Tag Archives: employee engagement

Brandemix Bonus Reel: Internal Communications Best Practices from Thomas Cook

Jason Ginsburg, Director of Interactive Branding at Brandemix, show how organizations can use Thomas Cook’s philosophy in engaging employees during a re-branding.

To learn how Brandemix can help you with employee engagement and internal communications, visit our website.

One Brand: Part 1. Extending Your Brand Through Internal Communications

Does internal communications matter to consumer branding?

You bet it does. Are you a retailer rolling out a brand positioning about knowledgeable salespeople helping customers navigate a myriad of product choices? Better make sure your knowledgeable salespeople stay that way.



Branding for financial services? A Forrest research report reveals that mergers and acquisitions have hurt customer relationships and advises a refocused attention on customer service. You better bring some TLC to your call centers.

What about an admired airline promising an incredible experience and having it come crashing (sorry) down when the baggage is stolen, lost, or delayed through poor handling? 

While there are a variety of factors that influence public brand sentiment, your communicating to your consumer brand  to your employees is one that is easy to get right.  

1. Roll in your brand.
Let your employees in on the big reveal before you launch your new campaign. 

2. Show the relevance.  
Now that you have articulated your brand values internally:

  • Who needs to do what differently?
  • What do they need to change?  

3. Communicate your brand inward.

  • Look at your internal communications and the audiences you reach.
  • Where are the best places to infuse your positioning? 

Think about hosting a brand training event so sales people know what the customers will expect from them. Recognize and reward great customer service, and encourage testimonials from happy customers. Make sure your employees know how they are responsible for the success for your business and reap the rewards from a singular brand outside and in.

We welcome your input and are here for your help.

How Retailers Can Connect the Online and In-Store Customer Experience

The great overlap has started.

In the last few months, the worlds have physical shopping and online shopping have collided. Walmart, the country’s biggest retailer, has increased its massive e-commerce effort, using its thousands of US locations as distribution points for same-day delivery. At the same time, Amazon, the country’s biggest online retailer, now ships items to “lockers,” physical kiosks which can be accessed at any time. With Amazon Lockers,Brand Channel has declaredAmazon’s strategy to distribute its products through traditional retail outlets is already underway.”


These retail giants are reacting to customer behavior. They know that customers want an online experience that’s connected to the in-store experience. So how can this strategy be implemented by specialty retailers? Here are some easy steps to get the best of both worlds.

Bringing Online Information to the Store
Price is not the only factor driving customers to online shopping. “Customers demand quick and easy access to relevant product information,” says Mark Brixton in Australia’sPower Retail blog. With turnover in the retail industry higher than ever, and employers unable to fully train their staff, many customers find that sales associates can’t help them make informed decisions about products.

The solution? Make your associates (and managers!) as knowledgeable as possible – even it means “cheating.” At Best Buy, I once inquired about a camera, and the associate simply pulled out an iPad and looked at the Best Buy website with me, showing all the good reviews. It certainly was better than being told “I don’t know,” which makes me leave the store to find more information.

Another online feature that’s very effective is the recommendation engine: “People who bought X also bought Y.” Store associates can make those suggestions, of course, but there’s another option: reconfiguring your store so that items that are often bought together are actually displayed together.
 
Chico’s online recommendations

What about online customer recommendations? Brazilian clothier C&A has “special hooks on the racks in its bricks-and-mortar store” that display Facebook likes for each item of clothing in real time, “giving in-store shoppers a clear indication of each item’s online popularity
.That technology may be a ways off for most of us, but that doesn’t stop you from putting a sign on an item that says, “Our most popular item on Facebook,” or “Our most pinned product on Pinterest.”

Bringing the Personal Store Experience Online
Jiadev Shergill, founder of Bundle.com, told a recent Internet Week New York Panel, “Walking into a store and feeling the clothes, trying them on – this is a data point that you can’t get online.”

He recommends “product videos, multiple angles, more product measurement details, and real-world comparisons,” to simulate the in-store experience, making customers more comfortable with an item they can’t hold, use, or try on.

Many have us know at least one sales associate that has been helping us for years, who know lots of our personal details, and uses that information to help us shop. So why not ask for that information during online shopping? Asking for a birthday is expected, but you could also ask for more (optional) information, such as hobbies, favorite colors, or preferred brands. That allows you to offer exactly what the customer wants the next time they visit your online store.

