How putting employees first boosts your brand

If a company treats its employees well, what does that say about a brand?

Recent studies show that consumers are more likely to purchase from brands if employees are treated well. Further, they may even be willing to pay more and recommend the company’s products or services to friends. Should a business aim to bolster its brand through better worker policies and practices? If you’ve ever experienced the challenges of recruiting and retaining great people at your organization, a better question might be: can you really afford not to?

A study conducted in 2016 with Cone Communications  intereviewed 1,000 adults uncovering some compelling data on what motivates employees, and it’s not just about financial gain. About 85% were looking at making a meaningful difference through their career. About 76% were looking for meaningful personal experiences, such as meeting new people and exploring new places. Breaking down the survey data looking at the Millennial segment responses, a full 79% consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work. They are also more likely to be loyal when they feel they can make a positive impact on issues at work.

79% of Millennials consider social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work Click To Tweet

When a brand takes a stand and is not shy to share its environmental and social commitments, this goes a long way toward attracting and retaining great employees. It attracts consumers and influences their purchases. A study on global corporate responsibility showed that 84% percent of consumers consider a company’s social commitments, including employee treatment, before deciding what to buy or where to shop, and 82 percent consider them when it comes to which products and services to recommend to friends.

Leading Brands: B Corporation examples

To find examples of how leading brands put employees first, I looked at certified BCorps, a network of over 2,000 companies that aim to use business as a force for good. Assessed by a third party, these companies are ranked on their policies and actions related to governance, workers, community and the environment.

Beau’s All Natural Brewing, based just outside of Ottawa, has had incredible year-over-year growth since its inception in 2006. At its 10-year anniversary, the company announced that it would sell the brewery to its employees, shifting to 100% employee ownership. The company decided that keeping the operation independent and Canadian owned was important and it wanted employees to have a shared responsibility in the company’s future and plans for expansion across Canada.

Fairware provides promotional products to North America’s leading change makers. Every product meets the company’s strict environmental and social standards while manufacturers are held to a code of conduct. Fairware’s 12-person team is based in Vancouver and 100% of its employees are paid living wage. It also covers 80% of individual and family health insurance premiums. The company culture reflects its commitment to community and the environment. At its a bike-friendly office in a 100-year old building, the team hosts monthly collective lunches and happy hour with some of the local breweries around the corner in East Vancouver.

Outdoor retailer Patagonia was a pioneer in on-site childcare, being one of the first companies in California to offer it. It extends health care benefits to part-time, retail, and warehouse staff with 80% coverage of health insurance premiums for full-time workers. About 50% of full time employees participate in external professional development, an important incentive that encourages loyalty.

There is a strong business case for investing in your employees and going beyond the bare minimum mandated in our national and provincial employment laws. To build a respected and trusted brand that people love, you need to look within and ensure your employees respect and trust your organization.

Whistler Open Forum Event February 1

Learn more about how putting employees first boosts your brand at the February 1 Whistler Open Forum. Here’s what we’ll cover in this evening session:

  • Clarify how your brand is a reflection of your employees along with the benefits of building synergy between them.
  • How a ‘living wage’ impacts our local communities and why it is considered one of the best local economic development strategies businesses can implement.
  • Ideas on best practices for small and medium sized businesses that you can use to optimize your recruitment and training dollars for an effective retention strategy.

Don’t miss out on the chance to build a stronger brand. Register today.

Open Forum Event

REGISTER FOR THE WHISTLER OPEN FORUM

Bike to Work

November 22 event: The New Economy Will Be Driven by a Millennial Mindset

Could your business do well by doing good?

Decades ago, the concept of The American Dream was to study, work hard get a job, buy a house, pay off your debt and build wealth. Not only would many agree that this was a lie,  a whole generation of our workforce just do not buy into it as their dream. “The Millennial Dream” is a feature length documentary that explores the values that may replace the cultural motif known as The American Dream.

As the Millennial generation becomes the most significant portion of the workforce, what will change about what we want from our education and jobs, what kinds of companies will succeed in the new economy? And with values and lifestyles shifting, what kinds of communities will be desired and what can cities and regions do to attract this new economy? The filmmaker’s interviews with experts such as best selling author Seth Godin and the personal reflections of young workers stir debate and encourage a dialogue around what might emerge as the Millennial Dream.

