BY KAREN GATELY
If you search online for the definition of ‘brand’, you’re likely to come up with something like this one from entrepreneur.com, “The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.”
In a highly competitive world with the pressure on many organisations to lift their game intensifying, leaders are wise to define brand more broadly as the reputation that underpins consumer confidence and inspires buying decisions.
A leader in the field, Richard Mosley, wrote in the Journal of Brand Management, “The discipline of employer brand management takes a more holistic approach to shaping the culture of the organisation, by seeking to ensure that every people management touch-point is aligned with the brand ethos of the organisation.”
Mosley goes on to argues that “in providing a robust mechanism for aligning employees’ brand experience with the desired customer brand experience, and a common platform for marketing and HR, employer brand management represents a significant evolution in the quest for corporate brand integrity.”
You don’t have to look too far or wide to find examples of organisations who have failed spectacularly in maintaining customer trust in their brand. As a risk and compliance professional, you’ve no doubt seen for yourself what happens to an organisations brand and subsequently profits when trust is lost.
Findings of the Royal Commission in Australia into misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry provides endless examples of a lack of integrity and poor behaviour. It’s not difficult to see the challenging road ahead for these organisations as they work to rebuild their brand and earn trust.
As Commissioner Hayne commented, “Very often, the conduct has broken the law. And if it has not broken the law, the conduct has fallen short of the kind of behaviour the community not only expects of financial services entities but is also entitled to expect of them.”
So, what is culture? Put simply culture is the way things are typically done. It’s entirely possible for an organisation to be confronted with behaviours from within their ranks, that are not reflective of Tthe culture. Once off, exceptions to the rule while problematic are not reason alone to ring the culture alarm bell.
Reflecting on behaviours identified by the Banking Royal Commission, it’s evident the issues exposed were far from isolated incidents of poor decision making or selfish actions on the part of random individuals.
What was revealed is that in pursuit of profits and personal gain, people across the industry have behaved in ways that are abhorrent to most decent-minded people. In many instances, these behaviours were instructed, encouraged and rewarded by the organisations they worked for.
Contemplate for a moment on what it’s like to do business with you, your team or business. Do your customers experience a level of service that earns their trust and inspires them to keep coming back? Do internal customers feel respected and supported?
Do people who are on the receiving end of what you do, trust that you are operating for a spirit of goodwill and positive intention? What influence do your collective attitudes and behaviours have on the satisfaction and loyalty your customers and colleagues typically feel.
Creating a powerful brand through people starts with being clear about what is expected and needed. Leaders are wise to invest in ensuring every person on the team understands what successful behaviours look like. In other words, ensure a clear line of sight between how people go about their jobs and the influence that has on brand reputation.
Build an understanding of the touchpoints between your customers and business, and the opportunities people have to influence trust and loyalty. Create awareness of the ways in which behaviour influences not only what people think, but also their subconscious reactions to your brand in the future.
Reflect on for yourself on when you have held an opinion about an organisations brand but have struggled to identify exactly why you feel the way you do. Sometimes people don’t even bother to work out the answer. They simply move on to a brand they feel better about.
Creating a great culture is unquestionably influenced by the quality of hiring practices. Getting it right from the start requires a disciplined and uncompromising approach to selecting people who are aligned with the organisation’s values.
From there what matters most is that people are held accountable for the standard of behaviour they bring, and influence they have on your organisations brand. Reward and recognise brand ambassadors and take decisive steps to address the attitudes and behaviours of those who are not.
Karen Gately is the founder of Corporate Dojo, and a leadership and people-management specialist. Karen works with leaders and HR teams to drive business results through the talent and energy of people. She is the author of The People Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical Guide to getting the best from people (Wiley) and The Corporate Dojo: Driving extraordinary results through spirited people.