President of Livewire, a strategic employee communications agency with offices in Toronto and Chicago. 2020 IABC Global Agency of the Year.
In this article, we’ll explore the connection between brand, employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX).
Brands are perceptions of experiences that motivate specific behaviors in the target audience, forging bonds of identification and loyalty through shared values. They attract a certain audience by strengthening associations, creating distance with others as a byproduct. Brand strategies, frameworks and standards are how we define and coordinate deliberate and consistent experiences to shape brand perceptions.
Employees deliver these experiences to customers, but employee experience itself has emerged as a priority for organizations looking to attract, retain and grow the highest caliber of talented workers.
Brand operates in the same manner with employees as it does for customers, but with a different value proposition: that of a good job, a growing career, work with a purpose, contributing to something you believe in, the experience of accomplishment and exercising of skill, and of the community and camaraderie of the workplace. This has the potential to be a far richer, more meaningful engagement than almost any possible customer experience.
And the touchpoints are every moment in the employee lifecycle and each moment in their workday and into the time beyond that — reflecting on their work, their career and their opportunities, a timeline measured both in hours and years.
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Frequently called the “employer brand” in contrast with the “external” or “customer brand” discussed above, it is really just the perceptions of the brand by employees emphasizing the value proposition for working at that organization. Ultimately there is one brand and, in strong brands, all the perceptions by different stakeholder groups align and reinforce each other.
For years, organizations have been focusing on creating engaged employees, but there are levels beyond that. Leading organizations today seek to inspire their best talent and are doing so with a focus on what employees experience at every major touchpoint.
As with customers, these should be differentiating, compelling and uniquely meaningful for employees. The touchpoints are moments that make them feel, not like they are part of a great company, but like they are part of something that is unlike any other and which connects with them in a distinct, emotional and personal way. They should be your moments of truth with your people, and they should be informed and directed by your brand.
Brand Connects EX and CX
Brand experiences are the output of the culture that produces them. That culture is an aggregate of the behaviors of those who work there, and those behaviors are the result of decisions based on values.
The employer facets of your brand need to be as strong, clear and compelling to employees as your customer brand is to customers. You may need to dig into it, explore the purpose and meaning of the work with employees.
Shaping employee experiences through the framework of your brand helps find and retain the best and most committed talent for your organization. It attracts those whose values align, who possess an intuitive understanding of the brand, and who have an ability to interpret it at every customer touchpoint. This creates an improved customer experience.
It helps filter for the individuals who fit, who will reinforce the aspirational ways of working, participating in the culture and living the values in their behaviors.
Research demonstrates that brand perceptions are a co-creation between the firm and the customer, with interplay between. By that logic, it is essential to ensure that the people you onboard identify with the brand so their work aligns to create the brand experience.
Using your brand to design employee experiences helps attract and retain those individuals, to signal the underlying values of the brand and reinforce and celebrate what is most important in your culture. It can help workers see and feel like part of a distinctly greater whole and as part of the team that delivers on your purpose for customers.
It helps find the people who believe in that purpose and who are moved to fulfill it, who share the values from which it derives and can collaborate in the culture. Just as importantly, it communicates what you stand for and what you value to those who aren’t aligned so they can choose not to waste their time and yours, protecting your culture, your clients and your bottom line from the costs of miss-hires and turnover.
Here are some practical first steps to apply this thinking in your organization:
• Think of EX and CX as one continuous brand value chain.
• As marketing owns the brand in most organizations, they need to work with employee communicators to extend it in ways that are meaningful for internal audiences. The marketing team is the brand experts, but employee communicators and their third-party partners (similar to the marketing agency) are experts regarding internal audiences, communication needs and channels, and are needed to getting this right.
• HR, employee communicators and the brand owners should partner to define EX.
• Create an employer brand strategy and employer brand guidelines. Consider how the brand needs to live and be used inside. Extend it, open it, share it.
• Assess the employee lifecycle for key moments and prioritize these for a redesign from a brand and EX.
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Author: Mark Attard, Forbes Councils Member