In this Think column, hr-haven founder Belinda Waggoner dissects the imperative of a coherent, thoughtful internal identity within one’s company. The Think column helps entrepreneurs to stop and think about the various aspects of starting and running a business.
If you haven’t unlocked the secrets or even considered the benefits of internal branding, here’s a little story we tell whenever we’re given the opportunity.
Let’s say you’re recruiting for an open position. Ask yourself how a prospective employee might feel about you when they show up for a job opportunity and they’re handed an application form purchased from the local office supply store. Worse yet, you purchased the application form 10 years ago, it’s been copied a thousand times, isn’t straight on the page, and now the words are barely legible.
How do you think this potential game-changer employee might feel about your company? Does it look like you have it all together? Would you hand the same gnarly looking piece of paper to a prospective customer? We’re thinking not.
Just like every relationship we make in life, an employment relationship starts at the first impression. In this single moment a prospective employee forms a general opinion about you that is often difficult to undo. And that’s just the start.
It’s sad to see companies spend so much on external branding, but neglect to spend essential resources on their internal brand — or branding to their employees. Staff members need to know more about your company than anybody on the outside.
Spiffy marketing – but who’s delivering on your brand promise?
Your external marketing dollars could be a complete waste of money if the plug isn’t in your brain-drain. That is, if your employees don’t know who you are and what your core values are, how can they effectively, efficiently and consistently deliver on your brand promise every day?
The bottom line on all of this is culture. Culture sets the stage, and once you figure out who you are and what you stand for, you have to figure out how to effectively communicate that to your employees so they can carry that message and mission to the marketplace.
From your products and services and the methods in which you deliver them, your brand and your culture exist in every single aspect of every single thing you do as a business.
Recognize that you’re you – nobody else
One of the most fun things we hear from business owners is: “We want to be just like [insert favorite company here] but cooler!”
Well, here’s the thing, you’re not them — they are, and they didn’t get there by deciding who else they wanted to look like then plagiarizing everything they did to achieve success. While every smart someone knows that best practices can and should be emulated, your culture and subsequent internal branding is all yours. It should be authentic. It takes work and a whole lot of intentional thought to get it right.
HR is your Internal Branding Department
This takes us back to our original story about the application form. It might seem insignificant, but it’s actually a really big deal.
The smallest of details communicate your brand, and the simplest detail can derail your internal branding efforts. Learning how to communicate what you do and how you want it done starts with written materials, process development and training programs, instilling your company’s belief system into daily life at your organization. And that’s why human resources is an indispensable piece of your business puzzle – in fact, HR should be your “Internal Branding Department.”
Belinda Waggoner is the president and founder of hr-haven, a human rescourses agency that helps small businesses and entrepreneurs. Learn more about the company here.