Some media portrayals of company culture and employee buy-in—particularly in shows like Silicon Valley—have inflated the concepts to absurd levels (for great comedic effect). Yet, there’s still some truth to these depictions: every successful brand needs their Employee Believers.
In our previous article, we examined the death of consumers’ brand loyalty and the new “brand believer.” Here, we’re turning that perspective inward to employee believers—why they’re instrumental to brand belief and why recruiting and retention should be top brand priorities.
Employee believers—defining and understanding their importance
We previously defined brand believers as “a focused group of your customers who have a shared set of interests, values or beliefs in views about your brand.” The same applies to your employee believers.
Brand belief is rooted in authentic relationships that employees and customers form with you out of those shared qualities. (Think Harley Davidson’s dedicated subculture or REI’s Co-op Membership.) But while every brand aspires to cultivate a fervent group of believers, more fail than succeed.
Ultimately, success depends on whether people have something to connect with. You can’t expect authentic relationships to form without that element. And since your employees represent the brand, they’re overwhelmingly responsible for creating resonant experiences—through in-person interactions, marketing content, order fulfillment and more.
In effect, your employees’ interactions with customers become your authenticity “litmus test” based on how they help facilitate your company’s purpose (i.e., why you exist beyond making money).
Any brand can position itself however it wants, but does that positioning hold up during customer engagements? Or will they have jarring experiences that don’t reflect expectations?
And are your brand strategy choices aimed at preserving that authenticity throughout a customer’s lifetime relationship? Start straying without a reason (or one beyond the bottom line), and brand believers will, too.
Employee belief in action
Let’s revisit the REI example above to see how it can go right.
When customers interact with REI employees, there’s a strong chance they’ll meet someone who shares similar interests in the outdoors (and related concerns like environmental protection). The only difference between the customer and the employee might be the latter’s name tag. The result is more relatability than pre-written talking points or Unique Selling Propositions could ever achieve.
”Oh, I’ve used those La Sportiva climbing shoes for months and adore them! Highly recommend! But you said this is your first pair? Those have a pretty aggressive arch you might find uncomfortable for a while, so you might want to try one of these instead. I used that pair of Scarpas when I started out, and they were great.”
There’s an irreplaceable enthusiasm and genuineness that employee believers automatically convey. But adding that sentiment requires recruiting and retaining those who convey it. And as customers come to recognize and expect that resonance, employee believer retention becomes increasingly important to your long-term brand strategy.
Company loyalty is dead, but employee belief thrives
Like brand loyalty, company loyalty is dead. And recent labor market commentary aside, it’s been dead for decades. Your parents’ or grandparents’ nostalgic advice about spending a half-century with one company before a pension-supported retirement has become increasingly divorced from reality since the 70s.
But belief and values haven’t suffered loyalty’s fate, and employees can still find brands that share qualities resonating with them. The brands simply have to put the work in first.
The same “mindset territories” used to identify brand believers also work for employees. You’re looking for a core group across demographics that exhibits a shared mindset aligning with your brand beliefs. That belief can span myriad qualities, such as:
- Company purpose
- Company values
- Brand promise
- Social or environmental consciousness
- Special interests
Go beyond stats with mindset territories
Belief doesn’t always show itself through demographic data. So, while you should always consider that information, you must also look beyond it to find believers.
For example, how would a company selling hand-operated coffee grinders identify believers? You could start by examining the product experience. Is there something implied about people who use them? Is the purchase itself symbolic?
Perhaps it’s choosing something manual and inherently more time-consuming over commonplace electric alternatives or pre-ground coffee. There’s likely a common appreciation for artisanal craftsmanship, elevated experiences and preserving personal moments.
Those are the types of mindset territories you’re looking to explore (or “reverse engineer”).
Strategies for recruiting and retaining employee believers
Once you’ve identified your employee believers, it’s time to start recruiting them—and retaining those you’ve already hired. Broadly, you’ll rely on these steps:
- Assess your brand from the employee’s perspective—What is your employee value proposition (EVP)—both extrinsic (e.g., rewards) and intrinsic (e.g., personal meaning and values)? Does it reflect what your believers are seeking? If not, it’s the same as inauthentically positioning yourself to customers. Ideally, you’re the immediate answer when someone’s asked where they want to work.
- Begin incorporating more data into your mindset territories—What do your current employee believers value (in real life or online), and how do they communicate? These and other characteristics blend with your mindset territories to inform your recruiting strategy.
- Implement a dedicated retention strategy—You must create advancement and retention structures for believers. Simply put, company loyalty is dead largely because workers know hiring budgets are often bigger than retention counterparts. A new job often delivers better compensation much faster than staying in place. But belief in a company’s purpose can transcend monetary gain—if it’s delivered on.
Employee believers need experiences that reciprocate their belief and reasons to stay—whether it’s personal recognition or a company purpose and culture they’re legitimately invested in.
And if you haven’t built structures to track and reward performance (e.g., employee review data, personal check-ins) or provide professional development (e.g., education or training opportunities), believers’ eyes likely still wander.
Modern brands—built on employee and customer belief
Today’s successful brands target people who share beliefs, values and interests. But those customers’ experiences fall flat if the brand’s employees aren’t on the same wavelength. It’s why recruiting and retaining employee believers is so crucial to positive brand reputation and creating authentic, resonant relationships with the right audience.
Read the full article here.
Knowledge at Wharton. Is Workplace Loyalty Gone for Good? https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/is-workplace-loyalty-gone-for-good/
SHRM. Wages Stall as Companies Spend Generously to Recruit, Not Retain.https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/compensation/pages/wages-stall-as-companies-spend-generously-to-recruit-not-retain.aspx