Australian companies can spend millions of dollars on campaigns promoting their brand each year. Aside from building connections with potential customers and nurturing relationships with existing ones, there’s another side of branding that Australian businesses need to pay attention to — employee engagement and perception.
Kay Phelps, director of British workplace communications company PR in HR, discusses the impact of employee engagement on a company’s brand and why authenticity is especially essential these days for elevating brand perceptions.
Good branding comes from within
When employees find purpose in their roles and feel valued, they can be a company’s greatest brand promoter. But if they are not heard or treated well, what they have to say can be detrimental to your brand image.
“Employees who are engaged are likely to spread positive thoughts around your brand — be it through word of mouth or social media,” Phelps said. Engaged employees are also likely to interact with their company’s social media pages, therefore boosting the reach and engagement of the brand via digital channels.
Kay Phelps, director, PR in HR.
Leaders also need to recognize that there are online platforms where employees can air out their experiences with the company, whether positive or negative. “Combine this with the potential for posts on social media, not only should employers be motivated to treat staff well for their wellbeing, but to protect their image too,” Phelps added.
According to a Glassdoor survey, 86 percent of employees and job seekers research company reviews and ratings to decide on where to apply for a job. Further, a negative reputation can cost an Australian company as much as 10 percent more per hire.
Bad employee reviews not only hurt the perception of potential hires but can also discourage Australian customers from doing business with a company.
“If staff feel that their employers genuinely support them and take their views into account, they’ll be more likely to go to them first with any problems instead of heading online to air their opinions,” said Phelps.
Authenticity is essential
Customers are paying more attention to how brands are living up to their core values and treating their people. A Stackla report said that 86 percent of consumers say that authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support.
“After last year, people want to see that brands care about their people and their customers — not least in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion, wellbeing and health and safety,” Phelps said.
Phelps sees this as a huge opportunity for companies to be talking about their successful programs that promote employee welfare. However, she cautions about the dangers of claiming to have such initiatives without clear actions, “Companies should take action before talking about it in their comms. Your messaging can’t be ingenuine. It must reflect real action and support in these areas. Fail to do this and you’re likely to be called out by onlookers or your employees,” Phelps explained.
Empowering your biggest promoters
“Part of understanding why people want to associate with your brand is being able to recognize their struggles and when you do this, you can create targeted messaging that addresses pain points and provides solutions,” Phelps said of boosting brand awareness, and the same principle can also be applied to creating a better working environment for your employees.
According to Glassdoor, employee voice is three times more credible than the CEO when it comes to talking about working conditions in the company.
Phelps says that a reason for poor brand awareness is unclear messaging. Just like customers, employees tend to be disengaged when expectations for their role are unclear. When not addressed this leads to confusion and conflict, resulting in poor performance and worse, a bad company review.
The second reason is assuming knowledge on the part of the target audience. “Companies need to be able to get their messages across to the ordinary person in a clear and simple way. If a person is confused, they’ll simply turn off,” Phelps explained.
Just with managing the Australian workforce, managers should not assume that their employees know it all. They need to lay out all essential information for their people to do their jobs well. Open lines of communication are a must for fostering a culture of trust in the workforce. Employees need to feel a certain sense of safety that allows them to raise questions and concerns without fear of being shut down.
Companies should prioritize enabling their employees to perform at their best. This means providing them with the right tools and platforms that will allow them to be more efficient. Tools that enable them to collaborate, make data-driven decisions, and just generally make admin work easier are essential to keeping them engaged.
What employees have to say about a company is just as crucial to what customers think about the brand — sometimes, even more. Employee engagement can resonate outside the organization and can either make or break your business. Given today’s business landscape, taking care of your employees is essentially protecting your brand image and bottom line.