Recently, a leading retailer asked us, if we were the CEO where would we invest the marketing budget. Our unequivocal answer was, “into employee training.”
As the employment market changes from finding people that do things right, to people that do the right thing, companies must focus on employee satisfaction as a key component of competitive advantage. Fortunately, there is buzzword to describe this: employer branding. Over the past 5-10 years the demand for employee focused activities has skyrocketed, from simple communication that actually connects to on-boarding programs, satisfaction research all the way to career design.
So how does it all connect?
Quite obviously, the first and foremost fact is that profitability in a company is a result of how the company works, not the goal of it. If profitability is your company’s sole purpose, make sure it stays a one-man band.
Svante Randlert from Academic Work pointed out the value chain from leadership to profit. The relationship between engaged staff that cares about what they do and business performance is clear. Furthermore, people entering the workforce today, especially in the West, focus not on money as the main motivator but rather that their work has real meaning. Within this context, ensuring that they are happy is the only way to maintain customers and an effective business.
Secondly, making sure that companies have a real purpose, a deeply held, culturally ingrained “why” we are here, makes managing the company much easier. This has been illustrated extensively by Simon Sinek in his TED talk “start with why” and we won’t rehash here. However, the key extract is that an understanding of why the company does what it does, and that it is important to both staff and customers, creates loyalty on all sides.
On the topic of loyalty, it is important to realise, that there is no such thing as customer loyalty. It is the company that must be loyal to its customers, via its staff, products and services. It is about managing these different expectations in a consistent manner, while consistently improving, that builds brands, reputations and businesses.
As HBR put it, “For example, in retail, food service, health care, and other industries where the two groups routinely interact, each one-star improvement in Glassdoor company rating predicted a 3.2-point increase in customer satisfaction. Sales associates, cashiers, baristas, and bank tellers are prime examples in our data of service workers that make up a significant portion of these employers’ labor pools and whose personal experience with company culture (either good or bad) is transmitted daily to customers. By contrast, our data show software engineers and warehouse staffers, who rarely work directly with customers, have little impact on their satisfaction.”
First and foremost, let’s forget the idea that there is an employer brand, that somehow magically is separate from the company brand. Employer branding = brand building, which is done through hard work focusing on staff satisfaction, customer service and delivery quality. Can’t have one without the other and simply put, happy staff will put more effort into delivering quality, which, by definition, makes customers happy. There are no shortcuts and separating the employer brand from the brand that everyone knows, and focusing on just staff perks, will alienate customers and create dissonance within the organisation. After all, what are they working for? Perks or the customer?
Developing a comprehensive employer brand strategy actually means that you develop a comprehensive brand strategy that includes not only outward facing aspects. But equally balances inward communication, on-boarding processes, internal bureaucracy with customer promises, loyalty programs and advertising. Internal and external have to support each other. When that truly works, all your staff ends up working in the marketing department talking about the same values and messages as your brand communication. And since everyone is on social media today, imagine the impact of all your staff talking about your brand for you?