Employers and employees share one challenge in common – the ability to stay ‘on-brand’. But what does that mean, exactly, and why is it that employees are often significantly disadvantaged compared to those above them?
If truth be told, ‘on-brand’ sits among the many business terms that have risen to prominence in the modern age. All it means is the ability to align oneself with the values and purpose of the business for which you work.
Simple? Not always. Even those who have worked for the same operation for a considerable period of time can have trouble establishing a connection with the brand. The same to-do list day-in, day-out doesn’t help, nor does the inevitable weariness that comes from travelling to the same building for most of your working life.
Those who reside closer to the top of the company tree are generally better placed to ingratiate themselves with the brand, as they tend to be party to the meetings that discuss it’s place within the market. Board team members in particular should absolutely be on-brand (although even that group suffer from the inability to be so).
But what about those on the shop floor or the staff who rarely if ever take part in meetings that discuss the positioning of the company and its products? How do they stay in the know?
Why should employees be on-brand?
It’s a fair assumption to make that, if a particular employee is doing a fantastic job, beating all targets and displaying a healthy attitude towards their role within the company, they’re already on-brand.
This isn’t always the case, because even the most exemplary performance could be hiding a complete lack of understanding of what the company is all about. Pulling in impressive sales figures or gaining excellent customer feedback doesn’t necessarily highlight a brand advocate among the team.
It simply pinpoints someone who is doing a good job.
That good job can quickly erode and suffer if something changes within the marketplace to which the business has to react. Such an occurrence could result in the brand values becoming more important than ever, or being modified entirely, and if the employee isn’t in tune with them one-hundred percent, their performance will take a hit.
By remaining on-brand and ensuring that they are aware of even the tiniest of fluctuations within the market or company culture, employees will offer the best public face for the company. Spread that across the entire organisation, and you’ll have a business that is coherent within its sector.
Coherent businesses with a clear, consistent message will be successful and have far more longevity – it really is that simple.
5 tips for keeping employees on-brand
So, it’s clear that for a business to be sustainable in the modern age, it needs to build a staff base that speaks the same language and intrinsically understands what the company is all about.
This isn’t a mountain you’ll have to climb, either – the methods for engendering brand advocacy among the ranks are actually rather straightforward and rely on nothing more than a bit of effort on behalf of the management team.
Without further ado, here are our five best tips for keeping employees on-brand:
1. Tell them the story
Every business should tell a story. What’s yours? What makes it stand out within the marketplace?
These aren’t whimsical questions borrowed from business textbooks, either – they’re realities of business that are keys to success, and if the story your business tells is either incoherent or non-existent, you stand zero chance of creating in-house advocates.
Once you’ve got the story nailed down, tell it at every opportunity; weave it into every in-house communication, strapline and line of copy on the website. Employees will read it.
2. Give them a central role in the story
A story is far more interesting if you’re a part of it, and if the story your business tells is too inward-looking or geared towards the upper echelons of the organisation, the employees on the ground are unlikely to take much of a liking to it.
Stroke their ego and make sure every department plays a central role within the story. The sales team does more than shovel products out of the door; the marketing department aren’t solely tasked with keeping the twitter feed up-to-date; the team that works hard to keep the building operating smoothly aren’t just a collection of office juniors and administrators.
Everyone in the story of your business is vital to the narrative, so make sure every communication with customers – be it via the web, on the phone or at trade shows – shines the spotlight equally on everyone within the organisation.
3. Allow them to write their own chapter
Now, imagine a story to which you get chance to contribute. The ability to write your own chapter of a business story, no matter where you reside within the team is a liberating thing and will instantly provide that all-important emotional connection with the company.
Departmental meetings should be themed around the values of the brand, but it shouldn’t be a one-way feed of information. A dictatorial brand isn’t particular appealing, which is why every team member should be given the chance – regularly – to contribute to the story of the business.
What needs improving? Are mixed messages being sent out to customers? Does the brand project itself above and beyond the competition in a positive way? Ask these questions regularly, because if you give staff the opportunity to write the story themselves, they’re far more likely to have it in mind at all times.
4. Use modern communication methods judiciously
In the past, the staff noticeboard few people bothered to look at during their lunch breaks was one of the only ways to communicate the values of the brand. That, and the business plan or mission statement which, again, few people ever read.
Scoot forward a few years, and the birth of intranets and in-house instant messaging bread nothing more than procrastination and dips in productivity as staff used such channels to spread rumour, send jokes and avoid doing any real work.
We now live in a world that has completely accepted digital communication as a primary way to spread messages and share information. It’s now as intrinsic as picking up the telephone or meeting in person. Because of this, people tend to use modern communication methods in the correct manner – even at work.
Use instant messaging, social media and in-app discussion platforms to further the brand message in-house. Remember that business story we’ve talked about in this article? These modern communication methods are the best way to ensure it spreads throughout the organisation.
5. Streamline training
There’s an awful lot of data, information and content to digest in the workplace these days, which is why the brand message can so easily get lost among the noise. This makes in-house training more important than ever.
We’re not referring to run-of-the-mill training either – this is training geared towards the business itself; training in the brand.
Again, this might sound whimsical, but if you treat the story of the business as a learning experience itself, sessions can be built around its value and how it should be applied to everyday work.
Deliver such training in bite-sized chunks, mix up departments and you’ll find that everyone within the company will gradually start to realise exactly why they come to work every morning.
We’ve talked a lot about storytelling in this post, and that’s because it’s by far the best way to create in-house brand advocates. Use the tips above, and you’ll never again worry about how many employees really ‘get it’.