All over the world, companies have been applying Personal Branding techniques for years to increase employee value.
Personal Branding not only ensures employees are aware of their value, it also ensures their value is clear to the rest of the organization and to stakeholders too. Employees who are conscious of their value possess greater levels of self-esteem, efficiency and autonomy. Each of which helps bring out their best allowing them to reach their full potential. Self-awareness is widely acknowledged as extremely important, both at an individual level and at organizational level.
Employees with a higher degree of self-worth are empowered, dynamic, goal oriented, and possess a greater awareness of the resources and tools available to them. Personal Branding can reinforce this awareness and helps employees become fully conscious of their value, enabling them to transmit it effectively.
Discussion on the use of Personal Branding to improve employee performance covers four specific areas:
- Talent development
- Diversity Management
- Professional Development
1. Personal Branding and Talent Development
Companies focus on the development of their best talents to achieve higher levels of productivity in order to help them reach business goals more rapidly and effectively.
While understanding how to attract high-level talent is essential, knowing how to manage and to motivate these people is crucial. In today’s market, this means, for example, offering competitive remuneration packages, attractive benefits such as health and child care, and increasingly, offering remote work opportunities to promote a greater balance between working and private lives. Additionally, organizations need to be able to keep their key personnel updated, measure their performance, know when to promote them and when to develop their skills.
Within companies, Personal Branding activities designed to enhance the value, motivation and positioning of key employees take place in partnership with the HR and training departments. The recipients of Personal Branding training come to understand their true value to the organization, become more visible internally and also learn precious career management skills.
Indeed, it must be noted that HR can only implement effective career development activities once individuals are fully aware of self-determination and professional identity issues. Additionally, HR needs to be aware of the psychological factors which unite workers within organizations. If HR is able to understand them, motivation levels of key resources will be higher, and retention levels will also be greater.
According to research carried out by Ryan Erskine, staff who participate in Personal Branding initiatives are much more likely to feel optimistic about the future of their organizations (27%); retention levels are higher (20%) and these employees tend also to believe their company is more competitive (40%).
Let’s not forget that organizations are facing a period in which staff retention is key to their continued success. High quality employees help businesses grow and can act as ambassadors who help attract new talent. Human resources professionals can appreciate how Personal Branding functions as a part of an organization’s Employer Value Proposition.
In 2013, Italy’s BPER bank saw the need for radical change to promote sustainable revenue growth and to increase efficiency. The outcome of BPER’s efforts was the transformation of a centrally-governed group of small and medium-sized local banks into a single united banking entity. This reinforced the bank’s position as the sixth largest bank in Italy allowing it to become an even more competitive national level player.
In addition to rebranding activities supported by a solid social media strategy, the value of BPER was leveraged to strengthen the positioning of its brand in the eyes of both customers and employees. Knowing Italy’s banking sector was on the brink of radical change, a key part of BPER’s transformation process involved identifying new ways to manage internal talent.
It is in this context that Silvia Brandoli, BPER Banca’s head of managerial-behavioral training, asked us to develop a Personal Branding and personal business model focused training program for a selected group of employees to teach them self-improvement techniques and how to be more agile when running their work and careers.
“What struck me most was the need at all levels for BPER’s professional figures to undergo Personal Branding training. It was enlightening to witness the precise moment participants became aware of their value and realized they needed to actively position themselves to benefit both themselves and their jobs” stated Silvia Brandoli.
2. Personal Branding for diversity management
Let’s focus now on diversity management, something which sees the enhancement of differences as a fundamental asset of an organization. In this topic, we’ll include, for example, differences in gender, age, sexual orientation, geographical origin and ethnicity.
Companies, even the smallest, exist in a global framework subject to a highly accelerated pace of change, geopolitical instability and economic volatility. By leveraging inclusion, diversity management can help businesses become more competitive, as inclusion can bring different talents and skills together, create frameworks, and draw upon different points of view to generate new ideas more quickly.
According to the Diversity Brand Index, 63% of respondents chose or prefered inclusive brands. Among the benefits for companies committed to diversity and inclusion are increases in loyalty, growth in positive word of mouth, as well as greater business growth.
In addition to enabling ethics and business to cohabit and help reduce discrimination, value is also generated from an HR standpoint. According to LinkedIn’s latest Global Recruiting Trends, “diversity inclusion” is the absolute number one priority for companies in Italy. For 89% of companies, diversity, both cultural and generational, is considered key to improving corporate culture, while more than 60% consider it essential to increasing their financial performance.
“In general, so-called ‘diverse teams’ are seen as more productive, innovative and creative than others; on the other hand, there are still many companies that fail to achieve the goal of improving diversity policies, often because HR managers cannot find diverse enough candidates in interviews – as happened in 38% of cases in one sample.” (Source: Il Sole 24 Ore)
There is a growing need to develop a culture that is ever more inclusive and free from all kinds of prejudices. More than a few enterprises have embraced this approach.
And there’s a case that we have followed closely. That of IBM Italy which has for years set itself the goal of encouraging the professional growth of its female members of staff. In fact IBM promotes many initiatives to reveal talent, nurture careers, and disseminate role models via innovative internal and external campaigns.
One such initiative is IBM’s “Elevate Italy” project, devised specifically to promote the professional growth of women, it employs training programs, mentoring and shadowing. The program offers women of all ages and levels the opportunity to highlight their talents, and to create and grow their professional networks.
Now working for EY, Doriana De Benedictis, who at the time was IBM Italy’s Diversity Engagement Partner, made a number of contributions to initiatives designed to aid the professional development of women.
