Managing Director dragonfish
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Reality bites: when culture and brand don’t align

An organisation’s staff and culture play a crucial role in offering the type of positive customer experience that builds brand trust. It will come as no surprise to anyone that’s worked in a service environment – or indeed visited a shop or restaurant - that staff engagement plays a singular role in defining that experience. However, what is perhaps more eye-opening is that so many organisations still seem to get it wrong.

22nd Jun 2017
Managing Director dragonfish
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Alignment in business
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We conducted a piece of research in partnership with Bournemouth University earlier this year to understand how large multi-site organisations with workforces in excess of 1,000 staff are able to engage their staff throughout their network.

The results provided some clear indicators for why so many employees are going through the motions.

Knowing me, knowing you?

In today’s world, building a trusted brand is vital, so the responsibility for engaging front line teams with what your organisation believes has to come from the top down. However, the research suggests that many HR departments face an uphill struggle in connecting the vision of the C-suite with employees.

The fault cannot be deferred to line managers, as of the 1,200 employees surveyed nearly two-thirds (64%) felt the organisation they worked for lacked purpose and the same number didn’t have a clear understanding of what the brand stood for.

Clearly, unless there’s an alignment of the brand values between both internal and external audiences there will a negative impact on brand reputation, and ultimately sales.

So, in this instance what can senior HR professionals do to support employees to turn them into the type of advocate you can be proud to have representing the business?

Don’t run before you can walk

Senior marketing people, especially CMOs, need to work more closely with their counterparts in the HR department. The simple fact is unless they do, the tensions between external promise and internal execution will undermine the brand narrative.

The role played by internal communications in reinforcing the links between staff, brands and customers across sites cannot be underestimated.

Why spend millions on an ad campaign if your customer-facing staff cannot share the brand vision effectively with its audience?

A logical starting point is to take a small percentage of your marketing budget and invest it in employee engagement and training to enhance your customer experience.

Our research found that nearly half (46%) of those surveyed felt they didn’t fully understand what’s expected of them at work and only a third (33%) feel their company does a good job in helping them understand the needs and expectations of customers.

In tune with this opportunity, the world’s most progressive CMOs are seeing that the right investment in employee engagement and CX training can have a far greater impact on brand performance than more traditional ways of optimising the marketing mix.

As such, they are quick to partner with their CPOs to define and build the culture they need for the organisation to achieve its brand goals. 

Our research showed that the U.K.’s fastest-growing companies are investing in bringing customer insight to life for frontline teams, making customer segmentation actionable in a service context as a priority, and no longer just the domain of the marketing team.

These high performing organisations are also putting employee communications programmes in place to highlight, praise and reward the customer-centric behaviours they want to see in their front-line teams.

However, fewer than half of UK employees (37%) indicate they receive praise for doing good work.

Moreover, it’s very easy to become demotivated if you don’t feel your opinion is valued, or there is at the very least a mechanism to make it heard. Yet only 40% of employees say they’re given any opportunity to become involved in business decisions that affect them and less than half (42%) are encouraged to suggest new ways of doing things.

It’s no wonder that organisations that demonstrate they value their staff through effective and customer-focused recognition initiatives are stealing advantage over their competition.

Looking inward

In many cases it would seem neither marketing teams nor HR department are winning over their own people, and that’s problematic to say the very least. The role played by internal communications in reinforcing the links between staff, brands and customers across sites cannot be underestimated.

Fewer than half of UK employees (37%) indicate they receive praise for doing good work.

It provides the means to engage the workforce with the organisation’s purpose, ambition, and the role each team member plays in achieving it.

If your staff buy into a shared purpose, then your brand plan, reputation and customer experience will take care of itself.

The company culture is what builds a brand from the inside out.

This is why it is so important that senior management must spend the necessary time cracking this ‘culture code’ and in a connected world this is more significant than ever.

Put simply, if your workplace culture stinks you will hear about it, this won’t necessarily be from your staff in the first instance, but on social media in the public sphere via your end customers. 

Aside from avoiding negative publicity, there are very compelling financial reasons why businesses should seek to align their internal and external brands.

Staff working in organisations which see sales growth of more than 20% year-on-year are, on average, 30% more likely to understand what their brand stands for and what sets it apart.

This is why having a strong and authentic brand must be so much more than a logo. It represents a shared ethos that is equally important to both internal and external audiences.

However, without the right investments in your people, it can never be anything more than an empty promise. 

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