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Why your people are key to bringing your brand to life

Too often, organisations rush to get a brand refresh to market, having inadequately involved and embedded it with their people first. We look at three principles to help shape the 21st-century employee experience around a new brand, mission and values.

Developing a meaningful brand refresh in the charity sector is crucial not only for awareness, campaigning and fundraising, but also to mark a new direction and galvanise the charity’s crucial wider community.

The Team has been working with UK disability charity Scope to redefine its mission, vision and values as well as to create the most accessible charity brand in the UK. Scope’s new vision is to not stop until it “achieves a society where all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness”.

But where to start? Well, in the hierarchy of an organisation’s stakeholders, there’s a good argument for saying it’s the employees who should come first. They are the crucial brand advocates who can send out powerful ripples to the charity’s wider community, creating a movement that places the charity front of mind among the public.

Too often, all types of organisations rush to get a brand refresh to market, having inadequately involved and embedded it with their people first. Despite there being plenty of advice and ideas on how to tackle this.

And just as a new brand isn’t solely about a new logo, galvanising employees isn’t just down to telling them about the brand, the vision, mission and values, and suggesting they need to change the way they think and behave accordingly. That’s an outdated and potentially damaging “command and control” way to look at the employee experience.

So, how do we shape the 21st-century employee experience around a new brand, mission and values? Here are three principles to bear in mind:

  1. Our people are our best source of ideas

We should always start with employees, taking time at the beginning of a project to find out what they believe the organisation stands for, and what it should stand for. If we don’t, we’re failing to make use of our most valuable brains and source of ideas.

There’s another upside too: If we put time into crowdsourcing thoughts and opinions on the vision, mission and values, then we’ve already started the employee communications and engagement process. Our people will feel involved and encouraged to help shape the future. Many will have given thought to, and engaged in, energetic debate around what the values should be. They will already have “bought in” to the process and will be looking forward to launch.

It’s possible to make use of digital tech tools as the channel to involve employees, but the best way is to encourage line managers to take time out with their teams to talk about what the organisation stands for. They can be supported with a flexible framework for the conversations and this will build the sort of relationships that research suggests are valuable for high performance.

If we put time into crowdsourcing thoughts and opinions on the vision, mission and values, then we’ve already started the employee communications and engagement process.

  1. Focus on strengths, not deficits

When a new brand is rolled out across the land, it will make employees feel proud of their organisation and will go a long way to engaging them. However, your people need more. They are the key movers who invigorate the vision by living the values and behaviours that make up the brand.

Working with Scope, we developed a “Living our values” workshop which used employee-led storytelling, highlighting that in many of their everyday actions and projects, employees were already living the new values. In this way it framed the discussion around existing employee strengths, rather than focusing on perceived deficits in relation to the values.

The workshop was a valuable jumping-off point to explore how employees can continue living the values and use them as deeper touchpoints to the work they do, bringing the brand to life internally. And stories and social interaction are one of the best ways of encouraging learning. Storytelling scholar Robert McKee says: “Knowledge expressed in story form gathers other human beings around its themes, uniting communities and building cultures.”

The workshop was created to be used regularly and be different every time as each would feature a different story and therefore create a different experience.

Too many new values workshops focus on employee deficits as a way of coercing people to “do better”. But workshops like this are rarely effective. They may well kill any love our people have for the values and the organisation.

When a new brand is rolled out across the land, it will make employees feel proud of their organisation and will go a long way to engaging them. However, your people need more. They are the key movers who invigorate the vision by living the values and behaviours that make up the brand.

  1. Seize the opportunity to capitalise on soft skills

If you work in communications and branding, it can be easy to lose sight of the true impact of mission, vision and values, but they are manifestations of human endeavour and beliefs, and in that respect fundamental in driving behaviour change.

Rather than create a predictable exercise where employees are “sheep dipped” in the new brand, Scope wanted to leverage existing strong feelings and behaviour around equality and fairness, so we developed “Living our values” to be delivered by team managers. While the content is largely created by team members, managers running the exercise need to use their soft skills to encourage the team to share emotionally engaging stories.

So, we worked with managers to develop both their interviewing and listening skills in “training the trainers” sessions prior to the values workshop roll-out.

Well-developed questioning and listening skills are key attributes for people managers in any sector. The “training the trainers” sessions provided a timely opportunity to re-visit the principles and put them to use, not just in the “Living our values” workshops, but in one-to-one conversations and even in team issue resolution in the future.

Branding on the inside

A refreshed vision and values probably already live in the hearts and actions of many of the people who work at an organisation – it’s just a more explicit telling of that story. And never more so than at Scope with its passionate employees committed to an agenda for social change.

The real difference is that employees now have something that speaks to them explicitly, tapping into their fundamental beliefs and values to drive the organisation’s mission forward.

At Scope, employees are now all Disability Gamechangers, but with the right approach to branding on the inside, every organisation could mobilise their people and build a brand movement of their own.

If you’d like to discuss creating effective values workshops, contact The Team on +44 (0) 20 7842 3000 or email hello@theteam.co.uk.

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