One of the trends we are seeing across all industries is the realization by corporations to align and engage their most important asset – their people. While this focus should always be a priority, the resurgence of the ‘employees first’ discipline has more recently been seen. At BrandingBusiness, we hold the belief that our employees are our biggest asset and therefore during corporate brand strategy engagements, we like to poll our client’s employees to understand the current level of internal brand alignment. In addition to our own findings, we have collaborated with other research partners to share findings – which have been very consistent.
During the recent recession, as budgets were cut and jobs eliminated or saved, employee expectations significantly declined from the go-go years. Now that the economy is turning around, we are seeing an increased desire from employees focused on the following in order by priority:
Clarity on where the company is going
Business uncertainty has been the common theme over the last few years. Employees realize that businesses still face challenging times, but they want leadership to provide a plan for the future. When we survey employees, the number one request is clarity on the future direction of the company. Employees want to know the corporate vision of the company they work for and how they fit into it. If they are inspired by the company’s purpose and vision, they can truly become a powerful force in actually helping the company achieve it. I believe employees are very motivated by the desire to contribute and make a difference. With this feeling of accomplishment also comes the feeling of being valued, appreciated and hopefully rewarded. Going through the motions of simply having a job is not fulfilling and is usually a short-term relationship. Employees expect leadership to set a clear course for future success – now more than ever. And they deserve it. The companies that understand this and act accordingly will reap the rewards.
Communication, communication, communication
Good times or bad – employees desire ongoing internal communication. The most common response we get from leadership on this topic is – “I thought we were doing a pretty good job in this area.” The reality is you simply cannot over communicate. What we most often see is a start-stop approach. Leadership usually has the best intentions in mind, but business gets in the way. Understood, but hardly an excuse considering the importance of an informed and aligned team. Without regular communication, employees guess and rumors spread. Another trend we are seeing is a desire for more transparency. I believe employees can handle the truth and they will respect leadership who is upfront and shares the truth. With information comes knowledge and knowledge can empower desired outcomes. If employees understand their role in where the company is going, the path to get there is much clearer.
Live the established values
Internal culture is an incredibly powerful or equally harmful component in realizing a company’s potential. Most companies establish corporate values but very few actually live them day to day. The best solution is when the values are clearly understood and truly influence how people make decisions and behave on a daily basis. It is important to remember that values do not drive the business; they drive the people within the business. These values must be demonstrated by leadership to have true meaning, otherwise they are just an empty promise. The other challenge is when certain employees do not live the established values, but unfortunately are not reprimanded or asked to leave the company. This lack of action by management can be incredibly de-motivating to the rest of the team. As Peter Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for lunch.” Culture begins with a commitment to determining the appropriate values and most importantly, living them. A quick way to demonstrate the importance of these values is to follow Ken Blanchard’s advise – “catch people doing something right and reward them – other people will notice as well.”
In summary: There is rarely a silver bullet for a company to realize success, but if leadership recognizes the importance and power of an aligned, internal culture, motivated by a compelling vision, success is certainly within reach.