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Your staff are your brand

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As an employer, how can you make sure that the personalities you employ match the personality of your organisation? Human characteristics are strange and complex things. Good and bad. Some fit together. Some don’t. 

Yes, skills, capabilities, experience, they’re all crucial qualities when filling a role, but it also helps if that person is going to ‘fit’ your organisation and will exhibit the behaviours that you want for your brand. But you certainly can’t have high expectations around this if you don’t give them some kind of picture of how those expectations look. 

Employer branding is still a crucial part of business success. After all, how can your staff be the face of your brand, or the engine powering it, if they don’t have a strong sense of what your brand is all about?

If your marketing is quirky, fun or upbeat, but your staff are dull, which is the wasted dollar – their pay cheque or your ad spend?

Last month, the butcher at New World Te Rapa was beaming with joy at his team winning an award for their Angus Beef Sausages. His excitement permeated the store and his love for his job, for that day at least, was infectious. And, yes, the sausages were delicious.

It might have been typical of his personality, but his commitment and apparent knowledge seemed very New World, like the Master Butcher in their ‘Fresh Experts’ campaign. It felt like external and internal brand characteristics were marrying nicely.

I sat down with Senga Allen from Everest, specialists in people and culture, and she stressed the importance of setting values and expectations for staff. “Internal brand impacts on the external lens that people see us through,” she explained, emphasising the importance of delivering on promise. “Customer service is about reflecting your brand, not just doing a good job.”

She reiterated how a clearly defined and articulated brand is vital at all stages of the relationship, from initial recruitment to retaining staff, and building a cohort of advocates.

Having a brand story, with clarity around purpose, characteristics and personality, is the cornerstone of employee relationships just as it is for customer engagement. It doesn’t have to be carved in stone, plastered across every available wall space, unless that’s what floats your boat. But without a guide, the business oceans will be hard to navigate. 

In many organisations, values and behaviours become inherent purely from a brand-focused induction or orientation process that is naturally supported by everyday conversations within the team. 

As business leaders, you can develop internal cultures that reinforce your brand, rather than enforce it.

Senga Allen observed also that internal brand culture is even more important in recruitment environments like we’re seeing in Waikato at the moment, where candidates have choice. If the roles they are interviewing for are barely differentiated, the employer that offers the best place to work and fits with their values and personality will stand out. 

Have your company’s internal brand clear from the start, and you’ll attract the right people that fit. This can sometimes be easier for new businesses who are focused on setting out their stall and are paying a lot of attention to how they are perceived. But as marketplaces change, brands often find themselves having to re-evaluate and evolve their positioning.  

Senga Allen pointed out that a shift in brand direction can be more challenging for these businesses who may have long established staff for whom change is difficult to embrace. This shows how important it is to look at regular brand ‘health checks’ and to make sure you maintain ongoing brand-focused communication with your staff to take them with you along the journey, whether it’s a straight route or whether you need to tack every now then.

We saw a huge shift a few years back when new players came in to the telecommunications sector in New Zealand. Telecom, as the state provider, was expected to be neutral, serious and ‘safe’ in how it presented itself. Then along came the likes of 2 Degrees, able to take a riskier position, choosing to do so with humour and fun. 

This difference didn’t only manifest itself in their advertising or graphic design, but in the language they used, in the way they structured products, their sponsorship alignments, and so on. So, if I go into a 2 Degrees store and find a staff member who struggles to crack a smile, it feels even more disappointing. My expectations were established by the external brand and he’s failed to deliver on them.

If an internal culture is strong it is much more likely to be reflected through customer engagement ensuring your business has enduring positive relationships. Win-win.

• See also: The importance of understanding the why 

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About Author

Vicki Jones

Vicki Jones is director of Dugmore Jones, Hamilton-based marketing management consultancy. Email vicki@dugmorejones.co.nz