This was originally published on Business2Community.com on August 18, 2016.
Can Brand Culture Engage Employees?
The employee landscape is changing rapidly. Baby boomers are retiring, and in their place come millennials, wanting to make the most out of their careers and leave a lasting impression on the world. They want a sociable work environment with purpose and meaning to their day-to-day work. With this shift in employee makeup, one of the greatest challenges facing companies today is how to get these new employees to buy in and deliver outstanding results—after all, if you can’t motivate your workforce to believe that what they want is the same as what the company wants, you might as well shut your doors and call it quits.
So how do companies keep their employees engaged? How do they align their values with those of their employees? The solution is having a strong brand culture.
What sets apart companies like Google and Apple from other companies is that they have a very strong brand culture. Chances are, you know someone in your life that swears by Apple products, someone who wouldn’t dream of swapping their iPhone for an Android. That’s what the power of brand culture can do for customers; it becomes part of their identity, who they are, and what they value.
That same power is what makes Apple employees so engaged in the company. A company brand should embody the culture, worldview, and values of the company in a way that is attractive to consumers and employees alike. It should give employee a tangible, focused, and purposeful direction as employees of the company. When employees want to be part of that brand ethos, they will be more engaged in their work, and want to deliver top-notch results rather than begrudgingly do what’s asked of them.
How to Use Brand Culture to Engage Employees
So, what are some ways that brand culture can be utilized to improve engagement? Several opportunities for creating a brand-focused culture exist, many of which easily translate to an increase in employee engagement.
When a new staff member begins employee onboarding, this presents an opportunity for the company to “sell” its brand and what it can do for the employee. Let the employee see what they do (and what the company at large does) to create that brand experience, both for themselves and the customer. Allow the employee to see the brand “in action” by showing how the values the brand represents are exemplified by everything that the company does.
With an increase in millennials in the workforce, whether companies use digital-age social strategies can mean the difference between success and failure. Many successful companies today use some sort of social strategy for both internal and external use. Social tools such as Slack and Yammer can increase employee engagement when the brand culture encourages collaboration and creativity through these tools. Additionally, having a brand-focused strategy for customer outreach through social media allows employees to live the brand while interacting with customers.
If there’s one thing that disengages millennials, it’s the feeling of not having purpose or direction in the world. Brand culture should not just be a quaint aspect of one’s identity; it should be a reason for getting out of bed in the morning. Take Toms Shoes for example. Their brand has a straightforward message: for each pair of shoes bought, the company pledges to donate a pair to a child in need. Already, this is a powerful motivator for employees to sell that brand to the customer, but what the company also does is have employees participate in the actual delivery of the shoes to the communities the company serves. When employees can actually experience the brand making a difference in the world, there is little doubt they will be engaged in their work.
Looking to the Future
An important question that all company leaders (and not just those primarily employing millennials) should ask themselves is, “What is our company promising our employees in the years to come?” If there is no answer, or a very unsubstantial answer, that may be an indication of how long your employees wish to work for you. If employees aren’t sure about their future in the company, there is little chance they’ll be motivated to give it their all, and will be less likely to care about where the company will be in the future, let alone their role in it. The obvious solution is to be transparent about company goals and future opportunities for development, but utilizing brand can help take these solutions further. Showing employees potential new brand assets can inspire employees to work alongside with the company’s vision for the future, and gives employees something tangible to look forward to.
Ultimately, having a brand-focused organizational culture provides an opportunity for company leaders to motivate their employees to align what they value with what the company values. When the brand gives employees a buy-in, they’ll make it part of who they are and what they want to achieve. They will want to make that brand succeed, and in turn, make themselves and the company succeed.