BRAND – IT’S NOT JUST YOUR LOGO.
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Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast? PART 3 of 4
A four part series on some of the major factors that can either feed or starve your strategic direction.
At its very core, your brand is the emotional, instinctive, and/or intellectual response people have about your organization and the products, services and/or experiences you bring to the world. There are many aspects to a brand - the visual identifier or logo is best known and most generally understood. Up until recently, the consumer or client experience was the most studied and discussed aspect of branding. More recently, the hot topic among leadership experts is the part of your brand known as the “internal” or “employer brand”. Your employer brand is the way your employees - former, current, and future – experience working for your organization.
But take note: Your internal brand is way more than offering summer days off or keeping beer in the employee fridge.
Google this particular topic and you will be flooded with a wave of recent articles and reports. Many articles are written from the perspective of HR, as professionals in this sector argue your employer brand is foundational to recruitment, engagement and retention. More recently, you’ll see the Marketing folks jumping on board, as the talent you hire and what they do is a big part of a company or organization’s external reputation. “In this age of mega-transparency and instantaneous online reviews, employers are now accountable to who they say they are, how they treat people and live their values, and how they make a difference. Employees are more than reputation spectators, they are shaping employer brands for better or for worse every day.”
Organizational leaders are now finding themselves mediating disputes as to whose job function this essential aspect of branding belongs – HR or Marketing?
The truth is, effective branding is not only a marketing effort or an employee engagement initiative. The brand is both a part of and a reflection of your organization’s culture. As an organizational leader, your strategic objectives are intimately tied to the internal brand. There are consequences when that culture is working at cross-purposes to your Mission. Sometimes the misalignment is glaringly obvious with big, public reactions. More often, the misalignment is subtle, slowly bleeding your organization of its energy and focus. Conversely, “Look at organizations like Salesforce or Starbucks,” says brand expert Denise Lee Yohn, “They have hundreds of thousands of employees and yet they’ve achieved this integration of brand and culture because their leaders have driven it as a priority.” If you find yourself regularly struggling to achieve your strategic goals, it may be a signal to look closely at how much space exists between your internal and external brand.
What’s your internal brand credibility gap?
In 2017, Weber Shandwick, a leading global public relations firm produced a report entitled The Employer Brand Credibility Gap: Bridging the Divide. They found that the global average of those employees perceiving a strong alignment between what their employer says about itself and their experience working there was just 19%. The findings for Canada are better: nearly a quarter of those surveyed found strong alignment between what organizations said about themselves and their experiences as employees. The most optimistic news is that a full 74% believed their employer’s brand “marginally aligned” to their work-life experience. This suggests that closing the gap between strong and marginal internal brand alignment is possible, with dedicated attention.
The Weber Shandwick study concluded that those organizations found to be most successful in terms of internal and external alignment were intentional about developing an authentic employer brand.
“It is fostered deliberately through values, leadership and good employee communications and is externalized authentically through a conscious effort to align words with actions and allow employees to share their experiences”. Others have noted that processes, structures and tools employees are required to use can also impact employee experiences, either enforcing or distracting from brand alignment as well. But for those who worked to align the inward and external experiences of their brand, the payoff was clear: an ability to attract better talent, stronger brand champions or ambassadors, greater retention rates and higher levels of productivity. An entire organization working toward common goals builds its own kind of momentum.
The sum total of the organization’s brand comes down to what you stand for – what you value and prioritize. Understanding those things, and building them into every facet of your strategy is the very essence of strategic planning.
For a few tips on tuning up your internal alignment, check out this blog by brand strategists Franke+Fiorella.
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