Employers Beware: The Personal Brand Revolution Is Here
Originally featured in 'Company Culture' on LinkedIn Pulse
The greatest challenge currently facing brands is not how to remain relevant to customers. The executives who are on the ball have realised that the most fragile dynamic in their brand positioning rests with the people who are paid to uphold it - their team.
There’s an increasing disconnect with the way companies design and manage their brands. The important decisions made when developing a brand are essentially a wish list until employees are able to understand your unique value and how they champion it in their role.
The disconnect lies predominately with concepts such as ‘employer branding’. Coined in the early 1990’s, many HR departments have been tasked with developing ‘employment ‘brands’ and campaigns to promote companies to prospective employees.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this sort of approach, except that it usually exists to hide a multitude of cultural sins, or they are just creating a disingenuous facade, luring people in on promises that are hard to keep.
" Any strategy that isn’t directly sprung from the organisation’s primary value proposition will not only result in wasted time and opportunity, it will obscure your true value. "
Any strategy that isn’t directly sprung from the organisation’s primary value proposition will not only result in wasted time and opportunity, it will obscure your true value.
When the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing it simply allows unwanted politics to creep in and a toxic culture to grow.
This inevitably leads people to focus on ‘keeping their heads down’ and will sap positive energy that would otherwise contribute to the organisation’s brand.
People Join Brands and Leave Cultures
One of the top reasons people cite for leaving a role is feeling that their abilities are not being utilised. Putting financial considerations aside, people want to contribute. You need to put effective strategies in place to take advantage of this.
Your brand’s health is dependent on allowing people to champion and grow your brand. I have witnessed the rapid decline of a market leading brand by a toxic culture that was a direct result of a management style that shunned contribution if it didn’t come 'from the top’. This attitude resulted in a double-digit attrition rate.
The Rise of the Intrapreneur & Personal Brand
The intrapreneur is someone on the payroll who behaves like an entrepreneur. These employees take the lead on developing ideas and driving innovation.
People no longer see themselves as simply workers who are there to fulfil a job description. they know that helping a company innovate will not only serve the interests of the company, it also enables them to build their personal brand.
A résumé may list past experience, but a LinkedIn profile with a snappy personal headline and written endorsements from co-workers are the foundations of a strong personal brand.
Employees are becoming more self-aware and confident in the value they can offer, and they’re not afraid to promote themselves. The question of employment is not just reserved to ‘job hunting’. The switched on employees, the ‘intrapreneurs’, are willing to go out on their own if necessary.
These are the people that will learn from your mistakes and move on to start their own businesses. When they do, they effectively remove themselves for them talent pool - your talent pool . As a decision maker, this is the reality you need to acknowledge.
What will you do today to retain and encourage talent? Your brand relies on it.
Brand Strategy is a Response to The Competitive Landscape
Brands are nothing without the proper support of the people paid to uphold them. Smart companies are the ones that forge a culture that respects hard work and the ownership of ideas, in all departments and at all levels.
Visual branding is only a facade that will quickly deteriorate if it’s not supported by policies that have been designed to reflect your value proposition.
Workplaces are becoming less about ‘serving’ and much more about personal growth. People want to grow as well as contribute, and the work environments that allow this are creating much stronger and formidable marketplace brands.
"Customers want to transact with authentic brands, employees want to work for them. Use this to your advantage."
3 Critical Points To Grow Your Brand:
1. Intrapreneurs Are Your Lifeblood
Focus groups and committees can yield results, but real innovation can’t be forced. The best ideas often come from people working at the coalface. These are the people who are working every day with customers and dealing with the various problems that inevitably arise in doing business.
If you build the right culture, these people won’t go home at night thinking ‘if only my company did this...’, they’ll tell you. Create a culture that not only attracts top talent, but encourages the intrapreneurial spirit that allows anyone within the organisation at any level to come forward with an idea, and be allowed to champion it.
2. Reevaluate the Concept of Accountability
The tables have turned considerably in the past twenty years. In the old world the expectation was that the employee was accountable to the employer - no ifs no buts, and there’s the door if you don’t like it.
In the new world the dynamic has shifted where as much as employees understand that they must tow the line to a degree, they are much more accountable to their own values.
Deviating from those values won’t build their personal brand. People talk about ‘job satisfaction’ but really what they mean is that the company they work for allows them to get on with their job.
3. Don’t Compartmentalise Strategy
Employer branding springs from the realisation that the company brand is not conducive to attracting talent. This ‘band aid’ approach hopes to attract talent by glossing up employment ads that are linked to mini-websites that in most cases paint a disingenuous picture of the company.
This approach typically hides deeper cultural problems within the company. Sure, you might attract the brightest, but their flame will quickly extinguish when they’re told to fall into line.
Defining your brand is only the start. Your team are not only key in helping to drive innovation that will sustain your relevancy, they are the ones who will determine how your value proposition is received by the market.
© Hamish Chadwick 2015