Identity and Social Cohesion

Identity and Social Cohesion

In every army identity and social cohesion are fostered and maintained in many ways. Not only through leadership, but by a leadership supported by many tools and measures. Through the uniforms of the soldiers, insignias, the Regimental colours, the ceremonial raising of the flag every morning, training and marching together, decorating courageous men, regular speeches of the commander, an army (or even regimental) newspaper and so on. In the modern army, a mass organization, the application of all these measures and tools are meticulously described in the army manuals.

However most businesses do not start as a mass organization with a manual, a history and a lot of experience. Most firms start as small organizations often the brainchild of an entrepreneur and if he is successful his firm might grow into a middle-sized company. In such rather young and medium sized, often family owned companies, there are no well established rules; they do not have a manual on how to lead, reward and control the employees.

A typical aspect of such companies is that everybody knows the managing director/owner/ founder of the company and each other! Quite often the founder has selected most of his employees personally. The result is that, almost imperceptibly, a generally accepted criterion is born for which the founder/managing director is responsible. The company in this way has obtained an identity and an amount of unity in view; one might say a culture based on the character, the convictions and the behaviour of its founder.

However, when the company is successful and grows, informal communication with all levels becomes rare and it will be more difficult for the founder or CEO to exert his influence personally on all the employees in the company. The company becomes more complex and hierarchical because of the inevitable delegation of responsibilities to subordinate managers and specialists.

The founder/CEO has to foster and strengthen the ‘Corporate Identity’, cohesion and Esprit the Corps by other means. He (or she) will be obliged to resort to a form of systematic internal public relations that should result in the formulation of common values, business principles and a carefully prepared mission statement. Most companies started this process by publishing an internal journal or magazine, a yearly letter by the President and even personalized letters to the employees.

Besides printed media many more forms of communication are nowadays available like internal e-mail, SMS, and video conferencing. Other means to permeate the company with its chosen values are for instance regular meetings with a select group of (middle) managers presided over by the CEO. During such events the CEO can give a personal presentation about his ideas, his goals and the mission of the company. At such events a core group of managers can at least hear and see their CEO and sometimes even meet him. It will be the task of this core group of managers to communicate the message and especially the chosen strategic goals and mission statement to their subordinates.

However, experience teaches that one has to repeat such messages, including the mission statement regularly because it takes a considerable amount of time before it becomes common knowledge. Next to these formal meetings companies organize informal events like Barb-Q’s, beer parties and son on. Furthermore many companies such as airlines, supermarkets, and banks have designed special uniforms for their personnel. They even commission famous couturiers to design the company’s dresses. In Japanese and Korean companies, apart from wearing a company uniform, every morning the employees do gymnastics and sing the company song together. However all these tools to maintain and strengthen morale and foster cohesion are rather cosmetic because such programmes only become effective by exemplary behaviour of the CEO and/or senior management.

When writing a character reference letter for one of your employees consider the Identity and Social cohesion of your company.

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