5 steps to put people first & cultivate a winning brand

5 steps to put people first & cultivate a winning brand

More and more, employers are recognizing that HR must shift its orientation from human resources to human relationships. Since the oldest Millennials entered the workplace around the turn of the new millennium, employee engagement and satisfaction has jetted to the top of executive agendas. Putting people first is the key to a winning brand. Over our three years of CultureQ® research into Brand Leadership, Good Citizenship and Favorite Brands, participants ranked treating employees well and fairly as the number-one characteristic of a good corporate citizen, and the number-two trait of a leadership brand (behind the characteristic “produces reliable, durable products and services and offers value for quality”). A 2014 CultureQ study into how people define their ideal employer revealed that Millennials (the oldest of whom are now in their mid-30’s), more so than Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, seek a friendly, supportive work environment; opportunities for social engagement; a commitment to volunteerism; good values; and a leadership reputation. Deloitte, PWC, McKinsey and many others have conducted studies that have uncovered similar insights. And when the Supreme Court decision for Obergefell v. Hodges made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states in the U.S. in 2015, numerous media pundits proclaimed that embracing the rainbow was smart business because Millennials were a more diverse and inclusive generation. Millennials are not the first generation looking to be treated well and fairly by their employers. Companies have contemplated ways to cultivate a happy workforce for decades, if not centuries. Indeed, since the height of the Industrial Revolution employers have equated employee benefits with the output of higher-quality products and better employee recruitment and...
The call for brands to do good grows stronger

The call for brands to do good grows stronger

The US, and indeed the world, continues to shift at an accelerating pace, one faster than we have seen before. And as it has, I’ve been asked by a number of clients and prospects if I believe the call for companies to do good will continue. Real change takes time—even when it’s a proactive choice. By nature, it’s full of competing demands, and it is far from easy. The path to fully embrace new ways of being is never straightforward. Sometimes one or two steps backward are required before we can leap forward. Although digital technology has enabled us to live in a world of also with opposites coexisting alongside one another harmoniously, populist sentiment appears to be determined to drive us back to a world of either/or, where our social identities are singular rather than multidimensional mashups of conventional distinctions. Although the recent election in France demonstrated that the current populist movement may not be as broad and as powerful as many had thought previously. An increasingly polarized socio-political climate has had many companies—large and small, new and legacy—on edge. During conferences I’ve attended and in a large number of my meetings with clients, the topic continues to come up. Ever hopeful to stay out of the political fray, executives across industries wonder which news flashes to respond to and which to ignore. In assessing each scenario, they consider their brand reputation, the interests of their business operations, multiple stakeholder concerns, and overarching public perception. People—customers, employees, investors, business partners, and fellow executives alike—have been watching closely, curious to learn which brands are stepping up to behaving responsibly...
The Intangible Things Employees Want from Employers

The Intangible Things Employees Want from Employers

Understand the me-to-we continuum. as printed in HBR.org There are some companies we look at, admire, and say, “Wow, I really want to work for them.” These companies understand that employees are as important as the paying customers who consume the products and services they sell. And they know that the transparency of social media means the company’s reputation is highly dependent on what its employees say. It’s never been more important for companies to treat employees well and fairly—but it has also never been more complicated to do so. With so many different generations in the workforce, each expecting different things from their employers, exactly what kind of relationships should companies be fostering with employees—and how should they go about doing so? My research (quantitative and qualitative studies of Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers as part of my company’s Culture Q project) into how cultural sentiments impact people’s relationships with brands has shown that nurturing faithful employee relationships today is no different than cultivating loyal customers. Both begin with a “me-first” orientation—that is, companies must “satisfy my wants and needs first”—and then stretch across a continuum, culminating in a “we” orientation—“address the issues that are important to my community and the broader world” (see the “me-to-we continuum” below). Just as consumers now look to do business with companies that advocate for causes they care about, employees are looking for employers who advocate for them and on their behalf for causes that matter to them. Companies are no longer “just” companies. As technology has removed the boundaries that historically divided our work and personal lives, we are now...

