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Employee relations IS your number one brand strategy!


Jenny Smatt, MSc.

In this article, we will explore some easy-to-understand insights that will help you craft a winning team that drives your business towards unprecedented success.

Developing a brand strategy for organizations is often a process that is carefully crafted by organizational leaders and aligned with a well-thought out strategy. Businesses have great intentions about how their brand represents and accordingly shapes the culture of their employees. Similarly, there is an assumption about how everyone should conduct business and their respective roles. The reality is that the culture of an organization is largely shaped by the Employee Relations Strategy (“ERS”) and not the external Brand Strategy. The organic growth of a healthy employee/employer relationship does not happen overnight; nor does it happen by default because the leaders of an organization have defined and declared their brand.

So why is this important to consider? In many organizations employees interact with individuals who are external, whether it be client-facing employees or telephone support. In this case, it’s easy to imagine that they may allude to or directly share a view; either positive or less than favorable view of their employer. Happy and engaged employees always have something good to say about their employer. Unhappy employees can cost a company a great deal in lost productivity from disengagement, errors from negligence and employment claims by reinforcing a negative image or “brand”. Increasing awareness of employee engagement as an extension of your brand is worth considering.

Trends in the Business Environment that Impact Employee Relations and Your Brand:

1. Employees are being asked to do more with less. Good will is diminishing as what was

anticipated to be a short-term “do more with less” operational environment is now the new

normal. Fewer resources may result in an increase in errors as the limited resources attempt to

resolve issues and become more reactive. Frustration builds as employees experience burn out,

feel underappreciated and develop stronger levels of disengagement.

2. The recruitment process is becoming more disjointed and impersonal due to reduced

resource levels and less forward planning. The risk is that the candidate experience for applicants

in many instances has become less connected. Candidate applications are reviewed and within

seconds a decision is made to shortlist or regret. Industry data confirms that cover letters are

often not even read!

3. Social media is a more common platform for anonymous venting (or not-so-anonymous

venting) when an employee expresses frustration about someone or something in the workplace

on their personal social media platforms. This kind of venting erodes the investment of both time

and money in an organization’s brand strategy.

4. Mergers and acquisitions increase the likelihood of a culture of anxiety and competition

rather than comradery. Colleagues may begin to see their peers as an obstacle or threat to their

employment status which ultimately impacts internal relationships and consequently engagement


5. Decreased focus by employers on their employment brand relative to other business

indicators such as profit and bottom line results. We often observe that there is a negative

impact on business results for employers who are known for placing little value on employees and

ill-treatment of staff. Can you think of any examples?

Improve employee relations and your reputation as an employer by following these important practical


1. Develop an Employee Relations Strategy that is proactive rather than reactive. Remember

that the best strategies have a shared vision, a two-way communication channel, joint

responsibility and mutual recognition and benefit. Managers may need assistance developing key

competencies in this area.

2. Don’t underestimate the power of holding a meaningful conversation. Frame your words

carefully but be sure to connect the logical thoughts with emotional intelligence. When in doubt

work with a trusted professional… and even when you’re confident, remember that seeking

another opinion can help you increase your effectiveness.

3. Turn your candidates into raving fans! If you treat your applicants poorly with a slow response

time or lack of an explanation regarding the hiring decision, why would anyone feel interested in

joining your team? On the flip side, if you are keen and connect; whether you make and offer or

not, you have left a lasting positive impression on the candidate that will be beneficial in the future

as a client or otherwise.

4. Seek clarification as to why employees are leaving. More often than not, when people leave

the organization they may not be leaving the company they may be leaving as a result of their

relationship with their manager. Keep a pulse on manager effectiveness by seeking both ad hoc

and formal feedback on managers. In addition, support employees who have expressed difficulty

(even if that feedback was informal) with a manager and quickly get to the root of the issue with a

focus on resolution rather than blame. The parting perception, if they leave, will become a part of

how former employees discuss the Company and consequently, this shapes the Company’s


5. Remember that employees come first. Yes, the customers are a priority but without your

employees it’s tough to be of service to your customers and the employees are the frontline for

keeping your customers happy.

One of our favorite quotes from leading entrepreneur and business owner, Richard Branson is:

“Put your staff first, your customers second and your shareholders third.”

We recommend there is always a balancing act for the investment across all three but answering two key question can make all the difference:

  • Do you know your employment brand internally and externally?

  • How effective are the professional relationships within your organization?

The bottom line is employees are becoming increasingly aware of what they are seeking from employers and making deliberate choices about the organization they contribute to. At a minimum they are demanding fair treatment and as we look at the values of employees entering the workplace, there is less emphasis on loyalty and more value on what the Company represents. Congruency between what is said and what is practiced is essential in order to attract the right talent. What is your brand?

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