Marketing and PR aren’t the only ones responsible for communicating what your brand is all about to your clients and consumers.
Remember those guys in HR? Well, they too can have an impact and quite a significant one when it comes to both delivering on your brand promise and communicating who you are as a business to your customer base.
All businesses would fail to exist without two things: customers and staff. You may have a killer product or an out-of-this-world service offering but if you don’t have the right people in place representing your brand and looking after what should always be a key priority, your customers, then all of the other stuff won’t really matter. Your staff and the service they offer to your customers are among the most tangible and often most memorable aspects of a brand experience.
Most businesses pour a lot of time and resources into getting all the other elements of their brand experience just right – how to showcase their product, how they want to be seen in the marketplace, why consumers should choose them over their competitors, how they can build the necessary hype needed to drive customers their way and so on. This is all well and good and definitely necessary but all too often, all this hard work put into creating an amazing brand proposition can be undone by just one negative brand experience at the hands of a staff member who isn’t and never will be, the right fit for your business.
The terms “fit” and “cultural fit” get thrown around quite a bit and is one of those typical HR buzzwords, we know. But get it wrong when hiring and retaining your staff and you’ll be throwing around a whole other set of “buzzwords” that are probably not fit for print. Finding employees with the right personality and attitude to deliver on your brand promise and ultimately be a brand ambassador for your business is critical for the success and positive reputation of your brand. Note: all employees should be your brand ambassadors and not just a select few.
This is where some well thought out and brand-aligned HR practices can really come in handy. Take recruitment as an example. How do you currently hire your staff? Is it truly reflective of your unique brand or is it the stock-standard method of recruitment? Have you spent enough time considering what you’re looking for in your staff and is it actually achievable and identifiable? Obviously knowing that they can do the job is important but knowing that they’re up for the job is equally important. Recruit for attitude and train for skill.
We’ve recruited hundreds of employees for a variety of brands in our work and we’re always incredibly conscious of tailoring the recruitment experience to ensure it best represents the brand. We try to give candidates as much information about the role as possible including touching on the history, culture and values of the brand so that they know what they’re signing up for. Recruitment for us is always a two-way street; it’s as much an exercise for the candidate to assess whether the role is right for them as it is for us to assess whether the candidate is right for the role.
When conducting interviews, we make sure to include questions and activities that give a realistic representation of what the role entails and the skills we’re looking for in the people we hire. Seeing candidates in these (at times unfamiliar) scenarios and/or challenging them to step outside of their comfort zone to really demonstrate rather than just talk about what they can do, has proven to be a great way to help us determine whether they’re the right cultural fit for the business we’re hiring for. It also allows us to determine whether they can communicate the intended brand message too.
Once these employees are on-board, it pays to continue to assess them for cultural fit whilst reinforcing how they should ideally be aligning to the brand. Training is an obvious method for this but so too are performance reviews which take into consideration just how much of a brand ambassador the employee is. We’ve all seen what happens when an employee no longer aligns to the values of a business and the often toxic effect it can have both internally and outwardly towards your customers.
We know that sometimes the HR and people aspect of building a brand can get overlooked (don’t worry, we don’t take it too personally) but when considering how you can deliver on your brand perception and promise, pay a little extra consideration to the people that you want to be delivering that promise along with your marketing and PR strategies too.
Janelle McKenzie and Abiramie Sathiamoorthy are the founders of HR firm E&I People Solutions.