Even with the priceless brand-building glow enjoyed by a few celebrity CEOs like Richard Branson and Tony Hsiehisn’t it strange that so few CEOs attempt the same success? Odder still, few companies tap the scalable, brand-building power of their employees. In fact, it may be their biggest missed opportunity in our increasingly connected yet complex era.
Four More Reasons Employees are Key to Reputation and Sales
1. 41% of us believe employees are the most credible source of information regarding their business. “Employees rank higher in public trust than a firm’s PR department, CEO, or Founder,” according to Edelman’s 2013 Trust Barometer.
2. “Customer engagement must start with employee engagement,” notes Steve Farnsworth. The more responsibility, recognition and training that companies provide employees for engaging smartly with stakeholders the more connected and adaptive the company becomes. And the flip side can cause much more brand damage in our digital world.
3. “Corporate learning and capability is now the #1 challenge in businesses around the world,” according to Josh Bersin. What better way to create relevant, efficient, collective and iterative learning than by establishing a customer-centric employees-as-brand ambassadors program?
4. We know that people increasingly compare and share product experiences, giving them game-changing power over your brand reputation. Turn this growing threat into a great opportunity by using your best asset: your employees. IBM, Ritz Carlton, Zappos, Harley Davidson, GORE-TEX, L’Oreal, LEGO, Virgin and a few other companies discovered years ago.
Declare Great News About “My” Company to Deepen Belief in it
“Publicly declaring your support and affiliation motivates you to back it up with real loyalty and engagement. It’s loosely like telling yourself, ‘I can really do this,’ before trying to shoot a free throw, wrote InformationWeek editor David F. Carr: “Pepsi discovered that over 50% of its employees already wanted to share news about Pepsi with their networks.” That’s a priceless opportunity since emotions and behavior are contagious to the third degree, according to Connected co-authors James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis. .That means your employees not only influence the views and behaviors of those with whom they interact but others as far as two more interactions away from them. That’s a huge multiplier of a negative or positive brand reputation.
Four Vital Skills for Becoming Valued, Visible Brand Ambassadors
1. First, step into their shoes and be helpful in ways they find helpful. Be a productive and successful giver, gleaning ideas from Give and Take. Recognize the value of building real relationships, not just “hooking up” as Whitney Johnson dubs the one-way entitlement some feel in asking for help.
Johnson cites Judith E. Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence, “As we reciprocate, we build trust and relationships, flooding our brain with oxytocin that is essential not only to collaboration, but to innovation.” For employees and thus for the company, that approach can create a virtuous circle of well-being and high performance.
2. Be a deeply responsive listener who demonstrates you heard what they said, and does not immediately revert the conversation back to yourself. Instead seek to serve them their way, based on what they said, exhibiting The Golden Golden Rule, doing unto others as they would have done unto them. Offer a relevant, concrete scenario that explicitly shows how they will benefit by doing what you suggest. Craft what Peter Guber calls a purposeful narrative where they can see a role they want in the story you tell, reshaping it to make it their own to share with others.
3. Be so vivid that others tend to remember and repeat what you say, using the A.I.R. method and other communicate-to-connect cues. See more connective behavior tips from my talk (bottom of page) at BusinessNext. See the rest of the column at Forbes’ Quotable and Connected.