28 min 9 sec

Peishan Tian on embedding brand into culture and employee experience

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Peishan Tian on embedding brand into culture and employee experience

If you're wondering what it means to get your people to live and breathe your company's brand values and purpose - this is the podcast for you.

Peishan Tian runs the Brand-led Employee Experience consulting service at Landor, one of the world's leading brand specialists.​

In this episode of EXtra! EXtra!, Peishan and Kiran talk about

• the values and behaviors employees need to embody to deliver business results
• the three types of metrics that should be used to gauge EX success
• and why your CHRO and CMO need to work hand-in-hand to design a successful EX

#employeeexperience #futureofwork #hr #employeedata #hrpredictions2024 #brandpurpose #brandvalues
Peishan Tian is the Executive Director of Brand-led Employee Experience at Landor (formerly known as Landor & Fitch). She brings her years of experience as a marketer, internal comms leader, and EX design consultant to drive business growth and revenue.

You can reach out to her at:

Kiran: 0:42

Peishan, thank you so much for joining us over here and for spending the next 20, 25 minutes with us to talk about employee experience. I think I'm extremely excited because you also come from the whole design and consulting background which is very interesting. And I'd love to understand, how you are bringing the entire consulting and branding perspective into employee experience. So it would be great to kind of have you introduce yourself very quickly.

Peishan: 1:11

Yeah. So hi hi Kiran. So Peishan and I am the executive director for a practice called brand-led employee experience at Landor Fitch. Landor Fitch is a brand transformation consulting firm. And what we do is to help brands sort of transform themselves inside out, but with a brand lens. So we do everything from sort of, brand strategy to creative expression to the physical and digital experience that we might give customers. Employee experience or brand-led employee experience is a rather new practice that we have started in the Asia Pacific region. So that's the practice I'm leading in APAC.

Kiran: 2:01

So do you think that from a workplace perspective, do you think that companies are ready to kind of take that perspective of brand building that they've traditionally been doing from a customer experience side of things, but do you think that they're ready today to kind of think about it from an employee experience perspective? And if so, why?

Peishan: 2:22

There are companies or clients that Landor Fitch has worked with where we start to talk about things like employer branding, talent experience, and that sort of thing. And I would say that this would be a starting point, but the unique proposition that we have at Landor Fitch is to look at employee and talent experience from a brand lens. And I know you'll be asking me what that essentially means and I'll break it down for you because it is, I think when I put it into words, it's a really a no-brainer. So we look at essentially embedding a company's brand purpose, core values, and the desired behaviors we want employees to have everywhere along a typical employee and talent journey map. And the whole goal of this is to enable employees and candidates to see, hear about, smell, taste, experience your brand every day, everywhere within everything that they are doing as best as we can. Truth be told, I would say that we've worked with companies that have beautiful core values. Plastered on the office wall somewhere and maybe printed in employee handbooks. And for years they have been exposing employees to the sort of what I would deem as more communications type of engagement. And at the end of the day they come to us and they say, well, I've had the value of teamwork plastered on my wall for the past few years, past 10 years, five years, but. Constantly in our employee pulse checks, people are still saying that teams are working in silos. We need help. What do we do?

Kiran: 4:13

Yeah, that's something that sounds extremely familiar with my conversations with CHROs and leaders as well. So I'm very interested. How would you kind of embed brand into that employee experience from a teamwork perspective then? What, how would you do that?

Peishan: 4:29

Yeah, so don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to say that communications is not needed. I'm just saying that communications is but one piece of a giant puzzle. Then if you look at a typical employee and talent journey map for different companies, it might look differently. But typically you would have an awareness and, like an awareness phase up front. You have some sort of a recruitment phase where then you're advertising roles or you're talking to people. You have the interview phase onboarding for those who are selected, and then it goes on to engaging, learning, develop, development, and then exit. At any point of this sort of at any stage of this journey map, how do you embed the brand purpose and values everywhere? It could be as simple as. Telling stories from a different lens at the awareness stage, it could be as simple as in the interview phase, asking questions that would help the talent acquisition lead assess whether the candidate might have, the mindset. anD the, innate sort of, desire to be part of a certain type of tribe that you're after. And then, of course, then, during the onboarding phase, there'll be things that you can talk about, programs that you can show that can help people unpack, oh, teamwork in this company means X, Y, Z. And then, once the candidate is in the company, of course, the regular communications. introducing programs that will help push for teamwork and then even measuring people. I think measuring people would be a key thing because when I hear companies talk about collaboration being key to everything, key to innovation, experimentation, creating new sources of revenue. And then I ask them, so do you measure people? Can you tell if people are collaborating? What are your KPIs? And companies tell me, Oh, Individual KPIs, or it's a sales KPI that is linked to an individual effort. Guess what? People will know that they don't need to collaborate or do teamwork to get the 20 percent bonus at the end of the year.

