How you conduct yourself in the business world has real-world ramifications on how potential customers perceive you. Large corporations collectively spend billions of dollars curating an image that encourages people to spend their hard-earned money on what they’re selling. With the emergence of social media over the past twenty years, even local and independent businesses take advantage of the exposure they get. While you can put out slick ads and videos to raise awareness of your brand, ultimately the way you conduct yourself and the values you embrace will be the deciding factor for many people.
If you want to build a positive reputation, your business has to demonstrate a certain commitment to transparency, positive worker engagement, and social awareness of issues important to many consumers (climate change is a good example of this). The Internet has made it much easier to make an informed decision regarding who you purchase from, and it has also given a way for employees to tell you what they really think of working there. If your culture is one that is very driven and type-A, employees may complain that it is stressful and unfulfilling. If you don’t pay your workers well, people who search your business’ name will find out.
The best advertisement you can get is the one you don’t pay for. Companies that promote a positive work environment and good employee-employer relations enjoy a better overall perception with the public. Many companies embraced environmentalism and LGBT-friendly policies years before the government did partially for this very reason. If you are aiming to create a positive work culture that reflects well on your business as a whole, there are a few easy ways to get the ball rolling.
1) Treat your Employees Well
Think of your employees as ambassadors. What they say and do reflects on your business, regardless of whether you agree with what they say or not. Recently, sexual harassment has made the spotlight as thousands of women who have endured inappropriate treatment from their superiors have begun to speak out. Many of these same people went on to call out the businesses they worked at as being complicit, usually by failing to deal with that behavior. If your employees feel threatened or unsafe, take what they say seriously. Refusing to do so not only reflects poorly on you, it will cost you the support of many of your best employees.
2) Open the Lines of Communication
Employees work harder when they know that they are valued and respected as members of a team. Evaluate how you and your management makes decisions that affect your business. Do you keep your team informed, or do you keep them in the dark? Do you listen to the feedback of your employees, or do you think you always know what is best? If the company is performing well, do you give your team credit? Likewise, who do you blame when things go wrong? Decent pay and benefits can go a long way, but retaining the loyalty and respect of your team involves treating them like more than just subordinates.
It’s important to keep a clear hierarchy of authority in place, but you don’t want to use fear and intimidation to keep people in line. If your employees understand not only what is expected of them but the areas in which they are excelling and struggling, you can mold them into better workers overall.
3) Embrace Modern Values
This may come across as being a bit heavy-handed to some people, but modern consumers shop with their conscience as much as their wallet. Taking a positive stance on issues such as environmentalism and diversity can go a long ways towards fostering a positive image of your brand. For example, Microsoft made waves when they extended family-oriented benefits to their gay employees back in the late 1980s. At the time, such a move was unheard of. Not long after, other major corporations began to follow suit as well. That move didn’t hurt their bottom line, but it did generate a lot of publicity and PR for them. If you show a commitment towards embracing diversity and eco-friendly policies, you’ll generate a lot of good will with both existing and potential customers.