Low morale is an epidemic-level problem in the United States. More than 70 percent of US workers are currently unsatisfied with their jobs.
Why is this the case? As you can imagine, there are many factors at play here. Employees may become demotivated if they face long hours, unfair rules and regulations, unlikable coworkers and bosses, or if they’re facing challenges that are too difficult or too easy. However, one of the most significant influencers of morale is often overlooked—branding and corporate culture.
More than two-thirds of employees believe corporate culture is important for the success of an organization, but most businesses are so worried about the external visibility of their brand (i.e., how clients and customers see it) that they completely neglect its internal visibility (i.e., how their employees see it).
So what can companies do to combat this?
There’s No “Right” Brand
Your company’s identity is wholly unique. There is no such thing as a “right” or “wrong” branding model. However, you’ll need to carefully consider the types of workers you’d like to have, and the environment your company offers, when you create or reimagine your branding.
For example, some companies may pride themselves on excellence and professionalism. In these environments, strict dress codes, rigid punctuality, and detail-oriented work will be priorities, and will naturally attract people who fit into that type of environment. Other companies may pride themselves on energy and individuality. In these environments, loose dress codes and creative work will be priorities, and will naturally attract very different types of workers.
To start, you need to identify the key brand characteristics that are most important to your organization (internally). From there, we’ll work on incorporating them in a way that improves employee alignment with that vision.
Best Ways to Improve Internal Branding
By this point, you should have a list of at least a few key brand qualities that you want your employees to be aware of (and hopefully, showcase in their own work). How can you build a culture that encourages the exposure of these qualities?
- Be consistent. Employees want to have a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging in their workplace. If the goal post keeps moving, or if they receive mixed messages about what the brand represents, they’re going to lose focus and devalue the brand. If you don’t have a solid company culture or internal branding standard in place, this is your time to hash out the details. Create a formal guide on your brand image, voice, and character, and provide those materials to your employees. Make sure everyone knows what your brand is about, and keep those values consistent at all levels.
- Start early. Branding and company culture shouldn’t be something you wedge into an existing workforce (though you may have to if you’re just getting started). Instead, you’ll need to start early in the hiring process—when you’re interviewing candidates. Keep your brand values in mind, and prioritize candidates who showcase those values. Explain, straightforwardly and in detail, what your brand represents, and let your prospective employees choose for themselves whether they’ll fit into that environment. This way, you’ll proactively filter your candidates, and set a high bar for everyone coming in for the first time.
- Liven up the office. Your office layout should speak volumes about your brand. Are you a fun, casual, laid-back place? You should have art on the walls, bright colors, and an open atmosphere. Are you more about individual achievement? You’ll want individual offices, and areas where you can highlight some of your top performers. Immediately upon walking in, your employees and clients should “feel” what type of business you are. If this isn’t the case, it’s time to start redecorating.
- Make your brand visible. You’ll also want to give employees fairly consistent reminders that your brand exists, and what it represents. You don’t have to be overt with this; even subtle suggestions can be effective. For example, you might use promotional items like backpacks, tote bags, or water bottles that employees can use in their daily lives to advertise your logo and a tagline that emphasizes the most important qualities of your brand.
- Reward compliance. Positive feedback is the best way to encourage behavior; not only does it make employees feel recognized and validated, it makes other employees want to mimic that behavior to earn rewards of their own. Big rewards, like raises and promotions, speak volumes about who you want leading your company, but don’t underestimate the value of small rewards, either. Sometimes, just a pat on the back and a public compliment are enough to see value here.
- Set a standard with leadership. Corporate culture begins with leadership and trickles down to employees. Consciously or unconsciously, staff members follow the standards that their bosses and supervisors set for them; if you instill your brand’s core values in the highest-ranking members of your team, it’s only a matter of time before the entire organization begins to follow them. Hire the right people for these roles.
- Give feedback and make changes. Emotions are contagious. If you have one negative or chronically stressed employee, they could eventually make your other employees negative or chronically stressed. If they conflict with your brand culture, they could eventually move the entire staff to an entirely different cultural perspective. You need to identify this behavior and correct it before it’s too late; during employee evaluations, make a note of any behaviors that conflict with your brand, and make a plan for how to correct those behaviors. If they continue to persist in a way that doesn’t align with your brand, you may need to look for a replacement. Don’t let a single employee compromise your vision for the brand.
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