Market Research

Motivating Employees: The New B2E

Many corporations spend millions – if not hundreds of millions – on marketing campaigns to build their brand with customers. But many forget their brands are delivered by employees. One of the least expensive and most effective ways to strengthen your brand is to have employees who (1) understand and connect with your brand values and (2) are motivated to consistently deliver your brand to customers.

Companies whose employees become an extension of their brand enjoy an indisputable advantage over competitors. Disney, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Zappos and many others hire and train employees for superior brand delivery. Employees share the company DNA, and truly embody the organizational values, so they understand how to behave in any customer-facing situation.

This is one of the reasons employee engagement is receiving a lot of management attention lately, and for a good reason. A company’s level of employee engagement correlates positively with other key metrics of business success, including customer satisfaction, service quality, sales, employee retention, profit and shareholder return. And companies are investing – some heavily – in programs to increase employee engagement. But sometimes it seems that employee engagement programs are tactics that just don’t move the needle. Gallup’s poll of employee engagement has changed very little in the last decade, with “very or somewhat engaged” employees stagnating in the low 30%’s, even while investment in Employee Engagement is increasing.

Motivating for Engagement

Maybe it’s not about better technology, enhanced workspaces, or wellness programs. Maybe we’re missing something. As David Irvine writes in Performance Critical, “It’s personal values that matter most when it comes to employee engagement. People don’t put their hearts into anything until they believe in it. Clarity of personal values is the force that makes the difference in an individual’s level of commitment to an organization.”

It’s not a coincidence that the companies with highly engaged employees are also those with clear missions that employees strongly support. Southwest Airlines is often cited as an example of a company that has highly engaged employees, and while that is true, they also have a values-driven foundation for everything the company undertakes:


Southwest’s mission does not even mention air travel: The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered energetically with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit. Nothing about on-time arrivals, numbers of flights – just customer service!

To deliver their brand, Southwest starts by hiring people who embody or have the potential to embody their corporate values, and then trains, develops, and rewards based on those values. Because their employees buy into the company purpose, they consistently and enthusiastically deliver the brand promise, time after time. And rate the airline high on employee engagement surveys, as well.

Motivating for Talent Acquisition

Another important role of motivation for B2E is in attracting and retaining talent. After all, as we saw with Southwest, hiring employees whose values connect to the purpose of your business is the first step to building a motivated workforce. Beyond salaries and benefits, it is important to recruit talent who support your company’s reason for being in business because it connects with their personal values.

GE is one of the world’s largest and most well-known brands. GE offers a large and diverse array of businesses, from manufacturing to healthcare and financial services. Despite these strengths, they’ve had trouble recruiting younger employees, especially highly-educated Millennials who perceive industrial company work as low-skilled, possibly dangerous, manufacturing jobs. Today, however, GE needs to hire for highly technical, skills-based positions like engineers, designers, and project managers. GE needed to find a way to bridge the perception gap.

GE created a B2E campaign for recruiting Millennials by touching their values. The campaign, called Childlike Imagination, centers on a video that describes GE innovations through the eyes of a child. Instead of focusing on the technology or the machinery, the imagery drives home messaging to connect with potential employees’ values. As the video shows trees waving to a train, the child narrates, “My mom makes trains that are friendly with trees.” The images go beyond the product to the benefit for mankind: from jet engines to diagnostic imaging, there’s something that resonates with Millennials interested in enhancing the greater good of the world.

Motivating employees, whether for engagement or talent acquisition, means finding those who connect your corporate values to their personal values. That is the way to have employees who believe in their work – and bring their best every day. As best-selling author and TED speaker Simon Sinek said, “When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” Because of these deep-seated, personal connections, qualitative research will work best for understanding how your best employees connect personally with your corporate values, and how that motivates their performance.

Contact FeltonBuford Partners to understand what’s motivating YOUR employees!

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