‘Tis the season for valentines. Those who know me well know that I am partial to all things heart-shaped … especially when found spontaneously in nature. I am drawn to heart-shaped rocks while hiking, heart-shaped shells on the beach, clouds in creative heart forms and fruits and vegetables that have grown unexpectedly in heart-shaped ways. Yes, these hearts make me smile in my personal life. But what makes me smile even more in my professional life is finding companies that foster an intentional and caring attitude towards their employees all year long.
Of course, I am taking for granted that these brands already show an intentional love for their customers all year long. That’s certainly how they have become “Lovemarks” (to borrow Kevin Roberts’ term for beloved brands) in their industries: building trust, continually wooing and wowing new and existing customers and exceeding expectations.
But I want to focus on a brand-building ethos that often can get neglected as companies pour all their attention in outward facing ways: internal brand love. A brand valentine of sorts! Brand leaders need to be sure that first and foremost their employees feel empowered, respected and celebrated.
Without an ethos that highly values employees’ contributions, there is no foundation for valuing customers or stakeholders. Even the best external brand-building activities will be soulless. You know it when you experience lukewarm (at best) service from a brand ambassador at a retail establishment or at a restaurant or on a plane. There is no real human connection … it is simply a transaction. Conversely, the experience that occurs when brand ambassadors feel highly motivated and engaged with their work comes across as genuine, true and helpful.
Several years ago, Kip Tindell, CEO and cofounder of the Container Store, started National We Love Our Employees Day—a celebration (coinciding with Valentine’s Day) to show appreciation for all that its employees do for the company, their colleagues, customers, vendors and communities. This is not a publicity-driven effort. It stems from Tindell’s deep-seated belief that employees are the heart of its business and how employees are treated are how customers will be treated. (Read Tindell’s inspiring book, “Uncontainable,” for a deep dive into this stellar brand.)
And, just last year, Tindell continued to celebrate this ethos by creating The Container Store’s Employee First Fund. Here’s how it is described on the website:
The Fund provides grants to employees experiencing unforeseen emergencies like a major medical situation, a catastrophic event, or other grave challenges that they are not financially prepared to deal with. This fund will support our company’s commitment to an employee-first culture, ensuring all employees are well taken care of, safe, secure and warm. It’s a culture that is driven by our seven Foundation Principles® and results in an environment where the lives of everyone connected to our business are enriched and brimming with opportunity—where everyone can thrive—starting with our employees FIRST!
So, take heart! In this season of love, why not take some inspiration from Tindell and find a creative way show (and tell!) your employees just how much they matter to your brand!