Archive for the ‘employee engagement’ Category

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?

Stories don’t just have the power to engage, they also have the power to inspire change. One of the ways in which they do so is through what is known as model participation. When people see something that inspires them, they want to be a part of it. When you are leading change, you must be the change or demonstrate the change you desire before you tell people what they must do. This adage has continually proven helpful as my colleagues and I have helped organizations align their employees around new initiatives and best practices. Here’s a quote that has always inspired me in my work:

“Instead of criticizing where they stand, move to a better place and invite them over.”

We must shine a light on what is good, what is going right or that which is the desired form of behavior in the new state of being. In addition to being a great way to lead change in an organization, I’ve learned that it can be a great way to inspire change in our communities as well through an on going project of mine called the Filmanthropist Project.

The concept here is exactly the same. In fact, it is the Filmanthropist Project model that inspired me to bring that concept to inspire change in a corporate organizational structure. Now in it’s third year, the Minnesota-based project invites novice to experienced filmmakers to find and document stories of philanthropy and good work in their community and submit those stories for inclusion in our annual screening and awards program. People are literally shining a light (be it a camera light) on their desired future state of their community by finding the story of someone that embodies those values they wish to carry forward to others. And it is a moving project to witness first hand. We’ve had more than 50 entires in our first two years and the screening events spark conversations that are carried forward. The subjects of the films and their good works are celebrated and supported in a way that would not have been possible had those stories never been documented or shared in such a public and celebratory way.

Now let’s switch forums for the model. Your community is now your organization. The citizens are your employees. Who in your organization is demonstrating the model behavior of where you wish your organization to be headed? How are they embodying your organizations core values of goodness and how are they making them real everyday? Are there stories you could tell about people who are doing the good work you aspire everyone in your organization or community to be doing?

Once we begin to share these stories of those who are on the front lines of leading positive change, we just might find a growing crowd of supporters and change evangelists following immediately behind them.

And that’s how change begins.

For more information about the Filmanthropist Project view the video or visit the website below: