A workforce can work “for” or “against” the brand. A brandful™ workforce charges forward FOR the brand. There are two significant global changes that support the call to action for organizations to consider early adoption of building a brandful™ workforce:
1. The end of organizational control over brand.
With the rise in social media and access to information, individuals are able to have greater impact, both positively and negatively on organizations. Social media empowers more to participate in the brand conversation. It creates greater pressure for organizations to be transparent about their products, services, operations, mission, and strategy.
2. Fierce local and global competition.
Organizations are forced to continually re-examine their approach and must act smarter than ever before to sustain an advantage. One of the most under-leveraged assets in any organization is the workforce. It can no longer be seen as an expense in terms of wages and benefits. If viewed strategically, the employees of any size organization (private, public, nonprofit or governmental) could be a critical factor for organizational success.
Is your organization fully leveraging your people to create, re-invent, grow and sustain your brand? The answer most likely is no. Is it possible to have employees who genuinely and truly love the products and services they help deliver? The answer is yes and here’s how you can get started.
First, you must have a successful business model. No employee is going to be interested in promoting an organization that is going down the tubes. You may think this is obvious however it amazes me how many organizations, because of the departmental silos, overlook this point. For example, a leader in one part of the organization such as Corporate Communications, Human Resources or Marketing, may hear the buzz that employees should be more involved in the brand, so they skip immediately to how to involve them, without considering the state of the business. Have you ever stopped to think how the internal operations might look differently if the business model is not working? Creating, evolving and sustaining a successful business model can be difficult, particularly because of a fast- evolving, globally shrinking competitive landscape. However, this basic fundamental step is a “must-have” for building a brandful™ workforce.
Part of the business model is also a “call to action” or a greater purpose that the organization is fulfilling. When I was at JetBlue, it was “bringing humanity back to air travel.” We weren’t just transporting people from point A to point B but there was a higher purpose. Employees, who truly promote the product or service of an organization, and act as individual owners of the organization, need an emotional connection or an inspiration, if they are going to be brandful™.
Second, you need a clear and executable customer promise and employee promise. These promises answer the question: What am I promising to deliver to my customer/employee in exchange for what my customer/employee give me? It’s kind of like matchmaking, where the organization is looking for a long-term relationship with the right customer match and the right employee match. Both customers and employees have expectations that go hand-in-hand. Employees need to know the customer expectations so they stand a chance to deliver on these – or even better- delight! They also need to know what’s expected of them and what they get in return, so that it matches what they can/want to do and what they want to get out of it. Simultaneously, with so many choices of products and services, customers need to know what they are getting for the price they pay, so they can make a decision. Most organizations have defined customer promises, however the majority do not have clear employee promises and thus would not be well-positioned to have brandful employees. If the mindset is: “anyone can work here in exchange for a paycheck” (ie. There is no employee promise), then you are not fully participating in the matchmaking that needs to take place.
Third, all of the items above must be executed according to plan, aligned and integrated. Basically, your organization needs to walk the talk, be genuine and run a successful and inspirational operation. If there are flaws with your execution, it may be simple to assess, however you can always use data analysis to better pinpoint the hot spots. I’m a big fan of surveys, however they must ask the right questions and they need to be implemented with the assistance of an organizational psychologist who has serious expertise in surveys and human behavior.
It sounds so simple, yet most organizations do not pass these fundamentals. If you try to build a brandful workforce without these, you will build a workforce that bashes your brand, instead of promotes it. I met someone in the business of training employees on how to blog – to promote the company. My question is: “What if the employees hate the company’s product?” They will be trained in how to spread the word, but not in a good way.
Once you pass the fundamentals, then we can consider involving employees in the brand…because they now have something to get excited about. There are several areas in which they should be organically involved such as corporate citizenship, communications, celebrations, recruiting other brandful employees, and other employee programs. The idea here is that nothing is mandatory and there are no incentives (carrots). Employees, at this point, get involved because they are already genuinely passionate….for real.
What if my workforce really doesn’t care about the products or services? You have to start somewhere. Have a “brandful” recruiting platform so at least you can start brining in new folks who are a true match to your employee promise and really are passionate about your brand. Then, work to change or transition the current folks to better organizational matches – where they can be brandful. If done correctly, they will thank you for it.