On November 22 BDC, Canada’s bank for entrepreneurs, will showcase The Millennial Dream documentary in Whistler followed by an empowering discussion on what kinds of companies will succeed in the new economy.

If the Millennial Dream is about doing well by doing good, how do business owners need to adapt?  

Some business owners may be struggling with the belief that Millennial workers are not as loyal as previous generations. But evidence shows they will work harder and be more committed if they believe in the higher purpose of the organization. In fact, according to a Deloitte survey of over 7,700 Millennials from 29 countries, Millennials are more likely to stick with an organization if they share its sense of purpose.

During an interview with filmmaker Greg Hemmings, he mentioned a focus on relevancy as the biggest opportunity for business to seize the Millennial dream. Traditional institutions stuck in their ways are being sideswiped by companies like Uber and airbnb that are crowdsourcing solutions to systemic problems, effectively disrupting entire categories in their industries. Further, these companies lead with their values, openly sharing stories about their impact in the world.

If the Millennial Dream is about doing well by doing good, how do business owners adapt? #BCorp Click To Tweet

At the film screening in Whistler, business owners can learn how they need to adapt and aim to do well by doing good. After the film, examples of how business can be used as a force for good will be shared through a panel discussion with Greg Hemmings from New Brunswick-based ‪Hemmings House, along with Whistler-based Leah Garrad-Cle from ‪Love Child Organics and Diana Mulvey from Seeds Consulting.  The evening will wrap up with a chance to continue the conversation while mixing and mingling with entrepreneurs and representatives from BDC.

The Millennial Dream Documentary Film Screening in Whistler

Tuesday, November 22, 2016
5:00 p.m. Networking, Appitizers, Drinks
5:50 p.m. Introduction
6:00 p.m. The Millennial Dream
6:45 p.m. Panel Discussion moderated by Carla Heim, Senior Advisor Social Entrepreneurship at BDC
7:15 p.m. Networking (cash bar)

       Click here to reserve your seat today!    

View the Trailer

Purpose wooden sign with a forest background

Harness the difference you want to make in the world

your purpose is the foundation for business growth

Much of the work I do with clients involves reviewing business goals, then mapping out a marketing strategy to help drive those goals forward. Before we get started, it surprises me if the leadership team can’t clearly express the company purpose, vision, and mission. Sometimes, founders bumble along for five minutes and insert explanations. Chances are, if the leadership can’t easily share these foundational concepts, it’s unlikely their employees can. How is company purpose tied to marketing and why should you care? There is growing evidence that it can be a competitive advantage and big reason why some companies thrive while others wilt.

My preferred definition of purpose, mission, and vision come from Conscious Capitalism, a book and a movement developed in collaboration with Whole Foods’ co-founder John Mackey:

“Purpose refers to the difference you’re trying to make in the world, mission is the core strategy that must be undertaken to fulfill that purpose, a vision is a vivid, imaginative conception or view of how the world will look once your purpose has been largely realized.”

This simple hierarchy sets a solid foundation for a business, laying the groundwork before designing the business or marketing strategy. A clear purpose can be the glue that holds a company together and a draw to attract the right people – from employees to customers, suppliers and investors, to your big idea. Purpose gets everyone pointed in the same direction; while a well-designed strategy maps out HOW to get there.

Your company purpose is a competitive advantage. What is your Why? #consciousbiz Click To Tweet

So what is your WHY? According to Beyond the Brand, Why Business Decision Makers Buy Into Strong Cultures, 80% of over 500 executives surveyed around the globe felt that the biggest idea of a company is likely the one upon which the company was built. What exactly inspired your founders to start the company in the first place? Getting to the heart of a founding idea is a key differentiator for any business. It may be that untapped opportunity for a company to completely stand out from the competition.

According to 80% of respondents, the biggest idea of a company is often the one upon which the business was built. Beyond the Brand, Why Business Decision Makers Buy Into Strong Culture

If you’ve launched a business, gained momentum, hired new people, and taken a few turns, have you veered off track and lost sight of this? That same study noted above found that the penalty for losing your culture and sense of purpose may be losing your customers.

