For most people, branding is simply the logo and color scheme used by a company in its marketing and advertising campaigns, or maybe the “voice” it uses when communicating with customers
. But brands extend far beyond those parameters, operating internally to guide employees in how to act, how to work, and how to engage with one another. When all your employees “fit” with the brand, sharing the same values and following the same code of conduct, everything runs smoothly - so what happens when someone doesn't fit the brand?
First, let’s specifically define what we mean when we refer to an internal brand culture. Your brand culture will include things like:
- Values. First, you’ll note that your brand has specific values for employees. For example, you might favour working long hours when they’re required, or you might put the customer above all other priorities.
- Tone. Your internal (and external) communication tone is also important. Are you easygoing and casual, or are you formal and attentive? These tones can make drastically different first impressions.
- Collaboration. How are your employees expected to collaborate with each other? In a rigid hierarchy? In an anything-goes pool of peers? Something in between?
So what happens when someone doesn’t fall in line with these parameters? Dealing with a bad fit
Assume you have a staff member who just doesn’t seem to fit with the brand
. They may introduce negativity into your positive environment, or refuse to comply with your code of conduct in subtle ways that throw off your brand voice and presentation.
Here’s what you can do:
- Talk to your employee. Don’t automatically move toward disciplinary action; there could be many reasons for an employee’s lack of compliance, especially if they’ve been squarely within your brand before. Start by simply talking to your employee, asking them if they’re dealing with any personal struggles, and how they feel about the organisation. If they’re truly dissatisfied, they may require some personal time off, or a new structure to keep them interested in their work. They may also just need a moment to vent, so try to keep an open mind and come up with a compromise that works for both of you.
- Institute friendly reminders of brand guidelines. Assuming your talk didn’t correct the cultural fit, institute friendly, gradual reminders of your brand guidelines when the opportunity presents itself. When you catch your employee speaking out of tone with a customer, pull them aside and remind them what type of image your brand wants to present. If multiple people are out of line, you may wish to send a company-wide email with a reminder of your brand’s character and purpose.
- Host more team events. If you want all your employees to share the same values and communication skills, there’s no better way to reinforce them than pulling everyone together in teambuilding events. Host a dinner party for the office, or force various teams of people to complete puzzles and challenges. Even an informal get-together for lunch can be enough to make the team feel like they’re closer together.
- Take disciplinary action. If you’re still experiencing problems from individual employees, you may need to take disciplinary action. When you spot a particularly egregious offense, such as deliberate disobedience or an action that compromises a relationship with a customer, consider writing up the employee, issuing a warning, or revoking certain privileges of theirs.
- Find a replacement. If the problem continues after intermittent bouts of disciplinary action, you may need to find a replacement. Having one employee who doesn’t fit the brand may not seem like it would do much damage to your organisation as a whole, but you have to remember, this is only the beginning. Cultural attitudes and working styles are somewhat contagious, so if you allow this person to continue behaving in ways that defy your brand, it’s likely that others will follow suit eventually.
Under ideal circumstances, all of your hires will be “good” fits for your brand culture
; after all, part of the interview process is meant to screen out candidates who don’t share the values of your company. Inevitably, some employees will slip through the cracks, possibly revealing themselves only after a few months or years of work. With these strategies, you’ll be able to preserve your brand culture — one way or another — no matter what types of rogue employees turn up.