The last Employee Engagement conference I attended had speakers from both Human Resources and Communications at Fortune 500 companies presenting case studies of their latest Internal Branding efforts. Based on their similarities, I deduced that the trend in Employee Communications is “I Am [insert company name]”
They must have all read the same 3-step engagement doctrine which lists the path to engagement as movement from UNDERSTANDING (“I understand how to impact the brand and the company”) to DELIVERY (“I am the brand”) and thought that it was as simple as fill-in-the-blank.
But, since it is the last day of February and trendwatching.com’s February Brief was about FUNCTIONALL, let’s brainstorm together on how we can implement cheap and/or simple ideas that keep employees committed to their employer and enhance the culture and brand.
The year was 1994 and something called a job board was being
launched- specifically CareerMosaic, named after the web browser credited for
popularizing an old thing called the Internet.
In a meeting with top executives, Bernard Hodes, a brilliant marketeer and the CEO of the agency that bore his name, shared his rationale for creating the pricing structure for his new category of recruitment advertising.
“We’ll price the postings as a $100 add-on with any newspaper ad” he said. (At the time a 1” by 3” classified ad in the NY Times on Sunday was probably about $1,500.) He continued, “Who doesn’t have an extra $100 to experiment on a new media?”
Unknowingly, he was establishing a precedent for what is today a $6+ billion business. (Factoid- CareerMosaic was eventually sold to headhunter.net which was eventually bought by CareerBuilder, as of today one of the 2 giant oaks still standing.)
However, equally important was his underlying reminder that everyone has a budget for failure- aka experimentation … a lottery ticket fund that smart people can sometimes http://www.vinegarhillhouse.com/generic/ leverage into big payouts.
I call this a budget for failure because that way if the outlay fails to generate a positive return on its investment, at least you can take solace from having known it in advance.
For me, it is the amount of money I set aside for a potential bad hire- someone who doesn’t meet my exact requirements but has a kernel of an idea that might take me new places.
It’s important because the BRANDEMiX brand is a culture of ideas and execution.
Also included in my failure budget is an amount I can spend on something I’ve already tried that didn’t work out. That’s also important to our brand since one of our brand pillars is “solutions that leverage technology.” In the fast changing digital world, though experience is a great teacher, it is not necessarily a great predictor of future outcomes.
Lastly, my budget for failure includes spending time and effort (time is a dollarized investment, effort is not), on new business pitches that are outside of our core capabilities. At BRANDEMiX, we are a culture of continuous learning and we often learn from succeeding at new challenges.
In case you haven’t yet drawn the connection, my budget for failure is also part of my plan for success. Without funding for my failures, I am unable to succeed at delivering my brand.
A leader is a tone-setter, responsible for bringing people together and setting a model of attitude and behavior. It’s the reason social movements form around charismatic luminaries, and the greatest football teams always have headstrong quarterbacks. Without a CEO who lives and embodies the brand, customers will not buy into it.
So if a CEO is the figurehead of a company’s brand, who is the figurehead of a company’s employer brand? You might guess HR or Marketing, when in fact it is again, the CEO.
Whether you subscribe to BRANDEMiX “1 brand” theory of corporate strategy or not, any branding initiative, regardless of target audience, needs to be inspired by the CEO. Employees will not rally around a brand unless a company’s culture and personality are defined at the top.
Without top down inspiration, the brand can flounder like a ship lost a sea.
So what’s HR’s role? First Mate.
HR must take the captain’s orders and radiate the brand out to the labor market and to the internal employees. Just as marketers have insight and knowledge about communicating to consumers, HR should understand better than any department how to talk to jobseekers and employees.
Figuring out the brand is the easy part – you already have it – communicating it is the creative part. It takes a constantly evolving understanding of the people you’re talking to.
As HR people do we spend enough time understanding the attitudes and behaviors of jobseekers, and more importantly our own employees? When’s the last time you did employee focus groups? Have you surveyed jobseekers? More importantly, how have you implemented any findings into the usual course of your communications? Answering these questions needs to be HR’s responsibility as part of the CEO’s marching orders for the brand.
Marketers have always relied on their ad agencies for this insight and expertise in communicating with consumers. Now HR has a secret weapon too.