To better understand this reality, you need to look at human nature and how decisions are made. The rational side of our brain looks at analytical thought and language. The limbic brain however, looks at our feelings, such as trust and loyalty. It guides human behaviour and decision making, but not language. This side of the brain connects to that lingering feeling in your gut when you have to choose between a few options.

This science is the premise behind Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why. His big idea genuinely resonates with my clients when we talk about it in the context of purpose, branding and marketing:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

The video of Sinek’s TED Talk, “How great leaders inspire action,” has received over 27 million views. Its popularity is a sign of the times, illustrating that more than ever, people seek to make a deeper connection with a business before buying.

Beyond the Brand also revealed some other notable insights: about two thirds of respondents that develop long-term relationships prefer to do business with companies that clearly define what they stand for. This is a huge message for brands in the B2B space. Further, while purpose may have previously been an idea reserved for rallying staff at annual retreats, companies are now more transparent about their big ideas, with 85% of executives now sharing their company purpose with a range of stakeholders.

85% of executives are sharing purpose with stakeholders, more than ever in last 5 years. Beyond the Brand, Why Business Decision Makers Buy Into Strong Culture

So before embarking on a strategic initiative in your business, how about starting with WHY? Reconnect to purpose, mission and vision. Dig deeper, ask Why? at least five times to get to the soul of why you do what you do. Remember what inspired this journey to begin with before hitting the road and taking a new direction.

When you’re ready to explore how to embed these ideas into the heart of your brand, don’t overlook how your purpose nourishes corporate culture. Contact Seeds Consulting for advice on how to get started. Learn more in a related post: A healthy company culture = stronger brand promise.

BrandLove

A healthy company culture = stronger brand promise

why a solid company culture bolsters your brand

I recently had breakfast with a young professional who decided to hang up a shingle and go out on her own as a writer and content marketer. A millennial with big career goals, she left behind a great job with a director-level position at a well-known brand. The reason: the company was not living up to its brand or the inspirational values it promoted, particularly in how it treated employees. Business owners who want to build a stronger brand that is known and respected with their target audience need to take note. The health of your company culture shows up in how your brand is viewed in the marketplace. If your employees are not buying into the brand promise, chances are your customers won’t either.

A company’s brand strengthens when it is consistently represented across all touchpoints, inside and outside of an organization. Marketing (what you do) is really what builds the brand (what you are), and your employees are a critical target market that are often overlooked. Ever design a marketing campaign aimed at informing employees or designed for recruiting new ones?

This is not just about sharing the business strategy or sending out an internal newsletter highlighting a new marketing initiative. It’s about finding ways to activate the brand in the workplace and convince employees of the brand’s power and promise that your customers have come to expect.

“You can’t be special, distinctive, and compelling in the marketplace unless you create something special, distinctive, and compelling in the workplace. How does your brand shape your culture? How does your culture bring your brand to life?”  William C. Taylor, cofounder of Fast Company

A brand often becomes fragmented when employees sense that the leadership team are not living the company values. For example, if the front line does not trust the brand, it’s unlikely your customers will have great experiences. If operational staff aren’t aligned with company culture, they may cut corners, which shows up in product or service quality.

A brand often becomes fragmented when the leadership team are not living the company values. Click To Tweet

So how can you improve company culture to help build a compelling brand promise? Start with sharing a lofty purpose: What’s the difference you want to make in the world? Go back to why the company was built in the first place and revisit what motivated its founders to start the business.

six measures of a strong company culture

Once you’re clear on the big WHY?, consider these six components of a strong company culture noted by John Coleman in a Harvard Business Review article on organizational culture:

Vision

A foundation for the corporate culture. Imagine your company purpose (the why?) has been realized. What’s the vivid, aspirational view of the world when this happens?

Values

These are guidelines on behaviours and mindsets. Choose up to five and consider writing them as verbs so they are active and alive in the organization.

Practices

Your policies need to support certain behaviours and values. Ensure your team is empowered to enforce the desired outcomes.

People

Hiring people who share and want to exemplify the core values. Do you recruit and attract new hires with a focus on higher purpose and values? Are they truly on board?

Narrative

History, folklore and easy-to share anecdotes about the company. What’s your organization’s unique story and who can share it? Make sure your are passing along wisdom and insight from company founders.

Place

Aesthetics, architecture, virtual and in-person gatherings. Does the place you do business reflect your values? Let’s say your company values include ‘open communication’ but employees are constantly closed up with office doors shut, perhaps the work environment could use an overhaul.

