Employees are Your Brand
Every company wants a strong brand. Why? Because branding leads to increased sales volumes typically paired with higher pricing. That’s why people pay $4 for a coffee at Starbucks when they can get the same cup of joe at a local shop for $1.50. A strong brand also means increased product lines, greater resistance in economic downturns, more leveraged partnerships, and better talent retention and attraction, to name just a few benefits.
Engaged Employees Build Strong Brands
Most companies focus their branding efforts exclusively on marketing. And if you count yourself in this crowd, you’re missing out on the best branding out there: your employees. According to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, “Employees rank higher in public trust than a firm’s PR department, CEO, or Founder. More, 41% of North Americans believe that employees are the most credible source of information regarding their business.” A customer’s experience with a front-line or behind-the-scenes employee means far more than a PR campaign or marketing slogan. And in the days where social media is king, what employees and customers say about your company carries far more gravitas than any ad space. To build a strong corporate brand, companies must have employees who believe in the organizations they work for.
So how do you build employee engagement? Much to many employers chagrin, money can’t buy loyalty. There is no quick fix when it comes to engagement. Instead, intrinsic factors like personal growth, working for a common purpose, and being part of a larger process is the real glue to thriving corporate cultures. The good news is (for those willing to do the work), that building strong ambassadors for your company is not that hard.
1. Identify and Articulate your ‘Why’. To create employee brand ambassadors, employees must have a reason that connects them to their work. Some call this meaning. Others, purpose. To have a sense of purpose in the workplace, 2 things must occur: first, employees must have the opportunity to master the skills that they are good at. Then, they must share those skills with a cause — a “why” — that is bigger than themselves. Most companies can articulate what they do, and even how they do it. Very few can articulate why they do it. It is this ‘why’ that gets employees committed to their jobs, and the strongest advocates you’ll have.
2. Give Employees Autonomy. In order to tell others how wonderful your company is, employees must feel a sense of autonomy over their job functions. While organizational direction certainly comes from the top, how an employee executes her job, when she does it, or even with whom she does it ought to be left in the hands of the person who knows her job best — the employee. Another way of stating is this is something that seems so obvious, but oftentimes neglected at organizations: treat your employees like the adults they are.
3. Build Relationships. The biggest factor surrounding employee engagement — and by extension — brand ambassadorship is whether or not employees feel connected to the people they work with. How evolved in your organizational emotional intelligence? How well do people at your company engage in healthy, constructive feedback? How well and often does your company praise individuals for a job well done? Are your rewards programs tied to your values, and not just productivity? These are just a handful of questions that companies must ask themselves in assessing the cultural health of their workplace.