Photo Credit: Thomas Cunningham (Creative Commons)

When businesses embark on creating or developing their brand, most focus on graphic communications: assets such as a logo, fonts, color scheme, picture and advertising layout, web design, business card and brochure design, all in an effort to develop a consistent look-and-feel for their company. The reasoning stands that creating a brand that embodies the mission and personality of a business is of utmost importance.

What many businesses do not realize, however, is that a brand is more than a graphic representation of their business; it also includes the experience one has with the business. Everything from the speed and politeness of the customer service department to the quality and availability of their products down to the friendliness of their staff all combine to create their brand.

A brand is an experience, not just an image. Putting resources and energy behind developing the graphic portion of a your brand is important, but you should not fail to develop your most important branding asset: your employees.

Your staff has the ability to make-or-break your brand. You can spend thousands of dollars on research and brand development, putting finances and time into redesigning all your graphic communication assets and developing branding guidelines to create the image that your business places a high emphasis on customer service, but if your employees are cranky or irritable, all that time and all those resources were for naught. One bad experience with your staff can ruin the brand image you spent time and money to develop.

Integrate the following suggestions into your branding initiative to develop your most important asset:

1. Train
Nothing damages your brand more than incompetent employees. It makes your business seem unprofessional, careless and anything but trustworthy. Invest resources into training your employees in their roles and the mission and vision of the company. Send them to conferences, bring a specialist in, cross train between departments. Benefits include less transferring between departments, more focused service on your clients, and a knowledgeable staff that can help your clients.

2. Appreciate
An unappreciated employee is an unhappy employee, and an unhappy employee damages your brand. When staff members are frustrated, angry, feel underpaid and under appreciated, they share that frustration with others; either family and friends or as far as potential and current clients. One venting session by an employee can completely destroy your brand, so take time to appreciate them. A simple “good job” or more formal recognition can go a long way to developing happy employees who will go above and beyond for your company. Benefits include a sense of ownership, favorable dispositions and more pleasant workforce.

3. Push
Many businesses fail to tap into their employees’ full potential. Don’t fall into that trap. Your administrative assistant might have an eye for graphic design. Your janitor may be skilled in logistics. Your average cubicle dweller might manage a successful nonprofit on the side. Don’t let a job description define the skill set you allow your employees to express. Discover the unique talents and skills of your staff and push them to explore that potential, and don’t be afraid to reevaluate an employee’s position and increase their compensation for increased work performed. Benefits include discovering and utilizing workforce to its full potential and a greater idea generation and implementation.

4. Let Go
No matter how hard you try, some people won’t be a good fit for your company. They don’t share the same values, work ethic or professionalism that fit the brand image you are creating. Holding onto an employee who doesn’t fit your company’s mission or vision will ultimately harm the brand you are developing. Benefits include building a team that subscribes to the company’s mission and vision.

Your employees are your most important brand asset. Make sure to include employee development whenever starting a new brand initiative.

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