Don’t be afraid to help when it comes to your employees personal brand. Here are some benefits and ways to help them build a stronger reputation both off- and online.
Just a few years ago, the concept of branding was limited mostly to businesses, and how companies cultivated their image. The concept has expanded to encompass individuals. Now it’s not a question of whether you have a brand at all. It’s what your personal brand says about you.
For most companies, the concept of personal branding is one that has been left primarily to employees themselves. The prevailing notion has been that it’s an individual’s responsibility to find ways to differentiate themselves from others and cultivate a particular perception. Never mind that employers consider a personal brand when making hiring decisions and may actively encourage candidates to demonstrate their personal brand when applying for a job to set them apart from others. Most companies still want to focus solely on the company brand.
The tide is shifting and many organizations are beginning to see the value in supporting employee efforts at personal branding. Strong personal brands help grow the business. Supporting personal development and growth among employees can lead to a happier, more productive workforce.
Helping your employees establish and strengthen their own personal brand should be an extension of your business marketing strategy.
The Benefits of Personal Branding
You may be asking yourself, “How can supporting an employee’s efforts to become a marketing thought leader actually help my business? It’s really only going to benefit them – and eventually spur them to leave.”
Consider these specific benefits of helping your employee build their personal brand:
- Supporting branding efforts can increase exposure for your business. When employees are allowed to represent your company at events, engage in learning opportunities, or attend conferences and networking meetings they are developing skills that can support their own personal growth. They are also getting your business’s name out there and giving you more exposure.
The Bangor Region Leadership Institute (BRLI) in Bangor, Maine is a great example of how this works. Sponsored by the local chamber of commerce, this year-long course brings together individuals from 25 to 30 different companies in the region. Participants develop their leadership skills in monthly, day-long seminars led by executive and other leaders in the area. Not only do the attendees gain new perspectives and skills they also have the opportunity to network with others in the community. This also helps provide exposure to their employers, both during the program and after graduation. Touted as one of the best programs of its kind, completing the BRLI program helps support personal brands.
- Supporting a personal brand contributes to employee satisfaction. When employees feel supported by their employers, they tend to be happier. Happy h employees are productive employees, making them less likely to leave. According to one study of about 1,200 managers about 95 percent of the employees considered “high achievers” leave their jobs every 28 months. These folks are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities. The majority of these employees noted that a lack of support for personal development was the key driver of their dissatisfaction and desire to move on.
- Supporting personal branding can improve customer outreach. When your employees are respected thought leaders, visible in the community, or simply viewed as knowledgeable and trustworthy experts in your industry, that positive perception can extend to your company. It can bring in new business and help keep existing business loyal. Not only that, when your employees have a strong online presence that you support and encourage, with social media profiles, blogs, and other content associated with your business it extends your marketing reach.
- Supporting personal branding strengthens your team. Giving your employees the opportunity to grow not only helps support their brand. it also expands their knowledge and skillsets. Obviously this can only benefit you as a company.
How to Build Personal Brands
Encouraging and supporting employee personal brands does not have to be time consuming or expensive, two of the most common reasons given for not giving employees opportunities for personal growth. Some of the best ways to help build brands are simply extensions of what you are already doing.
One of the easiest ways to help employees develop personal brands is through employee recognition and reward programs. Earning corporate awards can help employees build a profile that is built on success and objective measurements from their employers. Recognizing employee achievements and successes provides positive feedback to the individual employee. It can also serve as motivation for the rest of the team, encouraging them to strive for excellence as well.
Social media is also a vital aspect of building personal brands, one that presents opportunities for employers. Some companies balk at the idea of allowing employees to build their social presence on the backs of their employers. They are afraid that the content created by an employee could reflect negatively on the organization, or even lead to legal issues. Some have even created policies requiring social posts, even blogs, to be vetted. While there are concerns about freedom of speech and the legal rights of an employer to control what their employees say, as well as justifiable concerns about preserving the reputation of an employer, most marketing and communications experts recommend allowing employees leeway when it comes to social media.
Strict policies regarding disclaimers and behavioral expectations are becoming the norm. Given the social capital that a company can gain from employees building their brand on social media prohibiting it seems counterproductive. In the best-case scenario, you can use an employee’s social posts to build your own brand. For example, if one of your employees writes a blog post articulating a new perspective on an industry issue, link to it on your company social pages to spur more conversation.
Give your employees the opportunity to have their voices heard in your company’s brand to help support their personal brands. Ask employees from different departments to contribute blog posts or other content for your company social pages or website. This help keep your content fresh. It also helps your employees share new ideas and establish their perspective and can put them on the road to becoming a thought leader.
Offer opportunities for personal development to help your employees establish their brand while benefitting your company. The example of BRLI mentioned previously is just one type of program. Allowing your employees time to join groups like Toastmasters or Rotary, or to attend networking events, can help then make new contacts while learning. Supporting formal continuing education through certificate or degree programs, or by offering formal training options, is also mutually beneficial.
Finally, consider making your support of personal branding public by offering brand training or “makeovers.” Host a branding workshop to educate your employees in personal branding best practices, and help them brainstorm ideas and get started on their brand building efforts. You might even go so far as to hire a professional photographer to take headshots of employees that they can use for all their online profiles as well as on your corporate site to maintain consistency and a professional image.
Helping your employees with their personal brands can make them more attractive to other employers, it’s true. But it also supports a strong and positive company culture that keeps employees loyal. The other benefits of employee branding – the increased outreach and exposure, employee satisfaction, skill building – far outweigh any potential drawbacks in terms of employees being recruited or poached from your company.
Officially recognizing your employee’s desire to develop a personal brand and giving them tools and resources to do so can help deter them from doing anything that is detrimental to your organization. Reminding employees to be thoughtful and professional in everything they do will protect everyone’s image. Even simply saying, “You are welcome to have a blog, but if you are going to discuss our industry, please use a disclaimer to let readers know that your words don’t reflect your employer,” can provide employees’ with the space they need to grow without reflecting negatively on your business.
Personal branding is not something that takes place overnight. It is much more than a Facebook page and a few blog posts. By aligning your company branding efforts with your employees’ personal branding efforts, you can create a mutually beneficial environment where everyone wins.