When you study really successful businesses you invariably find the same three characteristics. (1) They have a clear and inspiring sense of purpose and direction which everyone understands and which acts as a reference point for all key decisions. (2) They give people the freedom and authority to do and decide whatever it takes to achieve these aspirations. (3) They create a climate and culture that enables their employees to give of their best.
Since the brand represents everything that the business stands for, it is critical that employees have the enthusiasm and ability to live the brand, otherwise the customer experience will disintegrate into a mismatch between the company’s stated intentions and actual employee behaviour.
Having a successful brand raises two challenges. (a) How to get employees to fully understand what it is, and then align their ways of thinking and working with it. Since the brand represents everything that the business stands for, it is critical that employees have the enthusiasm and ability to live the brand, otherwise the customer experience will disintegrate into a mismatch between the company’s stated intentions and actual employee behaviour.(b) How to use their capability to bring it alive so that it starts to influence customer behaviour.
Many businesses seem to ignore the fact that the brand isn’t simply about advertised words and images. Importantly it’s about the effect that employee behaviour and attitude have at the point of every interaction with the customer. There is already ample evidence of the correlation between employees’ opinions of their business and how they feel about working for and in it. The more they understand about the business’s aspirations (why it exists and where it’s going), the more proactive they are in suggesting new ideas, products services, ways of working etc. The more inspired they feel, because they are working in a climate that encourages and helps them give of their best, they more energetically committed they are to helping the business succeed. To be really successful the business needs both these situations to be in force simultaneously; and there is an effective way of achieving this.
Some businesses believe the answer lies in issuing internal communications setting out the purpose and direction, and then repeating this at intervals. They may also train managers in bringing out the best in people. However, whilst each has some merits, they don’t necessarily produce the desired result either swiftly or continuously. That is because they don’t engage their employees’ emotional commitment and emotional energy. To engage more rapidly a person needs to derive learning from an experience in which they have been immersed.
HotCow, with the support of Blueprinting Excellence coaches, run events which provide employees with such experiences. They deliberately put employees into a different context and frame of reference using powerful analogies and managed experiences (e.g. Pirates of the Caribbean, racing cars etc). Through this employees can more swiftly relate to, and understand more of, the brand experience and thus be more aware of how they can directly contribute to strengthening the brand. What employees experience and learn in such events can have an early and profound impact on how quickly the brand is brought to life.
Sally Durcan is Managing Director of HotCow (www.hotcow.co.uk) specialists in experiential and promotional marketing.
Harold Russell is Managing Director of Blueprinting Excellence (www.bpxl.com) specialists in helping businesses achieve exceptional results through their people.