Four Disruptions That Will Change Your Employee and Customer Experience

Trend tracking is an integral business tool that can give companies a leg-up on their competition, help predict areas of growth, and gain insight into the minds of consumers. With 2016 in the rear-view, now is the time to focus on ways to advantageously position your company for success. Here are four disruptions organizations need to prepare for, as they will change employee and customer experiences.

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Tidal Waves Of Change: Political, organizational, and social change have never been more pivotal or closely linked than they are today–causing the line between professional and personal lives to blur. Today, consumers expect the brands they buy from to reflect their values, and they will vote with their wallet to condemn those that don’t. Employees, too, are experiencing the impact of social change within the workplace. Organizations that are strategically prepared to deal with change, both within the industry and the communities where they operate, will be better equipped to navigate tomorrow.

Forget Bloggers – Employees Are The Biggest Influencers: “Employees they know” is ranked #2 for consumers as a trusted resource when making purchasing decisions, which has a direct impact on the customer experience. Yet the majority of companies are not engaging their employees to be social brand ambassadors. Not only is creating compelling messaging and seamless sharing critical to leveraging employees as brand ambassadors, organizations must also focus on creating great places of work and a strong purpose that connects to the customer experience, ensuring that messages ring authentic.

Centralization Is Not Always The Answer: The benefits are clear–it’s efficient, it keeps an organization lean, and ensures a central, uniform experience. It’s also not for everyone. From regional autonomy to full centralization, there is a full range of organizational models in between that may be more realistic or better suited for your business. First up: Get your leaders in the room and identify where you are currently, and where you want to be. The dissonance may surprise you.

Data Is Great But What Do You Do With It?: 3 out of 10 jobs available in America currently involve data mining, reflecting the desire to harness valuable insights buried underneath intimidating volumes of information. Organizations should seek to link customer needs and employee capabilities and experiences by identifying gaps in the service their brand provides, how it’s supported, how customers experience them; and creating actionable strategies to close the divide.

The Role of Habit in Shifting Organisational Culture

I probably have more questions than answers on this topic, which is an annoying habit of mine that I’m trying to break. In the meantime, here are four commonly asked questions (and answers) regarding what it takes to identify both good and bad habits—and how your reaction to those habits can shift organizational behaviour and affect positive change within your organisation…

Can’t I just tell people what they’re doing wrong?
My working life is spent trying to improve organisations through their culture; the behaviour of their people, both leaders and employees. Telling people they need to change isn’t particularly realistic or helpful. People generally have more energy for positive endeavours rather than negative ones like trying to change our bad habits. Don’t get me wrong, many organisations are full of bad habits, but focusing on them is not going make a difference. It’s better to focus on the important things to do well and why they will benefit people.

So, I just need to tell people what the right thing to do is?
Habits are difficult to change. Habits fit into what social psychologists refers to as our schema, the protocols for how we make sense of the world. We have one for everything we do, and because they are embedded in an emotional part of our brains, they tend not to respond to logic very well. Whilst they are very resistant to change, they can be altered if something better becomes available and we can’t afford not to use it. Look for those opportunities. Think Dick Fosbury setting a new Olympic record with the Fosbury Flop, changing every high jumper’s technique overnight. Think Uber changing the way we use cabs and squarely questioning the need for car ownership.

How do I tackle something so big?
Organisations that try to tackle the culture all at once inevitably run out of steam, so take a leaf out of Leandro Herrero’s Viral Change approach and focus on creating a few, non-negotiable habits and using the success of these to move on to the next set. Organisations trying to change their entire culture at once forget that they have built very successful businesses on the strength of the way they work and the things they do well. Focusing on the few key things that made your company great is a good place to start.

But how can I convince people to care?
Things don’t get done by people unless there is some intrinsic or extrinsic value in it.

In the 1980s, Dannemiller created an equation for organisational change: Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Concrete Step > Resistance. Basically she is saying that there has to be a good reason to change and we need to be able to see the value and how we are going to get to that value. People need to feel that their new habits are not only meaningful but also make them feel good. BJ Fogg of Stanford University encourages people to start small and build up a behaviour with a self-celebration every time you complete the new behaviour because it helps you to repeat it and create a new habit.

