In Part 1 we looked at the impact that employee engagement can have on your corporate reputation, and that there is either risk or opportunity created to damage or enhance your company brand.
We also however need to be mindful that great employee engagement can also serve to support and improve your employer brand, which of course in the end has an impact on your corporate brand reputation.
Ultimately, people behaviour is the most powerful element of your company reputation and without focus on this and processes in place to enhance and monitor it you are leaving a great deal of expensive corporate brand investment to chance.
Often a lack of employee engagement leads to apathy and this creates an overall lack of pride, of feeling valued and respected, and loyalty for the company and the brand, leading to a culture that spills out to the outside world. This external perception of culture feeds directly into your employer brand and not only affects the talent you want to retain but the talent you attract too.
How do we address the gap?
So what are some of the ways in which we can start to improve employee engagement that directly impact your company reputation? Employee engagement surveys are rarely enough to effect the necessary change – firstly they tend to be done once per year so a regular pulse is not kept, and secondly the results are rarely acted upon in a way that creates the required behaviour changes.
There are some key areas that drive higher levels of engagement and these include:
- Pride (employees like to feel proud of the company and the leaders they work for)
- Respect (employees need to be feel valued for what they bring to the table)
- Opportunity (employees need to feel they are developing, progressing and being recognised – particularly millennials)
These are by no means exhaustive but represent some of the most relevant & important drivers to creating excellent employee engagement.
Employee engagement surveys are rarely enough to effect the necessary change
All of these areas can be addressed by creating a programme that not only focuses on your corporate brand reputation and the values and messaging you want to get out to outside world, but on people development in a way that truly engages them to modify mind-sets and behaviours.
Many companies immerse their staff in programmes that let them know what their corporate values are but rarely do they get to the level needed in order to effect real authentic change that is sustainable.
From the top down
Creating an organisation that your staff feel proud to work for I believe starts with the executive team.
According to a study by LinkedIn (LinkedIn 2012), when top talent accepts a job offer, a strong employer brand is twice as important as the company brand in terms of brand name, particularly for those under the age of 40. Candidates feel they need to know a bit more about the ‘personality’ of the brand.
In order to stay relevant and competitive today, the brand personality needs to shine through strongly, giving a sense of identity, authenticity and trust.
A new wave of branding?
Consider my theory that there is a new wave of branding on the horizon – what if your leaders have such a clear and powerful personal brand and are known for a specific area of expertise that they get a much higher level of external exposure for themselves and your organisation than would normally be the case.
Imagine what this could do for your corporate reputation, visibility and personality of the brand. Greater leader visibility serves to create a level of pride when employees they see their leaders on TV, featured in the press and presenting at external events.
When we have websites like Glassdoor.com that leave your company exposed to all the potential warts that go on internally, there is a growing need for companies to either balance this out where needed or enhance their reputation with positive, engaging PR via their leaders and employees.
Providing your staff with the development they need and demand, and the opportunities for flexibility and mobility are important considerations in creating an engaged workforce.
Millennials in particular, demand more workplace flexibility and more rapid career progression, and when this is provided feel more respected and invested in. As a result, engagement levels are higher and the company gets talked about more favourably via social media.
Your hiring procedures also have an effect on your corporate reputation of course, but how much attention are you really paying to these? Are the staff you employ to carry out the recruitment process engaged to a level that reflects a great corporate brand or do you leave it to chance and rarely consider or revise it? These people are a window to your organisation and play a large part in creating the reputation.
Are the staff you employ to carry out the recruitment process engaged to a level that reflects a great corporate brand?
I frequently hear about negative interview processes in my work and one particular instance confirmed to me that corporate reputation can be severely negatively affected by how a candidate is made to feel during the process. In this example, the candidate was a twenty-two year-old graduate – he had travelled for two hours on two separate days for a series of interviews. There was no form of communication or follow-up for four weeks, not even a courteous ‘thank you for coming to see us’.
By this time he had quite understandably developed a less than favourable impression of the company via the behaviours of the recruitment staff and began to wonder if this corporate culture was one he wanted to work in. Doing absolutely nothing can therefore also damage your corporate reputation! Would staff who are engaged and really care about your brand behave in this way?
Here are some key actions you can take to start to address the potential risk of weakening your corporate reputation by lack of employee engagement:
- Do regular pulse checks (not just annually) on the levels of employee engagement and really act on the results
- Provide personal development programmes for leaders and staff that not just focus on the values, but on how they can personally interpret and internalize them authentically in order to reinforce them consistently.
- Support your leaders external profile and visibility ith suitable coaching programmes
- Assess your recruitment processes more closely and consider if you have the right people creating a strong brand during the process
- Consider your workplace environment – is it in alignment with keeping and attracting talent and in particular the millennials coming into your organization today?
When your corporate reputation is so critical today to stay relevant to clients and attractive to talent, you simply have to bring employee engagement to the top of your agenda. In so many ways it affects your bottom line and remember the most powerful element of your corporate brand reputation today is quite simply your people and how they make your stakeholders feel.
About Lesley Everett
Lesley Everett is an international professional speaker and expert on personal branding and the personality of the corporate brand. She has presented her Walking TALL Methodology in 26 countries across 5 continents to date. She is the published author of 3 books (latest Corporate Brand Personaloty, Kogan Page, Feb 2016) and is a regular media commentator on brand image.
Lesley is the founder of Walking TALL International, with offices in US, UK and Hong Kong.