The Impact of Communications on Culture with IAT Insurance Group’s Caryn Best

 Caryn Best, SVP, Communications and Marketing, IAT Insurance Group

Employee Engagement Employee Listening Speaking

Career advice, lessons learned on the job, and more from a culture champion at one of the Fortune Best Workplaces in Finance & Insurance™ in 2023.

Anyone can be the culture leader that every workplace needs to start building high-trust culture.

One skill set that can help: strong communication skills.

We spoke with Caryn Best, senior vice president, marketing & communications, for IAT Insurance Group about her career and work building a better workplace culture.

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Best has good advice for anyone trying to promote their employer brand: “The brand must start from the inside.”

Read on for career advice, a book for your reading list, and more – part of our new community spotlight series “How I Got Here”:

What was the hook that first got you interested in workplace culture?

Best: I started my career at public relations firms. Clients hired us to help them promote their brand and products, but often there was a disconnect with how they wanted to show up externally and how their brand felt for employees.

I became increasingly interested in the connection between employee experience/culture with the brand image and market presence. Now, I firmly believe that brand must start from the inside.

What has been the biggest challenge you faced in your career when trying to build a great workplace culture?

Best: I had a challenging experience earlier in my career that ended up being a great learning opportunity.

I was heading corporate communications for a financial services company and the CEO decided that he wanted to build a culture based on a business book he read. I led the charge, crafting a program with a beautifully designed and executed communications campaign, only to have the effort fall flat.

The lesson: Employees must be engaged from the beginning to help inform the culture. No one person can decide what the culture should be and expect it to resonate with employees.

At IAT, we started with employee focus groups to help understand their experience of the place and that informed how we moved forward building a great culture. Employees have been at the center of it from day one.

What is the No. 1 lesson you have learned about what it means to be a great workplace in a post-pandemic environment?

Best: Keep listening to employees. Cultures are organic and always evolving. By keeping communication loops open with employees, the culture will continue thrive. The Great Place To Work survey has been a key component for unbiased feedback from employees. 

How do you think artificial intelligence will change your work? Are you excited for those changes?

Best: Yes, AI is already having a major impact in marketing and communications. Primarily we are finding it can help save time with some tasks so more time can be spent on strategy, planning, and creativity.

What’s your favorite career advice you’ve ever received? Why?

Best: My first boss would say “leave them wanting more,” which continues to be helpful advice in a number of ways: messages should be succinct and memorable, presentations clear, you don't have to share every idea or thought that comes to mind in a meeting... 

What’s a recent book or podcast you loved that you recommend to our community?

Best: We recently had Ryan Leak deliver a keynote at our internal leadership workshop and he was fantastic. His book “Leveling Up” is a great read, full of practical advice centered around 12 questions to ask yourself that are simple, but powerful. Highly recommend it for self-awareness and continual growth.

What about your job makes you excited to come to work every day?

Best: My team! Playing a role in helping grow their careers is a privilege and they keep me inspired and motivated.

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about how workplaces operate in the world today, what would it be?

Best: I’m biased as a communications professional, but I would love to see more companies and leaders recognize the very significant role that communications plays in culture. I’m grateful to be at a company that’s leadership prioritizes communications and feedback loops, but that is still unfortunately the exception and not the rule.

Want to join the conversation? Email Ted Kitterman to learn more about participating in our profiles series.

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Ted Kitterman