Employer Branding: Super happy people
Recent research shows that employees at companies with the strongest brands are happier at work. But do brands really drive people - or do people drive brands? Caspar van Vark reports. If you want your employees to be happy, loyal and hardworking, there's now a shortcut to achieving it. Get your company on the annual Business Superbrands list. Apparently, people employed by these companies go to work with a spring in their step. That's according to research carried out by the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB), which completed a survey of people employed at the 2005 Business Superbrands. BMRB quizzed 804 employees online and discovered, for example, that 82% of its sample were proud to work for their company, compared to a national average of 50%; and 69% said they were treated well by their employer, compared to 43% for the national average. The Superbrands organisation chooses the Business Superbrands from a list of thousands, based on areas like brand awareness, quality, innovation, and reputation (see box). This year's list includes familiar names such as Cable & Wireless, DHL and Deutsche Bank but there are also some less obvious ones like coach company Arriva and property developer Slough Estates. It does not judge candidates specifically on their employer branding, says the organisation's chairman, Stephen Cheliotis. But he is not surprised that companies on this list are particularly adept at making themselves attractive to employees, both current and prospective. 'I don't think it's a coincidence, the fact that these brands have been rated superbrands and that their employees have said they're happy and motivated,' he says. 'I'm not surprised that strongly branded companies are perceived by their workers to be better employers. I expected this to be the case, but I didn't expect the difference to be so great.' So why is it, then? Cheliotis puts it down to a sort of virtuous circle. Companies that have built up strong brands will make the effort to keep staff happy, because employees are brand advocates to customers. And if employees are happy, they will speak well of the business to others, and people will want to work there. The company is then in a position to employ the best people. In other words, good brands attract good people, and those people help sustain the brand. HR leaders at these organisations are pragmatic about the connection between satisfaction and their jobs. Caroline Joyce, head of training and HR at Kall Kwik UK, is very down-to-earth about it. 'There is a definite link between people's motivation and their pride in the brand they work for,' she says. Kall Kwik is based on a franchise model, so it's especially important for it to communicate clear brand messages to its franchisees. 'We like to think that our values and beliefs have always been very clearly stated,' she adds. 'They form part of an extensive induction programme. It's important for everyone - our employees and our franchisees - to understand the brand.' But it's one thing to make everyone understand the brand, and quite another to actively harness it in the HR function. Do the Superbrands work harder at employer branding than other organisations? Do they actively translate their brand values into the workplace? Well, it would be fair to say that many of them do make a conscious effort. Take accountancy firm BDO Stoy Hayward, another of the companies on the current list. HR partner David Fisher says that BDO makes a big effort to listen to its employees. 'We have a roadshow twice a year,' he explains. 'We go out to our business units and talk to all our staff about the direction and strategy of the firm, about recent developments, client wins and about our plans. It's a huge communication process, and the management team acts on the feedback and is very public about the changes it is going to make.' How employees feel about their work-life balance is usually a good...
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