Ask Lindsay

Positioning

How can I engage my employees through brand?

Lindsay Says

Brand gives your business clarity of purpose – for leadership and customers of course – but also, critically, for employees. 

Work without clear purpose numbs employees, while work with purpose enlivens them. A team that cares about the purpose of your business is more motivated to help you win. A clear purpose, as expressed through your brand promise, invites them to care.

Rich Barton has founded some of the most disruptive and successful consumer businesses of the last two decades, including Expedia, Glassdoor, and Zillow. His counsel on building effective teams is to cultivate purpose. “People want to work on something big and important, something that’s meaningful,” he shared on stage at the Zillow Premier Agent Forum 2017. “When you work on meaningful stuff and you can communicate to other people why that is, you can get them excited about working with you.”  

Where's the Heart? 

Brand strategy establishes a purpose that galvanizes employees. It gives heart to your employees’ jobs. With brand, employees go from working for a business that makes crayons to one that helps parents and teachers raise inspired, creative children. From a business that sells wireless phone plans to one that enriches interpersonal relationships. From a business that sells coffee to a business that nurtures the human spirit through daily connection. From a business that sells outdoor gear to one that champions the planet. 

And then those employees go from just clocking in and out to looking forward to going to work, innovating, being ambassadors for the brand. When employees feel connected to the purpose, they build the customer experience to be that much more valuable to the customer. Brand helps employees tap into what inherently inspires them, which they can then direct back into the business.

The inverse is also true: employees who feel purposeless do not perform as well as those who feel purpose. Absence of purpose leads to disengagement. And disengagement among U.S. workers is appallingly high. A 2015 Gallup poll found that a staggering 51 percent of U.S. workers describe themselves as “not engaged” at work, and another 17.5 percent report that they are “actively disengaged.” What a waste – for employees, who could be finding more meaning in their lives – and for the business, which would benefit from engaged employees creating meaning for customers, and therefore value for the company.

Your Brand = Your Purpose, Codified

Brand is the pinpointing of what your company stands for. The more that that underlying meaning or purpose excites both customers and employees, the more value your business will create. When the connection between brand and purpose increases, the positive results build exponentially.

Woven carefully into your culture, brand even becomes a filter for recruiting and an asset for retaining employees.  An explicit purpose creates meaning for today’s employees and customers; it also attracts future employees and customers who resonate with it. 

Real World Employee Engagement at Volvo

At Volvo, the leadership views brand as a way not only to create business value through delivering a huge benefit to customers, but also as an employee engagement tool. Head of Brand Sven Desmet shared with me that brand helps him message to customers why they should choose Volvo, and also why employees would want to work for Volvo. Brand answers the question, “Why would people want to work for you and not for somebody else?” 

Desmet’s philosophy is clearly integrated into the culture: the company’s website is full of discussion about “employee engagement,” “code of conduct,” and “company values” as components of its brand. Individual employees “are empowered and have the courage to act.” Team members’ diversity is a strength to “bring out the best in everyone.” As a collective, Volvo explains, “we trust other teams to do their best and we respect the decisions made” and “we collaborate easily and create excellent results through teamwork and open dialogue.” 

That Volvo dedicates so much space to brand as a tool for employee engagement is a testament to the company’s commitment.

Here’s how this plays out: people who feel stirred by Volvo’s purpose to improve road safety wish to work there. And once they do, because of their ideal alignment of purpose, they create more of the safety that makes Volvo a high-value brand. That means the business increases in value, increases its ability to extend safety, and benefits from a virtuous cycle of goodness. All from defining Volvo’s brand purpose and allowing it to shine both inwardly and outwardly.

Live Out Your Purpose and Your Team Will Follow

When your employees grasp and internalize your purpose, they find more meaning in their work and give more to your business and to your customers. Your team is made up of the individuals who ultimately create your value. Don’t you owe it to them, as a human? Don’t you owe it to your business, as a leader?

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