In 2015, investors will bet more on brands with a transparent, long-term focus

For decades, many people have considered corporate efforts to fund social and environmental programs public relations campaigns designed more to boost brand reputation at best and, at worst, a way to right wrongs. Positive reactions to exposed negative actions – part of a zero sum game (negative behavior + positive response = zero sum) rather than a net positive for society. Since the Great Recession, Deepwater Horizon, Occupy Wall Street, record long-term unemployment and government cutbacks on funding of social programs, the zero sum corporate responsibility game has come under even greater scrutiny. And as a result, doing good is becoming a practical reality for corporate survival across industries. A growing cost of doing business, that is at odds with our historically idealistic images of doing good. Yet, in a technologically interconnected world where coopetiton, hybrid cars, mixed racial backgrounds and gay marriage are becoming mainstream concepts, should the notions of idealism and realism remain at odds with one another? Should integrating sustainability and social responsibility initiatives into brand development be considered self-promotion? Or should it be seen as operating transparently and enabling consumers to buy products from companies that share their values and invest in things they care about? Intrinsic values produce consumer value More and more CEOs are acknowledging that fair and ethical business practices are as essential a criteria for lasting business success as is earning a profit. In a world where businesses are forced to adapt to the challenges globalized sourcing, production and sales present, economics and ethics cannot be viewed as separate constructs. In other words, values have become essential for value production. And,...

Clarity, Context, Conversation, Community: 4 C’s for brand development in a social, mutual economy

Over the past three years, insights on leadership and favorite brands from Onesixtyfourth’s ongoing CultureQ qualitative and quantitative research project demonstrate that we are entering a new era for business, one that is characterized by mutual benefit and win-win-win. Welcome to the new normal People have accepted that daily life will remain uncertain. While anxiety levels about what tomorrow will bring may not be as high as they were at the peak of the recession, they have not disappeared. Participants in our CultureQ research tell us they are concerned about security, poverty, injustice, sustainability and most especially their own futures. And, after years of inaction and waiting for things to change, they have accepted this state as the new normal and are proactively seeking ways to move forward in their lives. With divisiveness and obstruction a theme on the geopolitical front, people are looking for symbols of unity, tangible things that demonstrate the global interconnectivity that technology fosters. Connections that have a positive impact on daily living. They want to feel in control of their own lives and participate in creating solutions that will better society. With faith in government and political leaders low, many would rather partner with businesses – most especially the brands they love – noting that they are more likely than government to be effective in solving the very real challenges we face, as individuals, as countrymen and as global citizens. Leaders of all kinds share the same characteristics The seven characteristics participants in our research point to when describing ideal leaders, in general, apply as much to brands as they do politicians: Visionary: inspire...

Can brands help Millennials feel more optimistic about the world and confident about their lives?

CultureQ research continues to show Millennials rely on favorite brands to feel more emotionally balanced and psychologically fulfilled.  Our latest insights reveal five ways brands can develop more valuable relationships with Millennials. 1. Fill the leadership void Millennials top five concerns continue to indicate they’re a generation that’s ill at ease, as uncertainty is a permanent feature of their lives. Younger Millennials (16-18) still in high school express concern about weighty global issues (the global economy, political instability, terrorism, environmental sustainability). And are fearful about how the permanent state of uncertainty impacts them personally - preserving their quality of life, achieving longer term security and/or giving their families what they need. As Millennials age and transition more into adulthood, the lack of access to affordable healthcare is a growing worry, despite the launch of Obamacare. They also express increasing concern about the environment and the lack of visionary leadership in government, overall. More and more, Millennials will gravitate to brands with propositions that empower them to feel more secure and confident about their future and that of the planet. Their loyalty is strongest toward brands that fill the leadership void and embed solutions that solve societal issues into their promise. Brands that center on healthcare, education, financial security, and personal wealth are exceptionally poised to do this. 2. Be safe enough to be real Many Millennials are struggling with social media dissonance; the term we use to describe the gap between their off and online identities. As this syndrome becomes more widespread, and exacerbated by legacies of helicopter parenting and over scheduling which have left Millennials little opportunity to...
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