An organization is a non-physical entity that is brought to life through its people.
Establishing a culture occurs through people understanding, accepting and developing ownership of the values in order to project a behaviour that reflects the culture of the organisation. This creates brand experience and leads to the brand identity for the organization.
When we speak of people, among stakeholders of a brand, employees are the single most important stakeholders. Yet strangely enough organizations fail to acknowledge this in the brand experience and identity development process.
An organisation having strong ethics & empowerment, with goals that clearly link to developing individuals and where the employee feels empowered to contribute ideas inspires employees to strive for delivering to the best of his/her abilities. This comes about because the employee likes going to work every day, learns and is appreciated.
It creates engagement.
This engagement leads to specific behaviour that is aligned with the organisational values and manifests as the work culture. Strong teamwork is visible. Positivity is visibly felt and success of individual activities occurs.
Activating a culture creation plan is not easy. It takes time, persistence, consistency and most importantly clarity. Clarity between business goals, functional roles and individual development.
Culture Impacts Business
As individuals we have our names which give us part of our identity. So also with brands who have their names and logos. But that’s half the job done. As with individuals, our personality and behaviour provide an experience. Together this gives a complete identity, of us, to the other person. Similarly with brands, through employees and their behaviour coupled with organisational processes, a brand stakeholder has specific experiences that lead to having a complete identity of a brand.
The specific experience a stakeholder goes through is purely dependent on two factors:
- Employee behaviour
- Organisational processes
The impact of behaviour and service quality, in terms of process, creates either a positive or negative perception of the brand in the stakeholders’ mind and affects the buying decision and ultimately on the bottom-line of a business.
Where do we start?
Developing an effective corporate culture is not an external effort. It is purely an internal exercise that needs as much attention and planning for effective implementation, as the regular functions of an organisation.
The leadership of an organisation needs to provide clarity of its business and the brand experience it wants stakeholders to have. This then needs alignment between organisational and departmental goals and desired behaviour of employees.
Changing behaviour is very difficult.
Work habits are part of our individual cultural make-up that we carry with us when we walk into a job. Affecting change requires having a consistent engagement program through which employees clearly feel and get a feeling of pride and value.
Four steps to developing an employee engagement program:
- Identify the platform on which the culture would be based. The ethics and social norms it would want to promote and foster among all its stakeholders. Based on this ethical platform determine the values that the brand should stand for.
- Inform and internalize these values to the employees by clearly linking them to their work functions and relating back as to how not projecting the same affects the brand and in turn affects the bottom-line. Provide as much clarity to employees here to show the impact on revenue.
- Get the employees involved. Get employees to write down, in their own words, how they would project the values in terms of their behaviour.
- Ensure measurement. A measurable, performance indicator has to be in place which should be clearly explained to the employee and ensured that comprehension is there.
Keeping the Momentum
Having initiated the program, keeping momentum is extremely important. A structured internal communications program, aimed at regularly highlighting the employee achievements, undertakings and organisational news are communicated, aids the program a lot.
What this does is:
- It informs the organisation as to who’s championing the specific activities
- It motivates the competitive spirit within divisions and dept.’s to do their bit and get their names on the “communication roster”.
As a team, employees move in one, planned direction, in delivering the desired brand experience. This benefits the brand as all stakeholders receive a positive face of the brand. This, in turn, strengthens their relationship with the brand and leads to increasing revenue.
Why we do not do this?
Current corporate cultures, across Asia, are still largely governed by the old ‘command-and-control’ leadership practices that alienate many of today’s employees. Instead of people, starting with employees, being the key focal point for a brand in developing its relationships, the focus is on profits through higher sales & lower costs.
Gunning for increasing profits, year on year, is not wrong. Any business needs to be profitable. That’s why it’s in business. But there is a way to be profitable and yet benefiting the community and society it operates in.
We veer away from undertaking a new approach because we are conditioned risk-minimisers & profit-maximisers , through years of learning from the past.
Here’s the catch—as a business leader if you do not put your people first and focus on what benefits them, how can you get them to give a positive brand experience to the stakeholders who matter to you and who pay the revenue the business generates?
What’s the solution?
Involvement is the critical element. Intuitively we all understand what involvement is and how powerful a force it can be. When we are told to do something, we do it and then tend to forget about it. But when we are involved in something, we tend to be possessive and own it on an emotive level. When emotions come into play, passion is there, thereby enabling a strong, positive experience to take place, leading to forming trust. When trust grows, relationships are strengthened leading to repeat usage and referrals.
The question to ask—is there involvement?
Involvement requires that a strong group process is in place. A process where the meetings and interactions take on a deeper meaning than just to meet in order to agree to the content of the meeting. A deeper meaning where one focuses more on honest conversation, high involvement and participation leading to strong, high trust relationships.
Once a strong group process is in place leading to strong relationships based on individual involvement, implementing the rest of the plan in terms of content and communication channels and programs, is not hard, as each independent employee, driving those functions, believe and own it. As a result of which, each interaction is on a more personal, emotive and honest platform. All of which lead to having a positive brand experience output.
What’s the benefit?
By taking the pains of involving & engaging employees and defining the culture, organisations can build up a very strong competitive advantage that results on both a strong brand identity as well as a healthy bottom line.
A positive and enriching brand experience is the output of having involved and engaged employees. Such experiences become the differentiator for a business vis-à-vis its competitor and leads to increased business through referrals and re-purchase thus impacting positively on the bottom line.