Workplace performance, which for the purpose of this entry is considered as actions geared toward positive reputation management, needs to be embedded in daily organizational practices. This entry first discusses the need for vision and leadership for employee engagement, strategic communication with employees, and employee relationship management. It then discusses the importance of organizations’ adaptability to change and innovation; internal corporate social responsibility and its linkage to employee recruitment, training, and retention; and employee branding.
Vision and Leadership for Employee Engagement
Employee engagement has become a main pillar in building and maintaining corporate reputation. Achieving employee identification with corporate values and visions is a critical step in the process of developing corporate reputation. This can be achieved by engaging employees in defining or redefining organizational values and missions, their dissemination, and their subsequent implementation in organizational life.
Strategic Communication With Employees
Systematic and planned management of communication with employees is pivotal for organizations to attain a favorable and positive reputation internally. It is axiomatic that a reputable organization communicates with its employees well. An organization’s reputation can never be accomplished through practicing one-way communication or merely disseminating information to its internal audience. Reputation management should focus on two-way symmetrical communication with employees and incorporating employees’ interests, needs, and expectations into the organization’s business objectives. Prior qualitative research has indicated a positive association between open, transparent communication and a strong, positive corporate culture.
Employee Relationship Management
The behaviors of an organization and its employees have consequences on each other at different stages of an employee-organization relationship. The relationship is often measured through employees’ perceptions of the organization’s quality indicators, including trust, satisfaction, commitment, and control mutuality. Research has found support for the relationship between employees’ work attitudes, workplace attitudes, and perceptions of an organization’s external reputation.
Adaptability to Change and Innovation
When employees pursue a common goal of both organizational development and individual growth, work can become more fulfilling, enjoyable, and productive. For instance, when an organization undergoes an organizational change, employees may experience a great amount of uncertainty, risk, and confusion. As a consequence, organizational internal reputation may be tarnished. To accomplish an organizational change, corporations need to abide by social norms, respect the shared values with their employees, and demonstrate how the change or innovation will help improve organizational performance, which will ultimately contribute to employees’ growth and development. Organizations that strategically communicate with their employees can help them become champions of change in organizational restructuring, with practices and behaviors that enable organizations to make the changes happen effectively and efficiently, thereby reinforcing internal reputation.
Recruitment, Training, and Retention of Talent
Internal corporate social responsibility is centered on the well-being of employees with regard to human resources (HR) practices, employee safety at work, employee training, and retention. Research has examined how positive employment practices can be instrumental in achieving desirable organizational goals and employees’ individual well-being and life satisfaction.
Typical examples of positive employment practices include participative decision making, flexible work arrangements, training and promotion opportunities for employees, incentives, and compensations, among others. These practices can greatly advance employees’ knowledge, skills, and abilities. As a result, organizations can achieve desirable outcomes such as high job satisfaction, low employee turnover, high organizational productivity, and participatory decision making, all of which contribute to enhanced corporate reputation for recruitment and retention of talent. Other scholars have also argued that HR management practices may contribute to reputation enhancement as the employment offerings and environment play a critical role in attracting and retaining talents.
To achieve sustainable development and business success, organizations need to attract and keep employees who are highly skilled and motivated. Corporation reputation, in particular corporate social performance, largely determines the extent to which an employer is attractive to prospective job applicants. HR practices or trainings can equip employees with the necessary knowledge and skills to communicate with the organization’s external stakeholders, which drives corporate reputation. To enhance organizational performance and promote corporate reputation, organizations need to turn their employees into brand ambassadors who are enthusiastically engaged in supportive communicative interactions with their organizations’ external stakeholders.
- Training: To contribute to corporate reputation management, employee training or career development programs can acclimatize employees to the corporate culture, help them assimilate the most valued corporate identities, develop their skills, increase their marketability, and advance their job performance, which ultimately helps improve the quality of products and services that an organization offers and subsequently contributes to its reputation.
- Partnership between HR and top leadership: Apart from implementing training programs, HR managers need to work closely with top management to ensure that the objectives of employee training and development are in alignment with the organization’s overall business goals.
- A feedback loop involving HR and employees: HR management practices enhance corporate reputation by closely engaging with employees. HR managers and personnel need to address a wide range of employee needs and concerns in relation to compensation, benefits, job security, work environment, and job satisfaction.