So what does it all mean for creating effective habits in organisations?
1. Think small, be positive
– begin with only the two or three priorities where new, useful habits will make the most impact within your business. Work hard to create hope, to make it fun and meaningful to your leaders and all of your people.

2. Starting is easy, keeping it going is hard – use creative communications and experiences to co-create and introduce the new habits. But don’t forget to do the work upfront to make sure Leadership understands the business impact and cares about what happens to the habit over time, promoting, praising and rewarding the desired behaviours in employees.

3. You need to see visible results – you have to track the impact of the new habits, linking them to Key Performance Indicators that are respected in the business. It’s not always easy, but you’ve got to prove that the new habits are driving business success.

In short, if you want to achieve your desired culture: make the habit, don’t try to break it.

Next-Gen Internal Comms: The New Frontier of Measurement

Advances in technology have made today’s employee more accessible than ever before. Facebook, Slack, Twitter, Snapchat—the biggest tech platforms in the world are all centered around communication and enabling organizations to connect internally in new ways. However, the impact of technology on internal communications has just as many disadvantages as benefits.

The traditional cascade communications model, where organizations send messages from the top down, is bordering on the archaic as today’s employees often find themselves inundated with messages from across an organization—making them harder to reach. Compound that with the ability to filter through messaging more easily and employee engagement is suffering. To combat this, organizations must not only re-evaluate their approach to communications, but also how the impact is measured.

Organizations must first get into a mindset where measurement is critical, and develop and deploy the tools and technology to monitor the channels in place to reach employees. By analyzing findings and identifying opportunities to improve communications, organizations can begin to make data-fueled decisions about the cadence, audiences and proper channels for strategic messaging.

Measurement comes in many forms, but the key to determining what works for an organization, from website analytics to comments on internal stories, is an analysis of the messaging’s tone. Many consultancies and tools exist out there to help with this but, in the meantime, here are the four fundamental questions we recommend leaders ask themselves when evaluating communications:internal-comms

  1. Where is the impact of the communications in real-time?
    More and more organizations set up Social Media Command Centers for teams to monitor, listen and draw insights from data and conversations in real time. Determining how to do the same type of real-time listening to employees is rapidly becoming a reality.
  1. Is the communication human-centered?
    You’ll often find truly happy customers are actually talking to truly empowered employees. Eurostar’s contact center handles an average of 16,500 calls and 3,000 emails every week. To ensure its service agents can spend less time on administration, and more time enriching customer experiences, Eurostar uses Service Cloud by Salesforce. Specifically, they use Salesforce Chatter, the enterprise social networking tool, to simplify information sharing and accelerate responses.
  1. How predicative and persuasive are your messages?
    We helped one of the Big 4 public accounting firms determine which internal communications messages, messengers and channels would lead to higher effectiveness so we could increase employee engagement firm-wide. Ask yourself, “Is this resonating with employees?”
  1. Is data being expressed through engaging and visual stories?
    In her Persuasion and the Power of Story video, Stanford University Professor of Marketing Jennifer L. Aaker explains that stories are meaningful when they are memorable, impactful and personal. In our work with a medical device company, we created visual representations of the personas of employees, the information that was most important to them, the barriers they faced in getting information, and the channels they used most frequently. Creating visual stories helped connect leaders and communicators to the data in an emotional way.

What’s your approach to measuring communication that matters most to employees?

Unlock Your Most Powerful Reputation Asset: Your Employees

Many refer to today’s corporate landscape as the “reputation economy,” with consumer decisions becoming increasingly dependent on online reviews and opinion leaders. We believe the same is happening within many corporations, where opinions are being formed not only by a combination of influencers, media, pundits and activists, but also through interactions with a brand’s most powerful reputation asset: its employees.

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Our reputation management offering, Reputation by Permission, recognizes that more than ever before, a company’s reputation is being shaped by its stakeholders. And companies that remain ardently committed to terms like control, protect, safeguard, and manage are doomed to fail in today’s world of citizen journalism and instantaneous news.

Looking at reputation through the lens of stakeholders’ perspectives must be the first brick in the foundation of a successful reputation management program. To modernize the approach, companies can no longer judge the status of their reputation solely through the eyes of their corporate leadership. The Reputation by Permission paradigm demands an unbiased (often fearless) look at how a company is perceived by its professionals, and requires a concise strategy to move its reputation forward from where it is now, to where it needs to be.

