Apparently, fewer than 30% of employees believe in the values or vision of the company that employs them.
Granted, this is a statistic about US employees and written in 2018, but even if only half your workforce isn't living the brand dream, it's a scary thought. The advent of a global pandemic is unlikely to have moved the dial in a positive direction. At face value, that means as many as 70% of employees are indifferent to or, worse, actively reject the values of the brands they represent. Take a moment to digest this.
When I work with clients to develop and manage their brands, significant effort goes into building a detailed picture of each audience and segment within it. The point is to create key messages that acknowledge the things that matter to them and how the product or service solves an identified problem. It should go without saying that one size most definitely doesn't fit all. Each audience has a different worldview, needs, and wants. Messaging is carefully tailored to help them understand what’s in it for them. Audience understanding remains one of the pillars that underpin the success of any brand.
When I ask clients which is their most important audience, the answer is typically customers, consumers, or other external stakeholders such as investors. Their focus and investment dollars are predominantly geared to communicating effectively with external audiences. Too often, internal communications are limited to a catch-all newsletter, chucking stuff on the Intranet and/or setting up some form of a chat room.
While external audiences are unquestionably a big part of the pie, employees can make or break a brand. As Sir Richard Branson famously said, "Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients. They're the ones making the magic happen — so long as their needs are being met." Not that I have a lot of love for the man, but you’d have to say he knows a thing or two about building successful brands.
In a world where we are literally bombarded with choice in every aspect of our life, increasingly, it's the people on the front line who are the means by which consumers judge a brand and how it stands out from the crowd. Showing employees the same amount of love you'd give any external audience is a no brainer. As with any audience, it's also important to understand the different 'segments' that exist within it and what is ultimately meaningful to them. If they 'get' the brand, they'll perform like the rock stars they ought to be, and everyone wins. I see too many organisations building complicated internal communications strategies but no over-arching brand strategy that includes their team — their most important asset — as an integral part.
Helping employees understand how vital their roles are to the organisation's success should be a top priority. Why?
Spreading the word — employees who get your brand will recommend your products and services to their friends and families
Building loyalty – employees who understand the value your brand offers will translate this into meeting customer needs and getting that all-important recurring revenue
Wins for everyone — engaged employees are more motivated and more productive, great for your bottom line and the ability to reward them for their part in your success.
Embedding new initiatives — you might be seeking to embed a sustainability strategy or introduce other significant changes. It will be much easier if your employees are already fully behind your brand.
In addition, employees who are motivated and proud to work for your brand will stay longer. Ultimately, if you don't manage your brand internally, your employees will manage it for you. Good luck with that!
Ultimately, as leaders, we all need to surround ourselves with people who believe in our vision and genuinely embrace our values.