Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege of meeting a myriad of amazing marketing, branding, customer experience, leadership, and social media experts. One of these experts is Russel Lolacher from Canada. We recently discussed employee experiences and employer branding, and highlights follow Russel’s bio.
Russel Lolacher is an international speaker, podcaster and advocate on customer and employee experiences, and social media, and is based in British Columbia. He’s helped private and government organizations grow their relationships to improve their brand reputation and their bottom line. Sharing his thoughts through his blog Relationships at Work, Russel has been internationally recognized as a top customer service expert by Microsoft and Hootsuite and in Forbes and Huffington Post. He was recently named a Top 25 Thought Leader in 2021 by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI). Read his Blog at www.relationshipsatwork.ca; follow on Twitter at @RussLol; follow on Instagram at @RelationshipsAtWork; and visit his Relationships at Work Facebook Group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/113983628622544.
QUESTION: The employee onboarding process starts the moment a position is advertised. How can employers understand that having an exit strategy should be part of the onboarding process, and that employer branding is important?
RUSSEL LOLACHER: First impressions and last impressions are extremely important, and need to be treated as such. Even though an advertised position should be seen as a first step in the onboarding process, it’s also that impression from your branding that’s determining if a prospective employee wants to even work for you. For example, if an organization still hasn’t figured out the “social” part of social media when interacting with its customers, how do you think a future employee will perceive the organization? Spoiler: “If they can’t figure out Twitter, what else do they suck at?” What story is your brand telling? As for including an exit strategy into onboarding, with anything there is a beginning, middle, and an end. Careers are no different.
The idea that once you’re hired, you are with an organization forever is archaic. Each employee has their own hopes, goals, and dreams for their career, and every organization needs to understand their role in that, including from onboarding to exiting.
How can you set up this individual for success, to contribute to the health and success of your company while they work there and provide an amazing platform for them to grow (either in your organization, another, or in retirement)? Know that employees will speak about your organization to others - including your support of them - to future customers and future employees. They are some of your best brand ambassadors. All you have to do is demonstrate you have a plan for them, right from the beginning.
QUESTION: How can organizations measure employee experience success?
RUSSEL LOLACHER: A simple question with not an easy answer. Employee experience is as much, if not more so, qualitative than quantitative.
First, the organization needs to define success. It’s hard to measure against something if you have no idea what it looks like and feels like. What is the organization’s model for employee experience success? How do you know you’ve reached it?
Second, an organization needs to demonstrate that the employee experience is a priority. Effort, measurement, and follow up are imperative to success and can’t be done off the side of someone’s desk.
Lastly, once success is defined and resources are committed, you can effectively look at a variety of tactics. Note: not one tactic fits all, nor should only one be considered enough.
Here are a few ideas to incorporate:
- Employee Promoter Score: same approach as NPS (Net Promoter Score) but would involve twisting the question to be more culture focused. “How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague as a place to work?” Rate with a scale of 1-10.
- Seasonal Temperature Checks: use a team of internal champions to routinely check in candidly with random staff on their employee experience, and if the organization is meeting their needs.
- Professional Development check in: growth and learning are a good sign of employee happiness and motivation. Set up a system to determine how employees are moving themselves forward in their development (sorry, mandatory training doesn’t count).
QUESTION: On a recent post on your Blog, you wrote about "7 Employee Engagement Superpowers for More Than Mere Mortals." Can you elaborate on this excellent post?
(Post referenced: https://www.russellolacher.com/7-employee-engagement-superpowers-for-more-than-mere-mortals/)
RUSSEL LOLACHER: Glad you enjoyed my Blog. When it comes to employee engagement, many organizations think they’re doing enough, while far too many studies show they aren’t. That’s an important gap. So, as a supervisor, manager, leader, coworker, employee, etc., it’s important we take responsibility and make the effort to improve that experience for others.
I’m now thinking of the famous Spider-man line, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” And it’s not far off. As a member of an organization, a part of a corporate culture, you have the power and responsibility to engage others...and hopefully, in the process, engage yourself. So, as I write in the post, don’t focus on the normal when you can be “super” by being self aware, show your active listening or demonstrate patience. If you won’t, who will? Step up, up and away. (See what I did there?)
TWEET THIS: As a part of a corporate culture, you have the power and responsibility to engage others. ~@RussLOL #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog
QUESTION: There is a lot of talk about organizations adding a new C-Suite position, the Chief Customer Officer. This demonstrates that orgs want employees to create an excellent customer experience. However, there should be another C-Suite position called the Employee Experience Officer. Some orgs use different titles, such as, Chief Personnel Officer, Chief Talent Officer, etc. What are your thoughts?
RUSSEL LOLACHER: If we look at the traditional titles of the C-Suite, CFO, COO, CIO, CMO, CEO...you’re telling your organization that you prioritize these functional areas (finances, operations, information, marketing and the executive respectfully). And you can go further to other titles that highlight risk, investments, and compliance. Words matter. So why not commit to standing up for employees? I understand the need for a Chief Customer Officer (CCO), but your most important customer is your employees. A CCO title without a EEO communicates that money is more important than staff.
Though every member of an organization has a role in the employee experience (same as for the customer experience), creating and truly empowering a position of authority to guide and nurture culture is important to bridge the gap between how well the organization thinks it’s doing versus its reality.
QUESTION: There is a relatively new title in the C-Suite: Chief Happiness Officer. What do you make of this, and can it, or should it, become standard in all organizations? Or is this just marketing buzz?
(Here's the article: https://www.fastcompany.com/40582655/employers-your-idea-about-employee-happiness-is-all-wrong)
RUSSEL LOLACHER: The role of CHO is crap. As referenced in the Fast Company article, the role seems far more about reinforcing the C-Suite/organization’s definition of “happy” rather than understanding its employees and their definitions. Happiness is personal. What fills my cup is not the same for another. I think the intention of a CHO is good (who doesn’t want to be happy?) because it’s putting resources into an employee advocate, but in this case the execution and focus is horrible. It feels like an attempt to look cute to customers/investors while highlighting internally that they are missing the mark in supporting and understanding the employee experience. Organizations should be more interested in putting in the work to understand and support their employees, rather than look for opportunities to put out a fun news release.
QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
RUSSEL LOLACHER: The problem with the role of presidents and CEOs is most people don’t know what they do or understand their value to the organization/industry/brand. That’s a problem externally and internally.
To become the number one brand ambassador for an organization, this role first needs to be defined in words, communicated (over and over), and backed up with action. This is a communications role, first and foremost, internally and externally to customers, employees, the board, stakeholders...everyone.
This position is the face and passion personified for the organization, demonstrating physical representation of the organization’s vision to inspire, connect, and motivate. (Which further cements that you better have a good vision, or your “brand ambassador” role won’t be as effective as you’d like.)
So what they can do is:
- Define an amazing vision statement.
- Become that vision statement.
- Communicate, communicate, and communicate (and you better be a good communicator!).
- Be open to candid feedback from everyone, listen to it, and stand firm to your vision by responding to it. Every opportunity.
My gratitude to Russel for appearing on my Blog and for sharing his inspiring employee experience and employer branding insights.
Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.