Perhaps most importantly, companies must look within at the perception, sentiment and discussion among employees and engage in discussions about the company, brand, and products and services.

Here are four steps to better engage employees and harness one of the most critical assets of any company:

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1. Undertake a deep, sincere and regular assessment about how employees feel about the culture, leadership and company.
If the people a company pays every day to act and serve on your behalf are not celebrating the culture built, the innovative products and services offered, and the positive impact it has on customers and communities, why would external stakeholders?

2. Enhance how employee engagement and sentiment is being monitored.
If a company is relying solely on annual assessments of employee attitudes, it will have no leverage in winning the hearts and minds of employees where pride, inspiration and loyalty are determined on a day-to-day basis.

3. Ask for employees’ support.
All too often, companies hope that employees will say positive things about their experiences and perceptions about the company. Many employees do so but are not empowered with the permission, tools and direction to be the most effective advocates.

4. Be clear about the goal, supporting behaviors and actions.
Optimize the leadership skills and communication ecosystem in your company to help employees understand a brand’s purpose, aspiration and the role they play in helping to bring these to life each day. If they are not involved in creating that vision, their commitment may never reach the levels needed to build internal permission.

We’d love to hear how you engage your employees and earn the permission you need to succeed in today’s era of transparency. Feel free to leave a thought or question in the comments section below.

Building Your Change GPS with Data You Already Have

Change has changed: a cliché but it’s true. Organizations are operating more fluidly using informal networks. This new behavior coupled with today’s pace and complexity of change means that companies need a data-driven approach to leading change. To understand this let’s take a look at how change management has evolved.

The Past: Leading Change Like Reading a Compass
Prior to the emergence of change theory in the late 20th Century there was little in the way of best practice. Leaders only knew the broad destination they were headed as most change was implementing tangible technologies and processes. It was like reading a compass: know the direction of travel and use your judgement and instinct to get there.

The Recent: Creating a Map for Change
Change theorists in the 1980s and 1990s suggested a series of approaches that represented an evolutionary step to codify what really works during times of change. This provided best practice techniques based on past evidence of success stories. It helped organizational development specialists create plans, in the same way a map provides the travel routes available from one place to another. This is the period of time when we began to understand that change is often over-managed and under-led, with too much focus on the map and not the destination.

The Now: Building a Change GPS
Today’s organizations challenge these approaches to change. Mainly because what these theories are based on is not immediately evident e.g. who are the real influencers, what are the barriers to change, and that there is often more than one path to success. The complexity of organizations, and the fact that change is now more continuous and volatile, makes planning around these insights exponentially more difficult.

What we need is a GPS for change: an active data-driven approach to predicting obstacles; identifying the best routes to take; and providing ongoing measurement and iteration. Let’s look at a typical change situation to bring this metaphor to life.

Implementing a New Organizational Strategy
New organizational strategies, and growing customer needs and expectations, often require new operating models and organizational capabilities. This places a large degree of change on the current workforce, some of whom may not fit the future state. Traditional change and workforce planning techniques have done a satisfactory job in ensuring business continuity. However, they have not consistently created an engaged and motivated workforce empowered to perform in the future state. This has an adverse impact on employee productivity and, ultimately, business performance.

How a Change GPS Can Help
The insight to prepare the workforce for the future state, and engage and enable them through the change, lies in data most organizations currently have or can easily collect. For example:

  • Employee sentiment towards the organizational culture
  • Leadership capability and style
  • Employee learning styles and motivations
  • Communications effectiveness

Much of this data already exists but it is seldom analyzed for change purposes. By collecting and analyzing this data before and throughout change we can create predictive models that identify many insights and trends. These include identifying:

  • Hidden influencers who can act as champions of the new strategy, using organizational network mapping
  • Predicted reactions to change, using typologies analytics, that will inform how to manage different employee groups
  • Engagement risks, so proactive action can be taken to sustain the engagement of critical employees
  • Change leadership development priorities aligned to the specific roles of leaders during change
  • The actions, from recruitment to learning, that will make sure employees are fully productive in the future state
  • Change adoption risks, identifying barriers to new ways of working and how to overcome them

This approach does not require perfect data, integrated databases, or shiny analytics systems. The “art in the science” is to take practical steps and make decisions on reasonable data that can provide a good degree of confidence. Over time these practical steps can be developed into a systemized ‘change GPS’.

