We all too often hear senior executives of organisations say that their biggest asset is their people and yet when one gets to talk to employees they really don’t have the same level of importance to the business.
Here lies potentially one of the biggest issues for brands trying to deliver a customer experience across both the physical and digital worlds. Getting colleagues across the business to engage with and present cohesive behaviour that represents the brand’s values has become more difficult as time goes on.
Why is this? This is a question we have been asking ourselves for some time and following a number of internal insight programmes, I think we have come up with a few clues that might help us.
Clue 1. Evidence suggests that colleagues are now acting like consumers more than ever before. They have been presented at, had internal communications that represent some fantasy world written by someone who clearly doesn’t understand their world and have been engaged in projects that fizzle out and deliver no material added value to their working day or ability to do a good job.
Clue 2. Often the process of engagement looks and feels like a marketing only effort rather than a genuine cross organisational project that has the leadership and buy in from all the senior management team. Colleagues tend to spot this one very quickly as the insides of the senior management teams leak out through comments and their actions. Getting the leaders and sponsors using the brand values to drive their behaviours up front is critical to success and credibility of any project.
Clue 3. It is evident from our work that too many colleagues are recruited without any reference to the brand values They don’t have an induction that has them at their core and are not appraised against them, so surprise, surprise they have no idea what to do about them.
Clue 4. The brand and its values are rarely seen as a vital guide to how colleagues across the business should behave towards customers but there again they aren’t given much encouragement to do so either. People need help and constant reminders about what is expected of them and how vitally important the customer is to the business.
Clue 5. No matter how powerful the brand values may be or how vibrantly they may be expressed if the whole organisation doesn’t embrace them then the old entrenched silos will win again, removing the advantage of differentiation the business seeks to deliver through its people.
Clue 6. In our experience too few people inside a business really understand their customers’ needs and unmet needs, all too often the processes they use are designed to maximise everything for the smooth running of the business not to meet customer demands.
So what can be done about this?
Working across a highly diversified number of sectors over the past 16 years we have observed a few highly potent approaches that have helped the people of any organisation deliver great brands, driven by a vision and values that engage and excite and ultimately have helped deliver their business ambition.
The first thing I would say is that it is not for the faint hearted, as with any movement away from the norms it comes with challenges and opportunities. However, if done with a real sense of purpose supported by a rigorous process and a focus on delivery then it can help the business and its people get the most out of the asset that we call a brand. Doing nothing on the other hand will not advance your capabilities to deliver irresistible customer experiences in a world that has come to expect them, day in and day out.
Bringing the customer to life inside the business, so that everyone can understand what they need to do and how the brand values can be used to drive appropriate behaviour and solutions can be a real force to excite and inspire colleagues. It doesn’t matter if they are working in the digital area, operations, logistics, marketing even finance they are all employed to satisfy customers and given them a customer experience better than anyone else in the market. How this is delivered should be guided by the brand values and vision.
Where we see organisations treating brand values as a vital part of the HR strategy there are a few really interesting outcomes that appear to provide answers for many of the clues I discussed earlier.
- The leadership team live the brand and set an example to the rest of the business, which after all is a part of their job.
- Teams are developed which include people from across the business, mixing skills and capabilities to allow planning to be done in an environment where 360 degree insights into how everyone contributes to the customer experience.
- In the early planning stages where customer personas are developed and journeys mapped the realisation about the true interconnectivity of the business by all cross functional participation can be a real lightbulb moment.
- Using the brand values to guide parts of the recruitment and appraisal design and process will get you off on the right foot, rather than trying to retro fit them after a few years.
- Treating the delivery of the brand as a whole business activity is the only way that businesses can build a seamless and elegant customer experience that allows customers to move between the digital and physical touchpoints easily and without friction.
Finally there is one brutal truth about brand values that must never be forgotten. If you want your brand values to drive differentiating behaviour then make them different, purposeful and in character with the business and its people and not the generic bland garbage we all too often see.