Yes, that is a loaded question. We all know that every day we are faced with choices, decisions, opportunities, attitudes, and a multitude of other factors that make it impossible to protect every aspect of your business culture. You are not everywhere at all times to see or hear everything at all times that your employees are saying or doing. That is impossible. Or is it?
Who is your Brand Ambassador?
In marketing, we use the term “Brand Ambassador” to describe someone that represents the business externally. This could be a customer, a partner, a vendor, the list can go on and on. But what about inside the business? Are your employees Brand Ambassadors? Or better yet, are they Culture Ambassadors?
While you cannot be everywhere at all times, your employees are everywhere at all times. They are the business. They are your culture. I guess, right now, before we move forward, would be a good time to stop and ask, “Do your employees understand the culture of the business?” If the answer is no, then you have a gaping hole in the protective barrier of your business. Think about it, if your employees do not understand or even know about the culture in your business how are they supposed to function in it, or better yet, how are they supposed to protect it and fight for it – internally and externally?
Employee Loyalty = Customer Loyalty
Why is this such a big deal? Every employee you have in your business represents your business, whether they interact with your customers or not. Web Developers do not interact with the customers directly, but the customers interact with what your Web Developers create. Your customers do not interact with your Accounting Manager directly, but if the numbers and money aren’t handled correctly then the billing could be off and customers would be upset, or what if the Account Manager forgot to submit payroll? Then you have an uprising on your hands internally. Just think how that would affect your customers.
We have heard over and over, “Happy employees equal happy customers.” This is possibly true. We all know some customers are never happy, but it does give a perfect view of the concept. It goes beyond just being happy. I can be happy depending on the weather. But, I am loyal depending on trust. It might be better to say something along the lines of,
“Loyal employees help produce loyal customers.”
If your employees trust and believe in the business at its core (culture) then they will fight for and protect the business, exerting the effort to treat and serve the customer in such a way that the customer can’t help but fall in love with, trust, and be loyal to the business. (Again, I know some customers are just hard to deal with.) But, if you create an environment and culture of teamwork, trust, loyalty (both ways), and growth, then you will have a business that your employees will want to be a part of, give themselves to, and go that extra mile for you and your customers, day in and day out.
How do we get there?
All businesses are different. Here at VoiceNation, we have seen many items play into creating Culture Ambassadors and our special environment, but there are a few consistent factors that play into building and maintaining a solid business culture:
- Trust – Without trust your business is on shaky ground not matter what. If you do not trust your employees and they do not trust the business, then how do you expect your customers to trust your product or services? Trust has to be built, nurtured, and handled with care. If you feel like there is a lack of trust within your business sit down with your leadership team or even some employees that have been there for a while and figure out what needs to be done to build it.
- Be Open – This bleeds off of the trust. Be open with your employees. If you are letting them know where the business is at financially, project-wise, future planning, or even business issues you are facing, then they are more likely to buy in and understand that you want them to be a part of the business. Openness and honesty build trust. This also helps your employees squash rumors or negative statements that might come up that are not true.
- Invest – Invest in your employees. When you invest in something you expect to get something greater in return. It is a cycle. Your employees are investing the business. Yes, they get a paycheck in return, but if you want a greater return you have to make the investment greater. Your employees want to know that you are “bought into them” just as much as you want them bought into the business. This could be through training, perks, time off, special events, better environment, and even listening to their opinions and acting on their recommendations. It is not always about money.
- Celebrate – Celebrate not only the wins of the business but celebrate the wins of your employees. Make it personal to them. When you make a person feel special, an attachment is formed and from this appreciation is built. When an employee feels appreciated they will go out of their way to make sure the business, and its customers, are taken care of in the best way possible. This can be done by celebrating individual sales goals, when a person or group finishes a big project, and birthdays/anniversaries. What about celebrating an employee that maybe has not been doing well but they turn things around have made strides to get better? Maybe they are not where they need to be yet but they have made significant improvements. How do you think celebrating the small wins or improvements they made will make them feel towards getting better and the business as a whole?
These are just a few ideas and thoughts on how to improve your culture and make sure your employees are Culture Ambassadors for your business. The nice thing about having “buy in” from your employees is that they will end up policing the culture and the business for you without you having to lift a finger…just be sure to give the encouragement and create the environment for it.