3 ways your employee recognition program creates more brand ambassadors

Posted by Mike Ryan

Happy customers make great brand advocates. How so? For starters, they are vocal about their positive experiences and remain loyal in the face of predatory price cuts. More importantly, they grant the organizations they trust an opportunity to make amends should things go awry.  They believe in what the brand stands for and they have the utmost confidence in its ability to deliver.

How does your employee recognition program create more real-life employee ambassadors?

The legitimacy of any brand’s value proposition rests entirely with its employees. It is their commitment—i.e. their actions and their attitudes—that deliver against the expectations your marketing team has created.

Experts say we live in the age of brand authenticity—a time when the corporate-customer relationship lives (or dies) based more on what employees do rather than what the company says about itself.  When the implied promise of the brand is shattered, so too are the standards by which its marketed.

So, what can your employee recognition program do to build-up (and then maintain) a legion of enthusiastic, employee brand ambassadors?

The answer lies in three critical steps. First provide operational clarity for every worker no matter what they do for the firm. Second, add context that illustrates why those behaviors are so critical to the company’s persona. And finally take a celebratory tone—one that reinforces an employee’s specific role in making the brand come to life.  Here’s how you do all three:

Integrating a recognition program into your company can help you achieve the deliverables you need to get the most from your employees

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1. Operational clarity

Building a brand (both embraced and adopted by your employees) starts when they feel connected to it. When your workforce truly believes in the mission and understands how their actions impact the experience of others, they will be all in.

Too many organizations pontificate their brand’s qualities. Yes, of course, they will outline what the brand stands for. But they will often use words that are too lofty or too broad to register across an employee base that’s more focused on achieving their day-to-day work functions than they are about how they go about their jobs. That’s a missed opportunity. Your workforce needs to know how they fit into the larger mission and must understand exactly how their individual actions complement the brand’s identity.

HR leaders should make sure that an employee’s objectives (both measurable as well as observable) reinforce the brand’s qualities. They would be smart to translate those high-level corporate traits like innovation, teamwork and customer care into clear and specific terms, so employees can understand and act upon those behaviors. That operational clarity supports the brand’s perception in the marketplace.

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2. Illustrative context

Defining how employees fit into the brand adds a level of clarity to what they do. But at the same time, examples of their achievements provide the framework for others to more fully appreciate why those efforts are so worthwhile in the first place.

By providing understandable specifics (within both objectives setting and reinforcement activities), companies are painting a clearer and more useful picture for their workers. They are in effect connecting the dots between an employee’s actions and what stakeholders expect. They use recognition to illustrate just how an employee delighted a customer or went the extra mile for a co-worker.

Context brings the brand to life by showing how an employee lived its core values and delivered on those promises. Managers can publicize how individuals or team members represented the company by sharing stories of good service across the enterprise. That type of real-life depiction also presents a learning opportunity for others. As you acknowledge brand building behaviors, best practices are being shared across other employee groups who are eager to learn and copy others’ best practices.

3. Take a celebratory tone

Business leaders don’t always acknowledge the work employees do to keep the brand promise. As a result, many marketing initiatives—even those that are carefully constructed—stumble.

There are two things to keep in mind when recognizing employees (individuals or a whole team of workers):
1) Is the message you are sending positive?
2) Is the timing of it as immediate as possible?

Workers will often complain that their efforts go unnoticed. But with the right recognition system, and the right type of manager training, you can focus on the good work an employee has done in support of the brand’s promise. You can strengthen the employee’s understanding of what the brand represents and you can bolster the value they bring to it every day.

And remember its not just managers who can underline the value of employee behaviors.  Coworkers can also chime in and lend their voices to the acknowledgement process. In fact, in the eyes of every worker, getting a message of appreciation from a coworker or two is one of the best ways to strengthen the consistency and credibility of the brand’s inside identity. Read more about the positivity of peer to peer in business in this blog.

A 25 year industry veteran, Mike is responsible for expanding CR Worldwide’s business portfolio in the United States.