This may seem obvious, but you should also make online returns as easy as in-store returns.
Zappos led the way by making returns both free and hassle-free. Now many websites offer that service.

Zappos provides a video explaining how to return items.

 

Linking the Two Experiences Together
One good strategy is to keep a customer database that can be accessed by both your online store and your physical store. So when an online customer finally walks into your store, all they have to do is give their name or email address and a sales associate can look at their purchase history, preferences, and recommendations.

To the customer, your online store isn’t some separate entity, so if they’ve bought from your website five times, why should they be treated like a stranger when they finally pay your physical store a visit?
Most importantly, this entire philosophy is dependent on employees to deliver your brand experience. Whether you’ve been in the same location for 50 years or are a new internet startup, your brand has value. And it’s your employees who have the greatest power to make or break it. They’re the ones who shift your message from a concept to an experience – positive or negative. So whichever strategy you implement, make sure your employees can define your brand. If they can’t define it, they can’t deliver it.

I hope these ideas have helped you look at online shopping and physical shopping as two sides of the same coin, with each complementing the other. And if you’d like to create an online store – or refresh an old one – my agency, Brandemix, is happy to help.

Employee Engagement: Important Yet Elusive

recent article in Fast Company has once again shown how important employee engagement is to any organization. The more engaged the employees, the lower the turnover, the lower the shrinkage, the higher the customer service, and the higher the profits.

And yet, despite the preponderance of engagement surveys, software, and programs, true employee engagement remains an elusive goal for many companies. While there are several key drivers of employee engagement (corporate image, leadership, job function, work/life balance, managers) that require significant operational changes to move the engagement needle, below I present some tips that can be easily implemented and drive engagement results.

Better Internal Communications 
Treat your employees like your best customers or shareholders. Customers get fancy newsletters, interactive websites, personalized emails. Investors get elaborate annual reports. What communications do your employees get? Often it’s a simple newsletter with employee anniversaries, “articles” that are little more than press releases, and the latest information about open enrollment. Worse, they live forever on dull, decade-old intranets that are bare-bones, black and white, and boring – the 3 B’s of awful web experience. How can employees get excited about their workplace when the workplace doesn’t seem excited about them?

Internally, your employees are your audience, and you should treat them the way you treat your most valued customers. That means creating internal communications that are interesting and entertaining.

Collaborative Corporate Social Responsibility
Some organizations have established CSR programs, allowing employees to select their own cause, which is a wonderful means to truly engage. Employees feel empowerment and camaraderie as they stay involved and seek volunteers for their own “social good.” They also feel a greater sense of purpose. Meanwhile, your organization gets great press and a big tax write-off. It’s a win/win/win/win!

 
Listening
Sure, this seems obvious, but one of the most frequent complaints I hear in
client focus groups, is “Management doesn’t listen to us.” Just as
social media allows a dialogue with your customers, you must find some
mechanism(s) to create a conversation with your employees. Instead of a
yearly survey, do it quarterly. Or monthly. Have an hour of “open door”
meetings every week, where any employee can approach any manager in any
area with any idea or concern. Use your intranet or enterprise software
to let your employee collaborate and ask each other questions. Today,
everything is crowd-sourced, from American Idol to Wikipedia to presidential debate questions. What can your employees teach you?


Little Things

There are many free or low-cost methods of employee engagement. Casual
Fridays are just the beginning. Be sure to acknowledge employees’ birthdays and work anniversaries, whether it’s an email, an announcement at a weekly meeting, or an actual gift (I’m a fan of Starbucks gift cards). Bringing in treats every week or month is always nice – try cupcakes, pizza, gourmet coffee, or flavored popcorn. If you can’t afford to send employees to conferences, encourage them to attend free local seminars or online webinars. Give them a small “education budget” to learn software, read books, or subscribe to industry publications.


As you can see, there are all kinds of small ways to engage employees. There are big ways too – gamification, employee referral programs (ask me about this one), social engagement strategies. How to know what’s right for you? When looking at your engagement strategy budget, remember that, according to a recent Gallup poll, employee engagement can mean a 22% increase in profitability.

Want to learn more about these or other HR initiatives, including training videos, benefit communications, or wellness programs? Email me with your questions and I’ll help you out.

Brandemix Bonus Reel: Gamification for Recruiting

Director of Interactive Branding Jason Ginsburg explains what gamification is and how HR professionals can use it for recruiting, onboarding, training, and employee referral programs.



