By Steve Olivas, VP of Marketing, Selerix
Ever wonder why brands that are considered ‘best-in-class’ continue to spend millions of dollars and dedicate countless resources to marketing each year? While the surface-level answer is obvious (revenue-generation and profitability), a deeper-look points to something far more significant. These leading brands are masters of understanding and nurturing the end-to-end life cycle of their loyal consumers. They embrace the reality that the consumer journey is a cyclical, never-ending process that requires an ongoing commitment to acquire new buyers while retaining their existing customer base. If the parallel to HR departments isn’t apparent yet, simply replace the word “brand” with employer, and “consumer” with employee. Leading employers invest in understanding and effectively managing employee experience throughout their organization by mirroring the same principles leveraged by today’s top consumer brands. To better understand how organizations can improve employee experience by using a ‘consumer-marketing’ mindset, let’s examine two critical phases of the consumer (employee) journey.
Pre-Sale (Recruiting & Onboarding):
“Are you aware of our brand and why it is superior to others in the marketplace?” While structurally simplistic, this question serves as a foundational, pre-sale checkpoint for any brand looking to attract new consumers to its product. Similarly, employers looking to attract and retain top talent should effectively and continually differentiate their “brand” from competing organizations. Whether your organization is currently atop the list of ‘best places to work’ or in the early stages of establishing a presence in a particular market – your approach to differentiation should be focused and constantly evolving.
Taking the time to develop these ‘pre-sale’ investments will allow recruiting personnel to effectively convey the value and appeal of your organization’s “brand” – ultimately attracting top-level talent even in the most competitive job markets. Approaching recruiting without a distinct and differentiated “brand” narrative will likely lead to subpar interest levels and your prospects “swiping left” more often than not. The next time your organization posts a job opening, don’t be afraid to get creative and mirror the differentiation strategies used by the world’s leading consumer brands.
While onboarding would traditionally indicate you have “made the sale”, consider your organization an item in a new hire’s “virtual shopping cart”. After all, if an employee encounters a dysfunctional, disjointed onboarding process – your ability to shape a long-term positive employee experience is behind the proverbial eight-ball from the start. Similar to top consumer brands, these early stages of interaction are critical to establishing your brand’s mission, values, and vision. Leading brands recognize the vital importance of establishing a consistent, engaging journey for their consumers. These brands invest millions in consumer behavior research to cultivate a systematic approach to attracting, welcoming and retaining customers. Employers looking to improve their onboarding process don’t need to spend millions in research to create an impactful employee experience for new hires. Instead, they must simply approach the development of this process with an anticipatory mindset. If the desired outcome of the onboarding experience is to cultivate an engaged, informed member of the team, what are the specific actions required along that journey? Just as leading brands realize that a one-time sale is far less valuable than a life-long brand loyalist, employers must approach the onboarding process with a long-term vision in mind. Employees, like consumers, must clearly understand the unique and valuable nature of their current organization. From the value of their benefits and compensation to the meaningful nature of their job duties, employees inherently want to become brand-loyalists. Moving your organization from the “virtual shopping cart” to a “purchase” is a critical opportunity that deserves time and attention. By leveraging a consumer marketing mindset, employers can approach a new-hire’s journey from a new perspective. By combining thoughtful planning with best-in-class technology, organizations of all sizes can facilitate an impactful employee onboarding experience.
Post-Sale & Beyond (Retention and Offboarding):
“Are we consistently meeting the evolving needs of our customers in order for them to remain loyal consumers of our brand?” Arguably the most critical stage of the consumer life cycle is a brand’s ability to cultivate and maintain loyalty to their products – far beyond a one-time sale. Leading brands understand the tremendous opportunity to convert one-time purchasers into loyal brand-promoters who essentially become an extension of their marketing efforts. Employers must apply this same approach to successfully develop an employee experience that produces a “brand-promoting” workforce. Employers must mirror the inquisitive nature of the world’s leading brands by applying a constant effort to listen and identify if the needs of their consumers are being met. Tactics like engagement surveys can be a useful method in gaining a better understanding of where the organization can adjust and improve its employee experience. One note of caution: if you ask the questions, be prepared to answer and take action in a timely manner; nothing derails engagement more than a lack of post-survey action. While leading brands masterfully employ this inquisitive approach, they also frequently communicate their brand’s value far beyond the point of sale. This long-term, consistent approach ensures their existing consumers remain active promoters. Unfortunately, most organizations miss the opportunity to continue the momentum created during the onboarding process. Expanded job roles, tighter budgets, and general resource scarcity are just some of the reasons employers struggle with consistently ensuring their existing “consumers” remain loyal to their “brand”. Fortunately, organizations can begin with small, incremental changes and investments that can produce significant ROI. For example, a few well thought out emails sent throughout the year can go a long way; this messaging can express gratitude, reinforce core values, and remind employees about existing perks and benefits. These small investments pale in comparison to the well-documented costs of high turnover levels.
Even the world’s leading brands experience consumer churn and turnover. Contributing factors can range from shifts in consumer spending, marketplace trends, deviations in product quality, and more. The key differentiator among all top brands is their commitment to gather and analyze consumer feedback to better understand where they may have missed the mark. Similarly, employers will always face varying levels of workplace turnover – it’s a fact of HR life. While the reasons for losing employees will vary, successful organizations invest time to understand and identify those trends. Like the leading consumer brands, these employers understand that by leveraging tactics like quality exit-interviews, they can learn to adapt and ultimately prevent further turnover and damage to company culture/reputation. In the same way brands must manage poor product reviews, employers must also consider the digital footprint left on dozens of job review sites. When appropriate, it can be key for employers to ensure exiting employees are given a reasonably thoughtful, cohesive offboarding experience.
The Consumer (Employee) Experience Matters
Whether your organization is years-deep into shaping employee experience or at the contemplative starting line considering your first move – the path to differentiating your “brand” is possible. As you execute your plans for 2021, try to approach your employee experience with a creative marketing lens – it may lead to some unexpected, promising results!