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Happy People Equal a Happy Brand

Interview With Susan Goodsell, Manager, Employee Communications, Aflac

CHICAGO, IL -- (Marketwired) -- 03/18/14 -- With the consistent flow of research demonstrating the connection between an engaged workforce and revenue growth, improved employee retention, and customer loyalty, organizations have realized that they must deploy a more strategic approach to internal branding and employee engagement, or face the realities of lost market share. However, optimizing a global internal brand platform is proving to be challenging. Developing a consistent internal brand message that can be disseminated across multiple platforms and diverse internal audiences requires advanced communication and training methodologies, and an internal culture that is well-aligned with organizational values and goals.

Susan Goodsell, Manager, Employee Communications at Aflac recently spoke with marcus evans about key topics to be discussed at the upcoming marcus evans 9th Internal Branding and Employee Engagement Conference, April 29-30, 2014, in Chicago, IL. All responses represent the view of Ms. Goodsell and not necessarily those of Aflac and its subsidiaries.

Developing a comprehensive and consistent internal brand message is essential to enabling employees to deliver the brand promise. How do you personally define "brand promise"?

SG: The simple answer is that we define brand promise as doing what you say you're going to do. For example, our founders believed that if you take care of the employees, they will take care of the business. Our culture continues to thrive on this personal commitment to a caring service, and as a result, we are able to deliver benefits to our policyholders, in most cases, within four days. At Aflac we say we've got you under our wing. I think the more my colleagues embrace this promise, the better ambassadors we are for our company.

What is the biggest challenge to developing, and then disseminating, a consistent internal brand message on a nationwide scale?

SG: The biggest challenge in disseminating our brand message on a nationwide scale is reaching employees in locations outside of the headquarters. Because the team culture in each location is slightly different, in addition to electronic communications, we rely on the face-to-face interaction of our HR business partners to be our voice in each of those locations. They are instrumental in maintaining the caring culture we've cultivated at headquarters.

How do you gauge internal brand or employee engagement success? What are your long-term goals regarding strengthening the internal culture of the organization?

SG: We conduct an annual employee engagement survey that helps us track our engagement year over year. The results help HR pinpoint areas that need attention based on both quantitative results and open-ended questions. What we've found with these surveys is our employees understand our brand promise and they live that promise as evidenced in their interactions with our policyholders and our associates. However, there are also instances where challenges are revealed. For instance, employees, we found through our survey, crave more face-to-face discussions with their leaders on company strategy and direction. So that is something that we have sought to provide with greater frequency.

To meet that need, we are providing more information about our strategic direction. We've provided targeted print pieces to leaders to help with team discussions. We also created a short-video series for our employees where senior leaders are sharing the strategy and goals directly with employees through the company portal. Additionally, we've included articles in our employee magazine on the Company's three-year strategy. By taking a multi-media approach we can capture the attention of our audience in the manner that best suits them.

Adopting a more strategic approach to employee engagement is a focus of every company. How has your employee engagement strategy matured in recent years/months?

SG: We've always had a very strong commitment to motivate and engage our employees. Being able to post daily news stories on our company portal was a turning point in our engagement strategies. Not only did this allow us to share news in a timely manner, we were also able to connect our employees in locations outside our corporate headquarters.

The maturity evolved with adoption of the media. At first, we really had to dig for news and information to share with employees. Now our challenge is controlling the output based on the volume of requests, making sure we pace the dissemination of information so it doesn't become white noise.

Your company has created its own internal brand message, or identity, that is referred to as the "Aflac Way." How did the Aflac Way come about and how has it enabled the organization to better reach its goals?

SG: Aflac's employee population grew tremendously along with our brand recognition once the Aflac Duck campaign began in 2000. We hired and trained our teams rapidly to keep pace with new business. However, with this new influx of employees, we didn't have the opportunity to fully translate the culture. Senior leaders who had been with the company "pre-duck" felt the need to capture the essence of who we are before we lost touch with the values of our founders.

The Aflac Way defines who we are and how we expect our employees to treat our customers and each other. It defines the essentials of customer service. We can see the results first-hand in the way our customer service specialists interact with our customers. We know that their care and compassion makes a difference from the thousands of positive testimonials we receive each year to our dedicated email box, ilovemyaflac.com. Our CEO Dan Amos recently said at a company meeting that happy people equals a happy brand. The Aflac Way is essential to our happiness.

With a focus on communications, project management and event production, Susan has 27 years of experience in both non-profit and corporate organizations. Susan has been a part of the Aflac Employee Communications function for more than six years. Her team's efforts support all aspects of internal communications through print, electronic and digital media. They give voice to corporate initiatives including sustainability and diversity awareness, health and wellness, benefits and strategic messaging, as well as event communications for the annual leadership meeting, Diversity Week and the week-long employee appreciation festivities that celebrate Aflac's 4,700 employees. Although a Buffalo native, Susan's called the South home for more than three decades. She is a Distinguished Toastmaster and remains actively involved in the Toastmasters organization.

The marcus evans 9th Internal Branding and Employee Engagement Conference will take place in Chicago, April 29-30, 2014. For more information, check out the conference brochure or please contact Tyler Kelch, Marketing Coordinator, Media & PR, marcus evans at 312-894-6377 or [email protected].

About marcusevans

marcusevans conferences annually produce over 2,000 high quality events designed to provide key strategic business information, best practice and networking opportunities for senior industry decision-makers. Our global reach is utilized to attract over 30,000 speakers annually; ensuring niche focused subject matter presented directly by practitioners and a diversity of information to assist our clients in adopting best practice in all business disciplines.

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Tyler Kelch
Marketing Coordinator, Media & PR
marcus evans
312-894-6377
[email protected]

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