Register for Jason’s FREE webinar, Socialize Your Talent Strategy, presented Monday, April 29, at HR.com.

How IBM’s Intranet Improves Employee Development and Retention

At  HR/NY’s fabulous social media recruiting panel (which I moderated,) the audience and I were wowed as Nabeel Ahmad, Learning Developer at IBM, rocked the New York Times Building. 

He showed how IBM, the conservative corporate giant, has been letting its hair down and opening its intranet to new ideas. The results have been greater collaboration, better retention, and more advancement opportunities. Here’s how IBM did it, and how you can too:

Employees Thank Each Other
Instead of a top-down rewards program, IBM allows its employees to recognize each other with “Blue Thx.” These can be sent to any colleague anywhere in the world. And it’s not a private interaction; a leaderboard shows who’s received the most “Thx” in the last 30 days. Kind, simple gestures like these help unite IBM’s global workforce of 400,000. 

Employees Shadow Each OtheIBM’s ShadowMe program connects employees with senior executives based on department and location. A search for “social learning,” for example, brings up more than 800 IBMers across the entire company. Employees can physically shadow their mentors at the same office, or virtually follow mentors anywhere in the world. An employee never has to miss a learning or development opportunity because the expert in their field is in a different building, city, or country.

Employees Learn From Each Other
IBMers have access to a crowdsourcing resource, allowing them to ask their colleagues questions about any topic. An HR question posted here, for example, yields much faster results than an email submitted to HR…and it cuts down on HR’s workload. While there’s a danger that employees might give each other wrong answers, I’ve found that, like Yelp restaurant reviews, the truth usually rises the top. 

 

Employees Don’t Have to Email Each Other
Nabeel asked us if we agreed with the statement “I live in my email.” That attitude is a problem at IBM, so senior leaders look for any way to keep employees’ inboxes clean. When new CEO Ginni Rometty took over in January, she didn’t send an email announcement; she put her speech on video and made it available only on internal channels. This showed everyone at IBM how serious she was about cultivating the intranet.


IBM’s collaborative spirit even extends to live events. Before a recent technology panel, employees were asked to submit questions ahead of time. But instead of picking his favorites, the moderator made all the submissions public and allowed employees to vote for the best ones. This ensured that the panel addressed the issues most pressing to the largest group of people. If you’ve been to an event where someone asks a question that’s relevant only to them, you know how important this is.

Nabeel showed us that IBM’s conservative image doesn’t really reflect the true nature of its employees’ creativity, resourcefulness, or satisfaction. If your business is large enough for an intranet, we’d love to put the lessons of IBM and other corporate superstars to work for you. Contact me for more details

The Hidden Information Inside Fortune’s 2012 Best Companies To Work For

Fortune magazine just released its list of 100 Best Companies to Work For. But while many news outlets and job boards are covering the main list, the magazine’s researchers compiled some very detailed and segmented data. And I found some patterns emerging on why certain companies have created authentic employer brands as great places to work.

Keeping Employees Healthy Keeps Them Happy
Fourteen companies on the Fortune list pay 100% of their employees’ health care costs. Sure, that’s easy for giants like Microsoft, but a number of small firms do it, too, including Boston Consulting Group, NuStar Energy, the Everett Clinic, and Perkins Cole, which all have around 2,000 workers. As health insurance costs climb and the Affordable Care Act’s future becomes cloudy, health care should be part of every organization’s employer value proposition. How do you handle your employees’ health benefits?

Diversity Counts
Forty-four of the 100 companies have a workforce of at least 50% women. Twenty-three of the companies have a workforce of at least 40% minorities. Eighty-nine of the companies offer domestic partner benefits. We’ve long known that diversity brings fresh, new perspectives to an organization. Now we have the hard numbers to back it up. And don’t forget that “diversity” includes people with disabilities and older workers.

It’s Not Just About Money
Amazingly, 27 of the companies give hourly workers an average annual pay of under $40,000. That includes Men’s Wearhouse, CarMax, Aflac, and Starbucks. Five of the companies, including Nordstrom and General Mills, pay annual salaries of less than $50,000. And yet they beat out hundreds of other, better-paying firms to make Fortune’s list. Obviously these companies have great employer branding and are attracting and engaging employees in other ways. Which brings us to…

Uniting Employees in Unique Ways
One of the lists on the Fortune site is called Unusual Perks, naming some clever benefits that improve employee satisfaction. Among them is NetApp, which offers a basketball court, volleyball court, and massage rooms. Alston & Bird provides free Spanish classes. The Southern Ohio Medical Center features an employee-run vegetable garden. FactSet Research brings local food trucks to its offices, along with free lunches and weekly summer barbecues. And Pricewaterhouse Coopers offers a Mentor Moms program, pairing up expectant mothers with other moms at the company.

