Whether you realize it or not, your employees have been ambassadors since they first interviewed for the job. Yes, it goes back as far as that because even before the interview takes place—in the time between when the appointment is made and the appointment—the prospective employee has been telling family and friends about why he or she wants to go to work for the firm.
It is the beginning of the employee’s feeling of pride of association. Hence, what that prospective employee says, be it right or wrong, will be making an impression on others about the firm, its products and services. Certainly, all prospective employees doing more than just peppering firms with resumes will have investigated the firms they’d like to work for. However, they still need to know more about the particulars of job than what was in the job announcement or ad, and it is the particulars that the prospective employee will be asked about once an interview date has been set.
‘It did not take long for them to voice their disappointment to family and friends,’
With that in mind, does your firm, after the interview date is set, send prospective employees something more about the job than what the announcement said? Unless your company is the exception to the rule, I would bet it does not. I’ve asked several people who have recently been interviewed for jobs this question, and they told me that they hadn’t received anything more definitive. All said they wish they had because the lack of information was looked upon as negative to those people they talked to before the interview and, importantly, it would have helped them be better prepared for the interview.
Next question: Is the phrase, “employees are ambassadors of our company,” a part of the culture of your business in practice, rather than just slogan that sounds good?
Spreading the word
Ambassadorship often takes place on the employees’ own time, when others ask about the job, the firm and the firm’s products or services. There is more to this than simple conversation. Each employee-ambassador has “assistant ambassadors” (family, friends, acquaintances) who will have things to say about your firm when asked, “Whom does your husband/wife/son/daughter/friend work for?” or “How is his/her job going?” They, too, spread the word. Are they spreading rose petals or manure?
Every year, there are articles about, and lists of, the best companies to work for. Some of these are taken from statistics, such as salary, benefits and work hours. Others are taken from both formal and informal interviews with employees and, even, their family and friends. I have talked to many who have worked with some of these “best” firms, and I have found that some firms deserve the ranking. How others get on the list, though, is a mystery because what I was told belied the ranking these firms received. I can only assume that the ranking relied only on what I would consider the wrong statistics and did not dig deeper into the corporate culture.
While it may seem insignificant, one of the ingredients in establishing a culture that recognizes employees as ambassadors is an understanding of the little things that can mean a lot. Consider this example from a prestigious retail firm. Many years ago, it used engraved business cards on quality paper that every employee could order. It mattered not if they were salespeople or janitors. Because the embossing of the engraved card, only the names were printed. But this wasn’t a big deal to the employees, who gave their business cards out whenever they met someone who asked about their company.
It was a very subtle form of branding, as the feel of the quality of the card said a lot about the ambiance about the business. Employees often remarked that the typical comment they heard after giving out the card related to how great it must be to work for this firm.
The cards, of course, were an expense—though, in relation to other business expenses, very small. But compared to other business cards, the cost was high. A new controller appeared on the scene, and it did not take her long to spot this cost. She decreed that business cards from then on would no longer be engraved but, instead, printed on regular business card paper.
Yes, she saved the firm some money because of the lower cost—and because the quantity of cards ordered dropped. Seeing the lower quality of their cards, employees had less pride in their relationship to the firm. It did not take long for them to voice their disappointment to family and friends, along with the fear that things at the store might be changing—and not for the better. The word spread quickly in the community, and, to many, the prestigious retail store was not as prestigious as it was before. That affected sales.
Treating employees as ambassadors for your firm is not just a nice phrase. It is making it a real part of your firm’s culture by actions that will affect the public’s view of your products and services.