WIIVNHffiffi ls your brand missing in action?
Focusing on your brand's treatment of its own people will stop them heading for a 'Section B', says Karl Treachen
your mind back to the '70s and a long-running television
sitcom featuring a mobile army hospital operating during the Korean War. For anyone who doesn't know to which program I am referring, you are either very young or somehow have been able to miss the 251 episodes and the show's many reruns. I am of course referring to M+A+S*H, the blockbuster comedy that launched in 1972 (following Robert Altman's 1970 film of the same name) and ran for I I years. While there
most brands are secretly experiencing in the workplace right now is best illustrated using IMaslow's] needs hierarchy as a reference.
are many branding analogies that can be
drawn from this US television superbrand, for the purposes of this piece, I am going to feature the cross-dressing, Lebanese-American corporal who over the course of the show's run did whatever he could to be discharged
from duty: Corporal Maxwell Q Klinger. Normally, Human Billboard will spotlight particular brand and identift the unique it approaches internal and employee branding initiatives. Due to some critical research that we have just received, however, I have decided to share some of the key findings that are influencing - in some cases derailing - brands due to the current economic climate. a
MASLOW Before we start looking at what brands can learn from a hairy, middle-aged cross-dressing character from a very old US television
comedy, we need to make a quick visit to a New York psychologist who died the very year the movie version of MxAxSx.Ff was released I am referring to Abraham Maslow. Maslow was someone that most of us studied at one point or another when examining the rationale behind human behaviour. While his hierarchy of needs may have first appeared a little ho-hum, what most brands are secretly experiencing in the workplace right now is best illustrated using his needs hierarchy as a reference.
In other words, Maslow
needs arranged like a ladder. The most basic needs, at the bottom, were physical (air,
food, sleep), then came safety needs (security, stability), followed by psychological or social needs (belonging, Iove, acceptance). Then came esteem needs (to feel achievement, status, responsibility and reputation). At the top
of it all were the self-actualising needs - the need to fulfil oneself, to become all that one is capable of becoming. Maslow felt that unfulfilled needs lower on the ladder would inhibit a person from climbing to the next step.
KLINGER Here we have Corporal Klinger, a man who for one reason or another ended up in the US Army - a place where men and women were, and still are, expected to operate from a position of satisfring 'esteem needs' (achievement, status, responsibility and reputation). This is identical to the expectations of being involved in a corporation and representing a brand. Furthermore, the difficulty that Klinger experienced in the army was, according to our most recent research, very similar to the
mindset that is currently dominating commercial workplaces throughout Australia. The only difference is that Klinger was prepared to overtly react, displaying insubordinate (and off-brand) behaviour, while most Australian employees are putting up a reasonable show, while suffering in silence. You see, Klinger didn't have his'psychological or social needs'met, so there was no way he could become interested in satisfring needs around status and reputation, because at the very heart of his existence he didn't feel like he belonged. Our research into workplace psychology has recently uncovered an exceed-
ingly high proportion of employees suffering
mild to moderate anxiety around meeting the
most basic'physical and safety needs'. This being the case, organisations cannot expect employees to be focused on singing the company song, while many right now are battling to simply sing for their supper - meaning the high levels of employment volatility have largely overridden the opportunity for employees to get onboard a marketing strategy or new brand initiative.
Keep it real: there is only one thing worse than a poor forecast - lies about a poor forecast. In difficult times, people respond to bad news in a variety of ways; however, the reaction to deceit is usually far worse for all concerned (think Pacific Brands). Authentic regular communication will go a long way in satisfring
Listen: people who suffer from anxiety often seek counselling. While vocational stress is somewhat different, the remedy remains the same - create open dialogue forums with employees. Internal blogs and team meetings are helpful, along with leaders making themselves more available for human resource initiatives.
WHAT TO DO All is not lost. Further insights around internal branding and current employee cultural perspectives have identified a series of things that organisations can do to protect productivity, ease employee anxiety and hopefully avoid employees embarking on cross-dressing campaigns, hunger strikes and corporate escape efforts.
Communicate: there has never been a more important time for organisations to openly communicate with employees. Performance data, along with contingency plans and updated forecasting have been proven to alleviate disruptive anxiety allowing employees to focus more on organisational and brand related tasks. Internal marketing is a competency that most organisations struggle with and now is not the time to struggle. Employees need to feel appreciated and a sense of belonging. Without this, valuable energy will be wasted and productivity will suffer.
THE WRAP M*A+S+FIs Corporal Klinger demonstrated behaviour in response to unmet needs. The people around you in your workplace may be experiencing even more primal unmet needs, without the permission, however, to express their situation. Now is the time to communicate effectively and regularly from the top down, around your brand and organisation. Ifyou don't have the capability, then get it - if you don't have the inclination, then beware of an underlying employee anxiety that feeds on productivity and ultimately erodes performance at a time where
performing is difficult enough.