What do these top-10 perks have in common? For one, they all bring employees together. Whether they’re eating, learning, planting, or playing, all these perks have a communal aspect that helps build teamwork and camaraderie. Compare that to #4 Wegmans’ free holiday coupon books, which employees use to buy products on their own. Nice, but how does that improve the workplace?

More Perks That Employees Love
Not every company can put a basketball court in their office. Some of the more conventional benefits that the top companies offer include: an on-site child care center (31 companies), an on-site gym (69 companies) or off-site gym discounts (61 companies), telecommuting (85 companies), and the option for a year-round compressed workweek (80 companies).

The Secrets of the Top 100
My takeaway? These successful companies have brought in a broad array of workers with different backgrounds. They pay their employees well or offer substantial benefits, or both. They offer unique perks that allow workers to interact across departmental lines and to socialize before and after business hours. They also provide options for the busy 21st-century employees, such as telecommuting, child care, and a compressed workweek.

It doesn’t matter how large these companies are, how old they are, or what field they’re in. All these elements add to their employer brand as a destination of choice, building success at attracting, engaging, and retaining top talent.

But what if your organization has already received honors as a great workplace or offers unique benefits, but your employees don’t know about them? Our corporate communications experts can help.

360: Does Your Brand Have What It Takes To Go The Distance?

One Brand.

At Brandemix, it’s our vision. If you think it’s simple, think again.

Organizations, from healthcare non-profits to global financial firms, acutally convey different messages to different audiences. These companies have one mission statement and set of values for employees, another for customers, yet another for shareholders, and possiby a fourth for talent they’re trying to attract. But some customers become applicants; some applicants become employees. Employees are also investors.

Put this in the new marketing landscape, where brands communicate globally to audiences 24 hours a day. It soon becomes obvious that a single, focused brand improves marketing, retention, recruiting, and return to shareholder.

Here’s how the process works:

Most people in your audience are customers first. We all know the reasons why branding is important in the general marketplace: it creates awareness, distinguishes you from competitors, and makes an emotional connection with buyers. Advertising has gone beyond answering questions like “What does the product do?” and now addresses “How does this product me feel?” and “What does this product say about me?” Good branding creates loyalty and evangelism, as followers sing the brand’s praises to their friends through social networks. Look at the passion for Apple products, Ford Mustangs, or even Oreo cookies.

That love leads some customers to want to work for the brand.

Check your home page, then your careers page.
Is there a value proposition? Are the branding and messaging still the same? If not, that potential employee might wonder which identity is the “real” one – and suddenly the idea of working for your brand doesn’t soundso desirable. It’s crucial that the marketing and HR departments share the same vision and values; otherwise, job-seekers may feel like they’re applying for a position with Jekyll & Hyde.

You passed the first test, now what?
Let’s say that your careers site is branded perfectly and the employer value proposition is consistent with your corporate brand. The customer, who became an applicant, got the job and is now an employee. What happens now? Are they exposed to and trained with the same branding that made them love the company in the first place?

This is an important question; a recent study by Aon Hewitt showed that the companies with the most engaged employees outperformed the stock market in 2010, and the Harvard Service Profit Chain states that engaged employees result in a 22% increase in revenue. So the internal communications office must also be aligned with the HR and marketing departments.


“One Brand” ensures that your customers, employees, and business partners all share a core belief in your brand.

Did your brand go the distance—360 messaging consistent across internal, external, candidate, employee, investor, alumni, and vendor?

If your branding isn’t a singular, consistent message shared by your entire company, maybe it’s time to consider a re-branding effort. Brandemix can help.

5 Secrets of a Great Intranet

What’s an intranet? A site where employees can read their about their benefits? A list of departmental phone numbers? A place where press releases go to die?

You’ve got it all wrong. A good intranet allows a company not just to inform and educate employees, but also to engage and inspire them. In a large enterprise, it might be the only way that employees connect with each other and the senior leaders. If you’re not using your intranet to build brand equity, you’re missing a crucial opportunity to improve employee engagement, satisfaction, and performance.

