People. People. People.

I was up in Karratha, Western Australia last week at the kind invitation of the local business network and chamber of commerce.

It was great to get among people in such a remote region and talk about brand. And one issue clearly resonated – the relationship between building a brand and the people of the organisation.

Brand is the result of the promises you keep and those promises are mostly kept by the people of the organisation, and that’s good news and bad news.

In Karratha, it can make things tough. It’s a transient and expensive workforce up there, so hiring the right people takes on a whole new complexity. Even if you find them they might only be there a few months before they move on. And if you look for the people who are sticking around you might not be able to find the attributes you care about and that will make them a fit.

If the right people are critical to building the brand (and they are), then how do you navigate those realities, realities that I am sure play out to varying degrees for organisations in many environments.

Let’s start with getting the right people. There is a huge diversity of values out there, and people pretty much come with the ones they come with. It’s the ones you need them to come with that is the critical question that every organisation has to answer.

Do they need to have the customer service gene – just wanting to help people.

Do they need to have the perseverance gene – stick with something until it is done.

Do they need to have the curious gene – always looking around at new things.

Or whatever it is for your organisation.

If people to hire are thin on the ground, get really focused on one or two key things you need them to have and always hire the right fit with slightly lesser skills over the skilled-up person who doesn’t really fit.

You can train skills. You can’t train fit.

You can train people how to deliver service in keeping with your organisation, what to say when they answer the phone, what the policies and procedures are. But you can’t train them to care about it and really want to do it. Same goes for most other attributes.

So you get the right people and then they leave.

It can feel like the end of things as you know it, especially in small organisations where the person is often seen as integral.

The sad truth is that no matter how great someone is, how amazing they are, how great the fit is – no one is irreplaceable and people will leave.

In the example we were discussing in Karratha, the people in question were in customer relationship roles. It’s certainly hard to build and maintain good relationships with your customers if the person they are used to working with keeps leaving.

You’re not going to change the environment – it is what it is, and having the right person who cares about providing customer service is probably more important than having someone who doesn’t care just because they’ll be around.

Here communication is key.

Keep your customers in the loop. Explain what the company is doing to ensure they continue to get the level of service they’ve come to expect – whatever that is.

Have protocols in place to make sure that when people leave, important information doesn’t leave with them.

This is one area where SMEs have a huge advantage over big corporates. It’s quite a bit easier to find a few hundred people who share whatever DNA you need them to have, compared to the thousands a large corporate has to find.

See you next week.

Michel is an independent Brand Analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com

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