Kiran: 6:54

That's an excellent point. Very often when you think about your goal setting and things like that. I think unfortunately a lot of us are setting up goals, which are very individual for our teams, like you said, right? And unfortunately then it means, Hey, I need to go out and get a million dollars from a sales target perspective. It doesn't matter whether the deployment team, the engineering team are all in sync. I'm just going out and closing deals, right? So yeah that's an exceptionally great point. I think having said that when I know you've been part of massive changes like M&As, expansions brand rehauls do you think that embedding something like this within the organization is a, just all in or do you do it in phases from an employee experience perspective? Do you kind of pick up a few priority processes and then go in or do you kind of look at it holistically? What's the best way to kind of approach it?

Peishan: 7:53

I think both approaches would work and it all depends on the company's, I guess, where the company is at any point of change journey. And then it depends on things like budget constraints. Sort of time limitations and just the overall appetite in terms of whether leaders. Would buy into things like that, but I would say whatever we choose to do is to make sure that it is a continuous effort. I would always say that culture building efforts is almost like you're raising a child and there is no day off. You have to keep doing it. And the reason really is because if you look at any company at any given day or any given month, the company would really still be hiring people. The company will be losing people. It's just how things work in the natural business world where attrition is always going to be there. You may have high attrition or low attrition. People are going to leave, people are going to come in. Culture building efforts have to be an everyday thing. So at least if we get that right, then there'll be things like, I think the most fundamental thing is then to determine what is the DNA of your desired tribe. What does it look like? And for us at Landor Fitch, that would mean getting down to a set of core values and behaviors that we are saying as a company, if all our employees exemplify these values and live all these behaviors every day. We are going to deliver on our brand purpose and deliver on our business goals. So these are what, this is what the values and behaviors are for. Because I've been working with clients before and I see that they will put their four or five values in there strategy framework, and I'll ask them how do the value show up at work? Oh, it's just been there for the longest time to be honest with not really sure what to do with it. And it gets to a point where people have seen it often enough that they can recite the four or five values, but whether they live it is a different thing.

Kiran: 10:15

One of the biggest sort of questions that I keep getting asked and would love to get your perspective on is, When you put these programs in place, how are you also measuring it, right? Everyone talks about, business impact, but how could you measure that employee experience and the changes that you're making? Do you have any kind of best practices or examples of that?

Peishan: 10:37

I do, but I have caveats and then I have to give you the lay of the land because there is always an ideal, but again, dependent on the company's appetite and, the desire to want to push things forward, this has to be done. People don't always do it. The caveat is that I think that measuring true impact is not as easy as we would like it to be because it is extremely difficult to prove cause and effect. To say that it's because of one program or two initiatives. It is the totality, I would say, because it depends on what programs you're driving. It depends on what communications you're sharing. It also depends on whether each and every one of your employees is having a positive experience every single day. Because one experience with one colleague or a leader that is truly negative will sort of color that employee's perception of what's good and bad, and that could drive your score upwards or downwards, and it's just so many variables that it's really hard to get to a point where we have a clear KPI framework that works for every company. But I would say that I have I see that, I see sort of three elements as being compulsory, more or less, to get to a place where we can measure the success of employee experience strategies in a fair way. So three bits, the first part would be engagement metrics that are more brand marketing or comms related. So things like. Number of followers on LinkedIn, engagement rate on social posts, click rates that drive people to a career site if that's a recruitment drive. So these are more comms type of metrics. Then the second layer I would say would be the traditional talent related metrics like attrition rate. Percentage of top talent staying past the first or second year mark, whether people are ranked high in their performance reviews and whatnot. Because then if you're giving people the right environment, the right tools and the employees have the right experience with their colleagues and leaders, more than likely, they're going to excel. So I think these would be the second layer. The third layer for me would be it's hard behavioral metrics. So if you recall, I talk about the values and behaviors that we say could make up a company's ideal tribe. So then how do we measure the behaviors? I find that it is not as scientific as yet, until there's a machine that can really measure that, but how I see it would be things like in pulse checks, where you embed questions that get employees to talk about things like, okay, so teamwork is a value. I see teamwork happening every day. On a scale of one to seven, is teamwork happening, on this scale? How do you see it? And then percentage of employees who say they are, say, equipped to test ideas and learn from failures, if that is indeed one of the values that you're after. Even performance feedback reviews where people can indicate how much they themselves, their colleagues, and cross functional teams are living the values and behaviors. So I know these go back to self assessment, but it provides companies with sort of a way, a manner in which to measure whether a certain behavior is resonating with employees, is showing up and then if not, do we need to dial up programs or comms around a certain area?

