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For most organizations, creating a brand that clearly communicates the organization’s value is a key aspect of the overall business strategy. After all, an established brand with a positive reputation can clear the path to launch new products and services, move into new markets, create valuable partnerships and attract the best talent. The benefits are numerable and enormous.
But, despite conventional wisdom, strong brands aren’t built by marketing and design teams alone. Every employee in every department has a role to play because the real face of the brand is the organization’s employees.
Every single person in any given organization who interacts with the outside world – members, customers, other businesses, vendors, business partners – represents the organization’s brand. Recognizing this and ensuring that the brand is represented favorably begins with the hiring process.
Hiring people with the necessary skills and experience for any given position is, of course, important. But it’s also important to evaluate potential new hires as brand ambassadors. As employees, what they say and do reflects not only who they are and what they represent, but what your organization is all about. From a branding perspective, hiring people who don’t represent the characteristics you want your organization to stand for can cause some serious image issues.
Recognizing this reality, here are a few character traits to consider evaluating during the hiring process:
1. Are they a people person? For the most part, skills can be trained. What really can’t be trained is a genuine respect for other people. This is an especially important quality for positions requiring interaction with customers. But, also important if the person will be dealing with vendors and business partners.
2. Is a positive attitude a part of their natural disposition? This can be tricky to evaluate during an interview, but hiring people with a positive attitude is incredibly important. Attitude is contagious and just as a positive attitude has the potential to boost company morale and the overall company culture, a negative attitude can do some serious damage.
3. Do they present an attitude of humility? Those who see themselves as the smartest person in the room generally don’t work well on a team or with customers. For most organizations, employees who are rude and talk down to customers and coworkers are not what we’d think of as positive brand ambassadors. Confidence and competence are great qualities to hire for. Arrogance and an attitude of contempt for others are worth avoiding regardless of skills or experience.
4. Do they have a history of being a team player? If an employee can’t work as part of a team and put value into the considerations and needs of their co-workers, he or she is not likely to do so for your customers or members. A team that doesn’t work together well won’t serve together well.
5. Can they demonstrate a good work ethic? I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of one position within my organization where a good work ethic isn’t essential. One might even make the case that a good work ethic is the most important characteristic in a new hire. It doesn’t matter if the potential new hire has good people skills, a great attitude, humility, and is a good team player if they aren’t willing to pull their own weight. Look for candidates who are proactive and who will take ownership of their role within the organization.
As leaders, we must do everything we can to hire those most likely to turn brand aspirations into reality. But, beyond the hiring process, it’s impossible to build a strong brand without employees who are thoroughly engaged, connected and committed.
Fully engaged employees are invested, enthusiastic, and inspired by their work. They show up every day because they want to be there and are intrinsically motivated by personal and collective success. They feel connected to the organization’s brand and understand their part in it.
Many organizations focus the majority of branding efforts on marketing and advertising activities. While there is no doubt that these are important aspects of every growth strategy, we must also recognize that our most powerful brand asset is our people. When anyone outside the organization interacts with an employee, or with the work produced by a behind-the-scenes team, every marketing effort is put to the test.
As I reflect on the idea of employees as brand ambassadors, I find myself wondering if this is more likely to happen within collaborative, cooperative environments? What do you think?