Have you ever noticed, when you walk down the street, that you think you can tell the personality of a person by the wrinkles on his or her face? It seems obvious that the wrinkles caused by smiling or frowning often becomes embedded; we wear the past on our face. We could say that we are marked by our history.
- Read the annual report (if it’s a publicly traded company). The photograph of the management team is a great way to start. Take a close look at their faces (not to mention the diversity of the composition). Reading the text and layout — with a little experience in reading Annual Reports — you can start to see how the company functions.
- Who and how are the employees present on-line? Do the senior managers have an online presence? How personal is that presence? Or are they absent? Do you sense they are in total control of their image or is there a more casual demeanor?
- What do the clients say about the company? The simplest is to go and visit a store. Otherwise, you can check online. There’s bound to be a conversation or two.
- What do ex-employees say? (Of course, with the caveat that some of these are disenfranchised). Aside from combing through forums and asking friends in your network, you can check out GlassDoor and find out how the CEO is rated, as well as some revealing comments from employees. Look for the common points. Glassdoor now has 50 million ‘inside connections’ and now has an API that connects through to Facebook.
These are the reflexes candidates should be having before joining a new company. Certainly, HR teams should be aware of the projected off and online image of a company and Corporate Communications department needs to be managing the online presence of the top executives. Personally, when I observe a company from the outside, I like to combine the corporate communications (especially toward external stakeholders and shareholders) with the commercial or marketing messages (toward clients and prospects). Ideally, I’d take a look at the employer branding positioning as well, but this is often harder to come by.
Creating the right wrinkles
What is for sure is that no amount of rules and regulations can gloss over the company wrinkles or hide a rotten environment. A cosmetic white wash or beauty cream will not suffice. Over time, an almost inevitable transparency will reveal a corporate culture, so senior management and HR need to work on the real issues and creating the right wrinkles, i.e. de facto values that are truly lived by the employees.
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