Kiran: 14:31

I think probably one of the best ways I've heard it explained from the perspective of, the three tiers of metrics that we need to kind of manage. And I think that's exceptional. Maybe that's something I'm going to borrow from you and talk to all of our customers as well. Saying that, hey, this is how you kind of go about it. When you think about running these EX programs is it driven by the CHRO or is it driven by the CEO?

Peishan: 14:57

Okay. There's a sigh. Okay. This is because I do think that it has to be led from the top because I am the proponent of the idea that talent strategy or people's strategy is your business strategy. I mean, in my lifetime, and I would say your lifetime and maybe our kids lifetime, we are not going to get to a point where machines are ruling the world as yet. We are, creating more and more machines, but it's not at that point where humans are completely redundant. And that just brings me to say that then for a lot of companies, growth in today's terms would be thinking up new ideas, new ways to delight people, creating new sources of revenue. So if you think of a company in a traditional sort of telco space, they may enter the space where they're providing services on helping people connect their smart devices at home because they see this as an opportunity. So creating a brand new sort of adjacent business line of business. And if you think about things like that, how companies are growing, you still need the human ingenuity to think up all these things. And how do you get these ideas? It's when people collaborate from different areas and then say, how might we?

Kiran: 16:31


Peishan: 16:31

So my view of it, it ideally, it should be CEO led, C-suite led, not just CEO, because the CEO needs the buy in of his or her C-suite executives. If that is not doable, or it's not the starting point, I would say the CHRO needs to find a partner in crime. in his or her brand or marketing sort of friend. Because when it comes to employee experience and talent experience and employee engagement and all sorts of things, there is still the comms component. And in today's world, the comms channels, even targeting employees and talent are still more or less helped by brand and marketing and comms teams. So there has to be some synergy there. You can't go at it alone. There might be some companies where, you know, comms channels targeting employees and talent are fully owned by the HR function. And maybe that, that could work, but it works in a way that is one dimensional, then you're not building the brand lens into it. You're not getting that synergy. And I do feel that it could work from a functional perspective. Go at it from an HR perspective alone, but true synergy will come when at the minimum, you have the CHRO and the CMO, CBO talking. If not, I would say, ideally, it's a CEO led initiative.

Kiran: 18:08

That's interesting that you actually brought the CMO as well, because then you kind of have that, I guess, combination of the same language, the same sort of principles going out to the customer as well as the employee. Because at the end of the day, as a company, you should also treat your employee as a customer and see what you could kind of, do to improve that experience. So that. That's extremely interesting, but kind of talking about marketing, I think we keep saying that when you think about the customer experience, there's a huge amount of data that's being used to kind of improve that experience to constantly look at ways to deliver a higher level of service. On the employee side of things where do you see that whole technology infrastructure? Is there a good use of data and analytics and things like that today to to kind of build EX or are we still fairly early from a maturity perspective? What are you seeing?

Peishan: 19:06

What I see just to give an example is say, even in the way engagement surveys are run for employees, there's more tech, sort of tech infused tools that allow more of a conversational experience for employees. So it sounds gimmicky because at the end of the day, all you're, all you want is data and insights from your employees. So you could do it on a simple Excel spreadsheet, but the experience that you offer employees even through pulse checks and whatnot is sending the signal that the company is truly embracing the cutting edge technology. So in terms of the experience that I'm offering employees just through this simple sort of engagement survey, I'm signaling that I'm here to change for good. And more and more you're building that. So it's more of a symbol than not. So I do find that to be quite heartening. Then there are things that I feel we are there, but not quite where there are tools like Power BI tools or whatnot, where you can consolidate data sources from different places so that it provides HR professionals with one view of all the data coming in. But where I find that it is lacking, and that's what I think would be nice to have, is that this consolidated platform, or whatever you might call it, can be more user friendly. So consolidating not as in just giving you donut charts, but maybe helping flesh out themes. And I'm talking data sources that might be very different, so you have both quantitative and qualitative, but then what are the themes that emerge? Because once you get to the scenes, it's the humans who will then use the reality, the business context, apply the business context to the themes to then say, how can I slice and dice the data? Does it mean we have to do more of something, less of something? So basically, it's to get to a point where we can, the data can give us actionable insights. Right now, there are platforms where you could probably get data pulled together, but I feel like it's the insights generation piece and drawing out the common themes that is still labor intensive and if we can cut that, we can just get to strategy and actions a little bit quicker.

