Market Well: Why Your Employee Strategy Is Vital To Your Marketing Plan

Our must-read column, Market Well, explores the key marketing strategies that are essential for the growth of a wellness business.

Every month, Vicky Ellison, who is also the Director of Marketing for Equinox in the UK, examines how brands can create and maintain a marketing campaign that connects with both their intended audience and potential investors.

Providing valuable insight into the methods, services, and tools needed for both new and established businesses to drive exposure and boost brand value, this month Vicky is focusing on why having a clear employee strategy is vital when it comes to marketing…..

At the start of the year I noted that employee strategy should be considered as part of a marketing plan, but often isn’t.

As the year has progressed the importance of this area has grown. People are more vocal than ever when it comes to expressing opinions about their employer, and word spreads quickly in this age of social sharing.  

The 2017 Trends in Global Employee Engagement report from AON found that shifts in the external political, social and technological environment are threatening employees’ basic needs for belonging, fairness, trust and support.

This is reflected in the reports’ highlighted engagement opportunities. Rewards and recognition, employee value proposition and senior leadership top the list of importance.

Companies that are ahead of the employee engagement curve are showcasing this aspect of their efforts, leaving less prepared organisations trailing behind.

Whether it’s social media management company Hootsuite featuring its employees through the hashtag #HootsuiteLife, Trip Advisor’s @gotripadvisor handle dedicated to careers within the company or Google’s announcement of their new London office with a built-in 40k sq ft wellness offering — employee strategy is no longer hidden, and it’s becoming increasingly important in the way a brand is perceived.

There is a vast amount of material available on employee engagement and an even greater number of ways to approach it. Factors at play include leadership, compensation, growth opportunities, organisational policies and workplace wellbeing.

Here are a few benefits that investment in this part of your strategy could bring to your marketing efforts.

Fostering creativity

For your team to be creative they need permission to ideate and take risks. People do that best in a supportive environment among people they are comfortable with.

TED speaker Margaret Heffernan believes that social capital is key — a form of mutual reliance and trust, which develops when people spend time together.

Having seen the effectiveness of this in multiple organisations, Heffernan says: “You need that level of trust to have the freedom to think and to have the really good kind of argument from which the best ideas emerge.”

Healthy fast food chain LEON encourages its staff to develop their personal passions and break down barriers, by allowing them to host internal group fitness classes and meditation sessions during work hours, whilst still getting paid. The innovative brand invests £600,000 into a wellbeing programme that consists of developmental events and training, working out at almost £1,000 per employee.

Elsewhere, Hyatt hotels focus on developing its employees too. The brand’s ‘Change the Conversation’ training programme emphasises listening and encourages employees to find new creative ways to approach daily tasks. The hotel chain has seen success through its efforts, with almost 20% of Hyatt employees in the US having been with the company for over 10 years.

Intrinsic motivation and leadership styles have also been shown to impact creative output, which could be key to your next company initiative.

Facebook fosters a culture of innovation and collaboration. Posters at its HQ reflect this with bold lines such as ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ and ‘Nothing at Facebook is somebody else’s problem’.

It’s well known that Facebook’s famous Hackathons led to the creation of the like button and Facebook chat.

In order for creative initiatives to be successful, ideas must be listened to and acted upon.

Market Well: Why Your Employee Strategy Is Vital To Your Marketing Plan
Image: LEON Facebook

Productivity & communication

A recent Bain & Company study found that 60 percent of employees didn’t know their company’s goals, making it hard for those employees to support their organisation’s mission.

It’s important to give your internal customers a way to communicate so they feel energised by your brand’s vision.

If your team can’t be together physically, consider providing tools for collaboration such as video conferencing and internal social tools like Yammer, Facebook workplace or Slack.

American Express hosts quarterly ‘Town Hall’ meetings, broadcast live to offices and employees globally. It also hosts regular lunches and networking sessions to keep everyone connected.

Improving internal communication not only helps employee motivation, it can help spread your company’s purpose externally.

LinkedIn reports that in an average company, only 3% of employees share company-related content, but they are responsible for driving a 30% increase in the content’s likes, shares and comments.

Brand reputation

Employees are not only representatives of your brand; they are perhaps the most important voices in your organisation. Research has shown that people believe employees that promote a positive brand image more than they believe the CEO. According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, employees are the most trusted resource.

A report by the Marketing Advisory Network found that brand messages reach 561% further when shared by employees, versus the same message being shared by the brand’s social channel.

No article about employee strategy impacting reputation would be complete without a mention of US company Zappos.

Zappos is arguably better known for its staff initiatives than its products. The company’s Zappos Zollars programme gives credit for outstanding effort that can be used for products or charity donations. Its Grant-a-Wish programme allows employees to recognise each other, and it even offers to pay new employees to leave if they’re not happy working there.

Many companies use sentiment analysis to gauge employee attitudes. Twitter surveys a 6th of its employees each month. IBM introduced social pulse software in addition to human monitoring of its connections platform, which is used by 380k employees on an internal system.

Starbucks uses sentiment analysis to better understand reviews on the employer rating site Glassdoor. The global brand has found that pride in working for Starbucks is a key engagement driver, so it focuses on enhancing that through employee benefits such as education reimbursement and featuring the brand mission throughout all internal communication opportunities.

All of this feeds into the quality of talent you attract, and that ultimately impacts how your customers view your brand.

Your employer brand is now as important as your business brand. As Sandy Carter of IBM succinctly puts it, “culture eats strategy for lunch.”

For some companies, shifting the focus internally with initiatives that may not show an immediate obvious return on investment could be challenging. Hopefully though, this article can provide some food for thought as you look towards your employee strategy planning for the New Year.

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