‘Return on Experience’ (ROX) is being recognised as one of the best ways to realise more value from your business; for hotels and restaurants where experience is everything, it is a useful approach to business planning.
The return on investment to be gained from delivering a great guest experience is dependent for the most part on employees. Their knowledge, motivation, energy and know-how are as important, if not more important, than many aspects of the physical product, including technology.
Therefore investing in and measuring ROX, which takes into account employee engagement as well as financial results, guest satisfaction and efficiencies puts the spotlight on ensuring your employees’ experience within the organisation is as it should be.
According to Accenture, employers offering a great employee experience outperform the S&P Index by 122%
To retain fully engaged employees and offer them a great brand experience, taking the time to understand things from their perspective is the place to start.
This includes everything they see, feel, observe and experience throughout their journey within the organisation – not just their career development path. It includes the everyday, the here and now. The company culture and team spirit, the willingness of leaders and supervisors to take time to support their teams as well as providing the tools, technology and resources to excel at serving the guest at every touch point. This kind of support is expected by all your employees especially the most talented – the ones who can move on at any time to new and better opportunities.
Getting the right balance is hard; whilst younger employees may prioritise their development and growth opportunities, others may look for maximum flexibility to help them meet commitments to family, children and parents.
Good hotel leaders are well ahead in retaining great talent through cultures that enable people to be their best, which in itself builds social capital within the organisation and status externally as an employer. This is ROX at its best.
How can the ROX approach help ensure your brand’s ‘employee experience’ stacks up to the expectations of today’s workforce?
The answer is a virtuous circle that aims to embed high employee satisfaction which in turn drives guest satisfaction that results in guest loyalty and higher spend.
For a virtuous circle that embraces the employee brand experience as well as the guest’s brand experience, here are some key goals to frame an action plan
- Self-esteem – make internal brand ownership aspirational
- Influencers – encourage internal influencers to engage others
- Behaviours – recognise the right behaviour in performance management
- Value – identify & reward the creation of value in the guest’s eyes
- Financial – share and celebrate financial success
For help with employee experience, employee engagement, brand engagement, internal communications and Return on Experience: firstname.lastname@example.org
An inspirational vision or higher purpose is a must for organisations in all sectors, especially for generations Y and Z (currently 38% of the workforce and increasing to 58% in the next decade)
However, the very nature of inspirational words and statements of higher purpose can widen the gap between what is agreed in the board room and the everyday reality for employees who have to deliver.
Well crafted, high flying words do not in themselves drive the productivity or the improved customer experience and competitive edge they were designed for in the first place.
Brand vision from the inside out
If this rings a bell, it may be time to revisit your brand vision and brand purpose from an internal perspective.
Everyone wants to be inspired and most people come to work wanting to do a good job, but that brings an expectation that the leadership, systems and support will be in place to enable them to do that.
From this perspective, the time and resource put into supporting the delivery of the vision are as important as the vision itself.
If you ‘unpack’ the vision from an internal standpoint it becomes easier to create a way of embedding that vision throughout the organisation.
Behaviour and levels of engagement include individual feelings mixed with tangible needs, peer pressure and perceived problems.
Listen to your employees
Remove the corporate-speak about productivity and increased output and listen instead to teams and individuals talk about ‘how easy or difficult it is to get things done around here.’
This can unlock solutions for engagement – and improved customer experiences with higher productivity will invariably emerge from these kinds of conversations.
If you listen and capture this internal take on the best way forward, you can bring your vision and values alive with an execution plan that uses the language, structure, tools and support that gain trust and buy-in at all levels.
Effective employee engagement plans
For a more effective employee engagement plan, start the conversations around:
- The meaning of inspiration and vision from all angles
- How brand values help in every day at work
- What’s in it for employees when it comes to the brand promise
- How does the brand promise affect customers’ expectations?
- How can we build a brand vision journey from the ground up
The 80/20 rule holds true. It’s just turned on its head in this case.
YOUR WORKFORCE – ADVOCATES OR DETRACTORS?
For hotels, restaurants and event companies, 9 times out of 10 the value of your brand depends on your people.
Location and product quality are key but to gain a continuous price advantage, an engaged and motivated workforce delivering at every customer touch point is critical.
Employees and customers
Since employees have a much closer relationship with customers than senior executives, they are the ones who can make or break a brand’s reputation and market value.
However, to take the UK as an example, only 23% of the workforce is fully ‘engaged’ and it is reasonable to assume that service industries do not differ significantly from the rest.
If you took a straw poll of your workforce would you find advocates or indifference towards you as an Employer?
Either way, statistics show there is a big opportunity to gain market edge right (up to 147%) now by recognising the contribution employees make to the value of our brand on the balance sheet.
At the same time, the workforce is changing fast.
Millennials and Generation Z, who demand a reason to stay with their employers rather than the other way round, will soon make up the majority of employees.
