Building a “Brandful” Work Environment: It’s Engagement by Another Name

You don’t hear a lot about companies building brand ambassadors these days, and if you attend as many conferences as I do, you know that you also don’t hear a lot of  speakers talking about it, either.

And that’s what made the Day 1 keynote speaker at the 2012 Spring ERE Expo in San Diego such a different experience, because getting your workforce to be more “brandful” is really just another way to focus on getting them engaged in the organization’s mission.

That’s the take of Julia Gomez, the former Director of People Analytics & Engagement at Jet Blue, and she should know given how much a brand focus, and a superbly engaged workforce, is part of Jet Blue’s corporate mission. In fact, she’s so engaged herself in the notion of creating “brand ambassadors” that she’s launched her own company – The Brandful Workforce — where her “mission and dream is for every company to brag about their exceptional workforce … so much so that the workforce is seen, both internally and externally as an integral and critical part of the company brand. “

Branding — building a competitive advantage

If this sounds like corporate-speak, it’s not. What it is, really, is a focused management approach that recognizes that leveraging an organization’s workforce to  spread the positives about the organization and its culture is a smart way to push a company ahead — and drive the bottom line.

As Gomez told the ERE Expo attendees, “Building brand ambassadors – mobilizing the workforce to be “brandful” — will (give you) a competitive advantage over (organizations) that don’t.”

If the concept of being “brandful” seems a little elusive, it’s actually pretty simple. Gomez says that, “Your brand is what people say about you (yourself, your unit, your company) when you leave the room.” She fleshes this out a little more on her website when she writes: 

A workforce can work “for” or “against” your brand. A “brandful” workforce charges forward FOR your brand!

While bottom-line results are most critical to organization’s long-term success, people are the top asset that can drive these results. Many organizations have turned to employee engagement. Why have an engaged workforce if employees are not promoting your brand and contributing the most to corporate profitability and sustainability? A “brandful” workforce is one in which the employees are actively promoting the brand because they sincerely love it. The Brandful Worforce is a newly formed organization dedicated to helping corporations involve and leverage their engaged workforce toward a more aligned and powerful brand.”

Jet Blue’s principle of leadership

For example, she detailed how the focus on branding starts at Jet Blue with the interview process. Interviews with job candidates are meant to be casual and fun, and it’s an opportunity for the company to “walk the talk” about organizational values. Gomez gave four keys to the Jet Blue interview experience:pre-screening for values

  • The interview is where the organization pre-screens for company values;
  • It is also viewed as a brand conversation;
  • The People Team uses it as a way to deliver the Jet Blue experience; and,
  • Every candidate is thought of as a potential or existing customer.

The principles of leadership at Jet Blue shows where all of this is going. Gomez listed the elements as:

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  • Communicate with your team;
  • Do the right thing;
  • Inspire greatness in others;
  • Encourage initiative and innovation;
  • Celebrate success.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Makes you wonder why more organizations don’t do it.

Examples of “brandful” behavior

But in case you think that this is all about Jet Blue, it’s not. Gomez showed “brandful” videos from a lot of other companies that understand how important leveraging employees is — General Electric, Wegman’s, The Gap, Tom’s of Maine, USAA. They are all great examples of organizations that use employee brand ambassadors to drive their business and their bottom line. And if they aren’t great examples of positive employee engagement, I don’t know what is.

She also showed some videos that showed the “brandful” behavior at work. The Jet Blue safety video (below), was actually made by employees — and that’s another indicator of the high level of employee engagement throughout the airline.

Yes, this presentation was not your typical conference keynote, but clearly, Gomez (and Jet Blue) understands how important it is to build a business though the employees — and how engaging them can drive your organization’s brand in a sustainable (and profitable) way.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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