As you can imagine, the question sparked a rather interesting conversation. While most companies would agree that there are plenty of reasons to support their employee’s personal brands, the question of how they should provide this support tends to be a bit more difficult to answer.
My personal brand
As PR and marketing professionals, I imagine most of you (if not all) would agree an employee’s personal brand can affect a company’s bottom line. However, just to add some support to our conversation, allow me to suggest some proof.
As some of you may know, a few months back I launched The Poised. My goal is to chronicle some of the business lessons I’ve learned in an attempt to help other like-minded entrepreneurs. In a similar fashion, our company publishes a bit more formal business content through The Beckon.
The interesting thing about these two sites is that, in terms of driving traffic, my personal site has an overall conversion rate of 91 percent, while The Beckon has an overall conversion rate of about 20 percent.
Of course, we should note this example is somewhat unscientific and would not be sufficient proof. However, it’s easy to see how we could form the hypothesis that content published by an individual might produce a better ROI than content published by a brand.
Where do we draw the line?
Given the potential increase in ROI, I imagine the light may go off over your head. If you can integrate elements into your company’s employee development program that help your employees build their personal brands, it would likely be beneficial to everyone.
So then, should businesses simply encourage their employees to develop their personal brand? Or should businesses take a more involved approach and allocate resources to include this kind of development in their HR functions? For the sake of this conversation, let’s consider the more interesting approach of integrating it into the organization’s development and HR programs.
Types of possible HR programs
I know what you’re thinking, don’t companies already do this in some ways? I would argue, yes, they do. Companies spend money to train and educate employees everyday. This has a direct relation to developing an employee’s “personal brand” by improving their credibility.
Consider if companies had HR programs to address the following for employees:
- Education (seminars, workshops, etc.)
- Relevant online presence (blog, social media, etc.)
- Relevant offline Presence (community events, speaking, networking, etc.)
If companies spent money to help employees establish credible personal brands, they would ultimately want to take action to ensure the highest possible ROI. In other words, companies may want to regulate activities that have traditionally been considered “personal.”
A few questions to think about:
- If companies educate/train employees, how much influence should they have over that process?
- If companies help employees establish a relevant online/offline presence, how much control should they have over the published content?
- Do companies already regulate personal brands in some ways? Haven’t employees been terminated for doing things outside of work that reflect poorly on their organization?
If our argument holds true and companies can generate a higher ROI through their employees’ brands, it’s easy to see why they would want to do so. However, what about the employee? What’s in it for them?
Take, for example, a friend of mine who recently shared a link via Facebook to some property listings that his employer is trying to sell. If his mention of the listings resulted in a sale, should he be compensated?
In the end, most companies understand their employees’ brands are very much a part of their overall company brand. What an employee does and says outside of work can have a big affect on how things go inside of work. Whether or not companies like it, how their employees are perceived can impact their bottom line.
The question is, how far is too far?
Thom Holland is the co-founder and CEO of Beckon.