How office design can catalyze an innovative culture

Which of these two photos, A or B, reveals an organizational culture that is controlling?

As institutions, large companies, and small firms dedicate tremendous resources to strengthen their innovation potential, many fail to realize that their office design can be a key building block or a barrier for achieving their goals. 

The Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking studies the role of well-designed public spaces in strengthening collaboration between people in innovation settings. As the majority of innovation occurs indoors—in offices, wet labs, and other spaces—this article highlights how office design influences organizational culture and a firm’s ability to innovate.

Organizational culture is commonly described as a company’s set of values, assumptions, attitudes, and behaviors, the invisible code that makes one company soar and another one sink.  Peter Drucker, management consultant for companies such as General Motors, General Electric, and IBM, put it succinctly: “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

In their book, “Change Your Space, Change Your Culture“, Rex Miller, Mabel Casey, and Mark Konchar argue that although companies may have departments or teams devoted to innovation, they often lack an innovation culture.  Like rungs of a ladder, innovation is tied to collaboration and collaboration is tied to engagement, and the first rung of an innovative culture is an engaging workplace, “the vital barometer and tool for creating that culture.” So even if companies go to great lengths to express a culture of teamwork, diversity, and empowerment, their designed spaces may express hierarchy, control, or even fear.

To fix this, new teams of thinkers have emerged to help firms find the right alignment between people, processes, and place. For instance, Workplace Strategies Inc., in Winston-Salem, N.C., helps companies think through changes in organizational culture as they undergo timely and expensive efforts to build office spaces.  Peter Marsh, Workplace Strategies’ vice president and principal project manager, told me: “We tell our clients that this is a unique moment in time. Large amounts of capital are about to be used and, for this reason, this is one of the most important leverage points to transform their culture.”

Marsh cites the Competing Values Framework as providing a useful tool. The framework, outlined in this brochure by the Haworth workspace design firm, sets out four quadrants—collaborate, create, control, and compete. Each represents a set of characteristics describing the culture types that commonly drive innovation and effectiveness.

The Competing Values Framework

The Competing Values Framework; Collaborate (Do Things Together); Create (Do things first); Control (Do things right); Compete (Do things fast)

In a control culture, an organization devotes considerable effort to “doing things right” through internal procedures and protocols.  Office spaces reinforce a control culture when they have fixed and closed individual spaces, which can be either high-walled cubicles or offices enclosed by drywall.  The answer to the quiz is Photo A, which illustrates a controlled environment where it may be difficult to catalyze creative, team-oriented work.

In a collaborate culture, an organization focuses on long-term internal development and team building.  Office spaces reinforce a collaborate culture through a more informal environment with few individual spaces and a greater emphasis on group areas.

In a create culture, an organization concentrates on differentiating itself from others externally with a high degree of experimentation and individuality or creativity.  Spaces facilitate a create culture with easy-to-change environments, more open spaces, and a low ratio of individual spaces.

In a compete culture, an organization is focused on a results-oriented work dynamic, with private areas for work and concentration but also informal spaces for rapidly sharing ideas and resolving problems collectively. Office spaces that encourage this include a medium ratio of formal and informal spaces, with a mix of individual and group spaces.

For companies serious about cultural change, workspace consultants guide employees and leadership teams through a phase of self-discovery, articulation of a desired culture, and, ultimately, an agreed-upon approach to realizing organizational change. Workplace Strategies blends field trips for staff into the mix.   “We take them to showrooms or to completed projects to show how different designs influence culture,” explained Peter Marsh.

Although profound cultural change can take years to achieve, altering the physical design of a company is an important catalyst in facilitating a desired organizational culture.  As Haworth notes, “Successful organizational cultures are intentional by design, not the product of default or serendipity.”




Event Content Ideas: How to Choose the Best Topics that Resonate with Your Audience

Content can be effective for event marketing, but to get the best results, choose topics that will drive engagement and attract social media shares.

Content marketing should be an important part of any event marketing strategy. It’s cheap, simple, and effective. But, how do you narrow down your event content ideas to find the most effective topics? What sort of content should you create to engage your target audience, encourage social media sharing, and ultimately sell more tickets?

For content marketing for events to be effective, it’s important to plan properly. You can’t just start randomly creating content on any topic that comes to mind and expect it to drive results.

The first step of successful content marketing is choosing the right topics. But, this is not always straightforward or obvious. You’ll obviously have some idea of the direction to go in based on the topic of your event, but event topics do not always translate well into content marketing topics. In order to get optimal benefits for SEO and engagement, you’ll need to go a little deeper with your research and planning.

