Everyone naturally aspires to have a good reputation - it's something precious that we want to protect and manage. But, when it comes to a company brand, some employees may see it as a marketing initiative, a sort of slick promotion to generate more sales. So, if a company asks all of its employees to "live" the brand, those employees may think of it as management asking them to be inauthentic, or to act as clones. Employees who hold such views may resist a company's attempts to turn them into "brand ambassadors." Some may even deride the whole notion as just "rubbish." In short, they may feel that issues involving the company brand are not an internal concern; that the brand has nothing to do with them or their everyday jobs. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Employees are an integral part of a company brand, whether they're creating products, delivering services, or interacting with customers. A brand is essentially a promise, and all employees need to align with the company's promise. If there is a disconnect between what you promise to your customers, and what your customers experience at the hands of your employees, your reputation suffers. And, ultimately, you suffer financially, too. That means it's vital that all of your employees, not just the star performers, get on board and believe in and respect the brand. So, how can you, as an HR or organizational development professional, overcome the challenge of inspiring those who resist getting on board? These ideas might be helpful:
1. Be Crystal Clear About Your Company BrandThe company brand may be evident to the owners, senior executives, or managers who had a hand in crafting it. But it may not be apparent to frontline employees. How can those employees adjust their behaviors to mirror the company brand if they don't precisely know what the brand is, and what the company expects of them? Let's consider an example. I once consulted for a small company whose brand motto was "All support, no walls." This motto referred to one of the values that shaped the company brand when it first started. However, through interviews, it became clear that only those at the senior level, and those who had been employees of the company for many years, understood what the brand motto stood for: it promoted transparency and knowledge sharing, both externally with customers, and internally, with employees. Most of the other employees just saw it as a nice slogan, with only a vague idea of what it meant. So, of course, everyone made up their interpretation. You can avoid this by making sure that your brand characteristics are crystal clear for every person in the organization, from the boardroom to the boiler room. Make sure that you educate all new hires about the brand. For the company in our example, we organized meetings to explain what the brand truly meant, with tangible examples of behaviors that exemplified every aspect of it. "No walls" meant, among other things, that:
- Sales people were expected to share their prospects list.
- Technical people were encouraged to share shortcuts and other know-how.
- Hoarding of information was contrary to the company's ethos.
- No sacred cows were allowed - all topics should be discussed openly and honestly.
2. Reward People Who Live the BrandIt's safe to say that what gets rewarded generally gets done. The same applies to employees who live the brand. Look for opportunities to reward them. This reinforces the behavior that you want to promote, and acts as an inspiration to others. In our example, above, we held a brainstorming session asking employees to come up with ideas for steps that they could take to make the "All support, no walls" company motto actionable. One team suggested creating a knowledge bank. The bank included all sorts of practical information, such as step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish specific tasks. It also included lessons learned from the many projects that the team managed. Everything was posted on the company intranet, and it inspired staff in other departments to do the same. The team received a bonus to reward them for living the company brand.
3. Educate People on the Value of Corporate BrandingIt's easy to discount the notion of a brand if people see it only as a marketing ploy. So, help people to understand its importance. There is much research that attests to the fact that a consistently strong company brand can:
- Promote trust in the company's products or services.
- Build loyalty and help to retain existing customers.
- Attract new customers through referrals.
- Enable a company to stand out from the competition.
- Create financial value.