Brand loyalty. Most of us would associate the idea with being a consumer; we become loyal to certain brands, which can then exploit this loyalty for their own gains – think: sticking to a particular brand of ketchup, or lusting after a particular brand of car. And as consumers, our loyalty can be tested – as many British Airways customers found recently during the airline’s catastrophic IT failure. But what about brand loyalty as an employee – what does it take for a company to build it and maintain it (or even repair it), and what impact can that have on employees’ (and by extension the company’s) performance?
Brand loyalty is important for attracting and retaining employees…
What is it about certain brands that keep us going back for more, rather than switching to alternatives? Answer: they appeal to our values. Different brands do this in different ways – they might be cheaper than the others, more effective, have prestige, offer great customer service or be more environmentally responsible. We choose brands that align with what’s important to us; as Barnaby Wynter describes in The Brand Bucket, they make an ‘emotional promise’.
And it’s no different in the world of work – the majority of people want to choose (and stick with) a business whose values and ethos align with their own. The ideal outcome of employee brand loyalty is that it keeps the right people in the company, and inspires them to keep performing well, or if employees leave, their loyalty continues in that they sing the company’s praises, making ongoing business recommendations and connections etc.
Defining the brand through values and culture (and ensuring the business ‘lives’ those values) is therefore essential to appealing to the kind of people the business wants to attract. Unfortunately, many companies fail to fully achieve this – according to a 2015 survey by Deloitte, despite 87% of companies rating employee engagement and culture as ‘important’ or ‘very important’, 50% of the global workforce would not recommend their employer to their peers.
…But it’s not the be-all and end-all
Part of the challenge that businesses face with employee brand loyalty is it is more complex than consumer brand loyalty – it’s not simply a case of: ‘this brand of washing up liquid lasts longer’ or an agreement with the business’ ethos or products, but instead considers the people within it and the day-to-day experience of working there.
We constantly see brand loyalty tested out in the consumer world: when something fails or the brand is associated with something we don’t like, it can cause the exodus of dedicated customers. The same is true for employee brand loyalty, which is why it cannot be seen in isolation, and must not be sought after at the expense of other key drivers of employee engagement.
In our view, other fundamentals of employee engagement include Daniel Pink’s classic trio of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, alongside strength of leadership, sense of camaraderie and support, and whether people are a good fit for their role.
Without these, despite a company’s great internal brand loyalty, they risk losing great people.
Is your business facing an engagement or employee brand loyalty challenge? Give us a call…