Quick Takeaways:

  • For your event content marketing to be successful, it’s vital that you choose the right topics to create content about.
  • Research your competitors’ content, online discussions, and your own content analytics to get a better idea of the topics that resonate most with your audience.
  • Don’t shy away from asking your attendees what sort of content would be useful for them.

Take Inspiration from Your Competitors

Is there a similar established event in your industry? Take a look at the kind of content they’re publishing, as you’ll probably be sharing the same audience.

Even if the event you’re planning is totally unique and one of a kind, there are sure to be other industry websites and blogs online covering related topics.

See which posts are getting the most shares and engagement, and pay particular attention to the blog comments. Maybe they’re making a point or asking a question about something that hasn’t been covered in the original piece. By filling in these gaps, you can create valuable content that’s meeting the needs of your audience.

Ask Your Audience

Not sure what type of content your audience wants to see? Ask them! It’s quick and easy to set up a poll on social media and ask your followers to vote on content topics.

Also, don’t be afraid of asking your audience for content ideas outright. This is not only a great way to get topic ideas for your content marketing, but it is also an effective way to start a conversation and boost engagement.

Setting up a forum for event attendees can also be a great way to follow along with conversations. Don’t feel that you have to stick strictly to business topics. Logistics, networking opportunities, and the social program for your event make great content, too.

Give Tips for Attendees to Get the Most Out of Your Event

As well as attracting people to your event, you can use content to help ensure your event is a success. One way to do this is by providing helpful information for attendees on topics such as:

  • Accommodation options
  • Transport to and from the event
  • A local area guide covering places and sights of interest for people traveling to your event
  • Tips for networking
  • A pre-event checklist
  • General information about the event, such as a detailed schedule and what to expect

It’s best to cover a range of different content formats for this type of content, rather than just blog posts. For example, a video showing the venue and a map of local attractions may be more useful and attract more engagement than written content.

Analyze Your Existing Content

There are many tools available for keyword research. But, often, companies organizing events overlook one of the most valuable resources they have at their disposal: their own analytics.

If you already have a website for your event or you’re running an event related to your company blog, take a look at your web analytics and see what keywords users typed in to land on your page.

In many cases, you’ll find some search queries that your existing content doesn’t really answer. If you’ve already got content that meets your audience’s needs, create more of it. Go deep and make sure you’ve covered the topic from every angle.

It’s also a good idea to take note of your most popular content and create new content around the same topics and themes.

See What Your Attendees Are Talking About Online

Make sure you have official hashtags about your event set up online so you can follow the conversation and see what people are talking about.

Maybe they’re excited about seeing a particular speaker, in which case you could publish a detailed profile or interview with this person. Or, maybe they’re looking forward to learning something new in their industry.

Don’t restrict your research to only social media posts using your hashtag. Instead, do a little further investigation and visit the profiles of the people mentioning your event. See what sort of topics they’re talking about and the type of content they’re linking out to.

Ask Your Guest Speakers to Contribute to Your Content Marketing Efforts

Your guest speakers will probably already have a good insight into the kind of topics that your event audience will be interested in, and they’ll be keen to promote themselves, too.

You can involve your speakers with your content marketing by asking them to contribute guest posts and content for social media. They can also ask their own following on social media about the content topics they’d be interested in.

Get a Head Start with Event Content Marketing

If you are ready to get more traffic to your site with quality content that’s consistently published, check out our Content Builder Service. Set up a quick consultation, and I’ll send you a free PDF version of my books. Get started today and generate more traffic and leads for your business.


The post Event Content Ideas: How to Choose the Best Topics that Resonate with Your Audience appeared first on Marketing Insider Group.

Employee Branding: B2B’s Answer to Influencer Marketing

We’ve all seen them. Consumer brands fall all over each other to get celebs to endorse their brands – or better yet – star in one of their ads.

Which works out just fine. Until the celebrity spokesmodel slips up and gets caught driving down the wrong side of the street while they’re on a bender. Or the video ad producer goes tone-deaf and accidentally makes an offensive ad.

But employee branding takes influencer marketing to a whole new level. Here’s why.

Influencer marketing works best when the influencer is a big shot in a company’s own industry. With a few notable exceptions, industry experts have more clout than some film star flashing his pearly whites.

Contrast fitness guru Jillian Michaels’ still-running Sodastream ad (for a calorie-free fitness drink) with reality star Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi disaster – and you can see why.

Expertise beats celebrity every time.

Expertise matters even more when it comes to brands that sell to other businesses – B2B companies.

When it comes to the goods and services they produce, there is no better source of expertise than a company’s own employees. Which is why we here at Marketing Insider Group believe that employee branding is B2B’s answer to influencer marketing.

