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Employee Engagement is a Brand Problem

May 2, 2023

Organizations often spend a disproportionate amount of money on their image.

Companies say they want to engage employees and attract new talent, but most put a paltry amount of resources into recruiting and retaining people compared to customer-centric brand-enhancing initiatives. This isn’t surprising. Marketing activities more clearly lead to revenue, while employee engagement doesn’t as clearly correlate to the bottom line. As a business leader, they choose to focus where they have a return on their investment.

But most companies (and their leaders) are missing it. The way their employees see their business impacts their performance, their performance then impacts customer experience, and customer experience assuredly impacts a company’s external brand. 

In other words, employee engagement IS a brand problem. And it’s not one you can ignore. I believe that companies can start with three key areas:

1. Employer Brand
What do people think it feels like to work in and for your business? When the name of your company is mentioned, what is their immediate first thought about your workplace? This comes down to their interactions with your team. If your team appears to be focused, engaged, and even excited about what they do, your business will naturally attract more talented individuals who want to work for you. This also comes down to your employees’ true feelings about working at your company. If they enjoy it and you have open positions, they will naturally (and excitedly) help recruit talented individuals they know to come work for you.

2. Employee Engagement
The more connected your team is to your company, the more impactful they will be in their work. The best way to do this is to connect your employee’s individual jobs to the overarching mission of the business. If your team members are working together toward a goal greater than themselves, they will be exponentially more happy and motivated to do the work set before them, and your customers will have a much better experience. Starbucks does this well. Their mission is to “inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” You can tell when you’ve encountered a Starbucks team who is living out this mission statement. They are hustling together, gladly serving the full lobby and long drive thru of customers, and seeing that each interaction has a greater purpose beyond themselves. The best businesses connect people to purpose.

3. Employee Retention
One of the biggest problems employers are facing now is turnover. The war for talent is making it difficult to keep talented individuals on board. However, when people are engaged in their work and growing in their job, they will stay in their business longer. In turn, this commitment will attract more talented individuals to work for you, and eventually, you will need to hire fewer people. Your talented team is staying, but there are still more talented people knocking on your door and seeking to find a place on your team. This is a good problem to have! The Chick-fil-A Operator selection team has this problem. The joke is that it’s harder to get a job at the CFA than it is to get a job at the CIA. Last year more than 120,000 expressed interest in being a Chick-fil-A Operator, and only around 100 were selected. (Want another staggering statistic? 60% of those chosen were former frontline team members!)

The companies who are succeeding both internally and externally understand that investing in employees does have a return.

The way your team sees and experiences your brand may be the most effective tool you have to attract new customers and to keep them coming back.

If you want a better brand and more positive customer experiences, start with your employees first.


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