There are two recent incidents that underline the importance of how managing your company behavior can affect your company brand. The first example signifies over-management. The other demonstrates under-management. Both represent mis-management.
In December 2010, UBS Bank, Geneva rolled out a 44-page dress code which was so specific it was ridiculed as being discriminatory and downright rude towards both male and female staff. Details about how women should wear skin-coloured underwear and men should avoid eating garlic was seen by many as being over-the-top.
The second example is of a Montreal retailer called Orchestra that banned a mother from breast-feeding in the store. They claim the employee was a new hire and therefore didn’t know breast-feeding was allowed. Too late though, mothers retaliated en mass with a mall protest against the store. Orchestra has since apologized due to the erosion of their brand reputation.
What can be concluded from both these stories is that guidelines are necessary but should inspire not dictate. As is the case with Orchestra, knowing what can and cannot be done within a retail environment is crucial. Learning on the job can clearly create a mess. In UBS’ case, too much detail is simply… too much even though they claim the guidelines are intended on being guidelines and not hardline rules.
How far do you go to build a unified brand through a corporate community? How do you respect individual dignity within a corporate community of more than 65,000 staff as is the case with UBS? Are guidelines necessary or do they breed bureaucratic mistrust.
Well, it’s all in how you present them. If your company is one that is trusting, then you provide parameters that allow staff to make their own choices. Better yet, the guidelines are a collection of staff stories that inspiration instead of condemn. For over 150 years, UBS has provided only the best client advice from its client-facing staff. It should follow then that they would hire only those that have enough common sense to look and act respectable when representing their company. The best rule of all is always by example. Having managers that integrate with front-line staff is crucial in creating an environment of behavior that is unique to the brand but is never forced.