Everyone’s talking about ‘Culture Mirroring’. But what is it?

Posted by Nick Mitchell on Apr 8, 2019 9:18:00 AM
Nick Mitchell

Culture Mirroring is a new, modular, product brought to you by the Jupiter & Sparks family to revolutionise your workplace culture.

Increasingly, CEOs and HRDs are realising that positive performance in the workplace – as well as attraction and retention – is driven by culture. However, traditionally, attempts of organisations to have a positive impact on their workplace cultures have been generic and ‘top-down’. 

Over 25+ years of conducting extensive focus groups with various large-scale organisations, we have learned that, whilst senior managers believe that such efforts are hugely successful, more often than not, the masses working on ‘the shop floor’ tend not to agree. Which is why we so regularly hear things like: 

“I love the people I work with. They’re like family and the only reason I stay. But I don’t like or care about the company itself.”

Which, clearly, has a negative impact on employee retention and attraction in the long term. And it is the reason Employer Branding projects that don’t take culture into account tend not to solve these issues.

What do we mean by ‘top-down’? 

An example of imposing generic cultural products from the top down might be something like this:

An organisation tries to encourage creativity by building adult play areas that include things like pool tables, ball pools and ping-pong. Because they have read that bringing out the employee’s ‘inner child’ will help them to be more creative. 

The feedback we so often hear in focus groups is that, whilst employees like the freedom to ‘play’ (or experiment), they are not children and, so, often feel condescended to or infantilised by such blunt efforts.

Another example might be something like this:

An organisation wants to overturn its reputation as not a very nice place to work. So it launches a new Employer Brand that celebrates just how happy its people are.

Regular focus group feedback tells us that, ‘it’s just another set of corporate messages that fail to address what’s actually wrong and just plaster over the cracks.’

So top-down is clearly not working!

Authenticity as a model for culture change

Culture Mirroring completely flips the model of candidate attraction and retention on its head and builds it from the bottom up. Effectively handing over the development of workplace culture to the workforce. 

It’s a model that has been hugely successful in the consumer space in recent years – enabling brands to become attractive based on the culture that their consumers build around them.

“Lose control of your marketing messages… Let your community define you, rather than trying to dictate what’s said and how about your company… Remove made-up, gobbledygook-laden mission statements, boilerplate press releases, and other top-down messaging from your materials and websites. Instead, point your people to your community…”

Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot

By allowing the authentic culture of your company to shape the working environment, you:

  • Empower your people to be the agents of positive change
  • Neutralise negative opinions of the ‘employer’ by putting people in charge of their own destiny
  • Increase productivity by giving people a vested interest in their success
  • Increase trust and connectivity between your ‘ground level’ and ‘senior management’ teams
  • Maximise staff engagement
  • Secure a positive reputation (Employer Brand) in the wider world
  • Create a true talent pipeline into your organisation, beyond the capability of a top-down Employer Branding project

The Perils of Inauthenticity

Companies who are perceived, by their employees, as inauthentic in their communications experience:

  • Fear/unrest
  • Increased internal conflicts
  • Increased attrition
  • Lower productivity
  • Lower levels of staff engagement
  • Reputational (Employer Brand) damage in the wider world
  • Reduced ability to attract new Talent 

These factors are most pronounced at times of dramatic organisational change, e.g. closely following mergers and acquisitions. However, they continue to proliferate organisations during periods of operational stability, quite simply because:

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Employees do not trust employers whose communications they perceive as inauthentic.

Which is why, even though many of those organisations who have invested £thousands into high profile, large-scale Employer Branding products, they continue to report such issues. 

Give me an example of Culture Mirroring in action

Look to car supermarket Motorpoint as an amazing example of a business that listens to its people and develops its workplace culture based on what they say. Among their rewards and benefits, they include a flexible benefit called, ‘One Big Dream,’ which gives employees the opportunity to take time out of their working week to do something they always wished they’d had time to do.

Whether that’s learning French, going to the gym or even going home to spend a couple of uninterrupted hours with your family, these are all within the realm of One Big Dream. And it’s working absolute wonders for the productivity and retention of Motorpoint’s existing people as well as attracting the best candidates in the market, who think to themselves, ‘I need a piece of this!’ By letting the people who comprise the company determine the way they’re rewarded for their efforts, Motorpoint is levelling the hierarchy of ‘employer’ and ‘employee’ so that, when we think of ‘the company’, we think of the people who work for it and how happy they all are. 

That is pure, ideological Employer Branding at its absolute finest, carried out by mirroring culture.

Modular rollout based on employer needs

The first stage of Culture Mirroring is to conduct research that allows you to segment your audience into a number of archetypes. These archetypes will help to build your candidate profiles.

You then, like Motorpoint did with a series of ‘One Big Dream’ posters that targeted ‘gym bunnies’, ‘musicians’, ‘parents’ and other clearly defined audience segments, develop means of engaging with them based on what they have reported as their:

  • Attitudes
  • Needs
  • Behaviours
  • Perceptions
  • Psychograhics
  • Interests

The benefit is that you can do so in a modular way, enabling you to spread your budget over a number of projects over a longer period of time. So, like Motorpoint, you might start out with ‘Rewards and Benefits’ as your first Culture Mirroring project. And then you might roll it out into ‘Employee Wellbeing’, ‘L&D’, ‘Peer-to-Peer Comms’ or other elements of the employee lifecycle further along down the line.

Once you know your culture inside out, you are much better positioned to reflect it back on a project-by-project basis. 

The Culture Mirroring Strategy

A fully integrated Culture Mirroring strategy will connect your current, future and past employees to the authentic personality of your organisation. It will showcase, by providing an accurate window into the organisation, what it’s like to work for you and it will do so in the language of ‘we’, rather than the language of ‘you’ and ‘us’.

It will also help you to attract and retain talent in a very competitive market. And it will provide a level of consistency in all people related activity, from the way your managers greet their teams in a morning, onboard new team members or deliver L&D activities to the way you recruit and celebrate success.

In 2019, it might be the single most important product in the Employer Communications market. It is essential that you learn more about it and start working out how to incorporate it into your people strategy.



Topics: Employer Branding, Workplace Culture Management