2014 Most Brandful Moment

Only a few more hours until 2015.  Quick: What was your most memorable moment of 2014?

Mine was a brandful moment: Rolling out brandful to a new audience.

Looking back on 2014, one of my favorite projects was working with DeVry Institute to provide some brandful resources to their community of students and alumni.  Prior to the engagement, I had an idea of what DeVry was all about but after getting a deeper inside view of this educational organization, with over 90 campuses, nation-wide, I now understand more fully the value of the DeVry brand.  They have a sweet spot for mid-career folks who are working and want to make a change for the better. I believe this population is growing, especially as the average job tenure is only about three years. Top that with longer average life spans, working retirees, a growing trend for multiple changing careers, and DeVry’s business model, which includes affordable education, and you can see that they are well-positioned for success.

DeVry was excited about introducing their students and alumni to the concept of brandful as a new career trend. Instead of just looking for any old job, the idea is to look for an organization that you believe in, first.  So just as employers want to find the right brandful employees, job-seekers also should proactively look for their own match that aligns with their personal brand.

I spoke to faculty, students, alumni and administrators about their views on a brandful career path, its importance and relevance to career success and how they could go about becoming brandful. The conversations were enlightening and thought-provoking. I started out by asking each person to talk about their current job, their field of study and career. It was a typical conversation. Then came the curve question:

“What are some of your personal favorite brands?”

That’s when their eyes would light up and the smile would come on. Hmmmm. They would think with grins. Then they would start naming companies, both big and small, whatever came to mind.  Just as they would get on a roll with the list, I came with the punch:

“Have you ever considered working at any of these companies?”

The grin turned to a look of wonder and then fireworks. Why has nobody really thought of a career in this way? Most answered: “I don’t know, but they should!”

Some of the folks with whom I spoke, left with an enthusiasm for a renewed career approach and ideas on where they can bring value beyond the specific job. I also left with greater drive for the future of brandful. http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/Witnessing the personal lightbulb moments was quite powerful. I look forward to many more of these in 2015.

Stay tuned for upcoming 2015 launches including Top Brandful Companies List and the New York City Brandful Tour.  Have a Brandful New Year!

“I Don’t Care!”

What NOT To Do To Get Employees To Care

Here are three methods that I would rather not try.

I was speaking with a colleague recently who was complaining about employee complacency. It happens in many workplaces and it can become a downward spiral. When a critical number of your employees are disengaged, it seems to rub off on the others. How can you inject some motivation or positive energy to turn this around?

While I can suggest a great book that offers solutions The Brandful Workforce – How Employees Can Make, Not Break Your Brand, I’m writing this post to let you know what surely does not work.

No-No #1

One failed tactic is to rely on a rewards program to create a caring environment. Even though, it can be set up to reward those employees who are most caring, rewards programs are usually not properly integrated into an on-going and sustainable culture of caring and the programs seem more of a staged and temporary approach rather than a genuine attempt to make permanent change.

No-No #2

Why not just tell them to start caring?  Have you ever heard a manager say: “Hey, I need you to care more about your work.” It’s wrong to think that apathy is a rational decision being made every day. Talk is cheap and that’s why this approach does not work.

No-No #3

Here’s the best way to permanently ban caring from your workplace forever:  Use threats. They typically become a tactic, not out of thoughtful consideration, but out of desperation. Sometimes senior leaders place ultimatums on middle managers who don’t know what to do. And unfortunately these managers may be victims of poor corporate cultures. Without support, tools, and resources, some managers turn to penalizing employees with bad reviews, bad schedules, extra work, no bonus, or other punitive measures. This usually creates even further deterioration of employee sentiment as they can start blaming each other.

Yes, Yes, Yes

So, what’s the secret to having employees who care? Care about them.

 

 

Brandful – Quick and Simple

Every employee matters, especially when running a small business. A single employee could be responsible for bringing enormous success to your business. Or one employee could bring you down. Why not motivate your employees to work FOR your brand, rather than against it, by cultivating a brandful workforce.

How It All Began

The brandful workforce approach was developed as a practical guide to help business leaders better engage employees with the products and services they help deliver every day. It was informed through my own career journey, working for both small and large organizations, private, public and non-profit.

Most recently, I was in charge of employee engagement at JetBlue Airways. My colleagues at other companies used to ask me: “How do you get your employees to be such fantastic brand ambassadors?”

It wasn’t something that JetBlue purposefully set out to do. It was the result of a successful business. Yet there wasn’t a recipe that others could easily follow. So I took it upon myself to figure it out!

Let’s look at how you can create brandful employees for your business.

Building a Brandful Workforce

Start with your product or service. After all, who will want to promote something that they don’t personally believe in?

