Employees have long been recognised as an organisation’s most valuable asset. An ‘engaged’ employee is a sought-after employee, willing to go above and beyond their prescribed job role. In the current adverse economic climate, the employees’ ability to deliver excellent service is vital in creating customer brand loyalty and, in the long-run, a competitive advantage for the organisation.
To ensure employees display ‘engaged’ behaviour during service provision, organisations have long invested in human resource practices, such as appraisals and rotation programs and internal branding, such as ‘wearing the brand’ schemes. Employee engagement however still remains one of the top challenges facing organisations, with customers reporting that service often lacks authenticity.
In a year-long research project sponsored by Baker Tilly, a team of business students (Danai Kotzakoulaki, Rita Casimiro, Daphne Karnezis, Stephan Haslebacher, Simon Stilcken and Alex Lazar) from the University of Bath recognised the problem and took a novel approach to solving it…
INTRA-ORGANISATIONAL BRAND COMMUNITIES
Among the most recognised and novel perspectives to view strong customer engagement is the concept of brand communities, which is manifested as groups of customers bound by a strong loyalty towards a particular brand. Brand managers have realized its importance and implement a variety of initiatives to strengthen brand communities in the customer context. The team argued that if the concept of brand communities is such a potent phenomenon for customers, why could it not be applied equally effectively in the organisational context?
Employee communities based on activities and interactions around the brand exist in every organisation, albeit to a varying degree. As human beings, employees only exchange in relationships that benefit them. If the intra-organisational brand community is strong and active, employees will feel a sense of belonging and receive a benefit from their relationships with the brand, enhancing their love for it. In this way employees will not only be more loyal, displaying community citizenship behaviours at greater intensity, but they will also be more authentic and sincere brand ambassadors, subsequently also increasing the quality of service.
To harness existing intra-organisational brand communities, managers should alter their mindset, appreciating the characteristics of such communities and familiarising with their workings. Internal branding and human resource practices should be adapted accordingly, allowing for open communication and empowering employees.
Although this risk is inherent in this approach, as it requires management to loosen some of their control, if employee engagement is approached as a community-based phenomenon, the team found that employee engagement could substantially increase. In this way, the intra-organisational brand community becomes a powerful pillar of the brand, enabling employees to delivering the brand values in a more engaged and authentic way.