Employee branding was explored by Hua Jiang in her blog entry “Strategic Internal Brand Management: Turning Your Employees Into ‘Brand Champions,’” from which this section is taken. Branding helps an organization add symbolic meaning to its products and services, but it is the customers and other key stakeholder groups that ultimately determine what a brand really means to the targeted audience. Customers’ and other external stakeholders’ brand perceptions may predominantly depend on the behavior of employees, especially frontline staff. Encouraging employees to help cultivate an organization’s brand image has become a challenge that many industries face. In an era of rapid business growth and competition, employees play a central role in a company’s branding efforts. Employee behavior lies at the very heart of any brand.
The product and service encounters between employees and customers (i.e., employees’ on- and off-site contributions to an organization’s customer-focused business practices and brand positioning) can translate an organization’s brand vision into brand reality. Employees as brand ambassadors can help customers process brand information and understand the meaning of a brand properly. Key to the success of a branding strategy is thus an internal brand management focused on a strategic alignment of employees’ experiences with brand promises (i.e., a high level of congruence between employees’ behavior and brand personality), apart from the wide use of marketing-driven, mass-targeted messages. This alignment can manifest itself along various dimensions—employee appearance, manner, and personality. Through internal brand management, organizations can obtain a sustainable competitive advantage with strong positioning that brings about customer loyalty, high market share, and long-term business development and success.
The literature on services marketing, relationship marketing, employee branding, brand communities, and organizational citizenship behavior has discussed the key features of employee brand-building behaviors. Employees as brand representatives should uphold their professional relationships with a corporate brand. Rallying frontline personnel can humanize a brand and spark emotions of closeness, affection, and trust, among others. It is critical for employees to meet the standards that organizations set for branding (“walk the talk” written in an organization’s internal and public messages).
No employee’s contribution to living a brand is negligible, although the contributions may vary in degree and scope. The entire body of employees, regardless of their hierarchical or functional roles in an organization, plays a crucial role in building such a sustainable competitive advantage. How can employees be motivated to go above and beyond their prescribed roles in corporate branding, through their performance on the job and their personal advocacy of products and services off the job? In employee branding, management’s leadership behaviors make a difference. Supervisors who align employees’ individual values with organizational goals to accomplish mutually beneficial outcomes can elicit from their subordinates helpful in-role as well as extra-role behaviors. Such leadership behaviors include the following characteristic ones: (a) role modeling, that is, leaders’ behaviors highly manifest a brand’s core values; (b) articulating a strong brand vision and inspiring employees with it to accomplish fundamental organizational goals; (c) cultivating an internal brand community where employees share great insights on brand ramifications; and (d) coaching employees to become their organizations’ brand ambassadors.
Central to successful internal brand management are several pivotal constituents of its procedures: (1) employees’ brand commitment, (2) brand citizenship behavior, and (3) brand strength. Brand commitment refers to the extent to which employees feel psychologically attached to a brand (e.g., brand afﬁnity, lack of substitutability, and trust) and are thus willing to devote efforts toward the accomplishment of the brand’s goals. Specifically, it denotes employees’ willingness to adjust their behaviors in accordance with the brand’s identity and image (i.e., obedience); the extent to which employees identify themselves as part of the brand community, internally and externally (i.e., identification); and, finally, the degree to which employees internalize the brand values into their actions (i.e., internalization). Brand citizenship behavior describes a series of employee behaviors outside the formally defined role expectations but enacted in the hope of enhancing brand identity (e.g., willingness to contribute to brand success, brand awareness, brand enthusiasm, marketing the brand, self-development, and self-improvement in alignment with the brand positioning vision). Finally, brand strength is defined as employees’ behavioral relevance to a brand, for instance, purchasing behavior and promoting the brand via word of mouth.
How can organizations achieve a great fit between external brand positioning and internal employee experiences? Empirical research has yielded findings to answer this question. Employees are more likely to support an organization’s external brand positioning when leaders, as role models, inspire employees to strive for excellence and innovation, when they clearly articulate the branding objectives and empower employees to communicate the objectives to external audiences, and when employees demonstrate a high level of competence and autonomy in performing their role as brand ambassadors. Consumers’ brand personality impressions and brand attitudes largely depend on the extent to which they considered an employee they closely interacted with as an exemplar of the brand’s workplace. Organizations can leverage employees’ brand-aligned behavior to enhance customers’ positive brand evaluations and customer-oriented brand equity (i.e., the value customers attach to products and services by associating them with brand names).
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