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 Image by NBCUniversal

Image by NBCUniversal

If you’ve ever watched the hilariously awkward TV classic, “The Office,” then you probably remember the smattering of ironic corporate values posters like the one above. A key lesson from the sitcom’s dysfunctional leaders is that values mean nothing unless you actually believe and uphold them. 

While most work settings aren’t quite as painful as seen on TV, inspiring and engaging employees today is often a challenge. In a recent poll, Gallup learned that 70 percent of American workers are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” on the job. This disengagement can wreak havoc on a company’s culture — and ultimately affect the quality of the services or products that employees deliver to customers each day. 


But what if there were a better way to define your values and to build an engaging workplace culture — where employees buy into, live out, and ultimately pay off your brand’s position and purpose in their day-to-day work?

Customers — and your bottom line — would stand to benefit, as everyone on your team would be working more productively and happily to carry out your business goals. In fact, the same Gallup study found that engaged workplaces were about 21 percent more profitable than their disengaged counterparts.

A Gallup study found that engaged workplaces were about 21 percent more profitable than their disengaged counterparts.
external internal brand culture alignment

At SIR, we believe the key to this brand cohesion is a leadership-backed research strategy. The idea is to first assess the expectations and desired values of your employees and customers. Then, see where those two sets of values align. If underpinned by the commitment of your leaders, this approach defines values from the bottom up, rather than the top down.

We’ve learned that a sweet spot emerges when your brand is shaped around your core values — where each piece of your positioning statement is tied to a value that research has shown to mean something real to your stakeholders. Now, when employees are out interacting with customers, they can really live out the brand. It’s all aligned. Employees are walking the talk. The brand is walking the talk. 


We recently had an exciting opportunity to do just this for ColonialWebb, a large commercial contractor. ColonialWebb’s leaders recognized an opportunity to reinvigorate its regional brand and to re-engage its workforce — all aligning with the latest best practice to let hard data guide business decisions.

SIR was brought in to help, along with workplace culture experts at Pure Culture Consulting. For our part, we interviewed staff to understand what drives them most at work. We surveyed customers and employees to understand their expectations and desired values. The result was a newly defined set of values that drove the company’s new positioning and purpose statements.

We also developed a video to tell the story and engage employees across ColonialWebb’s large operating footprint. The CEO’s visible role as the brand-values champion was critical for gaining staff buy-in during the rollout.

By investing in getting the values right and telling its story effectively, ColonialWebb successfully found a data-driven brand position that maximized its market impact.

What’s the best news of all? These values still make for great posters — but this time people actually believe what they read. 


Just a few of the projects we’re working on:

Strategic Communications – SIR has worked with Virginia Commonwealth University since 2017 to find ways to boost engagement among its 185,000 alumni worldwide — supporting fundraising, marketing, leadership, and academic goals across the university. The process has tapped into all areas of SIR’s services: foundational interviews, trends analysis, focus groups, surveys, and strategic planning. VCU now knows exactly who they’re targeting, where best to reach them, and how to keep alumni coming back for more. Find out more.

Market Research – With new technology, SIR now owns the tools to run more online surveys — at lower rates and faster turnaround times than before. Targeting smaller audiences is now that much easier too, whether tight geographies (e.g., one metro area), hard-to-reach groups (e.g., Hispanics), or very specific customers (e.g., disabled retirees). If you’re looking to learn more about your customers today and your prospects tomorrow, give us a shout. We are eager to tackle our next challenge. 

On the Road – December through February has taken SIR’s Institute for Tomorrow leaders Matt Thornhill and John Martin all over the East Coast — and to Texas. They gave keynote talks, consulted with public- and private-sector leaders, and began laying the foundation for what is shaping up to be an eventful 2018. Gigs have been in Virginia Beach on the changing face of philanthropy (Hint: Millennials give differently), in Fort Worth on shifts in real estate and economic development, in Vermont on the new economic reality, and in North Carolina to brainstorm the future of regional business. Want a peek under the hood? Sign up for our regular reports on key trends here


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SIR is a 54-year-old strategy and market research consulting firm devoted to providing leaders with transformative insights and solutions in transportation, government, healthcare, higher education, placemaking, and diversity and inclusion. SIR’s in-house think tank, the Institute for Tomorrow, is a nationally recognized center on future studies, whose “future maps” and keynote presentations help leaders guide organizations through change in their specific industry. For more information, visit SIRhq.com and InstituteforTomorrow.com.

Matt Thornhill