Saturday, 25 February 2017

How to instill Brand Loyalty in your Employees!

When I was starting out, Companies, to my mind, were these giant edifices of stone and steel with high ceilings and vast cold interiors, with crisp air of detachment and clipped, formal conversations. 

I felt that I and several other people who went to work were governed by the invisible yet potent forces that swept through the monstrous Goliath we worked for, guiding us tiny Davids by their deft hand of skilful puppeteering.

Soon enough, it dawned on me that there was no such unseen-yet-tangible power that held sway over us and that ‘we’ were the Company. As tiny or big, but significant, cogs we kept the organizational machinery well oiled and moving. 

Over the years I have come to know that employees are the life force of any organization; cold stony interiors, imposingly gleaming exteriors and thick tomes of company bibles and manuals notwithstanding.

While a lot of us, including the Top Dog, make the mistake of thinking that we are irreplaceably important; we come to realize soon enough that our positions are strengthened and our roles made more meaningful by the efficacy, knowledge, cooperation and deliverability of the significant others.

If one must grow, then one must delegate well and help one’s team to grow. If the Company as a whole has to do well, then it can only do so if all the little and big parts work in tandem and with a focus towards the common goal.

Companies would just be buildings and ill-kept ones at that, in the absence of a good workforce. And a good workforce is one that is loyal to the Brand it represents and is in step with the Brand Mission and Vision.

Here follow simple strategies to help you instill a sense of Brand loyalty in your employees - 

1. Pay respect to their designation

Whether it is a bell boy or a valet or the visiting sommelier from that la-di-dah Wine Academy – pay weightage to that brass plate pinned with pride on their jacket.

At my first job with India’s premier company in the Social Expressions Industry, I cannot tell you how proud and appreciated I felt each time the Company owner introduced me to his business associates thus – “Meet Aruna, our Creative Writer.” I felt such a big surge of joy and self-confidence course through my veins making me want to deliver my best.

I often remember two different bosses I reported to at different times when I worked at the Australian Diplomatic Mission in India. Both had distinct leadership and management styles – one was a stellar example of the global best practices and the other falling somewhere at the bottom of the heap with his terrible ways. 

Yet, they both have left indelibly valuable lessons. While one would brush us aside in meetings or go on to say, “This is Aruna from my Department,” the other would make it a point to give the following introduction – “Here’s Aruna Dhir, the Media Relations Officer.” She struck a perfect Ten, first with the full name and then the designation, every time, regardless of who she introduced us to – an upcoming artist from Sydney or Minister Downer, the then Foreign Minister.

Each time I have introduced my staff appropriately – whether it has been our Residence Manager, the able Secretary or the efficient Assistant Manager – I have noticed their body language change. 

The eyes shine, the shoulders square up, the gait gets more professional and the entire deportment reeks of confidence in oneself, self-assuredness and loyalty for the Company they represent.

A designation is descriptive of a person’s role and responsibility and surmises in its few letters the remarkable experience the person brings with him and the journey he has been on so far.

2. Display importance in the role & responsibility they bring to the table

Behind that brass plate is years of qualification, experience and wisdom which enables your company to run smoothly. Show importance, be sincere and mean it.

No person is an island unto himself and no team can work in isolation. It is such an obvious fact that we all would be completely rudderless, disoriented and non-performing if the interconnected webs in the organizational matrix did not bring all the value that they individually create into the big pool of resources which then gives direction, movement and headway to a company’s onward path.

Every role – big or small, front of the house or back of the house, black suited, blue collared or white aproned – brings with it multi-dimensional worth and such amazingly wide range of experience that must always be optimally harvested.

To cite a little personal example – No matter how self-reliant, independent and charge-taking I may be, purely on account of practical reasons and the quantum of work I may be needed to handle, I would find it extremely difficult to concentrate and deliver well if the Housekeeper had not run her magic hands through my office, my Assistant had not helped me pick up some of the balls that I must throw simultaneously up in the air, my Printer had not cooperated in helping me meet the deadline, my colleagues from other departments had not shared information and handled their end of the deal adequately, the General Manager had not given his timely approvals and so on.

With hotels, every minor cog or a big component is essential to the smooth running of the hotel machinery. From Chauffeur to Chef, Doorman to Director – Food & Beverage, Engineering hand to Executive Director, Laundry Valet to Liaison and Finance Controller, Sales Executive to Spa Expert, Concierge to Communications Chief, Housekeeping Head to Horticulture Manager – each individual is integral to the flawless functioning of the hotel. 

Each must be valued for the nous they bring with them. You ignore any part and you end up losing both guests and reputation.   

3. Learn about their fears, inhibitions and reservations

We all have a big set of weak traits, rational and irrational fears, cultural or personal inhibitions that come in the way of our growth.

If I speak about myself, I have this strange, dichotomous conflict of interest. My professional playing field is Public Relations yet I feel I am quite the introvert in large gatherings. 

Once you put the microphone before me in a large setting, I end up speaking rather impressively but put me in a moderate group and I become tongue-tied. For years I have had to battle this strange situation that tears me into two different directions. 

It has not been easy because my area of work pushes me into the feared zone on a multitude of occasions that I simply cannot turn my back on. An encouraging boss and a positive organizational climate have helped me steer smoothly without sinking my ship of reputation.

