New Study From CMO Council and Executive Networks Inc. Looks at Value of Socially Engaging Employees and Partners in Shaping Corporate Culture and Brand Personality
Brand promises are a dime a dozen, but few companies have mastered the ability to engage their entire organization to deliver a truly unified, authentic and consistent customer experience that underscores the brand claim.
That’s not to say it isn’t possible. Standout slogans where companies have measured up include the classic Avis “We Try Harder” campaign and “You’re in Good Hands with Allstate,” which required total employee and partner buy-in and support.
This topic is the focus of a new research report by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and Executive Networks Inc., entitled “Making the Workplace a Brand-Defining Space.” It explores the new ways marketing and HR leaders can engage employees socially to better radiate and reinforce a company’s brand values, ethics, commitments and qualities. Qualitative input for the report was drawn from senior executives at Comcast, Deloitte, Whole Foods Market, British American Tobacco, Mitel, CA Technologies, Opus Bank, Intermountain Healthcare, WageWorks and The Walt Disney Company.
Brand persona is seen by more than 90 percent of the marketing and HR leaders surveyed as essential, very important or moderately valuable to attracting new hires and building a lasting relationship with customers. However, only 62 percent of respondents report having a formal brand platform that defines shared values, ethics and collective buy-in to a singular value proposition.
While only 37 percent of survey participants say they have a well-defined corporate culture that is universally embraced by the organization, more than half of respondents consider their brand personality to be fully embodied or very well reflected in their people and workplace. Detailed findings can be sourced from a 60-plus page digital report available for download from the www.cmocouncil.org web site.
Sponsored by CultureSphere, the research was based on an online survey of more than 230 senior marketing and HR leaders across North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. The survey was conducted in Q2 of 2015. Some 43 percent of respondents came from companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue, 26 percent were drawn from middle-market companies ($101 to $1 billion in annual sales), and 30 percent hailed from companies with under $100 million in annual revenue.
The joint study by the CMO Council and Executive Networks Inc. looked at social media strategies and techniques currently being embraced by leading consumer brands to recruit and retain Millennial workers, build customer-centric cultures, recognize and reward innovation and output, as well as “gamify” the workplace in order to drive productivity, performance and motivation.
While traditional internal communications practices among companies were highly prevalent, the study found there was only limited adoption of transformational digital technologies, including private social media networks, instant messaging systems, online learning and certification, mobile social branding platforms, and internal TV or video streaming networks.
Half of survey respondents said they would be interested in piloting or learning more about a social media platform for real-time, employee-inspired branding. The key benefits for crowdsourcing employee or partner-contributed social media content for internal or external conversation include:
• Turning employees into active advocates and brand champions (50 percent)
• Reinforcing brand authenticity and corporate credibility (41 percent)
• Unifying, engaging and activating the organization (40 percent)
• Gaining visibility and recognition for employee effort (30 percent)
• Humanizing the organization to customers, partners and the world (28 percent)
The study found that most enterprises are lagging in the adoption and use of digital channels for real-time engagement with employees and partners. Furthermore, most are not taking full advantage of social media platforms, mobile devices and instant messaging technologies to crowdsource and share employee-inspired content.
“Organizations have long struggled to instill shared values, behaviors and ethics that embody and validate brand platforms, personalities and promises,” notes Donovan Neale-May, Executive Director of the CMO Council. “A tighter linkage between the CMO and the CHRO should be strongly centered on organizational branding and creating cultures that radiate and reinforce core brand attributes and aspirations.”
Neale-May notes that enabling platforms and solutions that leverage the reach and vibrancy of private and public social media networks can do much to engage employees and key stakeholders in a dynamic and directed process to express and underscore the essence of a brand and the culture of a company.
“Celebrating achievements, big and small, is a real priority for most companies of all sizes. It helps motivate and energize the organization, and it does much to reinforce the culture and commitment of the company to employees, partners and customers,” notes Danny Gordon, CEO and founder of CultureSphere. The Silicon Valley company has developed the world's first social platform for the production, consumption and viral circulation of "employee-inspired media."
“Big changes are underway in the make-up of the workforce and the requirements to satisfy younger, social media-minded and technically savvy workers,” adds Mike Dulworth, President and CEO of Executive Networks Inc., which manages 15 Global 1,000 HR peer networks. “Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are entering the workplace in record numbers. They are idealistic, diverse, digitally enabled, social and perhaps most importantly, ambitious.”
According to the “Making the Workplace a Brand-Defining Space” report, the fickle, vocal and socially minded Millennial workforce is forcing companies to accommodate new work styles, adapt business practices and provide new job comforts and benefits.
In the survey, marketing and HR leaders ranked the most important topics, moments and milestones where they seek to engage and activate employee populations and partner networks. These include: 1) company gatherings, meetings, shows and events; 2) new product introductions; 3) delivering on customer care and handling promises; 4) image and reputation building and 5) business performance achievements.