Empowering Voice Builds Employee Brand

In this guest blog, Dr. Russell Robinson focuses on how a culture of voice builds employee brand.  Here, Dr. Robinson expands on the power of employee voice outlined in the Waggl white paper:  How to Activate Employee Voice to Create and Sustain a Speak Up Culture.  Dr. Russ is founder of Amplified Research and Consulting, LLC, and is responsible for training and engagement for a component of a federal government agency.

Voice Builds Employee Brand

Organizations create a voice culture when they empower employees to share ideas and concerns about organizational improvements.  This increases employees’ engagement in the company’s goals.  Researcher Lina Xiong and her colleagues indicate that this culture can also increase an employee’s brand.  Employees with a strong brand tend to provide better customer service.  This strengthens the organization’s brand, and this creates a competitive advantage.

What Is Employee Brand?

An employee’s brand is the image they want to project to internal and external stakeholders.  Researchers Sandra Miles and Glynn Mangold indicate that when an organization fuses employee brand with the company’s values and mission, it can achieve more success overall.  Co-founder of the Ritz Carlton company Horst Schulze shows this as wellIn his book Excellence Wins, Schulze shares how employee brand helps achieve their motto:  “We are Ladies and Gentlemen, serving Ladies and Gentleman.”  This upholds each employee as a model of excellence.  The hotel trains employees to embody this in every guest interaction.  This begins before candidates become employees, and continues after their succession planning.  Empowering employees to contribute to this mission also increases their ownership in its success.

And, What Causes Silence?

Discouraging an employee’s voice diminishes their brand.  My research on voice and silence confirms Waggl’s assertion that this silence is due to: 1)  the belief that leaders do not care to hear employee insights; 2)  the belief that sharing ideas is futile: and 3)  the fear of an adverse career impact.  This increases when leaders do not: 1)  model a voice culture themselves, or 2). have a plan to resolve resistance to voice. 

So, How Can Voice Build Employee Brand?

Firstly, We Assess the Current Voice Culture.

First leaders can assess the current state of voice and silence through different methods.  These include pulse surveys, focus groups and suggestion boxes.  The ideal method lets employees feel comfortable expressing their ideas.  It also lets organizations crowdsource these ideas at scale.  The assessment also shows the workforce that their ideas are valued.  This increases buy-in from employees to share their voice. 

Also, We Provide Emotional Intelligence Training.

CEO of Emoworks Faroshia Ashley suggests that managers’ emotional intelligence can determine if an employee decides to share their ideas or not.  Given this, organizations can train managers to improve their: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and verbal / non-verbal social skills.  Gaining these skills also builds managers’ employee brand.  Also, including emotional intelligence skills in hiring and promoting processes shows that leadership values employee voice. 

And, We Fuse Voice and Brand With Mission.

John Michelli’s book The New Gold Standard focuses on the Ritz-Carlton’s excellent customer experience.  He shows how this is a result of empowering employee voice and brand.  Michelli documents how both are woven into the hotel’s actions, artifacts and beliefs.  The Ritz-Carlton constantly encourages employees to express and choose how to improve customer service.  For example, it lets employees spend $2,000 per day to resolve customer service challenges, without pre-approval.  

So, What Happens When Voice Builds Employee Brand?

The Ritz-Carlton’s longstanding excellent service articulates how a strong voice and brand can reinforce a company’s overall mission.  Also, improving customer satisfaction improves the bottom line – and the brand that the marketplace experiences overall.