So, how are you using the data you have on your colleagues to be more effective in a liquid change environment?

Liquid Change: How Organizations Can Overcome Change Fatigue

In a not so distant past, change professionals would learn from business leaders that change was cyclical within their organizations (one or two per year), and each cycle had a beginning, middle, and end. In response, we would craft a multi-step, linear plan to help guide clients navigate that transformation – inevitably celebrating its conclusion when the benchmarks established were met. Back then we talked a lot about the need for people in organizations to “embrace change.” And for the most part, they listened.

As time went on we noticed that change within organizations began to accelerate. As a result, existing change management plans would be derailed when another, equally sizable change concurrently hit the company. A second insight began to crystallize: professionals within these companies were getting exhausted and depleted with the ever-increasing pace of change. The idea of embracing change was now met with sheer incredulity and, in some cases, fear.

The evolution of what we call Liquid Change is the culmination of a two decade-long journey of research, countless conversations with colleagues, leaders and clients, and the experience of helping organizations around the world reach their business objectives through change management. And it is with great pleasure that I announce the launch of Ketchum Change’s new Liquid Change Study.

This notion of “change fatigue” was born and confirmed by the results of our study when we learned that 74% of over 500 respondents said that change fatigue exists within their companies; with 39% reporting that it’s highly pervasive.

What’s even more alarming is that the pace of change shows no signs of slowing down. That thought doesn’t energize people – it exhausts them (click to tweet). The old models of finding a clean and logical path through change aren’t working anymore. We need a different way of thinking about change, one that acknowledges that it is a constant, non-linear, and complex reality.

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You need only look at the recent tombstones of some iconic companies to understand that even historically prosperous organizations that fail to embrace change die. And leaders know that their ability to thrive through change is no longer an option. Our study found that 95% of respondents reported that effectively managing change is critical to a business’ success.

We now know that change is truly a state of being, not a series of organizational events. Based on this, we believe successful organizations will develop what we like to refer to as “change muscles.” A set of attributes, which strengthen over time, that enables them to be “liquid” – flexing quickly to capitalize on changes within their culture and marketplace. Based on our collective experience helping organizations lead and thrive through change, we identified, tested and confirmed through our study’s findings, the four characteristics that make up a liquid organization.

1. They are transparent, and leaders within them communicate in a human way

2. They are pioneering, and encourage taking risks to stay ahead of the market

3. They are deeply dialed-in with customers, consumers and employees, and listen carefully to them

4. They are agile and flexible, and can turn on a dime to capitalize on opportunities

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Click on the above image to download our Liquid Change infographic!

We now have quantitative verification that focusing on these areas of change really does work, and that building change muscles will diminish change fatigue and facilitate better business outcomes. More importantly, having engaged in dialogue with a multitude of leaders to talk about the idea of Liquid Change and to co-create the topic with us, we know the idea resonates, and gets them energized and optimistic about change again.

‘Feel the fear’ – authentic leadership in times of change

The UK election highlighted that being seen as an effective leader is a key factor for success. The search is now on for opposition parties to elect new leaders to change their parties’ fortunes.

Over the past three years, there has been a decline in people’s view of leaders. In 2014, just 22% of respondents in Ketchum’s Leadership Communication Monitor said leaders are demonstrating effective leadership, down from 25% in 2013.

Amplifying this issue, a recent Harvard Business Review study ranks strong executive leadership as one of the top three factors for business success.

So what makes for an effective leader in times of change?

Research by the Institute of Employment Studies shows authentic leadership as the most effective route to inspire followership and action.

Authentic leaders always portray a version of their ‘real self’. In doing so, they inspire loyalty amongst their staff who want a leader who is genuine, transparent and trustworthy.

This isn’t easy. As humans, we possess many beliefs about the world and ourselves; and when we face major decisions these beliefs can clash. This results in a psychological state of tension known as cognitive dissonance. The experience of dissonance is unpleasant, because we feel conflicted and torn between the choices we face. The natural reaction is to attempt to reduce or eliminate this conflict, and achieve consonance (i.e. self-agreement and conviction).