In fact, by next year, Millennials will constitute 50% of the workforce.
So there is no option but to prepare an employee engagement strategy that is fit for purpose and inspires employee loyalty across generations.
Employees and their Employers
To initiate a strategic engagement plan, mapping the ‘employee journey’ through the company will help to scope out a realistic strategy.
Simply mapping a career path from start to finish is not enough; the journey for engagement requires careful consideration at every touchpoint in daily interactions between employee and employer.
Similar in fact to mapping a customer journey but from a fresh perspective.
There are many success stories out there.
At a recent meeting with Cycas Hospitality, winner of best hotel employer 2018, I discovered from founder John Wagner and Culture Coach Janet Roberts that the Cycas vision of “making its hotels the best places to work as well as to stay” has given a simple, singular direction to the complex task of delivering an effective employee communications and engagement programme.
The outcome speaks for itself from both employee satisfaction and a bottom-line point of view.
There is no escape from the reality that successful employee engagement and the competitive edge it brings demand as much care and consideration as customer engagement.
Also, like customer engagement, you have to be ’on it’ all the time.
87% OF EMPLOYEES ARE NOT ENGAGED AT WORK
For service businesses like hotels and airlines where employees ‘are the brand’ this is a great opportunity to gain market edge.
According to Gallup 2018, ‘companies with highly engaged employees outperform the market by 147%’.
However 1 in 5 employees are saying they are not being managed in a motivating way.
At best they may be indifferent to your organisation and at worst may be damaging your reputation by sharing their views internally and externally.
As a result company value can go up or down at lightning speed and business size appears to be irrelevant
Employee engagement and competitive edge
On the up side CEOs and owners, whatever their business goals, are waking up to the importance of optimising their human capital.
They see a large untapped opportunity for improvement in performance which will deliver higher employee motivation, improved customer satisfaction along with growth in shareholder value.
However, there is quite a gap between understanding the opportunity and the appetite for action, mainly because there is no quick fix.
Employee engagement delivers long term sustainable returns rather solving immediate issues around profitability.
Attracting, motivating, engaging and retaining great talent will be the difference between winning and losing over the next 2-5 years, so future proofing the business now is worth very careful consideration.
Where to start?
Whilst innovative technology is everywhere and is a fantastic enabler, it is not the solution.
From experience, successful internal engagement hangs on how well you translate your brand purpose or vision into an inspirational and deliverable set of internal actions; this calls for an approach to employee engagement that is as considered as your approach to customer engagement.
To get started, see IM London’s simple pointers below for framing an effective internal engagement plan.
Internal engagement framework:
- Revisit your brand purpose from an internal perspective
- Set employee engagement goals & measures
- Align goals & outcomes to your business plan
- Map the employee ‘journey’ with all touch points
- Communicate and action!
With the right framework in place and experienced individuals engaged in driving it forward, the process is straightforward but to make it successful and sustainable the devil is in the detail all the way.
That’s OK though, because the return on investment is worth it!
Are your business strategy, growth objectives and brand strategy aligned?
Ideally a firm’s business strategy is debated, developed, executed, measured and justified on an ongoing basis by an ambitious and diligent senior team. If the firm’s business strategy is a working piece and translated into a set of agile plans, then the firm’s brand strategy should provide powerful energy to move this forward. If this is not happening, then the brand management process should, when systematically carried out, be the catalyst to clarifying the aspirations and success objectives.
In either scenario, it may be time to check that the business vision, values and plans are being translated into all branding touch points whilst staying relevant.
If the firm is growing into new markets, sectors and demographics of any difference, you must reach out with tailored relevance. Again, be considered at all levels including branding.
Whatever the size of the firm, vision and values need to be up to date and communicated for onboarding new people. How else will they know how to contribute to the brand in providing a service without any degree of guideline?
It’s all about the people – to deliver on the brand promise, values and services with consistency and enthusiasm requires an understanding and engagement of brand development. Understanding the strategy behind the brand enables partners, managers and teams to bring the brand to life authentically through tangible means, from pitching for a new business to answering phone calls. The end to end consideration of all touchpoints has been part of the brand development process for many sectors for some time, particularly airlines and hospitality. For the professional sectors, we would argue there is much opportunity to stride ahead and create this differentiation.
Is the firm not only communicating what they stand for but also claiming this space as their own? If not, there is probably a need to refresh the look and feel of key brand assets to meet new times and claim their space in the current market.
Seemingly obvious but a brand’s website should engage with their target audience with the best of who, what, how and why. Whether this is to attract visitors or to reinforce a sense of confidence and legitimacy, the site needs to be on-brand and relevant to your clients today and tomorrow…not for yesterday.
There’s no short cut – brand strategy is a part of business strategy you should not ignore if you are aiming to grow a business. Its focus will put pressure on the discipline within our overall business strategy.