Kiran: 21:47

Right. So ideally a platform that can kind of give you that unified view, but at the same time also deliver the action that you want to do as a business user. You don't have to go back to IT teams and, build a very different service or something, but one place where you can actually find the data consolidated and then actually action upon it as well.

Peishan: 22:06

It could be like ChatGPT infused into your consolidation platform. Where then, as the HR person who might not be a data scientist by trade, Sure. Asking simple questions like, what do people find useful in terms of ways of engagement, something like that, where you may have to prompt and you have to qual, and then it's pulling together all these and then churning out something that can help you look at things a different way.

Kiran: 22:41

Great. Yeah. What type of employee of mine is probably going to be, disengaged versus maybe from a recruitment perspective, which universities are, giving me good retention rates versus... so, so basically where what I'm understanding is where HR execs, people ops could kind of ask questions from the data that's already there.

Peishan: 23:02

Correct, cause we come with the context and I think where AI is working as of now is understanding the context in different variations.

Kiran: 23:10

Got it. Got it. That makes a lot of sense. It would not be right for me to end without asking you for predictions from a 2024 perspective. We're almost at the end of the year. Well, what do you think is going to happen in 2024 and beyond from an HR and EX perspective?

Peishan: 23:27

So I have two things. The first thing I have already covered. So I really wish that the CHRO, CMOs and Chief Brand Officers would collaborate even more closely to take the advantage of brand, use it as a talent magnet. A north star to attract and retain top talent. I think HR and marketing and brand would have to join forces in that really. The second thing I can delve into it a little bit more is I feel like as a as a society, we really need to rethink and reframe employee engagement, especially in the last sort of 12-24 months where, you keep hearing about job cuts. And restructuring. All this is just to create efficiencies and drive costs down so that you can increase the, layer of profit and whatnot, but I do think that we need to pick a different lens to it. For example. Why, I would ask companies, why would job cuts and cutting people be one of the first few things that we look at when we're trying to rethink how to make more money? Because if, in my mind, I'm thinking, You think about what employees are asking. They want flexibility. So does it then mean that do we still need that much physical office space to stay engaged? I think some companies are saying yes because you see some companies enforcing mandatory return to the office and then you hear employees making noise about it. And these companies are fighting the importance of face to face interaction as key to building culture. But at the same time, companies are not just throwing budgets everywhere to say, Hey, I see you're collaborating more with regional and global teams, so I'm gonna pay for you to travel to get face time with your global colleagues. So it's one or the other. You can't say that you need that face to face interaction to build culture and then on the flip side ask for more cross geo collaboration but not invest in people's face to face time over there because it comes down to cost and employees can see all these. So my biggest thing is then how might we reframe employee engagement and then think through things like, do we really need that much physical office space? And then it could bring you to many different beautiful places whereby you could roll out co creation workshops with people, to invite people to, hey, tell us, how do, how might we redesign the employee experience? Do you want the space? Do you want the space constantly? Right. Well, how would you like to engage with your colleagues and in sort of what sort of cadence and whatnot? I think this will create very interesting conversations because it might lead us to look at new ways of engaging people and at the same time reducing costs in different places and meaning that. You know what? Maybe job cuts shouldn't be your top five sort of lever to pull when you're thinking of increasing profit and reducing costs and whatnot.

Kiran: 26:42

I think job cuts is probably not one of the top five. It's probably one of the top two for most companies.

Peishan: 26:47

You might be right. Yeah.

Kiran: 26:48

Yeah. And I think when you were saying this, I was just thinking that even the way everyone works has changed so significantly because now very often you'll have people in project teams and those projects keep changing, right? So probably every quarter, maybe even every month, you have a different sort of narrative and different sort of KPI that you're going after. And so if you're not enabling that collaboration and it's not an office space that enables it, it's like you said, it could be like there are sprints in engineering. There could be sprints at the office. Where you're coming in and having specific kind of conversations and collaborative sessions. Yeah. I'm probably going to try that at Tydy as well. Yeah. That's awesome. Peishan, thank you so much for, spending time with us and talking about EX and especially from a brand perspective. I think that's one of the things that I had always thought of before starting Tydy and building a software product was thinking about a brand consulting firm. And, my co founders and I thought about that very often. So this was especially special for me. So thank you so much for your time.

Peishan: 27:55

You're welcome. And thank you for having me.

Kiran: 27:58

Absolute pleasure.