THURSDAY 15 FEB 2018 10:48 AM


Ahead of May’s national IoIC conference, Suzanne Peck focuses on generational experience in the workplace and looks at how internal communication impacts reputation, inside and out

Reputation is the maker, and breaker, of business success. Should reputation be ranked higher than culture? I’m not suggesting that having a healthy culture isn’t up there in the ‘top things you need to have to be a successful organisation’ list but, for me, the focus on culture is currently burning a bit too brightly.

And I blame Millennials. Not personally of course: on the whole they’re spirited, enthusiastic, fresh and lovely people who we’d all be delighted to work with and employ. We know that this generation is shaping the workplace of tomorrow, but it feels like we’re encouraged to appease them, that we need to attract and retain these consumers of the workplace who will shop around for the jobs that best align with their needs and life goals. That we need to bring in the pool tables, the fun company slide and Friday drinks trolley, or we won’t survive/be successful/be profitable, etc.

The Millennial generation will form 70% of the global workforce by 2020 and yes, may well be a bit choosier about the businesses they work for and the cultures within. But for me, this is where reputation eats culture for breakfast.

The external reputation – what they hear, what they read – is going to be the first hook, their first impression, and the people already on the inside are increasingly shaping that external reputation. It’s why the IoIC is focusing its national conference this year on ‘Transforming reputation.’ We’re going to be hearing from organisations like the BBC, Jaguar Land Rover, Aviva and others on how IC and employee voice are influencing, shaping and resetting reputation from the inside out. As well as these case studies, we’re looking in more depth at why reputation matters to organisations, and the key role IC plays in building trust and a positive corporate brand. And we’re looking at the impact the gig economy is having on reputation.

Remote workers and contractors make up almost 50% of the US workforce and firms like Uber have first-hand experience of the impact this internal, yet not internal, audience can make to dent a reputation. Internal discomfort led to difficulties such as driver strikes in the UK and USA and Uber’s recent grapples with Transport for London.

I’ve singled Uber out here because much has been written about its internal troubles, but this experience is not Uber-specific. For example, in an interview with the Guardian, one Deliveroo rider spoke about how the company’s external image of young, middle class men just earning a little cash is not in keeping with the internal experience of couriers working full-time to make a living.

Overlooking employees as a key contributor to reputation is shortsighted. With social media, a business and its practices are only one or two clicks away from hundreds of negative reviews or viewpoints that influence not only your buying decisions, but also important recruitment opportunities. And internal voice is seen as far more credible than anything put out by PR or marketing. At the IoIC conference in May, we want to find out how comms professionals can engage employees to encourage loyalty and engagement, and so drive reputation and performance.

With up to five generations in the workplace, how can we best involve and connect everyone to create a great culture inside and a positive impact on external reputation? I don’t think Millennials are alone in wanting to grow and develop, in wanting a job that aligns to their beliefs or to feel that what they are doing is making a contribution. Surely every worker, no matter what the generation, wants the same thing?

And that’s not just about culture, it’s about taking pride in our work and being proud to say who we work for.

Suzanne Peck is president of the IoIC

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