Whenever my family and I travel to visit my parents at their home in Delaware we always make a stop at the Under Armour Outlet store that’s 15 minutes from their house. Like many kids, my children are obsessed with the brightly colored UA merchandise, and the outlet provides some wallet relief in clothing our rapidly growing brood.
Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of Under Armour gear, so when I accompany my family on their outlet shopping spree, my attention is focused not on the over-priced workout clothes, but on the walls.
Throughout the store, there are cleverly worded phrases that surround shoppers with a heavy dose of branding mojo and inspire them to do more, be more and buy more.
It got me thinking…if retailers are having such huge success with inspiring a certain tribalism among their shoppers, why are other businesses not doing the same? Many forward-thinking companies are spending time, money and energy on attempting to indoctrinate their employees into their way of doing things with attempts at training, onboarding and team building exercises. They may even invest big dollars in redesigning their office space or installing ping-pong tables or funky art. These attempts are noble, but often provide the equivalent of “lip service” to the issue at hand: cultivating internal brand ambassadors to drive future growth.
If an accounting firm prides itself on the power of its client relationships, why isn’t this emblazoned on the reception area wall? If an engineering concern wants to show its clients how skilled its team is at working together to create innovative solutions, why are the office walls decorated with vintage posters instead of the words “innovation, teamwork, vision, execution…”?
Smart firms understand that the right investment in recruitment and retention will attract both the right employees and the best clients. These investments need to be thoughtful, intentional and bold. Words painted on a wall are not enough, however, if they don’t resonate with those staring at them every day. “Talking the talk” is not sufficient. Organizations must also “walk the talk” by clearly defining their mission and then providing tailored professional development to support those inspired by the compelling phrases featured on the office walls.
The right investment in the professional development of a firm’s Rising Leaders will always lead to business development. What does the right investment look like? One conceived with vision, intentionality and a focus on each participant’s individual motivation and personal definition of success. Off-the-shelf, pre-packaged programs don’t work. They may be wrapped in the right package, but like the inspirational phrases painted on the Under Armour store’s walls, if the team members do not “walk the talk”, in the end, it’s just talk.
And talk, unlike a new pair of UA sneakers, is cheap.