One common mistake small business owners make with employees is not defining and communicating the consistent delivery of the business. What does it look like? If you don’t know, then how will your employees? Help them understand the details of your business, your brand and especially your customer promise.

When your employees understand your business, the customer promise and their role in it, they can get to work promoting your brand. In fact, they may even exceed your expectations!

Create Brandful Communication Channels

The next step in creating employee brand ambassadors is giving them the means to go out and promote your brand. I call these brandful channels.

These include tools and resources such as social media, swag, celebratory events, and community volunteer efforts that spread awareness of your business.

Remember: not everyone is going to want to engage in social media, so it’s helpful to offer your staff some other options.

For example, you may have an employee who enjoys the backstage planning of an event.  Or another employee may be athletic and can represent your business in a marathon. The brandful channels approach provides opportunities for everyone to participate in amplifying your brand in a genuine and authentic way.

Recruit Brand Ambassadors

. Some small businesses find it hard to compete for talent with larger organizations.  Yet, as a small business, there are a few areas where you can favorably recruit top talent by accentuating your unique brand:

  • Offer a “jack-of-all-trades” employee experience. Employees can learn and be involved in many aspects of the business, rather than be narrowly focused on a specified role within a larger organization.
  • Provide a family feel and local culture as opposed to a larger, bureaucratic environment.
  •  Give employees the opportunity to make a direct, meaningful impact on business success

Keep in mind that brandful candidates care less about salary (as long as it’s within a reasonable range) than the quality or purpose of the job. If you have to negotiate hard to get someone to accept, it may not be the right fit for your business.

Here’s a quick checklist to help determine if your job candidate is brandful-minded:

  • Do they love or use your products or services?
  • Do they know how to talk about your products or services?
  • Do they have fresh ideas about how to expand or improve your business? (Do they act like “owners,” or do they simply want a paycheck?)
  • Do they give you honest – and helpful — feedback?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you’re well on your way to leveraging the talent you’ll need to create a brandful workforce of your own!

New Year Resolution: Become Brandful in 2014

As you make your new year resolutions, consider adding one to your list: being brandful. Becoming brandful means closing the gap on who you want to be and who you really are. This can apply to you personally, or it could apply to an organization such as your employer.  When an organization becomes brandful, its external perception (the customer experience) matches the internal culture (employee experience). When you are personally brandful, you acknowledge your passions and interests and actively pursue them on a regular basis, including in your work-life. Merging your personal brand with the brand of your organization can bring greater value and meaning to your personally and to your employer.

Why else should this be on your new year’s list? I believe 2014 will be a year of authenticity. With the rise in social media and escalating global competition, consumers are no longer easily fooled by traditional advertising and marketing. They are getting close up and personal with brands and becoming more involved with the products and services they love. Becoming brandful allows both individuals and organizations to keep the curtain raised and be transparent, without worry. When you are, who you say you are, there is confidence.

Put a resolution on your list that not only catches you up to everyone else, but thrusts you ahead. Here’s to a healthy, happy and prosperous 2014!

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Top Brandful Organizations in 2013

Welcome to my final blog post for 2013. The following companies make the list of of top brandful organizations this year: Trader Joe’s, Netflix, Zappos, Starbucks, IBM, L’Occitane, Patagonia, Nick’s Pizza & Pub, Viking Cruises, Ikea, The Container Store, Wegmans, Rackspace, and Tesla. What sets these companies apart from others? It’s quite simple: the employees genuinely believe in the products and services they help deliver… so much so that they actually help promote them, voluntarily. Employees at these organizations are critical to current and future success of the business.

While many experts are now posting their recommendations for 2014, I believe one of the most strategic actions any company can make in the new year will be to connect employees meaningfully and authentically with the brand. For example, at Trader Joe’s, some of the employees spend most of their paychecks on purchasing groceries in the store. And most employees there can tell you their favorite products, if you ask.  Or employees at Rackspace may spend more time than necessary online interacting with each other and customers about optimizing the services they provide because they are just that passionate about them.  Brandful employees help to evolve the success of the business.

The organizations mentioned above do not necessarily depend on employee engagement programs or internal marketing campaigns or even employer branding initiatives, to create a brandful workforce. They rely primarily on the strength of their products and services and how they run their business from a people perspective. These are the principles of the brandful approach.

In 2014, more organizations will understand the potential of the workforce. And it will be great timing as we will embark on a project to design a measurement tool so organizations can understand the level at which their employees are truly behind the products and services they deliver every day. Once they receive their results, they can take necessary action to move the needle on building a more brandful workforce. Please stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the last few days of the year!