Take the time to audit company culture across these six areas and see where there may be gaps. Better yet, ask a millennial on staff where they think culture is broken. Like my friend noted above, these young employees really care about the company’s foundation, and they’re the new ‘culture police’ you can enroll to keep the purpose and company culture at the forefront. Review each component of company culture and pull these ideas together into a story that can be shared within your organization. When your internal ‘customers’ believe the company culture is alive, it will resonate with your target audience.

“By weaving the brand messages into employees’ everyday experiences, managers can ensure that on-brand behavior becomes instinctive.” Selling the Brand Inside, Harvard Business Review

Linking company culture to the brand’s essence is imperative to creating a brand your customers and employees will love and respect. Their loyalty and positive word of mouth referrals are priceless and can help a company reach its wildest goals to grow and thrive.

Need help auditing your brand and igniting it within your company? Contact Seeds Consulting and get started today! We love working with purpose-driven brands.

Social-Venture-Challenge-Participants-small-1080x675

Doing Good Through Business

Social entrepreneurs create impact beyond the bottom line

Sharing economy, food security, social impact, community building, climate resilience – these are topics that I’ve seen trending in my network and into daily conversations. I learned from a visionary, risk-taking entrepreneur that when he heard people talk about a trend at least three times, he had to act on it. Are you an aspiring entrepreneur based in the Sea to Sky who is looking for a way to seize a trend and turn it into a business opportunity? Then attend the 2016 Social Venture Challenge kick off event in Whistler: Doing Good Through Business on Friday, March 18.

The essence of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability’s Social Venture Challenge is to get business ideas off the ground, particularly those that provide solutions to social and environmental challenges unique to the Sea to Sky corridor. The Canadian Social Entrepreneurship Foundation describes what sets these ventures apart: “Whereas a business entrepreneur typically measures performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur focuses on creating social capital. Thus, the main aim of social entrepreneurship is to further social and environmental goals.”

Why are a growing number of entrepreneurs looking to create social ventures? There is plenty of evidence toward the shift in attitudes toward traditional, pure-capitalism based reasons for starting businesses. In the 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study, the most comprehensive snapshot of how Millennials engage with Corporate Social Responsibility efforts in the U.S., revealed more than nine-in-10 Millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause (91% vs. 85% U.S. average). The research also showed that 80% of young workers want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society. They also are willing to take less compensation in exchange for greater meaning in their work.

Investments for start-ups and supporting growing businesses to scale up is also shifting. With a huge spike in the amount of crowdfunding capital in North America, along with new hybrid capital organizations and social impact bonds, this trend is likely to change the playing field in favour of social ventures over the three to five years, according to social finance experts writing for the Harvard Business Review.

Social Venture Challenge 2016

In British Columbia’s Sea to Sky corridor, the Social Venture Challenge is an opportunity for social entrepreneurs to encourage, support and grow new social ventures in the region. This Friday’s session will feature talk from Vancity’s Community Foundation, the Tofino Ucluelet Culinary Guild, Clean Start and Gibson-based Persephone Brewing Co., a Certified B-Corporation. The full day includes an Ideas Jam, Angel Den case study (where I’ll be part of a panel to help social ventures grow), plus lunch + beer tasting, and more. Tickets are still available but going fast.

Following the full-day session, budding social entrepreneurs can submit a one-page application by March 31 to participate in the 2016 Social Venture Challenge. The shortlisted entrepreneurs will learn how to flush out business ideas, get mentorship from experts in their field and receive coaching on how to pitch their venture idea to potential investors.

The final pitch in the Social Venture Challenge will be organized as a fun, fast-paced Dragons’ Den style event where participants will pitch their burgeoning business ideas to a panel of judges who will be award the winning social venture with $5,000 start up cash, courtesy of Squamish Savings. Learn more at www.whistlercentre.ca

The entrepreneur’s journey is never an easy one. Embedding a social or environmental problem in the business model is even more challenging. Being able to tell the story of that journey and how the business can make a difference in the world is often the best way to market the brand and build your tribe. Need some help packaging that story to share with the world? Contact me to get started. I love working with purpose-driven brands that are ready to build a movement.