What do your employees say about your business when you are not in the room?by
Karen Thomas-Bland explores steps to take to enhance your employee experience, so people will want to work for you and keep working for you.
Your company brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said it well. “Your people are the very embodiment of your brand.”
This has never been truer than now when we are often in many different rooms as workforces are more dispersed, operating virtually in a hybrid world.
So what experience are you creating for your employees, to ensure that they reflect your brand in the very best possible way, wherever they are operating from?
A promise is a promise
At its core, a brand is a promise to customers. What will customers get when they purchase that brand’s product or service? A brand lives or dies by this promise to customers, so it needs to be right. The brand promise incorporates more than just those tangible products and services; it also includes intangibles such as the feeling customers get when they use the products and services.
In contrast, the employee experience encapsulates what employees encounter, observe or feel throughout their journey at the organisation. That is to say, what it is actually like to work for the organisation rather than the picture you present.
But the two, of course, are inextricably linked. Customers get a sense of the brand directly from those who work for the company. If you create a positive employee experience, then people are going to want to show up to work and they’ll genuinely feel excited and engaged about it and will give your customers the best possible experience.
So, when it comes to your company brand, what do you need from your employees?
You need your employees to embody the brand values
Your core brand values are the compass that points to the true north of your business success. If you take an example like Dove, it isn’t just about selling soap. Sure, that’s how they make their money, but their brand purpose and values are much higher than that. Dove’s mission is to increase the self-esteem of women. They desire to redefine the definition of beauty so that women of all ages can feel better about themselves.
The only thing that matters is how customers perceive your brand.
You need your employees to deliver that ultimate brand promise
Based on a brand promise, consumers develop expectations for your brand. When they pull their hard-earned money out of their pockets and purchase a product or service, they assume their expectations for your brand will be met. If a brand doesn’t meet consumer expectations in every interaction, consumers will become confused by a brand and turn away from it in search of another brand that does meet their expectations in every interaction.
You need your employees to ensure your brand is perceived in the right way
Ultimately, it’s the way customers perceive a brand that defines it. It doesn’t matter what you think your brand promises. The only thing that matters is how customers perceive your brand. You need to work to develop customer perceptions that accurately reflect your brand or your brand is doomed to limited growth potential.
Given the criticality of your employees in delivering the brand values and promise, there are five employee experience levers that, when deployed, can make the biggest difference to your company brand.
You need your employees to be emotionally engaged
The best leaders communicate frequently and cut through the noise to create and reinforce a mindset for change and engage their workforce. They make communications more human-centred – personal, meaningful and open. They don’t just rely on logic to persuade; they create an emotional connection. Creating an emotional connection keeps people engaged with your company brand.
Over-performing company brands understand the transformative power of creating a community.
Your employees need to be recognised
The best leaders then work out what is important to people and make them feel their contribution is uniquely valued – they play a vital role in the company’s success. I always reference the top two to three skills someone brings to the party. To be able to do this is about taking time to listen and understand an individual’s motivations, hopes and challenges that are really important to them. By recognising them they will give the extra discretionary effort needed to ensure your brand is amplified in the market.
Your employees need to connect to the company and each other
Over-performing company brands understand the transformative power of creating a community. They create a culture of open dialogue, debate and time given to people to adjust and form new habits and ways of working. The sense of community can be achieved through open consultation, employee-led groups or other mechanisms like online platforms designed to create space to learn together. The good thing about positive communities is people don’t want to leave them – there is a collective accountability formed – we are all in this together.
Your leaders need to lead with purpose
Everyone wants to feel part of something bigger. The distributed working world we find ourselves in needs an even greater focus on leading with purpose and humanity. This is about linking the ambition of the vision to the organisational purpose – answering ‘Why, as a company, do we exist?’ with greater compassion than ever before. Back to the Dove example, do you want to be known for making soap or ensuring women of all ages can feel better about themselves? We know that everyone is holding leaders and organisations to a much higher standard than ever before when it comes to transparency, trust, societal and environmental impact.
Trust between employer and employee needs to be created and maintained
We will also never achieve perfection when we’re doing something new and different. It’s about creating a culture of trust, so people understand that it is not a problem if they try something and it doesn’t work at first. It’s also about being open to sharing failures, so ideas get stronger, and companies learn to innovate their brands at scale. The best leaders are available, authentic, vulnerable and do what they say they will, all critical in fostering a climate of trust. When there is mutual trust between employee and employer, there is psychological safety which you need to innovate and develop your brand further.
By engaging, recognising, connecting people, leading with purpose and creating trust, you connect the employee experience with the company brand. In doing so you are ensuring that your employees become your greatest brand ambassadors and they deliver on the brand promise even when they are not in the room.
Interested in this topic? Read What's the difference between employee experience and company culture?
Karen Thomas-Bland is a Global Board Level Advisor, Partner level Management Consultant and Non-Executive Director/Chairwomen with over 23 years’ experience in creating break-through strategies, transforming and leading organisations.