Is Your Talent Brand Totally Toxic?

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As I watched Sunday’s Super Bowl commercials, I paid particular attention to those with celebrity endorsements.

At a staggering $133,000 per second for a Super Bowl spot, going the celebrity route has carries its own risk in generating ROI.

Tying your brand to a personality is risky. It can be a way to humanize or legitimize your brand, or it can leave you in damage control mode.

Employees are the face of your brand

You may control the image, but you don’t control the underlying, flawed person. Tiger Woods, Paula Deen, and Lance Armstrong are great examples of how linking your brand to a person, and therefore their behavior, can be problematic, if not disastrous.

On a micro-level, you link your brand to your employees everyday. Your employees are the face of your brand and probably have a great deal more influence than you realize with your potential hires, clients, and customers.

And while you can beat them over the head with policy manuals and codes of conduct, what can you do to safeguard your brand as best you can?

Here are three (3) tips:

1. Discontent will always find an outlet

You will have detractors, and you don’t control their message. But you can limit the damage by providing a meaningful channel.

The disgruntled will find their way to the nearest available megaphone. You don’t want that to be social media. Most often, employees want an outlet for feedback that allows them 1) to be heard; and, 2) an avenue for resolution.

Trashing your company on Twitter gives them the first, but not the second.

2. Engaged doesn’t = happy and quiet

You want engaged employees, not necessarily happy and quiet ones.

Engaged employees care what happens to the business and how it’s run. You want these people to give feedback, question processes, and offer suggestions.

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But in order to keep them engaged and in productive mode, you have to be willing to listen (see Tip  No. 1) and take action.

3. Recognize the diva behavior

Sometimes productive talent turns destructive when they equate their own value with that of the entire brand.

You have to recognize when the value of an employee becomes less than the damage they inflict. We have seen it happen – the star player leaves behind a trail of wreckage that paralyzes an entire team.

And, often it’s better for the productivity and engagement of the many to sacrifice the one.

It’s never easy to de-couple from toxic talent, but the alternative is trying to resuscitate a permanently damaged brand.

Maybe Bob Dylan, Scarlett Johannson and Tim Tebow will prove safe, but you might have said the same about Justin Bieber a year ago.

This was originally published on PeopleResult’s Current blog.

Barbara Milhizer, CCP, SPHR is a partner at PeopleResults, a human capital consultancy focusing on change, organization, talent and communications/new media. Barbara’s background includes over 15 years of HR with key leadership roles in rewards & recognition and talent strategy at both Accenture and PeopleResults. Contact her at bmilhizer@people-results.com.

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4 Comments on “Is Your Talent Brand Totally Toxic?

  1. Barbara – I totally agree that you want engaged employees and that engaged doesn’t equal happy and quiet. So many leaders fail to recognize this…and choose not to provide that outlet (at their own peril).

  2. Your insight is right on target Barbara. Your brand is one of the most important decisions you make – not to be taken lightly or could be devastating.

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