane. Yet their content is still relevant. Recognizing staff contributions and achievements, reporting financial figures, ensuring transparency, and reaffirming business values are all part and parcel of culture building.
Replacing print media are powerful intranet-based communications tools, accessible to all, working harmoniously alongside social media platforms like LinkedIn. With company news updates no longer limited to a single monthly print run, updates can occur instantaneously, engaging franchisees and their employees daily or hourly.
In the social media age, news is expected to be delivered as it happens, and there are benefits beyond drumming up excitement and interest in company events. Sharing updates this way means reactions can be gauged in real time and readership and engagement can be tracked and analyzed. These types of metrics help HR leaders measure staff engagement, as well as check for consistencies and conflicts in company culture.
Onboarding is when your new hires are most impressionable (or at the very least unjaded by office politics), and so a good time to promote and instill your culture and values. Many businesses are investing in cost-effective online learning software and/or producing their own e-learning videos to train at scale without any extra effort or financial resource required beyond creating the technology.
The beauty of online training for franchises is total consistency in learning. The "student's" understanding of the company's culture and values is not affected by the "teacher's" view.
In addition, data captured through the online learning tools, such as pass rates and course attendance, allows managers to see who is and isn't engaged, and quizzes can be incorporated to ensure that your new recruits are absorbing all the information you want them to.
Culture can be harder to propagate when remote working is involved. Those watercooler conversations can't happen, nor does the impromptu camaraderie and communication that occurs in the hallway or break room. Yet innovation, collaboration, and competition can still occur, enabled by virtual platforms.
In the digital age, there's no reason franchisees or mobile employees ought to feel siloed, or why the head of customer services in Albuquerque can't speak with her equivalent in the Phoenix branch to share how a simple change saved her team 15 hours per week. There's also no reason franchisees should not learn from each other's mistakes, or share tips on staffing, lead generation, and customer service.
Free and open discourse through an intranet-based platform, where news and ideas are shared and group chats can happen, where teams collaborate on projects in real time, and where training courses can be accessed, throw open new realms of possibility for franchisees.
Through technology, employees and franchisees alike can reap the benefits of being the offspring of a bigger beast that learns from their siblings, as well as from their parents. And that willingness to share ideas for the greater good of the system, and to behave as a collective, is cultural.
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