Written by John Coupland
Smart businesses realise that a brand is more than just a communications idea, it is in fact a behavioural framework. In order for a brand to deliver its promise, every member of your business needs to be engaged. Behaviour needs to start from the inside and radiate outward.
So how can you build a culture that energises employees and transforms your brand? The following ideas will help get you started.
Employees are your strongest and most visible brand ambassadors, and to endorse what your brand stands for, they should understand and reflect your brand values.
Brand values are the guiding principles that direct your brand behaviour in any given situation. One of Virgin’s values is “Brilliant Customer Services - Friendly, human and relaxed; professional but uncorporate”. This is clearly seen in everything they do, from their communications to their customer services. In a recruitment context, values-led recruitment focuses on attitude, behaviours and organisational fit instead of just competency based selection. The benefit of this approach is that it starts to forge a more likeminded workforce that are more committed and more likely to live and breathe your brand.
Action: Assemble an internal team to explore and short-list your brand values. Evaluate them and provide examples of how these deliver your brand experience. If you have existing values, review how these guide employees’ actions. For example, if you chose ‘innovative’ as a value, ask how that applies to every employee's role. Ensure your leadership team leads by example with their actions and weave your values throughout every part of the operation.
Do employees understand your brand? To deliver a consistent experience, your ambassadors need a consistent interpretation of the brand strategy. To help this, review how you communicate to your employees. Story-telling may be one of the oldest forms of communication but it remains effective - it educates and inspires but doesn’t intimidate. It will communicate your philosophy, create a link from the heritage to future plans, and will set context for your internal culture.
Action: Create a project team to build a library of educational and inspirational stories and content which are people-centric. Your objective is to help employees understand your brand purpose, culture, identify with the values, as well as their importance in achieving the brand vision. You could publish a brand culture book which acts as the founding bible to your brand which not only educates your existing workforce but also helps when onboarding new recruits.
Are you a magnet for talent, and have engaged and motivated employees? Your EVP should clearly and credibly describe the mix of values, benefits, and ways of working in your organisation. It is the deal struck between an organisation and employee in return for their contribution and performance. An effective EVP not only enables you to stand out as different but helps you successfully attract and retain top talent.
Action: Build your Employee Value Proposition. Building an EVP can be a complex process, but the following will help you.
Understand what competitors are doing well and their shortcomings. Differentiation is crucial if your organisation wants to stand out from the landscape of sameness.
Compile the top three reasons why your employees love working for you. These should include the benefits existing employees value and the benefits which prospectives want and need. Remember, to think about the tangible benefits (salary, perks etc) and the intangible (company culture, progression). Successful brands are built on providing solutions to challenges, so aim to make your benefits as meaningful as possible. For example, parents who struggle with the pressure of juggling child-care and work, what could you provide to help them stay productive and happy?
Start broadcasting the EVP to prospective and current employees. Implement as the foundation to every stage of your employee journey from recruitment to exit stage. Within your recruitment advertising take the opportunity to sell the ‘big idea’ behind your brand. A solid brand, especially one with a vision that includes a higher purpose, is likely to provide an employee with meaning and job fulfilment. Once brought to life, review your EVP yearly and evolve to keep it relevant.
To summarise, refocus your brand on internal behavioural and organisational principles with people at the heart. Engaged people are the fuel to propel your brand to success. Values will guide the right fit, people’s actions and cement coherence. Helping employees to understand will nurture your army of ambassadors, whilst a well-articulated EVP provides the perfect platform to attract and retain top talent.