It’s the summer of 2020. You're preparing your shopping list before you go to the local supermarket to pick up items that you need for the week. As you head out you realize that you need to add toilet paper and paper towels to your list, as there’s only one roll left of each. As you arrive at the supermarket, however, you’re stunned to see that they don't have toilet paper or paper towels in stock.

In disbelief, you ask an employee if they have any extra stock in the back, and they confirm your fears: they do not. The employee also mentioned that most stores in the area are out as well. In this moment of desperation, you drive to three other nearby stores to find they, too, are sold out.

In a last-ditch effort, you look to Facebook and local groups to see if anyone is posting on where they might have found stock of the products you need. To your surprise, you come across a group where a Sam’s Club employee posted that his local store has toilet paper and paper towels in stock. You immediately jump in your car and dance the line of speeding tickets and illegal lane shifts to arrive at the store. As you enter frantically, you speed walk to the aisle with the paper towels and toilet paper, and to your surprise the employee who posted on that Facebook group is standing in the aisle, smiling as you walk up to thank him.

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Employees Can Be Superheroes

This story is not only inspiring, but also true. A recent Fox News article detailed the heroic inventory superpower skills of Sam’s Club employee Chris Bell. Thanks to Chris, many customers were able to see in advance of their trip to Sam’s Club what items were in stock and what items were backordered.

Now, I know what you may be thinking. Why didn’t Sam’s Club just have updated inventory on their ecommerce ordering portal? Wouldn’t that make it easy for consumers to know what was in stock and what wasn’t?

Well, Sam’s Club does offer this service. But this inventory availability service lacks one thing: Chris. Chris is an example of what I like to call social employee personality engagement.

Sure, customers could have easily gone to Sam’s Club ordering portal to find inventory levels. Heck, Chris could have told people when they visited the store asking him if there was stock levels that their website would tell them in advance, but he didn’t — and for good reason. Chris enjoys providing his newfound Facebook group with updates and even more, consumers enjoy getting the updates from Chris.

Social employee personality engagement is all about transmuting the personality of employees to the brand. When people think of Sam’s Club, they smile and think of Chris and his efforts. This allows brands to take on the all-important human characteristics that drive customer retention, loyalty and positive word of mouth.

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Learning Opportunities

How You Can Inspire Social Employee Personality Engagement

So, how can you inspire employees to become proactive with this type of engagement? I’m glad you asked. Here are three ways to get started:

1. Encourage Personality

The first step is to encourage your employees to show their true personality and who they are. Inspire employees to be proactive and not afraid to express their uniqueness when speaking or dealing with customers. Sure, they may not be everyone’s cup of tea — but customers will recognize them as authentic and will appreciate them being true to their personality. However, some customers will connect exceptionally with your employees’ vast personalities — and these personality connections will help you weather the storm of "bad times" and help form customers for life.

2. Encourage Passion

Encouraging employees' passion all starts with one simple thing, getting to know them! Spend time with your employees — learn what drives them and who they are as not only an employee of your brand, but who they are as people. Whatever their passions are, find ways to leverage and encourage it. In the case of Sam’s Club, Chris’ passion was helping people and Sam’s Club didn’t hinder this, which is key — they created an environment to foster his passion and even though they didn’t have ALL the inventory customers wanted, they had Chris — and Chris made people smile (and likely come back).

3. Encourage Purpose

Personality + Passion = Purpose. All of us have a purpose in life, a reason we are here. When speaking with your employees on what drives them and what their passion is, wherever possibly, try to find ways to weave their purpose in life into your brand. Maybe someone like Chris wants to manage a team of employees one day? Easy: get Chris on the path to be trained in management and try to find creative ways to increase his role as a trainee or mentor to new employees. Fostering employees’ purpose will not only help you retain employees for the long haul, it also offers something else that I’d argue is more important — happiness. When employees are happy and fulfilled, customers notice. When customers notice, they immediately relate that happiness to your brand, which ultimately, is the secret sauce to exceptional brand affinity.

Conclusion: Inspire Employees to Be Who They Are

At the end of the day, inspiring your employees to be authentically who they are will pay dividends for your business today and tomorrow. Fred Rogers once said “Nobody else can live the life you live” — and that’s the point.

Each of your employees has their own personality. Enable and empower employee personality within your brand and your customers might just say, ‘What a beautiful day in this Sam’s Club!’

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