Culture

The SMB's Guide to Creating a Great Culture Through Internal Brand-Building

June 13, 2017

If you’re like most successful small to midsize businesses (SMBs), your company probably spends a lot of time and energy cultivating its external brand. Your internal brand, however, may remain a bit of an afterthought.

Consider this: Companies are on pace to spend upwards of $83 billion in 2017 just on digital advertising in the U.S., according to estimates by eMarketer. By comparison, a Bersin & Associates report showed that companies spend about $720 million a year on internal engagement and wellness programs. That’s less than one percent of their digital ad spend. Below is why I think that’s a problem.

The importance of internal brand-building
I think of an internal brand as the way your company markets itself and lives up to its own core values in relation to its employees. Your internal brand is a major factor in cultivating the right workplace culture and, therefore, an essential part of retaining, attracting and evangelizing employees.

Remember that a company is nothing more than a collection of people. They’re the ones making your product, creating all that valuable intellectual property and providing your customers with exceptional experiences. How your employees feel about your company influences their commitment and work product. And how they feel is largely determined by the internal brand you cultivate.

If the value of internal branding for your company is clear, the next question is where ─ and how ─ to invest your resources building your internal brand?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

Invest in your internal brand
The most important thing to know here is that building a strong internal brand requires more than money. It’s about taking the time to listen to what your employees want and need, and investing in a long-term strategy that addresses these needs.

Your internal brand promise should center on taking care of the people who keep the wheels turning for your business. Showing that your company cares about its people is sure to lead to people who care about their work. 

To give your employees what they need, start by listening to them. Find out what they value most in a job or from a company. Then work to give it to them.

Survey the people you already have to find out how to enrich their experience with your internal brand while making it more attractive to outside talent. Do this often because your brand should evolve and adapt to keep pace with the type of team members you find indispensable.

Focus on the value your internal brand provides
Hopefully by now you agree that your internal brand is important for your company. Now you must understand that the only way for your brand to be considered valuable is for it to provide value for your employees.

What you offer your employees is a direct reflection of how much you value their contribution to the company. This also isn’t just about money.

Creativity and a personal touch can go a long way. Here are a few ways to strengthen your employee value proposition:

  • Support and facilitate their growth, both personal and professional. Use team-building activities, learning opportunities, training, mentorship and other such methods to help build out a strong skillset in your employees. Don’t be afraid of losing them if their skills outgrow their role. They’ll either advance with you or carry and broadcast your company’s values through their ever-growing networks. 

  • Acknowledge their humanity. Chances are, you don’t employ a legion of robots. People are complex beings with needs and even robots need to connect to a network or recharge their batteries every once in a while. Offer your team the time they need to rejuvenate, deal with personal issues and live their lives outside of the office. Parental leave, remote working days and frequent breaks are great ways to fend off burnout. 

The best companies actively curate a collaborative culture that seeks to develop meaningful relationships among their teams, which builds a greater sense of purpose into the work they do. 

Challenge your team with a fun inter-office competition. It can have a number of benefits, like enhancing communication and camaraderie. A fun option is creating a version of Shark Tank that incentivizes your team to innovate while strengthening relationships. 

  • Manage them well. Companies should hire for compatibility with managers and encourage empathy inside the organization. Empathy, love and compassion aren’t just trends; they’re tenets of mindfulness that can better equip your managers to lead effectively. 

Managers are the gatekeepers to engagement. A good manager can make all the difference in the employee that stays with your company for one year or 20 years. Train your managers to address the needs of their team members effectively. Make sure they recognize the strengths in their team members and how to utilize, cultivate and challenge them. Managers need to make sure their employees have the tools they need to succeed.

How can your company build a stronger employee value proposition? What works and what doesn’t work? Let’s continue the discussion in the comments.

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The opinions and views expressed by guest authors of the TriNet blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of TriNet or any of its affiliates or partners.

By Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is the CEO and co-founder of SnackNation, a healthy food-as-a-service company that helps make healthy snacking fun, life more productive and workplaces awesome. SnackNation provides thousands of offices across America with a curated selection of healthy snacks and emerging brands on a recurring membership basis. Sean also hosts The Awesome Office Show, an award-winning podcast that helps people-focused executives and HR pros become better leaders and create more inspiring organizational cultures.

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