Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Wicked Values

The yellow brick road to employee engagement
Blog: Paul Hitchens is Author of ‘Create the Perfect Brand’ and ‘Successful Brand Management – In a Week’ published by Hodder Education. He is the Course Director for ‘Brand Strategy & HR’ hosted by Symposium Training.

The Wizard of Oz is an evergreen favourite and the stage show 'Wicked' is set to run and run. At the heart of L. Frank Baum's fantasy are some very down-to-earth values. I recently watched the London West End production with my family and was struck by its underlying foundation of core values and the parallels with employee engagement, corporate culture and motivation. 
Employee Engagement is the spirit of the Employer Brand. Engaged employees that love their role and understand the part they play in fulfilling the organisations vision are the lifeblood of a healthy culture. Conscientious, engaged employees bring brands to life and deliver the best brand experiences.
The period of time in which the first Oz books were published coincides with the boom in the ‘American Dream’. A belief in the ‘Land of Opportunity’ motivated many people to leave the old world of Europe behind and pursue prosperity and personal improvement. From 1900 L. Frank Baum published 14 books on the Land of Oz and I am sure we are all familiar with the Technicolor 1939 MGM version. The themes and values of Baum’s work would have struck a chord with anyone considering starting a business and building a brand. 
Values that resonate with entrepreneurs:
·      COURAGE to realise your dreams.
·      LOVE and passion in your work and the products of your labours
·      WISDOM to sustain the success and grow a long-term business.

Themes that apply to building strong motivated teams and esprit de corps:
·      TEAM WORK Solve problems by working together.
·      CONFIDENCE Follow your gut instincts.
·      HONESTY Be true to yourself and don’t hide behind a façade
·      MORALITY Don’t give up on your principles,
·      TRUST Believe in good and good things will happen.
·      THE BRAND There’s no place like home.

Back in the real world
Values can often become a list of clichés that are poorly defined and generic. Annual Reports, Corporate Brochures and Induction Packs are bolstered with pages dedicated to corporate values. But how were these values arrived at originally and are they still relevant today? 

For example: Trust is a commonly held value that should be implicit in every brand. What exactly does ‘trust’ mean and how is it defined inside and outside of the organisation? Can employees trust senior management to keep their word? Can the customer trust in the product or service?

In order to succeed and have relevance, values require the complete endorsement of the boardroom supported by clear evidence that the management team is practicing what it preaches. These values will need to be interpreted and understood at an individual level so that employees can integrate them into their job description.

If you are part of an established organisation with a legacy of values, it could be time to re-evaluate their effectiveness. Choose a ‘Values Focus Group’ from across the organisation including; Senior Management, Marketing, Human Resources and Line Managers. Ask the group if these existing values are capable of delivering a unique customer experience or a generic one? If the legacy values are of the generic ‘me to’ variety they will add nothing to the personality of the brand. Too many values can be as ineffective as no values at all. If your employees have trouble recalling your values, it is better to keep them short and succinct and limited to a core number of five. 

Considerations for choosing Brand Values:
·      Are the values sincere and memorable?
·      Do these values help to differentiate the brand?
·      Are the values relevant to the brand experience?
·      Can employees realistically live up to these values? 
·      Do the values provoke measurable behaviours that will enhance or transform the brands performance? 

It may take several days to arrive at your new values system, but they will have a long lasting and positive effect, so it is worth every effort to get it right. The publication of the new values will directly influence decisions for hiring employees, measuring their performance and awarding rewards.

Appoint Values Ambassadors from all levels of the organisation to disseminate the values across the workforce. Ensure that every employee is within reach of these Values Ambassadors, from Senior Management to temporary staff. Values are best shared and practiced ‘face to face’, you cannot expect them to thrive if they are buried away in a document.

Thank you
Paul Hitchens 
I help people and companies to build strong brands inside and outside their organisation. I often ask delegates at my workshops to describe their favourite brands and I expect them to reveal the stand out qualities and the stories they associate with those cherished products and services. This is because strong brands have meaning and stand for something that’s relevant to us. 
Paul presents the following one-day courses with Symposium Training -
Brand Strategy and Human Resources – Building the Employer Brand
21 May 2014 – London
2 July 2014 – Birmingham
Your brand needs you! The power of employer branding.

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