Leaders are no exception. When a leader adapts his or her attitude or behaviour to reduce cognitive dissonance, employees can interpret this as inauthenticity which can damage trust.

In effect, great leaders accept cognitive dissonance and ‘feel the fear’.

So how can we learn to ‘feel the fear’? Daggerwing works with leaders to unpick uncomfortable truths allowing them to:

  • Understand that they can choose to act differently, and this new behaviour can in turn modify their attitude
  • Recognise the moments or events that trigger them where dissonance is at play and break to cycle

By proactively managing their attitude and ability to lead change authentically, leaders are able to bring others through change successfully.

The new opposition party leaders will face many challenges ahead. If they can learn to ‘feel the fear’ and be authentic in their actions, they are more likely to succeed in gaining both their colleagues’ and the public’s followership and trust.

The Best Weapons in the Battle for World-Class Talent and Ideas

Creativity and innovation are topics that seem to be almost inescapable. A Google search on the topics returns 131 million results, and Amazon lists nearly 16,000 books on the combined topic. But why are they so omnipresent? Because the battle for world-class talent and break through ideas in today’s low-growth, highly-disruptive world is fiercer than ever. To combat this, companies must have a culture and organizational architecture that promotes creativity and innovation as they seek to gain and maintain competitive advantage.

So where to begin?

First, know and evaluate the four primary areas that inhibit or promote great creativity and innovation:

1. A company’s enabling and support of operational process.

2. Culture and leadership

3. The physical and digital environment

4. Assumptions and beliefs of employees and the organization

An honest assessment of how you’re performing in these areas, and how they work in concert, is vital to creating the conditions necessary for innovative success. As part of this assessment, there is one fundamental question that each leader, team and organization needs to ask themselves in today’s environment – are you able to change as fast as the world around you? If your answer isn’t a definitive “yes,” then you have an opportunity to unlock and unleash tremendous value by dismantling these barriers that keep innovation from flourishing.

We at Ketchum Change know that “Liquid companies that are able to foster innovation and adapt quickly to both opportunities and challenges possess four key traits:

1. Agile: Being driven by passion and desire to seize opportunities in real-time is part of their core values and DNA. It’s how they attract, hire and develop talent and orient their organization to seize advantages, instead of being afraid of risk, change and challenges.

2. Dialed-In: They use progressive approaches to create strong connections with internal and external stakeholders, embrace proactive listening, and foster co-creation.

3. Transparent: They communicate with clarity, timeliness and authenticity across borders and organizational levels.

4. Pioneering: They promote and create systems and incentives to provoke curiosity and support risk-taking to innovate.

To become “Liquid,” here are a few ideas to set conditions for success in your organization:

1. Stay connected with employees

2. Create a direct line of communication between leaders and employees

3. Be transparent by breaking down (or even destroying!) organizational barriers

4. Give employees context… and the ability to spark ideas

5. Lead by example by driving creativity and innovation in your own space

And don’t forget to leave a comment below if you have any questions or thoughts about how to bolster creativity and innovation in your organization.

Liquid Change in Latin America: BRICS, Mortars and Frontiers

We recently had the pleasure of meeting with friends and colleagues at our offices in Argentina and Brazil. While on my trip, by way of some great opportunities arranged by our gracious hosts, we had the opportunity to take a closer look at the communications and change management landscape of the region.

The world has turned its eyes towards Latin America, and for good reason. With rich histories, abundant resources and dynamic economies, it’s now a pivotal time for businesses to maximize their growth in the region if they hope to adapt to the pace and nuances of each market.

Here are a few of my observations on communication opportunities that exist in this space, particularly in areas that are experiencing more rapid change than their European and US counterparts.

1. Reaching the Next Stage of Maturity
Argentina’s Frontier economy and Brazil’s BRIC economy are both experiencing shifts that are modernizing the landscape of the markets. As industries continue to grow, change management and highly effective internal communications are particularly important to businesses focusing on how they operate, allocate resources and achieve new stages of growth.

2. Setting a High Bar
With a large number of multinational businesses in both Brazil and Argentina, it’s clear that there are tremendous advantages for global organizations to continue building a presence by investing in advanced workforce and talent infrastructures that support and attract the best people. As the products, brands and reputations of these businesses rapidly evolve from local to global, organizations must maintain local expertise and agile communications while bolstering their talent capabilities.

