Given the transient workforce of today, what can companies do to maintain brand consistency internally and externally? This was the focus for our workshop led by Account Director, Toni O’Sullivan. In today’s market the challenge of matching company goals and employee expectations in order to attract and retain talent is one of the most challenging issues facing employees and employers – but when addressed and handled correctly can have great benefits for both.

According to the recent Holmes report 75% of the public surveyed thought that being a good employer is the key factor in delivering an effective communications strategy, while 69% said a company needs to have a connection with the community it operates in. No surprises there, since it’s generally accepted that companies should be seen and of course, do good in the areas they operate in, and if they follow this practice they will reap the rewards.

We kicked off with the actual reason for addressing these issues. Does the transient workforce require companies to enforce brand values? Or should employees be allowed to promote their skills independently and then be seen to be bringing them to the company?

First of all, transience doesn’t necessarily mean a dilution of the brand: Waitrose and Asda were cited as being excellent employers for transitional jobs and the brands themselves have recognised this and built strong brand values and customer service consistency around a transient employee base.

I personally agree with this assessment. Many of my college friends worked at Waitrose and it definitely seemed like a fantastic company to work for and an employer that genuinely cares about its staff. I fondly remember one friend gleefully turning up to lunch one afternoon with a very handsome bonus, paid to him and all other staff (regardless of position). Waitrose certainly lives up to its ‘partnership’ value.

We then discussed how strong, recognisable brand values will attract people who share those values - and further strengthen the brand.

We all agreed that brand values should be decided by observation and experience, rather than just aspiring to them or having a central leadership team decide on them outright.  One panel member commented; “If you’re not already living your values, then they’re not your values”. But how to communicate these values to customers, media and employees effectively?

Should a top down approach be taken or should the workforce as a group be seen to be displaying the values? My vote is for the latter – when companies employ likeminded people, the values are communicated as a collective and that leads to an efficient and enjoyable work environment and a positive culture (something I experience at theblueballroom every day!)

The power of stories in shaping brand values and supporting company goals was put forward as a significant motivator of employees. I have learnt throughout my studies, and working life that people crave stories. They enthral us and add authenticity, passion and meaning to our lives. Storytelling adds meaning and depth to values for staff which will also resonate with customers.

This also lead us to think of pride in the company as another influencing factor in shaping brand values and increasing employee loyalty. If employees take pride in what they do, they live and therefore promote the values of a company inside and outside the organisation.

Certain organisations also work hard to create a family atmosphere at work. The ones that do reap the rewards in terms of company loyalty, employee retention, as well as brand ambassadors even in employees that move on. ASDA was given as a rather humorous example of a company that goes to great lengths to employ this technique. We are all familiar with the ASDA price hip slap jingle at the end of their adverts, but it was also revealed that there is an ASDA employee family ‘song’.

My conclusion from this discussion was that whether a company has 15 employees or 15,000 the real magic is found when values are matched to real people and have stories behind them. Values that resonate with customers, employees and the media on a human level inevitably carry the most authenticity and emotion – people find they live by them without even thinking about them, because they are part of something much bigger than themselves.

It was a lively discussion with no silver bullet answer for all companies but what I am sure of is that if companies are true to themselves and their employees they are likely to be successful in attracting and retaining great talent.

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