It’s an ideal, but one worth striving for: to create a stronger brand, you must brand your employees.
In other words, unless your employees embody the values of the brand, unless they feel pride for the brand and do everything to push it forward, you will never achieve an inner unity. Your brand will, in consequence, feel incomplete, feel weak.
But when they do embody the brand’s values, they become not merely someone who works for the brand, but someone who is the brand. Your brand’s story, and the stories of your employees, intertwine: E Pluribus Unum, of the many, you are one.
Plus, most of the time, the closest a customer gets to your brand is through that brand’s employees. So if you want employees to represent your brand best, if you want employees to build your brand, implement these five tips:
1. Treat Employees with Respect.
This may seem unnecessary to say – treat employees respectfully – but the converse happens too often: brands treat customers like kings and queens, but treat employees like peasants.
They’re not peasants. They are a piece of the brand, a part of the vision.
According to a report by TINYpulse, 49% of all employees are not satisfied with their direct supervisors. According to the same report, peers and camaraderie are the #1 reason employees go the extra mile, not money.
So, before all else, treat your employees with respect. Strive for a more democratic perspective on your brand, one that respects, acknowledges, and includes all people in all positions. Do not condescend or patronize. Create within your work environment a sense of camaraderie.
2. Make Employees Feel Valuable: Listen.
According to the same report by TINYpulse, only 21% of employees feel strongly valued at work. Only 21%. Likewise, a poll by Gallup found that 87% of the global workforce feels disengaged.
In other words, most employees don’t feel included in their brand’s story.
Employees shouldn’t feel like this. They shouldn’t feel like a cog-in-a-machine. In fact, they shouldn’t feel they’re in any machine. If your brand feels like a machine, you’ve done something wrong.
Instead, your employees should feel as the musicians in an orchestra, as the players of a football team, as the masons and designers and builders of cathedrals, in short, as meaningful parts that make the whole work.
How can they feel a part of the larger vision?
Easy. Keep an open mind and listen to them. If 79% of employees do not feel strongly valued at work, then they probably don’t feel like they’re making a lasting change on the brand. But when you listen to employees, understand what they’re saying, and even change because of them, you instill in them an immense sense of purpose, of belonging, of importance.
Thus, find a platform from which employees can speak and you can listen. This could be as simple as a suggestion box, or something more advanced, like an online suggestion form.
But no matter what platform you use, always respond. Keep an open mind. Employees usually have something useful to say. At the very least, send a personal message (NOT an automated one), and at the most, use their suggestion to make changes. Nothing makes an employee feel more special than implementing their ideas.
3. Create a Community.
Brands that make employees feel most involved are those that invite them into a community. Nicknames, inside jokes, shared lunches: employees don’t see each other as coworkers, but as friends, members of a tight-knit group within the brand.
Anyone, not just management, can make this happen. Cookouts, BBQs, bowling nights, holiday parties, “First Friday” nights out. Those who really care for their employees will take extra steps to create lasting impressions, memorable moments.
In addition, introduce friendly competitions with rewards. Community events create solidarity, but so do competitions, though in a different way. This could be as simple as an employee-of-the-month competition, or something more, such as extra days off, or monetary rewards for making sales.
4. Offer More Advanced Training
Most people want to learn. Support that desire by offering free education. This could be programs, professional development, or even tuition assistance for work related courses.
5. Be Consistent.
Lastly, but perhaps most important, be consistent with your brand. Make sure you understand your brand’s core values. You can’t expect your employees to embody your brand’s vision and values if you yourself don’t. Don’t set standards; be the standard, be the brand you want them to be.
If you have a brick and mortar store, how many days do your customers interact with your employees?
Every day you’re open.
And if you have a service, such as lawn care or professional woodworking, how many times do your customers talk with your professionals?
Every time a service is provided.
You don’t need to be a statistician to figure these out. Every service, every product, implies human contact: your employees will interact with your customers. Your employees not only work for your brand, but also make your brand work.