Quick Takeaways

  • Your employees can influence B2B purchases more than outside influencers – they’re your “internal experts.”
  • Keep great employees on the job and attract top new employees with an environment that makes them want to come to work each morning.
  • Tear down the silos that divide your teams so your employees feel part of a broader mission.
  • Empower your employees to become your best advocates.

But don’t just take my word for it. B2B recruitment marketing expert Tom Laine would even take it a step further. He advocates that B2B companies need to “stop employer branding” and “start employee branding.”

I couldn’t agree more. Of course, it’s important to attract the best talent your company can get.

But because getting the best talent relies more on employee-generated reviews than your glowing description of your company culture, it simply makes sense to start with your employees. When they start posting about what a great experience working for your company is, you won’t have to work like crazy to attract the right kind of talent. They’ll come to you.

It all goes back to one essential component: employee experience. Two main factors impact that experience: the employer’s ability to create an environment that makes employees love to come to work and its ability to facilitate communication internally.

Create an Environment That Makes People Love to Come to Work

As Laine put it, what makes employees feel good about working for your company are several factors: “how they feel about working for us, how we appreciate them,” and what impact they can have on their current job and their career pathway.

In other words, it all boils down to empathy. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes, and you’ll put their needs before your bottom line. That, in turn, drives employee engagement, productivity, and, ultimately, on-the-job happiness.

Provide the kinds of perks that make it more attractive for employees to stay on the job rather than look for a new one. When they have enough money in the bank to make their lives comfortable, encourage them to seek help for mental health issues and have more time for family and loved ones through flexible work arrangements.

On the job, give them all the educational tools they need to get ahead in their field – even if it might help them find a job with another company (but they won’t even look if you make them happy enough with yours). Encourage their ideas, reward them for great customer service, and they’ll provide all the Glassdoor reviews you need to attract the talent you need to scale your business upward.

In other words, when you treat your employees as well as you treat your most valuable customers, they’ll help you attract the kinds of customers and employees that will make your company grow. That’s not just my opinion.

In fact, Haley Aerospace’s Aly Yale considers employee branding “most important by a landslide” for B2B companies compared to customer-facing branding. Without a quality workforce, you can’t have quality products and services. To paraphrase that old Southern saying, “If the employees ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

Conversely, when your employees are happy, they’ll not only create world-class products and customer experiences. Even more importantly, they’ll share their pride in their work by spreading the word to their industry contacts, says Yale.  For B2B companies, that’s marketing gold.

Furthermore, a 2018 PostBeyond and Golfdale Consulting survey showed that employee-shared messages have a 561 percent wider reach than messages that your official channels share. When you make employee activation your priority, you’ll not only have more customers, but you’ll also attract all the prospective employees that will have your competitors “pea-green with envy.” That’s employee branding at its finest – and it’s essential to move ahead during the coming decade.

Make Cross-Departmental Communication Your Priority

The other factor that puts a smile on your employees’ faces as they drive to work every morning is great internal communication. Again, when you channel your empathy and put your feet in their shoes, you’ll realize why.

Nothing can be more frustrating for your employees than to work hard on a project, only to have another department come along and smash their sandcastle.

For instance, suppose your IT department works overtime to make your new web design deliver a superb user experience. Then along comes your graphic design team, who chucks it all, just to have a prettier home page.

That would be enough to make your entire IT team scream “I quit!” and walk out. Yet these sorts of snafus, both large and small, happen all the time in companies all over the world.

That’s because all too many companies still operate in the last century – in siloed departments that barely say hello to each other, let alone work on projects together. But in today’s agile economy, those companies that don’t break down the silos and encourage collaboration from start to finish risk losing their employees to another, more agile employer.

And – their customers, for that matter. No one wants a project held up for weeks just because the design and IT teams can’t come up with a design that works as good as it looks. Or because the finance team can’t dig a little deeper to provide the funds for a contract worker to help a project finish on time.

Building relationships among teams, as Mark Schmukler points out, is essential in your B2B marketing strategy – if you want to leverage employee branding and all the benefits it brings as a key part of that strategy.

After all, your employees are your internal experts. Take advantage of all they have to offer by providing them with all they need to put that expertise to work for your business.

If you are ready to get more traffic to your site with quality content that’s consistently published, check out our Content Builder Service. Set up a quick consultation, and I’ll send you a free PDF version of my books. Get started today and generate more traffic and leads for your business.

The post Employee Branding: B2B’s Answer to Influencer Marketing appeared first on Marketing Insider Group.

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