Why your Employee Brand is just as important as your Customer Brand

Your employees are your brand come to life. They work every day to carry out the mission of your company. They must be always walking and talking the very core brand values upon which your company was founded. If your employees aren’t engaged with your brand, your customers won’t stand a chance.

As we enter the Experience Economy of the 21st century, never has the opportunity to strengthen a brand holistically been more apparent. Consumers are buying based on the experience they have with a product are service, rather than merely the product or service itself. Starbucks, Apple and Southwest Airlines, for example, all provide a service or product. But people do business with them because of the experience they have when interacting with these products or services. And nearly every experience being sold today (and also every service, for that matter) involves the employees of that brand.

Employees are, after all, a company’s direct touch point to customers. So why wouldn’t we spend just as much effort in engaging employees with our brand as we do our customers? Some companies are spending that effort. The companies whose brands are leading the way in the experience economy surely are, and this is a big reason why they stand where they do today. Take Southwest Airlines’ CEO Herb Kelleher for example.

Over the years, whenever reporters would ask Mr. Kelleher the secret to Southwest’s success, he had a consistent response: “You have to treat your employees like customers,” he told Fortune in 2001. He believed in engaging employees, just as you would a consumer. Friends and peers of Kelleher’s would often see his philosophy in action.

“There isn’t any customer satisfaction without employee satisfaction,” said Gordon Bethune, the former chief executive of Continental Airlines and an old friend of Mr. Kelleher’s. “He recognized that good employee relations would affect the bottom line. He knew that having employees who wanted to do a good job would drive revenue and lower costs.”

And we know from Gallup surveys relating to employee engagement that the employees who want to do a good job are the engaged employees. So what are the hallmarks of an engaged employee?

Engaged employees identify with their employer’s values. They see themselves or see who they’d like to become in the core brand values that their employer has set forth. Any employee’s sense of belonging and inclusion in a mission larger than their daily work tasks directly affects the quality of the service they provide to customers. So at every touch point, your employee brand directly affects your consumer-facing brand. One can’t be strong without the other.

The good news is that this is not a difficult goal to accomplish when you create authentic, emotionally engaging employee brand messaging. But what types of messages will resonate?

We must work to tell the stories of the core brand values in action. Every day your employees are bringing them to life. You’ve surely heard stories from the front lines that exemplify the ideals of the company at its best. Do everything you can to tell them and share them with everyone in your organization. And do it in a way that captivates, engages and inspires.

Once an employee sees a colleague whom they respect living the brand values they themselves admire, but have been unsure about how to bring to their day-to-day interactions with customers, they will adopt those same demonstrations of that value in their own work. It’s called model participation. Not only will those employees carry the brand ideas forward, they will find and reconnect with the ways they already live the brand on a daily basis.

And once employees are actively engaged with the brand, they become evangelists for their employer. Every single interaction they have with a customer will remind those customers why they identified with your brand in the first place. The experience your customers have with your brand while in the physical presence of your employees is the single most memorable demonstration of it they will ever have.

Why wouldn’t we always do everything in our power to be certain our employees are carrying forward the right brand values in the best possible manner? In doing so, there will be big rewards in the form of long-term employee loyalty, improved work performance, reduced staff turnover and a pool of top talent keen to work with you because you have a strong employee brand as well as a strong customer brand.

This holistic brand approach means that when your employees win, your customers win.  Which is why we believe your employee brand messages should be given just as much thoughtful care and attention as those your customers receive.

You can begin to build a stronger, more holistic brand today by giving your employee brand the attention it deserves. Doesn’t that sound like something worth building?

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Comments
  1. Tammy McLeod says:

    You’ve hit on the very essence of the service profit chain. Employees will treat customers as they have been treated. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, Tammy! It’s great to see more and more companies treating their employees and their employee brand with the same thoughtfulness and respect often reserved only for customers in a traditionally customer-centered approach. I hope we see more of it!

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