Branding during mergers and acquisitions should be well considered. Financial and strategic analysis and planning is applied in the process, but seemingly the line for brand value is less rigorously managed. Many mergers do not achieve the greater sum of their parts so the question is – is the brand being managed to optimise value as other assets are during this process?
Of the largest global companies, for most, more than 15% of their market capitalisation is in fact brand value (Brand Finance 2018). Taking the opportunity to maximise this asset requires consistent attention.
Some cornerstones to the process are mentioned here:
The investment strategy and rationale should guide brand architecture – that is, how the brands in question are integrated and the future links that may develop in time. Whilst branding provides stability to a vision and a collection of values there must also be scope for adaptability in the modern marketplace.
With clients, customers and guests at the centre of our businesses, minimising friction through change may need to be handled sensitively. It is important to understand a customer’s level of involvement with the brand, alignment with services and values and loyalty towards the brand and services. Very often this presents an opportunity to refresh the current brand(s) as a whole by reviewing the brand foundations.
As with most decision making, it is easier to take the team on the journey in order to get to the destination. It’s important to recognise the rational and emotional involvement for all stakeholder groups – management team, employee divisions, new and existing clients and investors. The brand journey will be widely interpreted and contribute to the brand and thus its market value.
Whether it’s an initial branding exercise, evolvement of your brand or a website refresh choosing the perfect branding agency can provide you with that advantageous leap forward. However, it can be challenging when deciding which agency might be most compatible with you and your organisation. So to prioritise your considerations…
Do your research and look at the types of work produced by different agencies. Does the agency have an approach that will incorporate all the practical, theoretical and emotional backdrop to your brand? Do you see your brand designed with the same approach?
Identify agencies with similar values.
Select the agencies that will respect your aspirations (vision) and values. Are their values similar to yours? Will the agency you select understand your business in the way you want it to be perceived?
A team you want to work with.
Seems quite obvious but results are achieved through skilled people working well together. Who would be managing and doing your work? Are they easy to work with? Do they respect your work in the way they should? Are they the right people for the job as opposed to the guys the agencies wanted to allocate?
It is a good idea to think forward. There are huge benefits in building a good relationship with your agency over time. Your needs will fluctuate but the consistency through your brand should not. Your agency can take a pivotal role in your brand guardianship and with a good relationship will be far more able to add value rather than simply order take.
As all disciplines become broken up into micro-units of specialisation having those agency or partnership relationships becomes increasingly important.
Managing a rebrand or brand refresh can be tough for any marketing team. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first rebrand or the fifth – it can be a strenuous process from start to finish (if there is one).
Notable brands are at opposite ends of the spectrum in how often they have rebranded. In a previous article, Is it Time to Rebrand?, we’d taken note of this – Starbucks was at the low end of the spectrum with five rebrands since brand creation in 1971, whereas Pepsi was much higher with eleven rebrands since brand creation in 1898.
More of a recent example in the news has been the John Lewis rebrand – with promises of “re-inventing the high street” after seeing profits plummet to the lowest level on record in 63 years. When planning a rebrand such as this, where do you start? Here are some things to think about:
LAY OUT YOUR NEW IMAGE
An ideal place to start is laying out your new image. What are your company values? What expectations are you setting? What are your promises to your target market and current customers going to be? Assess these thoroughly and decide upon the set of promises that your brand can actually deliver to your target market. Staying customer focused is key to your rebranding campaign.
RESEARCH YOUR CUSTOMERS AND TARGET MARKET
Given the above mentioned it makes sense to research your customers and the target markets. Sadly this phase is often seen as a cost as opposed to a foundation to the investment and thus missed out. What do your customers expect from your brand? How does your target market interact with your brand? What challenges will you face from your target market?
Use research specialists or simply ask your current customer base for feedback – both positive and negative. Another option is to utilise professional social networks, such as LinkedIn. These platforms are great tools for identifying new target markets based on what people are interested in or speaking about. You can easily engage with your target markets, as well as identify any challenges that they may be currently facing that your brand may have the solution to.
IDENTIFY WHAT (IF ANYTHING) IS BROKEN
Not attracting new clients? Are there any current goals that the brand has failed to achieve? Identifying what isn’t working within your branding strategy is almost (if not more) important than identifying what works well. This review process will allow for your brand to put its best foot forward in terms of new brand image and successful marketing tactics.
BUILD YOUR BRAND’S NARRATIVE
Develop a compelling, memorable story to support your brand or in most cases just articulate it. The key, however, is to make the story both one that you and your customers can get behind and believe in.
If your brand’s mission statement needs to be revitalised, this is a prime opportunity to do it. Re-establishing what is important to your company and what it stands for is crucial to connect with your audience and to stay relevant in today’s marketplace.
Resisting the urge to revert back to the old branding can be difficult especially for founders and senior execs. The initial groundwork in research and vision become the vital objective references. Like everything, confidence in brand image is key and if developed through sound process it will evolve elegantly.