3. Scaling Excellence
Brazil is home to 75 unique cultures and a geographic footprint larger than India. With such a large and diverse landscape, companies have a unique opportunity to tap into enormous employee enthusiasm and regional pride, creating dynamic cultures that drive productivity, growth and consumer confidence. The first step should be to actively shape a high-performance culture by harnessing the potential of sophisticated internal communications and compelling employee value propositions (EVP). Look to develop a system that instinctively reacts to market changes, rewards innovative thinking and is dialed-in to the local environment.

4. Break Through with Creativity and Innovation
As businesses navigate fluctuating economies, regulatory environments and political parties, it’s more important than ever to harness employees’ creativity and innovation. Creating a work environment that rewards new ideas and breaks down traditional hierarchies and siloes, so brilliant ideas from anywhere can be turned into innovative actions and products, will help businesses develop a clear advantage.

As companies both big and small look to cultivate future-proof organizations in this exciting region, they will need to deftly handle the unique challenges within each market. It’s clear that for local organizations, having a strong internal communications foundation built into their rapid expansion plans will help them compete within the global landscape, while global brands can benefit from a change system that helps them become more nimble and tap into the nuances and unique challenges in each market. For both, having ‘Liquid Change’ organizations will be crucial as the world’s attention is increasingly drawn toward Latin America.

Building an Authentic Culture: 8 Attributes That Crack the Code

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Organizational culture is the result of what employees see, hear, do and believe. It unites people around a shared mission and goal, creating a sense of meaning around relationships, work and achievement in the workplace. Employees are an organization’s most important asset, and therefore developing an authentic culture is key to the success of your business.

With this in mind, Ketchum Change conducted a bench-marking study across six industries with seven companies who have highly distinctive cultures (and are leaders in their field) to better understand how strong cultures are formed. Unsurprisingly, we found that organizations with high-performing and authentic cultures are those whose culture matches its brand – where the external experience for customers and consumers is complementary to the internal experience for employees. The following eight attributes emerged as factors leading to an authentic culture.

  1. Walk the talk
    Encourage leaders to visibly demonstrate company culture through their words and actions. Employees look to leaders as an example of how to behave in line with company culture and values.
  2. Let employees shape it
    Provide opportunities for employees to co-create your organizational culture by gathering feedback, empowering culture ambassadors and letting them drive programming.
  3. Open up
    Take down walls – literally and figuratively. Encourage people to connect across boundaries and to collaborate and communicate openly to promote the sharing of knowledge and ideas. Enable this way of working with supporting systems, processes and technology that make it possible.
  4. Put people first
    Emphasize employee programming, development and engagement. Don’t forget that your employees are your most valuable asset.
  5. Talk it out
    Enable communication avenues with employees to share organizational strategy, direction and goals. Make it a dialogue.
  6. Live your values
    Bring your values to life through internal communications, performance evaluation and employee programs. Think about what symbols in the organization really show what you believe in.
  7. Hire and cultivate desired talent
    Define the criteria that will attract the right talent to build your culture; make sure those same aspects are imprinted in recruiting and on-boarding materials.
  8. Connect internal with external
    The boundary between your team and the outside world is more porous than ever. To keep up with the pace of change going on in the world around you, you must use the outside world as a source of inspiration for your team.

The eighth attributes above are synthesized in an infographic you can download here.

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So what does it take to start making this happen? First you want to scan the culture to audit the current state environment. Where are there big opportunities to shift behaviors to better align with these success factors? Next you want to clearly define the vision for your evolved culture. How can you involve employees through engaging platforms to co-create the vision? Then you’ll want to create a road map for how you’ll get there, identifying the high-value near, medium and long-term activities.

Think about your organization. Where are you going and what do you need from employees to get there? Although you may feel your organization’s culture is set in its ways, it is still malleable and an evolving culture is essential to staying relevant. While it will likely always have the same core, there are many things you can do to help it take on a different shape by being liquid in a constantly changing environment and focusing on what is special and unique about your organization. By creating a compelling brand experience, engaging employees and aligning your culture with these eight attributes, you will set your organization up for success and be positioned to lead in the marketplace.