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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Brandful Recruiting

I just got back from Miami where I spoke to a great group of recruiters at TMA’s Strategic Recruiting Summit. There were some fantastic companies represented like USAA, Kellogg’s (who both recruit their customers as potential employees), Hilton Grand Vacations, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Gate Gourmet, AbbVie, McKesson and Kaiser Permanente. I was glad to see that many of the organizations are focusing on recruiting as part of their overall brand strategy (their candidate experience reflects on their brand- especially when the folks don’t get the job- they can continue to like the products and services and remain a customer), however I did see some unfair challenges that recruiters face – because some of the c-suite still don’t get it. Why should recruiters be boxed into an “employer brand?” Aren’t they, along with every single employee, part of the larger brand?  (Side note:  a brand is simply what folks say about you behind closed doors. It can pertain to an organization as a whole, a specific product, a person or a group of people.)  In our transparent world, can you really separate the employer brand from the consumer brand anymore? Should it be up to the recruiter to figure out the workforce brand and recruit toward that? Why are organizations asking their employees to describe their work environment and help the company figure out their employer brand? I don’t get it.

I’d like to see the c-suite take more of a lead in not just figuring out the employer brand, but shaping it into what it should be. And what it should be, is aligned with the business model and customer promise. They need to ask themselves: “What kind of employee do we need working here that can delight our customers and fulfill our business model?” Once they figure that out, then the recruiters can more successfully find the right kind of folks to charge the company forward.

But don’t forget about the brand. I asked the audience how many of them were looking for a “brand match” while recruiting. (That is- someone who, in addition to having the right skill set and experience, is also passionate about the particular services or products that they offer.) Many recruiters raised their hands. I didn’t get the chance to find out how they were doing it, but I did hear a great story from Tomya at Sloan-Kettering.  She explained that they ask every single candidate whether they’d feel comfortable being in the hospital setting around cancer patients. If not, they don’t get hired. Being one of the best (if not the best) cancer centers in the world, they are ensuring that all of their employees care about their cause. Tomya suggested an accountant could choose to be an accountant at any type of organization. If she wants to be an accountant at Sloan-Kettering, she needed to care about the services they deliver and want to be a part of it. No wonder, employee engagement is at the top of the charts at Sloan-Kettering.

During my presentation, I suggested the following steps to implement a brandful recruiting strategy:

  • hire from your customer base
  • hire folks with a demonstrated passion for your product or service
  • hire folks with a passion for your mission or cause (could come from nonprofits)
  • hire folks who are excited to use your brand perks (ie. discounts)

I mentioned a comment made to me while I was shopping at Trader Joe’s. The store clerk said to me: “I spend my entire paycheck here!”  That’s when you know you have a brandful employee.

Thanks for reading my blog. If this is your first time on my site, please look around at my other posts and events, and join in the discussion. Catch you later!