(updated June 2017)
So much time is spent trying to push marketing out the door, it can be easy to lose focus on one of a company’s biggest customers, the employees. Just as we want consumers and businesses to buy into our service or product offering, we want our staff to have that same buy-in. This is obviously important because, if employees are happy and motivated, they are more likely to be good stewards of the company brand and create a better experience for customers.
So what does this have to do with marketing? Isn’t this a problem for Human Resources?
Well, it can have a lot to do with marketing. The reality is that most businesses have a lightly staffed HR department who are burdened with payroll, hiring, healthcare and tax regulations. They simply don’t have the resources to adequately address the primary issue of ‘employee well-being’. But that well-being is one of the keys to success; so, it needs to be addressed.
This is not to say companies don’t desire happy and appreciated employees. In general, they do, and they demonstrate that appreciation in various ways. Sometimes it comes in the form of compensation or awards. Maybe they buy a lunch now and then or hold an event, like an end of the year holiday party. These types of activities are generally well received and show employees you appreciate them, but does it show them they are a meaningful part of the organization? Are they experiencing something that tells them they have growth potential and a future in the organization? Is it maximizing the value of the employee? Probably not.
To accomplish this, you need a strategy; and you might be surprised to learn this marries well with marketing. Why? Because marketing is concerned with the well-being of the brand. The employees are a logical extension of that relationship. If you haven’t considered a marketing solution for internal concerns, a good place to start is with something called an EASY framework (Environment, Agency, Support, You). Basically, this is an executive/director level framework for accessing potential internal marketing opportunities. The EASY framework considers aesthetic along with the practical realities of the office to create a strategic plan, parts or all of which can be implemented.
The basic overview is as follows:
Start by taking a look around. What is the daily environmental experience for your employees? Identify specific areas and determine what’s working and where to improve.
- Work stations: Cubes or not, an employee’s workspace is their home away from home. The ability to personalize and create unique functionality allows them to be more productive. Of course guidelines are necessary, but guidelines should not discourage creativity. Remember that creativity not only provides an outward example of employee satisfaction, it also translates to better performance. You can tell a lot by a cube.
- Kitchens: If you are not part of a business park and don’t have the benefit of a large, corporate eatery, chances are you have an employee kitchen. For employees, this is a place to eat, talk and generally decompress for a little while. A clean, properly fitted kitchen makes for an enjoyable break. Provide plenty of room for meals and a place to wash up. Keep it well stocked. Free Wi-Fi and a television or two is always a good thing.
- Bathrooms: Most employees will visit the bathroom at least once, if not twice a day. Keeping bathrooms clean and smelling fresh seems obvious, but an unclean facility can have long lasting effects on employee satisfaction. If you are lucky enough to have access to executive level facilities, bypass them for a week and use the employee bathrooms.
- The office space: The office is a place where your employees spend considerable time, so decorating the walls with ‘inspirational’ corporate posters is probably not a good idea in 2015. You can do better, and it doesn’t have to cost a ton of money. Whether you own or lease the space, take some photos of your offices and spend some time on Google looking at other corporate offices. Compare your environment with others and note things you like and dislike. Make an effort to apply slow, consistent change to your offices. This lets employees know you are paying attention and evolving with the company culture.
Agency: To put it simply, your employees have opinions, and those opinions matter. They have a unique view of the business and can provide important intel that leadership can use to build a better environment. Any of the following are helpful ways to create agency and build a loyal employee base that has a stake in the future of the business.
- Employee surveys: Surveys are available through many companies and can be taken online. They should be completely confidential and the results should be considered action items for management. If you don’t like the results of the survey, endeavor to fix the areas of discontent. Never try to ‘spin’ the results; the negatives far outweigh the positives.
- Employee Teams: Creating self-sufficient employee teams that are free to explore specific goals and make recommendations encourage open communication and foster a solutions-based environment. Eliminate the silos and eliminate the tensions.
- Rewards/Promotions: Anytime an employee is acknowledged, rewarded or promoted, it sends a message that leadership is paying attention and honoring talent. It also can inspire others. But it’s important these are carefully considered and spread out in such a way that everyone gets an opportunity to excel and ‘be seen’. Most importantly: relationships and prejudices have no place in this process. Employees sniff that out immediately and, ultimately, the company suffers.
- Training: Your company may not be able to afford a continuing education program, but it can certainly make sure training is available. Aside from making good business sense, a good training program tells your employees you are engaged in their success. It also allows you to train staff in a manner that is in line with your business model.
Support: This is a quick one. Just make an honest commitment that you are going to support the empowerment of the employees, that they may evaluate their landscape and make recommendations for the betterment of that landscape. This is not managing by committee, this is valuable data collection.
You: The final part of the EASY framework is “you”. The bucks stops somewhere and whether it’s at the executive, director or manager level, you need to keep the following in mind:
- Every business has a unique character and it’s built largely on the employee base. Understand that ‘you’ do not define the company character, you add to it.
- Sometimes it’s hard to know when to get out of the way. A good rule of thumb is to stay out of the way until you need to get in the way. Trust your teams.
- Be a cheerleader for your staff. Provide outward signs that, ‘it’s not about ‘you’.
- Get outside the “you” box and see how it looks from someone else’s perspective. Just close your eyes and click your heels three times.
Establishing an EASY framework isn’t an answer, it’s the path toward an answer. It doesn’t encompass everything, because the point is to have reasonable goals. If you create a strategy and can’t implement it within a reasonable time frame, the playing field changes and the strategy is no longer effective. The EASY framework sets a tone while looking critically at specific concerns that relate to the everyday life of employees. From this data, a strategy can be devised that is both aesthetically pleasing and timeline friendly. It’s a function of marketing because the solutions will require collateral support and a focused, managed strategy that falls in line well with traditional branding concerns. If you want to maximize the value of your employees and create a business environment that is motivated toward success, the EASY framework is a great place to start.