Brand begins with people. And one of the industries that best understands this is the hospitality industry. They embrace the idea that everyone within the company—not just front of the house—is responsible for the brand. And you know we’re on board with that.

Human Resources is the business of attraction, selection, and retention of internal human capital. So what does that have to do with brand? A lot.

Cornell University, known for its hospitality management program, had this to share in their report on HR and branding, “Much like customers seek the right fit with certain brands before purchase, potential recruits are attracted to organizations whose members’ personalities, values, interests, and other attributes seem similar to their own. In the same way that branding influences customers from the attraction stage, to the initial purchase, to long-term loyalty; individuals’ perceptions of an organization’s brand can influence human resources from attraction, to selection, to retention.”

So how do you do this?

Here are some actionable ideas inspired by the report:

Attraction

  • If attracting new team members is a challenge, include prospective staff as a stakeholder when developing your brand strategy.
  • When hiring, differentiate your compensation strategy by offering a holistic view of total rewards. Communicate the unique value proposition that staff receives by being part of your team. This can be more tangible, like donor matching, or more emotional, like a sense of pride. For example, to attract quality staff in a highly competitive industry, “Sofitel aggressively markets their ‘Global Ambassador’ training program. While this 12-to-18-month training program is designed to turn new recruits into Sofitel brand ambassadors by empowering them to perform exceptionally, the training program itself is marketed as valuable to prospective employees. Sofitel is using the training and development it provides as part of the employment experience as an integral part of their recruitment strategy.”

Selection

  • Consider job titles. Do they reflect the personality of your organization? Take a look at Disney—arguably one of the strongest brands in the world. “Disney’s employees live their unique culture, and it is demonstrated every day by a specific language and a particular code of conduct. For example, the company uses show business terms for its employees. It hires “cast members” who are recruited by “casting”; all areas in front of their customers are called “on stage” and the back of the house is “backstage.” At all times, the firm’s culture and the internal values, communicated by HR branding, reinforces that cast members are playing “roles” that help make up the “show.”
  • When interviewing prospective staff, go beyond evaluating if they’ll be good at the tasks required of their job. Will they be a good fit? Do they share your organization’s values? Will they fit into and enhance your brand rather than attempt to change it?

 

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Retention

  • If internal alignment and staff retention is a challenge, include current staff as a stakeholder when developing your brand strategy.
  • Listen to your staff. Survey them to see if there are inconsistencies with the objectives and employees’ perceptions of the brand: How should they behave and what should they achieve? Do staff feel that managers reward and appreciate their efforts to fulfill the organization’s mission? Take these learnings and adjust accordingly.
  • Lead the efforts in managing your organization’s culture, and empower staff to live the brand. Be the brand strategy’s cheerleader, both in rolling it out to current staff, introducing it to new staff, and enforcing and embodying it consistently.
  • Set the expectation that current staff act in a way that further reinforces the brand, not weakens it. Be this explicit. Use the word “brand” in your employee manual.
  • Evaluate staff reviews to ensure they are on-brand, both in terms of how you measure success and in terms of the review environment. If your brand strategy includes values of teamwork and balance, your review should, in part, evaluate a staff member against those values. And if your Brand Personality includes being warm and friendly, an annual review should feel warm and friendly, even if there are tough things to be said.
  • Review internal communications. Organization-wide emails should reflect your brand. This will reinforce why your staff members want to work with you. At the Ritz-Carlton, communications are addressed to “ladies and gentlemen at Ritz-Carlton,” which is in alignment with their brand, drives the behavior that reinforces their brand, and attracts right-fit employees who want to embody this level of formality.
  • Staff events should be a reflection of your brand. A great example is Mission Minded! Our events are focused on creativity and often include visiting a nonprofit like a museum or an opera.

These action items are simply the beginning. For nonprofits, the stakes are often much higher than quarterly earnings. You seek to make a change in the world, and you rely on a strong team to make that happen. A strong nonprofit brand is a result of carefully strategizing and then using that strategy as a lens for how you look, how you sound, how you act, and what you do across the organization. So is human resources responsible for your organization’s brand? You bet.

For more resources on developing and living your brand, check out our Marketing Guides.


About the Author

Stephanie is a Mission Minded Brand Strategist and a huge Harry Potter nerd.


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