The value of a brand is not just reflected on the balance sheet. Employees can affect the value of a brand in a number of ways.
Employees are visible, both inside and outside work.
Here are a few tips on how to increase your brand equity:
Employees can make a workplace more or less enjoyable than it otherwise is the case.
If less, it could impact on productivity and if the firm gains a reputation as a place that is not a pleasant work environment, it will negatively impact on recruitment and the firm may have to pay more to new employees to attract and retain them.
Conversely, if a firm has the reputation as an enjoyable place to work, it may be able to pay its employees less as some accept the work/life balance trade off.
Visibility varies. If an employee has a “Tesco” uniform or is wearing a badge, they are easily identifiable as part of that organisation. Their conduct has a greater power to change perceptions of that organisation than an employee who is in a suit and so does not obviously represent one.
The latter still has the power to influence the perception of the organisation if they are identified with it. For instance, if a reasonable person was to see a person who they knew to be employed by XYZ Ltd who was drunk, disorderly and obnoxious in a pub, they may resolve not to use that company in the future. That would affect, even to a small extent, the value of that brand. If a number of persons saw this, or the conduct was endemic, it may have a material effect.
The proof that this effect has been acknowledged already by corporations is illustrated by reference to a driver whose corporate van has written on the back and side something to the effect of “please report the driver to 123 456 7890 if this vehicle is being driven inconsiderately”. It implicitly recognises that the employer is aware that conduct outside the workplace is important to their organisation.
Additionally, employees have the power to affect perceptions of an industry. For example, if a reasonable person saw a capriciously-behaved lawyer, they may determine that they “hate all lawyers”. Whether this would affect the value of all legal service providers is of course unlikely but to the extent that it has any effect, such behaviour is best avoided.
How to protect the value of the brand in this respect
Incorporate a disciplinary regime in employees’ contracts which penalises bad conduct outside work. Although the law already provides a mechanism for this, by including this in employment contracts it will draw attention to the provision and so will help ensure that it is more properly observed.
Have corporate policies which require employees to behave well at work (above and beyond statutory and common law) to foster a pleasant work environment.
Include standards in the corporate handbook which the employer would like to be observed. For instance, require that all incoming phone calls are answered within 3 rings. Adopt the “broken window” approach; the expectation that if the employer fixes a small problem, other larger problems are less likely to occur.
Incentivise collegiate conduct within and outwith work.
Conduct training which details areas in which employees can share information with each other to improve total performance. Discourage the formation of “silos”.
Do not produce marketing plans or budgets which are not credible. This is likely to lose the trust of employees and their message to the outside world may be compromised as a result.
In summary, consider employees as core to brand value. They are often visible to customers and potential customers in the same way as the corporate website, and can contribute to perceptions of it positively or negatively. When outside of work, they will rarely know that they are “on show” but to the extent that they are a visible component of a firm, it is preferable that they are seen to be positive. At the very least, they should not be negative and detract from your brand.