Benjamin Franklin included the topic of reputation among his wise words. “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”
In the business world, reputation is everything. Like it or not, reputation is how an organization is seen or judged by others.
Given the advances in social media, reputation spreads like a wild fire. Whether it’s the results of a conscious or unconscious bias, employees shape an organization’s reputation. Over time character is revealed by their behavior and conversations; reputation is either built or torn down. We’ve witnessed the negative impact of major to minor reputation blunders like a manager calling the police on “suspicious” patrons, employees whispering racial slurs, bad social media manners, over-promising, or just plain rudeness.
Businesses don’t intentionally seek to damage their reputation, yet it is easy to act as if they want to impugn it by the way they ignore their reputation. We suggest treating reputation as an asset. That means viewing reputation as valuable to your organization as your people, financial resources and products. Proactively building a strong reputation takes effort. You cannot leave your reputation to chance. It’s not a one-time effort or something you address in a single town hall meeting. It’s embedded in everything you do and is worked on every single moment of every single day of every single year.
Since reputation matters, leaders take it seriously. Before leaders can frame reality to shape their reputation they need to take the first step by knowing reality.
How do you do get to know your reputation? Be curious. Be courageous and include these types of questions in regular Employee Satisfaction Surveys, giving them the opportunity to rank them:
- I feel my development is encouraged and supported.
- I share information, ideas, and concerns openly for improvement of the organization.
- I feel that teamwork is encouraged and practiced in this organization.
- I am proud to work here.
Include open-ended questions like:
- What do you like about working at this organization?
- What suggestions do you have to help improve the organization?
(These are just some general questions that can also be asked casually as you walk around. Of course, they can get far more granular – and that detail helps more than you’d think! Things like parking spots, dress code, long lunch breaks…they are all small things that can really add up and impact an organization’s workforce morale.)
Now expand your curiosity to those outside your organization. Find out what other people experience, what they are saying and how they are talking about your organization. Consider:
Talking to people in the community.
It’s good to know the “word on the street” about your organization. A couple of well-placed questions in the right environment might provide answers that are anywhere on the continuum from painfully brutal to insights on which you can improve. Who do you ask? Anybody whose opinion you can trust: people at the Chamber of Commerce, small business owners (especially in the service industry) or long-time residents.
Asking your contacts within the industry.
Invite them out for a drink or lunch and talk shop! Don’t be afraid to really ask them what they think (and what they think other people think) of your organization. Try not to take anything personally. This is just business and the rumor mill. It might not be fun to hear what other people are saying about you, but you need to understand so you can fix it!
Taking advantage of your exit interviews.
Employees leave for certain reasons – who cares, right? Wrong! You should absolutely care why they’re leaving. So, ask them. The exit interview is their chance to be open without repercussion. If they were a good team member that you hate to see leave, you want to know why so that you prevent it from happening in the future.
Now that you know what people are saying about your organization, take time to evaluate it and then create action points on how to fix that reputation by directly addressing the negatives. Remember, this is a long-term project. Reputation is not something that can be fixed overnight by offering a few employees less-than substantial raises. It’s an endeavor, and a commitment.
The most important thing to keep in mind?
This is for your organization, your team, and your growth. You’re doing this to help your organization thrive by bringing on new team members that want to be here. So, really, it all starts here.
Stay in tune for the next blog in the Attracting the Perfect Team series where we discuss maintaining and showcasing your organizational culture.
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