The Lego Group was ranked number 1 in the Reputation Institute’s annual RepTrak®100 list for 2021.
CEO Niels Christiansen said: “Everyday, employees at The Lego Group are empowered to make decisions to do what’s right for children, our fans, our partners, the environment and our local communities. It’s each one of these actions — big and small — which builds a reputation.”
This is the way to view reputation.
Lego employs more than 20,000 people across more than 40 countries, and despite this huge geographical spread the Lego brand, and the experience it creates, is consistently fun, imaginative and responsible.
It all comes down to the people.
Naturally, the employees you come into contact with when buying a product or service give you a feel for what the company is all about. But exactly the same concept applies for all the thousands of employees you don’t see – those working behind the scenes to collectively create what you experience on the outside.
Any positive feeling that is created by the hard work of employees shouldn’t happen by luck. It should happen consistently because organisations and leaders know and understand the mutual benefit of engaging with their people.
As Sir Richard Branson once said: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.”
Admittedly, reputation is quite a complex beast. It’s a combination of how liked and trusted you are as a business, the products and services you offer, your financial performance, leadership and vision, your social responsibility as a business and your workplace environment (Fombrun and Van Riel, 2003).
But so much of what constitutes good reputation relies on people:
- The most innovative products that help solve an individual’s or society’s problems are created by employees who are motivated to learn and improve.
- Experiences that make life easier or better are created by employees who care about the customer and know they can help to make the world a better place.
- Corporate responsibility initiatives that put society or the environment first are created by employees who are genuinely empowered to bring the company purpose to life – with no strings attached.
There’s a lot for employees to gain through better quality communication and engagement: having more of a voice, more autonomy, feeling more motivated and prouder to work for the company, to name but a few.
And externally, you’ll have more stories to tell about how your business is contributing to society. Employees are more likely to speak highly of you, there’ll almost certainly be a better customer experience and, like Lego, your brand will be more consistent.
How to build reputation from the inside out
First of all, internal communications should form part of your overall public relations (PR) approach. It’s still common for the two to be unconnected and for employees not to be seen as key stakeholders, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Every company has different reputational challenges to overcome, but a good place to start is with a clear organisational vision and purpose that everyone can relate to. Consistent communication and supportive leaders are important too.
And rather than allowing yourself to be defined by outsiders, ask your employees for their views. They are your biggest critics and a great source of intelligence. I’m sure Brewdog wish they’d listened to their employees a bit sooner than they did.
Finally, don’t assume that just because employment at your company is great on paper (pay, flexible working policies, benefits etc), that people will be happy. Employees are people with hopes, fears and dreams, just like anyone. An aspirational vision and empowering culture helps people to see reasons for working that go beyond financial reward.
Jo at Jamity Communications Ltd specialises in using an organisation’s purpose and values to improve reputation; building compelling stories and campaigns which give people – both internally and externally – reasons to believe in the business.