I believe this: Your external brand can never be better than your internal brand.

What this means: Your employees’ understanding and beliefs about your company is a limiting factor to what your customers can understand and believe about your company.

A comprehensive and effective internal marketing effort, engaging all of a company’s employees, is the first and most important step we focus our clients on after creating a differentiating brand strategy for them. After all, it is your entire employee population who create the customer experiences that express your brand, not just your marketing team.

Today I want to focus on one of the challenges in doing this: Keeping up as you hire new people.

Many companies have onboarding programs, but I rarely see these efforts focus on the company’s brand and why customers should care about the company. The closest they come is a quick overview of the company’s mission, vision and values, but this rarely sticks.

Since your ability to deliver compelling, differentiating value to your customers depends on all of your employees understanding and believing in your brand and what makes your company special to customers, here are some steps you should take to ensure new employee onboarding supports this process:

Hire for the Brand

Your new employee recruiting process should communicate your brand to potential hires, and your interviewers should be trained to filter candidates on whether their personal characteristics suggest they will be able to live your “brand habits.” (Click here to learn more about brand habits).

Commit to this: You will choose your candidates less on their skillset and more on whether they can “be the brand.”

9AM on Day 1: The Brand

The first hour of the first day an employee works at your company should be focused on what your company does for its customers, why you are special to them, and what every employee in the company does to support customers and the brand.

Have other employees talk to them about your brand habits and what it takes to “be the brand.” Provide the new employee with tools to learn about your brand, and discuss why it is so central to everything your company does.

Beyond Day 1

The first hour of the first day is just the beginning. Ensure that the brand is a strong part of your ongoing efforts to educate and inspire new employees. Assign other employees to partner with your new hires. These ambassadors will welcome them into your brand, and be a resource to help the new person understand what your company does for its customers. Also, they will coach new employees on what they  can do for customers.

Evaluate Performance Based on Brand Behaviors

We encourage our clients to adapt their performance review systems to include evaluating employees on how well they live the company’s brand habits. You should do this – and you should communicate this to new employees so they know, from day one, that living your brand is one of their most important responsibilities.

This onboarding system works — try it! Not only will it ensure that new employees understand and support your brand, it will ensure that new employees feel welcomed into your culture, and that what you do matters.

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