A rarely occurring case of mental paralysis is quite alright and something that one can get over. I was attending the IXth Commonwealth Study Conference in Australia and was called out to write a formal document on one occasion and participate in a team skit on another. 

Inspite of having been a published writer for better part of my professional life and being known at large for my gregariousness; unfortunately on those two occasions I failed miserably. Neither did I manage to produce any coherent literature, nor did I shine out in my parts so much so that the Team Lead ended giving me monosyllabic words to utter all through the performance. 

Thinking back about the episode still makes me feel terrible about myself. Yet, my Australian Group remembers me for a lot of my other facets and not the two sore thorns in my flesh; perhaps because they were one-off and not a common pattern. 

A mature organization, wise HR people, considerate colleagues and an understanding boss can play such a huge role in ensuring that the employee gets the better of his weak spots. As a step further, they can help him build a success story on the behavioural boulders by the right intervention and assist him in winning his personal hurdle race by turning the stumbling stones into building blocks. 

It is the Supervisor and Company’s moral obligation to combat those demons on a war footing along with the team members. There are no perfect employees. Perfection is a sense of perpetual aspiration. 

A good boss and a great organization can always manage to harness the strengths, weed out the weaknesses to turn the entire team into an envious group of people who deliver one tour de force after another.

4. Build on their strengths

Every employee has a mixed bag of strengths running through the direct – Writing skills, Business acumen, financial proficiency, good in Sales, impressive academic record, technical knowhow; and the indirect – great with people, attention to detail, pleasant demeanour, good in crisis situations, multifariously talented.

I remember my first mentor with a lot of fondness and gratitude. She nurtured us like cherished plants, watering our desires to grow up, feeding us with excellent experiences that she would squarely put on our table, support us only that much and then nudge us to become more accountable, fertilize us with splendid ideation meetings encouraging us to think out of the box, knowing well that we would bear rich fruit.

An Assistant I taught everything from scratch had this Buddha like disposition and she was great with people. She was a wonderful team mate during crisis and was a perfect foil for my Type A personality. It was such a wonderful outcome to help hone her professional skills and fan her inherent facets. The Department fared better as we went along aiding and equipping her; allowing her to blossom.  

Whether it is team building or crisis management or being good with numbers or great in handling difficult people; find the mojo of the employee and turn it into a major strength; which the employee, the team and the Company at large benefit from. 

5. Put thought and feeling into your gifts to them

We all have been recipients of gifts from our bosses and colleagues and givers of similar gesture to our teams. Even though we are told to not look the gift horse in the mouth, just how many more duty-free shop bought Toblerone packs can we eat, how many Pierre Cardin pens will we stash away and how many more perfume miniatures will we pass on as a gift from that trip back. 

Gifts without thought are the number one reason for that other bad habit – what comes around must go around.

Whether it is confectionery from your trip back or Xmas gifts, let the gift speak volumes. Skip the standard chocolate routine (for all you know, the recipient may not be a confection lover) or the other cheap (by that I am not hinting at the price at all) or common gifts. 

Gifts should be thoughtful; even when they are the inevitable chocolates. Focus on suitability – do not try to shove square pegs of inconsiderate and indifferent gift boxes into round holes of individualistic personalities.   

One of my sales colleagues once got me a lovely crushed silk scarf from his trip from Hong Kong. Even after more than a decade and a half, I love the little piece of cloth and enjoy wearing it. Did it cost him a bomb? No. Do I still remember him, even after not having worked with him for more than ten years? Absolutely yes! 

Well, gifts should have this sort of effect on the recipient. That is why they are or should be given in the first place. 

Back in the early 90s, on one of my first few business trips, I was travelling to Mumbai with my Australian Boss. We were staying at the Taj, on the same floor, in suites facing each other’s. 

Imagine my pleasant surprise when my boss dropped in, took one look at my room and ordered me out of my mine and into hers. The reason – she had a sea-facing room whereas mine had a view of the mesh of scaffolding that had been put up and hid indiscreetly by the equally ugly tarpaulin. 

My generous boss wanted me to have the nicest experience at one of my earliest hotel stays so much so that she was happy to shift to the room with a crappy feel. 

One of the nicest gifts I have received was from the Hotel General Manager - my immediate boss at the luxury chain I worked for. It was when he withdrew his name from his place at the prestigious Summer University put together by the Hotel Chain’s Centre for Learning and Development. He put my name instead knowing that it was one of the greatest lifetime experiences for me and that I was very eager to be part of knowledge enhancement. 

He said he had been a part of one too many and felt that I would gain a lot from the interface; which I did, with faculty from some of the finest international management schools. 

But the greatest lesson I learned was to be thoughtful about my team, about being genuine and kind, about nurturing the team and giving them positive growth opportunities and yes being selfless.

The above two bosses have left such a mark on me that I enjoyed the companies I worked for largely because of them. The two have taught me some wonderful lessons that I imbibed into my own style and that I often quote and refer back to when writing out case studies for others to benefit from.

Like I said, companies are not concrete and mortar. Companies are caring set of people who create outstanding organizational climates for all those around them. And strategies to instill a deep sense of Brand loyalty in one’s Brand Ambassadors are one of the most crucial and profitable best practices.

Picture Courtesy - Google Images

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