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Holiday Parties Turn Employees Into Brand Ambassadors

This is the time of year to focus on amplifying the fourth brandful channel: Celebration. What better time of year for employees to get behind your brand, than the holidays? It’s the perfect opportunity for your internal brand ambassadors to spread the love for your products and services to their friends and family as they gather together.  Is there a heart-warming story about one of your products or services that can be re-told across your organization as an example of your powerful brand? What accomplishments have the employees made during the year that can be celebrated as part of the holidays? By shining a spotlight on your workforce as an important part of your brand’s success, holiday parties can be transformed into truly engaging events that build a more brandful workforce.

Comment below if you attended a holiday party that made you more jazzed about the brand.  Did you share your enthusiasm on your social network? Did you donate anything on behalf of your organization to help others? How did your actions impact the brand? I’d love to include it among my brandful examples.

To read more about how celebrations can be an effective way for employees to advocate for your brand, please see my book, The Brandful Workforce: How Employees Can Make, Not Break Your Brand. For previous blog posts or to share this post, click here.

 

Forcing Engagement Is Not Engaging

Should employees be paid to tweet? Should they be required to be active on social media? This week I read a couple of different articles about how employers are leveraging their workforce toward their brand, but in a way that contradicts the approach outlined in my book, The Brandful Workforce.  While I advocate for an authentic and meaningful connection between employees and the brands they represent, others are steamrolling ahead with force.

Kudos to Venture Beat, an online news publication, for leading a new research initiative on “Work and Privacy” that is looking at how professionals use their social media accounts and whether their employers are encroaching on their privacy. While the survey is still ongoing, it is astonishing that they are already finding some employees (17%) saying they are required to use their social media accounts to discuss and promote their work. It is one thing to encourage employees to get involved, but making it a requirement, it going over a dangerous edge. Organizations who follow this path may be fostering fake promotion that will be easily discovered and brought to shame. What if employees don’t genuinely want to promote their work?  What about new approaches that encourage employees to raise concerns and get involved in solutions? Old managerial methods such as top-down approaches – “I’m the boss. You’d better do as you’re told.” will not be sustainable in the future, particularly as the lines between the internal organization and the external brand disappear.

What do you think of forcing employees to become socially active to enhance the brand? Please share your comments. To see previous posts, please visit my blog here.

Don’t Stop Saying Thank You After Thanksgiving

Some organizations have a culture of giving thanks, regularly. And it’s not just from the manager down to the front-line. It’s between peers who truly care about each other, as well as up the ladder from an employee to a boss. It’s just part of the regular course of doing business. Employees in these types of cultures don’t even realize how thankful they are because it’s just how they operate.

Do you have this type of culture? Leave a comment below and join in the discussion. Do you want to have this kind of culture in your organization? Check out my new book, The Brandful Workforce: How Employees Can Make, Not Break Your Brand, and find out more.

First Two Book Reviews For The Brandful Workforce

It’s quite exciting publishing my first book. I wanted to share the following two book reviews that came onto Amazon recently. Please add your comments or reviews and don’t forget to join in the discussion online. This is one of the first business books that’s meant to be read from a computer or mobile device as it’s packed with links and entries into discussion.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Heads of Marketing and heads of Human Resources, read and discuss this book!

By J. Shapiro, Executive Director, Talent Analytics, Morgan Stanley on November 18, 2013

OK, I need to be fully transparent. I know Julia and really respect her work. So, I downloaded her book and was expecting to read a well thought out argument on connecting employees to your brand.

What Julia did instead blew me out of the water. .. The book captures the essence of something we all need in organizations: authentic employee relationships that create great customer experiences.

Some examples you may know (Trader Joes) and others were novel. .. like a Stonybrook video about a Dunkin Donuts employees that will make you tear up.

This is a great read for marketers and managers alike, engagingly told.

A Must Read if You’re in the Business of People By Susan LaMotte, Former Leader of Global Employer Brand at Marriott on November 18, 2013

Julia Gometz nails it with her book The Brandful Workforce: from her opening story about working in a hotel in Canada to the direct learnings from her experience at JetBlue. She’s right–it’s not just about the consumer brand and the employer brand. It’s about making the most of your workforce. In my consulting practice we often talk about seeing the value talent has on the bottom line. Julia calls this “brandful.” The book is a delightful read with easy-to-understand anecdotes that are directly applicable to your business–whether you’re a B2B or B2C business. If you’re in the business of people you owe it to yourself to read this book and see how you can make your organization brandful.

To purchase the book on amazon, click the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Brandful-Workforce-Employees-Break/dp/0989815900/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1383918396&sr=8-1&keywords=brandful+workforce

For more information on The Brandful Workforce visit www.brandfulworkforce.com