EMPLOYEES AS YOUR BRAND: USING THE EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT TO CREATE A BRAND

Branding has always been a powerful tool for businesses. Every business has a brand and that is because branding is the image and the outlook that your customers have about your products, services and their experience with your business. I have seen many ways that businesses create their brand. One could be by beginning with the end in mind and that is, come up with a vision of what you want to be and take positive steps in line with that. However a few months ago I learnt of a United Kingdom based organization that came up with their brand in an innovative way. What they did was get to their customers to leave comments on their website about what they thought of the company. From this customer feedback then they were able to create a brand and come up with a tagline.  A brand is created sub-consciously by things like the organizational culture…it is not only about a catchy tag-line for your business but a powerful brand is created when the organization takes active steps to be what it says it is. It is better for your business not to have a tag line at all than to have a tag line and then fail to meet the standards. A tag line creates an expectation in the mind of customers.

 

However one of the main stewards or trustees of an organization’s brand are the employees especially who have an inter-personal interaction with the customer. In the service industry, employees are the main people who interface with the clients on a daily basis. If the employee gives a bad service then the business owner begins to lose customers. In the service industry, business owners rarely get to deal with the clients on an inter-personal level. The owner may carry the vision of the organization and the risk is that if he does not pass on this vision to the employees then his brand is lost. Using a hypothetical example of a restaurant with a brand “to offer quality foods, “For the brand to be established then this vision has to be sold to the chef, the waiters and even the cleaners to ensure that the image is maintained. Before you can even sell your brand to the customers, you have to sell it to your staff. There are many ways of selling a vision to the staff including motivational tools.

 

But there are a number of legal tools that can be employed to ensure the vision is not lost. One major tool is the employment contract. An organization can incorporate its brand and vision in the employment contract so that it becomes a legally binding obligation for the staff members to uphold. Detailed job descriptions are also very important in brand creation and upholding. As the business owner you have a detailed idea of what each staff member is supposed to be doing in order to carry your vision. These duties should be included in the job descriptions and should be as specific as possible. During performance evaluations and reviews, then a staff member’s performance can be weighed against the job description.

 

Applying this principle of employing legal tools in selling your vision to staff members may sound very hard in theory. However it is not rocket science, it is as simple as putting it down on paper. Taking a hypothetical case of a cleaner’s job description then  you can state how many times a day he should clean, which areas to give emphasis, how he should be dressed, what materials he can use….and anything else that will help him carry your vision and your brand. You might find that the reason you have been losing customers is because the cleaner is perhaps not aware of the image that you want to create and performed poorly. It is therefore important to include all your staff members in the vision.

 

All staff members are involved in selling the brand to the customers. However, there are some members of staff especially the senior ones who have a higher responsibility when it comes to custodianship of the brand.  There are some staff members like directors who can bind the organization because they carry that implied authority. They therefore need to be sensitized on the brand of the organization and the vision it carries. They need to be told how far their authority extends to. For example when it comes to matters of public relations (which has a corresponding effect on the organization’s brand), are they allowed to issue press statements or talk to the media regarding the organization?

 

In general corporate law, where a person has implied authority then his actions can be assumed to be those of the entity. It is therefore important to train those with implied authority on branding.

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