As the internet has evolved, the important characteristics of an intranet have changed. In fact, intranets don’t have to be accessible only on office computers – how about an intranet app that employees can access on their mobile phones?

To insure that you have an engaging and compelling intranet, make sure it has these five important elements:

Interactive
Intranets should allow communication from employees, not just to them. A weekly poll on the front page is a an easy, no-pressure way to get insights from your staff. A simple question like “How can we best improve our sales channel?” can lead to all sorts of interesting ideas.

Multimedia
It’s almost 2012 – is your intranet still just text? Employees can only look at copy for so long. You should include photos of the senior leadership team, audio of the CEO’s speeches, and videos of company events. You might even allow employees to post their own photos and videos of company parties or field trips. Facebook’s own bloggers have said that sharing pictures is one of the most popular activities on the social network.

Effective intranets engage employees.

Timely
Nothing turns employees off like old news. No matter what exciting content the site has, if an employee sees “Get ready for Election Day 2008!” they won’t take the intranet seriously. Update the site at least once a month; once a week would be preferable. “Breaking news,” such as an employee getting a major reward through the recognition program, can keep employees checking the site frequently.

Organized
You’re going to archive a lot of information on an intranet: benefits information, press releases, company directory, HR documents. But if the employees can’t find the information, the intranet is useless. Have a robust search system that lets users quickly get what they need. Place navigation at both the top and the bottom, with clear and simple drop-down menus. Use the front-page poll to ask employees what information they’re having trouble finding and rearrange the navigation accordingly.

Customizable
All our favorite sites are personalized, from Yahoo homepages that show local weather to sports sites that feature our favorite teams. Make sure that one section of your intranet home screen has a section that employees can personalize with their preferred links. Someone may want to see the company’s stock price while another might want to see how many sick days they have left. A “quick links” section not only saves the employees time; it also gives them a sense of ownership for the page.

Time to "reconstruct" your intranet?

At BRANDEMiX, we apply the principles of branding to employer branding, which covers the entire experience. If you’d like to learn how we can create or improve your intranet, visit our website or call 212-947-1001.

For the latest on social media, online recruiting, mobile marketing, and other branding trends, please like BRANDEMiX on Facebookfollow us on Twitter, and join our LinkedIn group, Your Digital Brand.

The Navy Markets to, and Redefines, Women

I often give presentations on social media marketing, where I preach transparency, casual friendliness, and acceptance of negative feedback. One organization notknown for those qualities is the United States military. Which is why I was so surprised to see that the US Navy had a Facebook page that encouraged recruits, and potential recruits, to openly discuss their concerns and challenges.

Even more surprising is the fact that the page isn’t for everyone considering a career in the Navy; it’s specifically for women, who have had a difficult history in our country’s armed forces.
The page is called “Women Redefined,” and it provides an interesting example of gender branding and recruitment.
Women Redefined offers as its mission, “Applauding women who define life on their own terms. Intermingling the stereotypically feminine and masculine. Women in the Navy are amongst those paving the way in redefining femininity in the 21st Century. Show your support or share your story.” Clearly, the Navy isn’t shying away from women’s concerns that joining the military would make them less feminine.

They’re allowing women to ask some pretty tough questions, too. “How is it for you when you leave your boyfriend?”… “Did you have regrets in the beginning?”… “Do single mothers enlist in the navy?” Women in the service, or in training, reply to these queries, and the conversation is posted online for all the public – and all the world – to see.
It’s not just potential enlistees that are raising the questions. The page administrators recently posted on the Wall, “What are your biggest concerns when thinking about joining the Navy?” The query garnered 90 responses, such as “I’m too old” and “I won’t get the job that I want.” Interestingly, the administrators never responded; the question was most likely an exercise in market research. Perhaps soon we’ll see an ad that tells women “You’re not too old to join the Navy.”

In my opinion, this takes engagement of job candidates to a new level. By allowing women to ask each other questions, share their stories, and support each other, the Navy is fostering a community like any other brand. And they’re doing it well.

Women Redefined points those seeking more information to navy.com/women, whose front page offers a live chat feature, where women can speak online to a recruiter. Such open and proactive communication would have been unheard of a few years ago. In fact, navy.com/women also features over a dozen individual Facebook pages for the Navy, including one titled “Navy Latinos.”

That
branding deserves an article of its own.