Developing a brand strategy for organizations is often a process that is carefully crafted by organizational leaders and aligned with a well-thought-out strategy. Businesses have great intentions about how their brand represents and accordingly shapes the culture of their employees. Similarly, there is an assumption about how everyone should conduct business and their respective roles. The reality is that the culture of an organization is largely shaped by the Employee Relations Strategy (“ERS”) and not the external Brand Strategy. The organic growth of a healthy employee/employer relationship does not happen overnight; nor does it happen by default because the leaders of an organization have defined and declared their brand.
So why is this important to consider? In many organizations, employees interact with individuals who are external, whether it be client-facing employees or telephone support. In this case, it’s easy to imagine that they may allude to or directly share a view; either a positive or less than favorable view of their employer. Happy and engaged employees always have something good to say about their employer. Unhappy employees can cost a company a great deal in lost productivity from disengagement and errors from negligence and employment claims by reinforcing a negative image or “brand”. Increasing awareness of employee engagement as an extension of your brand is worth considering.
Trends in the Business Environment that Impact Employee Relations and Your Brand:
- Employees are being asked to do more with less. Goodwill is diminishing as what was anticipated to be a short-term, “do more with less” operational environment, is now the new normal. Fewer resources may result in an increase in errors as the limited resources attempt to resolve issues and become more reactive. Frustration builds as employees experience burn out, feel under-appreciated and develop stronger levels of disengagement.
- The recruitment process is becoming more disjointed and impersonal due to reduced resource levels and less forward planning. The risk is that the candidate experience for applicants in many instances has become less connected. Candidate applications are reviewed and within seconds a decision is made to shortlist or regret. Industry data confirms that cover letters are often not even read!
- Social media is a more common platform for anonymous venting (or not-so-anonymous venting) when an employee expresses frustration about someone or something in the workplace on their personal social media platforms. This kind of venting erodes the investment of both time and money in an organization’s brand strategy.
- Mergers and acquisitions increase the likelihood of a culture of anxiety and competition rather than camaraderie. Colleagues may begin to see their peers as an obstacle or threat to their employment status which ultimately impacts internal relationships and consequently engagement levels.
- Decreased focus by employers on their employment brand relative to other business indicators such as profit and bottom line results. We often observe that there is a negative impact on business results for employers who are known for placing little value on employees and ill-treatment of staff. Can you think of any examples?
Improve employee relations and your reputation as an employer by following these important practical tips:
- Develop an Employee Relations Strategy that is proactive rather than reactive. Remember that the best strategies have a shared vision, a two-way communication channel, joint responsibility and mutual recognition and benefit. Managers may need assistance developing key competencies in this area.
- Don’t underestimate the power of holding a meaningful conversation. Frame your words carefully but be sure to connect the logical thoughts with emotional intelligence. When in doubt work with a trusted professional. Even you’re confident, remember that seeking another opinion can help you increase your effectiveness.
- Turn your candidates into raving fans! If you treat your applicants poorly and with a slow response time or lack of an explanation regarding the hiring decision, why would anyone feel interested in joining your team? On the flip side, if you are keen and connect; whether you make an offer or not, you have left a lasting positive impression on the candidate that will be beneficial in the future as a client or otherwise.
- Seek clarification as to why employees are leaving. More often than not, when people leave the organization they may not be leaving the company; they may be leaving as a result of their relationship with their manager. Keep a pulse on manager effectiveness by seeking both ad hoc and formal feedback on managers. In addition, support employees who have expressed difficulty (even if that feedback was informal) with a manager and quickly get to the root of the issue with a focus on resolution rather than blame. The parting perception, if they leave, will become a part of how former employees discuss the Company and consequently, this shapes the Company’s brand.
- Remember that employees come first. Yes, the customers are a priority but without your employees, it’s tough to be of service to your customers. Employees are the frontline for keeping your customers happy.
One of our favorite quotes from leading entrepreneur and business owner, Richard Branson is:
“Put your staff first, your customers second and your shareholders third.”
We advise to remember this – there is always a balancing act for the investment across all three, but answering two key questions can make all the difference:
Do you know your employment brand internally and externally?
How effective are the professional relationships within your organization?
The bottom line is that employees are becoming increasingly aware of what they are seeking from employers and making deliberate choices about the organization they contribute to. At a minimum, they are demanding fair treatment. As we look at the values of employees entering the workplace, there is less emphasis on loyalty and more value on what the company represents. Congruence between what is said and what is practiced is essential in order to attract the right talent.
What is your brand?