Managing Employee Branding

Have you come across any value statement of organisations that does not say employees are their most valuable assets? Whether it is lip service or otherwise it is the absolute truth if they want to achieve their strategic objectives. Having worked with many organisations for executing their strategy using the balanced scorecard, I have found that managing the employee brand is key to executing strategy. Common-sensically, if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers. Yet, it is most surprising that very few organisations really take care of their biggest assets.

Organisations create value for their shareholders from intangible assets and majority of the intangible assets are driven by one: human capital.

Here are a few pointers to consider in managing human capital and the employee brand.

Start recognising them for what they do. Not just annual awards or employee-of-the-month fanfare that can be limiting. Consider a company-wide monthly MVP (most valuable performer) award that is based on suggestions from fellow employees. An MVP award should be based on overall performance during the month and takes into account the attributes that are most important to your firm (such as teamwork, problem solving, creativity, innovation, etc.)

Take them on field trips such as client meetings or industry trade shows. The benefit is two-fold. The employee can get to know the client and develop a better understanding of them; plus they can see the reality of the “glamorous” trips that your staff must take. Share information on your company’s performance and your feelings about it. In some organisations, it would be impossible to open the books and disclose financial performance, but come as close as you can. Show your staff how you made or lost money during the quarter and ask them for their feedback on it.

Give your employee a chance to do something outstanding. Top performers seek out opportunities to express themselves and to stand out. Your job is to support them in their quest for excellence and give them some room to make mistakes in the process.

Keep communicating with them very frequently. Whether by phone, on paper, video, audio or the Internet, the more frequently an employee is communicated with on the state of the company, the more motivated they will be. Quite often while helping companies execute strategy I come across managers complaining:

“Corporate does not keep me in the loop. I feel like I don’t count.”

Many companies are toying with the idea of providing employees with a flexible schedule that can accommodate their lifestyle. Understanding that an employee would like a 30-hour work-week (at 30-hours of pay, of course) and accommodating her may win her loyalty for life. Ditto for flex schedules that give employees freedom to attend to personal matters. In connection with this, taking time for lunch or small talk can be a memorable and motivating experience for them.

Start leading by example. Doing the “right thing,” being courageous and being loyal are qualities that we need to show in ourselves before we can ask that of our employees. When you show that character, it inspires the entire organisation to greater performance. Basic rule: Don’t ask anything of others that you are not willing to do yourself. Religious scripts urged us first on this?

Treating employees as customers is an idea that is fast catching up. Because, without employees there will be no customers. When in doubt, treat the employee with the same respect and understanding you would a customer. In a similar way, letting go of difficult, unprofitable customers (or employees) can be very motivating to employees. It allows employees to know how much you value them or their efforts, it increases the value of your firm, and it also shows you are not willing to deal with unproductive relationships, whether customer or employee. Some family businesses and all government offices may soon be wondering if employees are assets or liabilities.

Eliminate internal competition. It is tough enough that you have competitors plotting your demise; there is no reason to contribute to the carnage with an incentive programme that pits departments or employees against each other. No more exclusionary awards like the “employee of the month”. Allow more than one performer to achieve high standards; otherwise, you run the risk of demotivating those who know they can’t win.

Most senior executives have little time to meet their obligations, let alone speak on behalf of their company to business clubs. Consider allowing key employees to represent you and speak on your company’s behalf. They will enjoy being an ambassador and may better empathise with your schedule demands.

The final keys to motivation are more strategic. Number one, try your best to motivate your employees to do the things that you are motivated by. In other words, if increasing company profits is your primary motivation, focus your efforts on motivating employees to increase profits. Any other motivations could work against you. Secondly, be sincere. A vague “good job” or a “have a nice day” will mean little to most people. Unless the “thank you’s” are heartfelt, they will eventually backfire when employees start to expect a thank you for no particular reason.

The writer spearheads execution and innovation for clients @CustomerLab

M Muneer