Let's talk about that dirty little secret hiding in our corporate closets: Despite our best efforts, not everyone is our brand advocate. And what stings is that some of the people who may actually speak out against the brand are not external to the company.
The dirty little secret: Company advocacy is lacking
Kim Johnston, Parallels Inc.The reality is that some of our employees, our potential employees and job candidates, and our former employees are not brand advocates. At Parallels, our head of human resources, Michael Erisman, recently put out a simple challenge: "We want our employees, the people we do not hire, and the people we fire to buy our products and promote our brand. This goal should guide our behavior and set the standard for how we treat people."
The question is how?
Do your employees love your company and recommend your products? If you aren't sure, then find out. As social media has exploded, those closest to your brand, and even those who desired to be a part of it but were rejected, have more opportunities than ever to voice their opinions. A simple 140-character tweet can reach thousands, and even tens of thousands. New websites such as Glassdoor.com, are set up to give an outlet to others to provide ratings about companies, in a similar fashion as Amazon.com and other online retailers do about products. One candidate with a bad experience can be heard by anyone looking into your company.
At Parallels, to gain insight and address potential concerns we instituted the Net Promoter score methodology, typically used to gauge customer satisfaction with your product, and to measure the ultimate question, "How willing are you to recommend?" Applying this internally, employees are asked about their job and work environment, but most importantly are asked the ultimate question, "Would you recommend your company?"
If you find out they don't, then act quickly. You are missing an entire advocate army. Understanding reality, listening and acting on the feedback is essential to changing opinions internally.
What about those who left the company by either their own decision or yours? When someone leaves, you have the opportunity to celebrate them based on the skills they gained working for you to extend their career. Shy away from the temptation to treat them like traitors as this surely creates detractors. Always have employees exit with as positive a sense of their future as possible, regardless of the circumstances, and the knowledge that if they performed well they will be welcomed back.
How about candidates who didn't get the job? A well-managed hiring process can help create advocates. Value candidates' time and treat those who are unqualified with respect. Leave them feeling like they wish they had a chance to work for you. This is completely in your control.
A close partnership with Human Resources is a must. I am fortunate to have a creative HR partner in Michael, who is aware of these opportunities and seeks win/win solutions that drive the business and create brand advocates. Working together you can formulate an approach that provides insight, perhaps through the Net Promoter score method, that promotes positive experiences such as in hiring, and diffuses potential negativity when you lose people.
It's not only an approach that helps promote your brand, but simply the right way to treat people.
Kim Johnston is VP-marketing and alliances at Parallels Inc. <a href="http://www.parallels.com/" target="_blank">(www.parallels.com).</a> She can be reached at <a href=mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>email@example.com.</a>