Using the environment to inform and inspire.

December 23, 2011  

Place
Making

BRANDING THE WORKPLACE

Using the employee environment to inform, inspire, and align

Companies spend billions of dollars annually to promote their brands through external media like advertising, packaging, and web marketing, yet they often fail to grasp the value of reinforcing the brand experience through their most important ambassadors: their workforce.

But branding the work environment can play a significant role in helping employees to consistently deliver the brand experience. It is a powerful strategy to effectively immerse an internal audience in the organization’s messaging and philosophy so that they learn to live it (and love it) every day.

 

A BRAND IS ONLY AS STRONG AS ITS PEOPLE.

Companies have increasingly begun to rethink the role of the workspace to help employees truly live the brand. Work environments can have a significant impact on how well employees or associates understand a brand, and how they translate its promise to customers.

Branding a space is more than just displaying a company’s logo in the lobby. It means using the entire environment to communicate about the brand. It means thinking about the office environment as a living theater for important messages. These can range from insights into the customer audience to meaningful expressions of the company’s values. In some cases, it simply consists of injecting the brand’s voice into common places — like meeting rooms, lobbies, and call centers — to remind associates how the brand should be portrayed to customers.

The bottom line is that a branded space can be a constant immersion in the company’s value proposition. It can constantly reinforce brand-right behaviors and brand-rich knowledge, and can function as a critical tool for aligning an organization around a strategy. This is particularly true in service industries or other organizations where the brand experience is primarily delivered through people rather than packaging or other more tangible artifacts.

 

AN INSIDE-OUT APPROACH

A branded workspace speaks volumes about an organization’s commitment — to its brand and its people. It signals that the company believes that every employee is critical and each should know his or her role in the big picture. And it reinforces that the company is dedicated to treating employees the way it wants them to treat its customers. It also gives those employees who don’t directly interact with customers line of sight to what’s important to those customers. Companies that live their brand this way tend to have more engaged employees, and are in a better position to recruit and retain the best talent.

Recent studies show that increasing an employee’s level of engagement with a brand can improve their performance by 20 percent, and their probability of departure drops by 87 percent. The branded workspace is a key component to employee engagement. Employees who work in such an environment acknowledge that it fosters a personal connection to the brand: they see it, understand it, and believe in it. In today’s world, that’s a competitive advantage.

 

BEYOND AESTHETICS

While these tactics can boost a company’s growth, they’ll do so only if the approach is more than superficial. In simplest terms, branded environments must impact internal audiences through more than graphics. Rather, the most effective method involves a highly choreographed solution that combines message, image, and tone of voice. The resulting spaces do three things:

Align. Branded spaces create a common sense of purpose among employees by immersing them in the essence of the brand. This can be achieved through a strong voice, compelling messages, and examples of how employees deliver on the brand promise. Inspire. Employees find a sense of inspiration in branded spaces. Messaging can illustrate the company’s story; bring the mission, vision, and values to life; or detail the ideal experience for customers. Inform. Branded spaces are a critical tool for spreading knowledge. This can range from providing meaningful history (where the brand came from) to outlining a vision (where the brand is going). Environments like these are especially effective for promoting a key initiative.

 

COMMON MISPERCEPTIONS

But if the benefits are so obvious, why don’t more companies pursue this approach? Because most don’t view their facilities as a brand asset. This requires a change in mindset and overcoming some common misperceptions:

It’s expensive. Actually, if it’s planned well, a branded environment can leverage economical techniques such as color, graphics, and photography, adding very little extra cost. More sophisticated spaces may include technology, but these can be planned into a new build or renovation budget from the outset.

It’s time consuming. Like everything else in the office, whether it’s technology, equipment, or furniture, the space should constantly evolve. Given that other activities are cyclical, it’s possible to introduce branded elements within that schedule and not create the need to update or maintain separately.

Employees are now mobile. Some would argue that the age of the office is past. However, as more associates are dispersed, it is even more critical that the spaces where they do gather work hard to reinforce the brand.

 

A FEW EXAMPLES
CAPITAL UNIVERSITY

Admissions Center Branding

CARDINAL HEALTH

Nuclear Pharmacy Environment