Hers was the idea to create the conditions to support female professionals by helping them become aware of their value and by providing them with the ability to make names for themselves, and to communicate their value to the right people in order to build themselves a good reputation within the company and attract new opportunities.
Doriana asked us to implement a Personal Branding focused program for IBM’s Milan and Rome offices. The program, which included events open to everyone, was designed to raise awareness, and included a customized personal branding path for both female and male colleagues from both offices. Doriana commented on the business as follows: “Diversity is actually a strength which if properly valued creates advantages for one’s career and for the company. The Personal Branding program helped our professionals become aware of their value and helped them communicate it more effectively.”
This is an observation in line with the thinking of Gabrielle Wood, a Kaplan University scholar: “For women in particular, a strong personal brand can open the door to new business and career opportunities. Smart female professionals know that closing the gender gap in the workplace begins with supporting your female colleagues, and putting yourself out there is the best way to make important networking connections with other women in business”.
3. Personal Branding for employability
Employability, a not-too-well-known concept, is a crucial aspect of today’s world of work: it is the ability of an individual to attract and keep a job.
It might seem somewhat contradictory for an HR chief to boost a worker’s value until he or she finds a new job. Yet, as we have seen, this is not the case. Indeed, it is the volatility of current workforces and their lack of corporate loyalty that suggests using a counterattack strategy. And, If they want to, people will change jobs anyway.
These days, because it is so difficult to find the right people, investing in them so they can grow professionally and be content in their roles makes a lot of sense even if – paradoxically – this makes them more attractive to other employers. In such situations, the winning variable is engagement. While competitors may offer higher salaries or flashier benefits, it is increasingly clear that workers prefer personal satisfaction, promotions, and more time for themselves or their families.
This controversial topic which has become even more relevant in today’s volatile work environment, is the link between employability and agility.
Transferring skills that help employees appreciate their value, self-determination, and help them understand which opportunities they should pursue increases the likelihood of them knowing how to present themselves effectively to the various stakeholders during mobility paths. Or it helps them make a name for themselves in their organizations and be able to react to change with greater agility.
An interesting case of the use of Personal Branding in connection with employability is that of Swiss Post’s Career Coach team. Swiss Post is the largest employer in Switzerland. More than 60,000 workers cover over 100 different roles and contribute to its continued success.
Following changes in the industry, Swiss Post felt it needed to help its workers develop their employability to facilitate agility plus internal and external mobility. This is why the company employed a team of career coaches who worked throughout the nation. These coaches were given an unusual mission: they were asked to support workers with any and all of the career choices, something which led to a new step in the process of Personal Branding.
It was immediately evident that to carry out this activity consistently, it was necessary to work on both the coaches’ Personal Branding skills and on their professional image strategy, especially on digital platforms. After all, the coaches were the team’s main point of contact for Swiss Post employees wanting to improve their employability.
To meet this dual objective, team leader Karin Albisser asked us to provide support to the team via training and mentoring using visual, easy-to-learn tools, such as the Personal Branding Canvas. Albisser observed that “Personal Branding is the ideal plugin for our career coaching process. The complexity of modern careers requires tools that can help coachees position themselves dynamically to ensure their value is perceived in a period of continuous change.”
4. Personal Branding and Professional Development
A final pillar in the improvement of personnel is the professional development of co-workers. Today, this is an activity that is obviously no longer limited to training. It now involves aspects such as coaching, mentoring, on the job learning, job rotation and mobility.
The main tasks are those of drawing up intervention plans and identifying training needs. The complexity of today’s careers, which are less and less linear, make everything far less predictable. Defining professional goals has become a key aspect of professional development and practical tools are needed to create prototypes and simulations from which valuable knowledge can be gleaned.
In this context, Personal Branding is beneficial as it helps employees generate an awareness of their current image and compare themselves to the ideal. All our projects and our approach to Personal Branding are supported by design thinking methodology. Indeed, since 2013 we’ve been creating, collecting and distributing a series of visual and design thinking tools in our Professional Innovation Toolkit. Design, after all, allows us to imagine a future scenario and bring it into the present so that we can acquire important knowledge and use it to plan what to do in the future.
The exercise of designing one’s future professional image as part of a career plan can help employees to comprehend the feasibility of their development projects. This is achieved by verifying, for example, one’s credibility and feasibility, and by being genuinely capable of generating a solid and relevant promise of value.
Although this exercise is part of practically every one of our Personal Branding projects, especially when using our design tools, examples from various sectors help illustrate the effectiveness of this approach. In fact, we use it with business school students of the caliber of SDA Bocconi’s School of Management and St Gallen.
In particular, in these situations, we encourage our students to think about their current professional images. Especially the ones they should activate while attending masters. Then, towards the end of the master, once their job hunts have started, we use a design activity to simulate professional goals such as obtaining a specific position in a certain type of company.
The idea is that they perform a sort of stress test to understand if a particular approach is really going to work, or whether adjustments are required. The process also functions as a reality check by providing the students with concrete feedback on scenarios that may or may not be totally viable. In this way, students achieve their final goal of thinking autonomously about networking, further training, other needs, mentoring, etc.
Basically, they progress from Personal Branding to Professional Development.
“Personal Branding along with design tools such as the Personal Branding Canvas allow our students to think things through in advance, take action in time, and take away a practical approach which they can reuse whenever they need it,” says Sabyne Moras, Head of Career Services for SDA Bocconi’s Master Division.