Your employees are your competitive advantage

By Lynn Manternach / Guest Column

There’s a good chance you’re investing in communicating your company’s brand externally. That’s a great start. But what about your internal brand? Are your employees engaged and aligned with your organization’s brand? Do they understand your brand promise and their role in making that promise real for customers?

This isn’t just about your brand. It’s about your bottom line. According to 2017 research from Gallup, 70 percent of U.S. employees are not engaged at work. How does that statistic compare to your organization? Do you have more than 30 percent of your employees engaged in their daily work? If so, you may already have a competitive advantage.

Employee engagement is a leading indicator of future business success, and Gallup has identified close ties between engagement and outcomes such as turnover, profitability and productivity. As the percentage of employees who are engaged at work increases, companies find themselves better positioned to grow. In fact, according to Gallup, companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers in earnings per share by 147 percent.

Internal branding is the best way to help employees make a powerful emotional connection to the products and services you sell. When people care about and believe in the brand, they’re motivated to work harder and their loyalty to the company increases. If employees do not care about their company or the brand, they will ultimately contribute to its demise. It’s up to you to give them a reason to care. Employees are unified and inspired by a common sense of purpose and identity.

So how do you go about building a team of engaged employees who love your brand?

Building the brand to ensure employee buy-in is often more difficult than creating the brand for consumers. That’s because your employees know exactly where your external brand differs from internal reality.

Start by making sure you clearly understand your organization’s brand and the promise behind that brand. Take the time to do this right. It is the foundation for your success.

Next, you need to figure out how to align your brand and your culture. Ultimately, you have to match what you say with what you do. Where do employees see and feel the alignment between the brand promise and the organization’s culture? Where are the gaps?

Conduct annual, confidential employee research to understand what’s working and what’s not from the perspective of your employees. Building your strategy using the considerable insight of your employees helps with buy-in and the likelihood of developing a plan that will work.

Develop an engaging internal brand campaign that helps employees understand the link between the brand and what they do every day. Market to employees like customers. Take the time to build a comprehensive internal brand plan. Use traditional tools, like posters, screen savers and employee publications. But don’t stop there. Make it viral, interactive and hands-on. Make it engaging.

Internal branding is a group effort. It should not just be the responsibility of the marketing department. Leadership must have a visible role. Your HR team should integrate criteria related to your brand promise into employee evaluations. Your most engaged employees can be highly effective partners in making the internal brand an emotional experience that is felt company-wide

Employees should read, hear, see or feel something daily that represents your brand promise. When employees truly understand and connect to a brand’s goals, personality and promise, they are much more likely to become the competitive advantage you’ve been seeking.

If your employees love your brand, chances are much better that your customers will, too.

Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. in Cedar Rapids and Le Claire. Contact her at