Language and culture

I’ve been doing some interesting work recently with a client going through a transformation process. It’s impressive how clearly the team grasps the fact that the way they communicate their new culture and values is just as important as the content of what they say.

This organisation has brought together several acquisitions, each of which has its own distinct identity. Their transformation programme aims to unite them with a common identity, purpose and set of business goals as well as making all the usual efficiency savings by removing process and infrastructure duplication.

They’re looking at defining the terms they use and their entire communication tone of voice, to make sure it supports and reinforces all the key characteristics of the new organisation. It’s quite common to do this for external communications – consumer brands almost always have a very detailed style guide for writers and designers to work from. But it’s less usual to do it with a focus on internal communications. The team wants to make sure that everything from peer-to-peer emails to newsletters to training manuals is updated, so there’s a clear, shared way of talking and writing to each other.

It strikes me that while some people might dismiss investment in defining and implementing tone of voice and style as an irrelevance in a competitive commercial environment, the leader of this organisation regards it as an essential for the organisation to function effectively.┬áThis individual is and always has been highly focused on people, morale and culture. His approach has advanced his career and enhanced the performance of the many enterprises he’s headed up over the years. He’s seen the tangible benefits of actively using language to shape culture change and to embed new values, behaviours and goals.

Do you have a defined style and approach for your internal communications? Do your teams write emails, reports, presentations and proposals – even notices on the wall and job advertisements – that use the tone and the kinds of words that reflect your desired culture and identity and make employees feel good about being part of it?

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