A brand is important for a business. It is the perception of customers about the organisation. It is built up from experiences of the organisation. I like to think of a brand experience as an hourglass. A customer starts at the top where their brand experience is wide: recommendations from friends, browsing, test driving, googling etc. The end of the brand experience is just as wide: adoration of your friends, using the product, after sales support, additional purchases etc. The mid-point, the bottleneck, the flashpoint, of this brand experience is the time of purchase. This mid-point is the make or break point of a brand experience. Good service and they come back, bad service and the whole company is to blame. Many organisations use sales training to ensure this service is as consistent as possible. It’s hard work being consistent. Good sales training is built to enhance this experience beyond selling a product and becoming the face of a brand. I have worked for years with staff on becoming ambassadors of a brand. I have been fortunate enough to work with admired brands and this job became quite easy. Who wouldn’t want to be the face of a great brand?
I visited an old friend in London and was introduced to her long time partner, a lawyer. He was successful, working for a prestigious law firm in the capital. He was proud to work for them. But through a long dinner conversation, as with most jobs, it wasn’t always easy. He was very pragmatic about his job. He gets paid (quite a lot of money) to work hard for this admired company. Discussing career paths it was evident he had little loyalty to the company. So I asked, why this company? What makes them so prestigious?
The only answer I received was reputation.
And it struck me. While the public face of a company can be the difference in the market place and also a key recruitment tool there was no internal brand for the staff to connect with. A law firm is built around good practice and client base, but for the staff creating this experience, how do they connect with the brand? A lot of engagement and motivation tools are created by a strategic team. Competitive pay, benefits, reward, career progression and talent management. These are all then offered to the staff. If we use the hourglass again this would be the top half. The lower half of the experience could be the adoration of your friends, job satisfaction, lifelong learning or more. But the mid-point of this experience, much like a consumer, is how we interact with the people of the company. That one sale to a customer is replicated every day an employee comes to work.
So how is that being made special?
For the staff to love their job stage 1 is taken care of and stage 3 is the desired result but how many managers relate their actions to the flashpoint in the middle? I’ve always related happy staff to performing staff, rightly or wrongly, and there is a whole host of things that can motivate and satisfy staff. The big disconnect for most managers is assuming they know best about what will motivate the staff. Standard benefits have become just that, standard. Rewards specialists are always thinking up new ways to reward the staff better than anyone else and this could be more expensive. The company may become seen as an employer of choice for the outside but how does the brand look on the inside? Why not just ask the talent you have what rewards they want? Every colleague I have ever worked with wanted something different out a job. Some just wanted a thank you. Some wanted a ferrari for showing up on time.
Secondly how is the company decision making process being communicated to the staff? Is it being communicated wholly? Or just “what they need to know” ? Much like rewards, the communicating of business practice is as crucial to employees brand experience at the bottom as getting it right at the top. Everyone is an adult and should be given an explanation as to why things are the way they are. Like in my previous post about engagement, what you don’t say can speak louder than what you do say, so don’t give employees room to think anything but the truth.
Taking this even further these decisions should be marketed to the team rather than dictated. If a watchmaker just released watch 1, watch 2 etc then they might not be as enticing. This should be the same as every people process in an organisation. Rather than just stating to employees what is happening, sell it to them. Change becomes easier then.
Think about who “sells” to the employees. How are they trained to relay this vision and brand? Line managers have more responsibility than ever so it is important that they are trained in delivering that message in a way that won’t devalue the brand to employees. This is probably most crucial in building an internal brand. When a customer receives bad service they are a lot less likely to come back for more. This may be the difference in your top talent staying with you, or being enticed by another shop window.
You may be sitting reading this thinking that an internal brand would be an expensive thing to create and uphold. You would be correct. The cost of providing service for your people however, may be much smaller than providing a better marketing campaign. A strong internal brand provides more advertising free of charge. Your staff love their job and recommend the company, and it’s products, to more people, whether on or off the clock. And at the end of the day, when employees enjoy and understand the brand they work for, they embody that brand to its customers even more.