When Workplace Experiences Match Expectations, Loyalty Increases

How a well-branded, integrated workplace can tell a story about who the company is, what they do, and why it matters.

At Betamore—a campus for technology and entrepreneurship in Baltimore—the educational aim is to fill the gap between a traditional liberal arts education and the demand of 21st-century jobs. Photo by Ashley Woodall Photography.
At Betamore—a campus for technology and entrepreneurship in Baltimore—the educational aim is to fill the gap between a traditional liberal arts education and the demand of 21st-century jobs. Their space reflects and supports this mission. Photo by Ashley Woodall Photography.

Brand is an external reflection of the internal culture. A well-branded, integrated workplace can tell a story about who the company is, what they do and why it matters. It provides the workforce a reason to believe and empowers them to feel valued as part of the business goals and mission. The people within the organization represent the living experience behind the brands and differentiate how the brand is perceived externally. When people’s experiences match their expectations loyalty increases.1

The built environment in which an individual works is the most identifiable characteristic of the workplace. A workplace design that reflects the brand message embraces the culture and philosophy of the organization and provides support for behaviors to reinforce the culture and ensure that the company is providing the ability for the employees to reach those goals.

The built environment in which an individual works is the most identifiable characteristic of the workplace.

An organization’s culture is defined as “the specific collection of values and norms that are shared by people and groups in an organization and that control the way they interact with each other and stakeholders outside the organization.”2 Culture is the language that communicates values. A healthy organizational culture is driven by values and sustained by loyalty, commitment, and a drive for innovation. It also supports the ability to effectively foster and maintain connections between employees and their organization. A brand-rich workplace reinforces the organizational culture for the employees and enables them to become engaged, thus empowering and strengthening their brand.

At OmniTI, a web engineering firm, the brand is carried out throughout the space to reflect the company's culture. Photo courtesy of TVP.
At OmniTI, a web engineering firm, the brand is carried out throughout the space to reflect the company’s culture. Photo courtesy of TVP.

Architecture sets the stage and creates a backdrop for experiences to occur that convey a series of messages. Experiences are a result of interaction with the physical environment and allow perceptions to be formed. The concept of a Brand Experience is an encounter of sensory experiences that evoke emotions, thoughts and behavioral responses. A valuable Brand Experience can be accomplished by creating a Dynamic Environment in which concepts are brought to life and an emotional connection is established between the organizational members and the space through the application of brand messaging. One effective method of application consists of weaving concepts together to tell a story and to create an emotional experience. The space can be used to bring concepts to life and enhance the experience by integrating the environment with the language of the brand.

Understand

The story that ignites the brand experience begins with understanding the organizations core values, culture, goals and mission, strengths and their position in the marketplace. The attributes of the goals and themes can be further distilled to reveal the voice of the brand experience that is communicated through the tones colors, shapes, patterns and texture of the physical materials within the space.

Define

Establishing the brand style, which is the voice of the experience and involves identification of what core values come to life in the environment. In environmental branding, the best way to achieve positive results is to create a series of experiential touch-points. By better understanding the purpose and audience for each touch-point, we can develop dynamic environments that reflect the core attributes, and achieve a successfully integrated space. These touch-points are the fibers that weave the concepts of the story together, giving life to the space and creating a holistic experience.

Interact

Our interactions in the physical environment affect attitudes and behaviors of individuals as stated in The Theory of Planned Behavior 3 and are driven by values and norms. The goal of a brand experience is to produce affective brand commitment that is distinguished by emotions, cognitions and behavioral responses that are influenced by brand- stimuli. A multi-sensory approach allows individuals to experience through various senses at translate into this cognitive process. The message conveyed is a result of the quick response to the brand stimuli that cause perceptions to emerge and opinions to form which influences the attitudes and behaviors of individuals.

Respond

The process of filtering meaningful and non-meaningful information is called “selective exposure”~ Dubois 2000. What is processed, perceived and the personal importance that an individual gives to communication is called involvement-reception to the communication. Perception of one’s environment is affected by sociological needs, psychological state, and individual differences. It is a process of filtering meaningful and non-meaningful information. Emotional response-infusion triggers internal experiences which activate significant external impacts through thoughtful planning and environmental application of brand messaging, graphics and material selection.

Behave

The environment itself also influences human behavior. Through emotion, both mental and physical stimuli affect behavioral responses. The Theory of Planned Behavior notes how behavior is brought about by an intention to act in a certain way affecting attitiude along with values and norms. Therefore, the application of a brand experience within a dynamic environment effectively influences the behaviors of the individuals within and organizations providing noticeable value.

Instilled Values of Culture
When employee experience matches their expectations, loyalty increases. Diagram courtesy of The Verve Partnership.
When employee experience matches their expectations, loyalty increases. Diagram courtesy of The Verve Partnership.

Risk versus reward in today’s workplace demands spaces that fuel an understanding of the brand message, foster cross-pollination, build synergies between silos, allowing for greater innovation, flexibility, and efficiency. When companies fail to provide a work environment that offers this type of engagement and inclusion the brand risks a sizeable and unstable link: a disengaged and dispassionate workforce.

Employees living the experience internally, behind the brands, help to dictate how the brand is perceived externally. When experiences match their expectations, loyalty increases. The values have the potential to increase attraction, advance morale, and improve retention for both internal and external audiences.

In summary, the approach to a branded environment simply has to be more than a logo and the color on the wall. The approach and process of the integration of these values as illustrated herein has a direct link to loyalty, increased incremental ROI and ultimately long term success and positive legacy of the company who recognizes not only the process, but the values at support it.

  1. Zag, The Number One Strategy of High Performance Brands by Marty Neumeier, 2006
  2. Charles W. L. Hill, and Gareth R. Jones, (2001) Strategic Management. Houghton Mifflin.
  3. http://people.umass.edu/aizen/pdf/tpb.intervention.pdf

Rebecca Bootha workplace strategist who consults with the Verve Partnership in Baltimore, also contributed to this article. She is a graduate of Cornell University with a B.S. in facilities management, an A.A.S. in interior design, and holds a certificate from Cornell’s “Change Leadership” program. The emphasis of her 12 years in the profession has included a wide range of workplace studies, re-stack, and master planning efforts that accomplish effective and efficient workplace solutions for organizations.

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