Behavioural guiderails offer companies a way to keep their staff on-brand and focussed on the same objectives. Let's look at how they can help.
Ensuring that your company stays on-brand is hugely important for both you and your customers. But it can be difficult to define what actions and behaviours deliver an 'on-brand' experience. The concept of behavioural guiderails provides a solution.
What we mean by behavioural guidelines
Jes Smith, Head of Partner Development here at ON-Brand Partners, says that behavioural guiderails are a way of articulating 'the way that we do things around here' - it's more about 'how' than about 'what' a company does.
"Behavioural guiderails are much more about culture than best practice," he says. "When we talk about best practice, that's all about the 'what' - process, procedure and policy. Behavioural guiderails are about the 'how'."
Behavioural guiderails aren't the same as values, but they're related - behavioural guiderails are an expression of a company's values. "They're the brand in action," Jes says.
Rather than a set of rules, a company's behavioural guiderails could be a set of three or four statements that describe the organisation's unique behavioural traits. When done well, these statements can express both how the people who work there act and respond, and also the principles to which they operate. Examples could be 'make it easy', 'make it happen', 'keep it simple' or 'tune in'.
The key thing is that behavioural guiderails need to be unique to a company, and meaningful for that organisation. Jes says that guiderails can give organisations a tool to help people talk about what is and isn't okay within the company.
"Once an organisation defines them, and they've had a hand in creating them, it gives people another way of challenging what we call off-brand behaviour. The concept of on-brand/off-brand is a simple, yet very powerful way of describing both positive and negative behaviour. It makes what could be a really challenging conversation an easier one to have."
Behavioural guiderails will be unique to a company, and meaningful for that organisation.
The benefits of behavioural guiderails
For individuals working in an organisation, behavioural guiderails can also foster connection and identification with the company.
"It promotes a real sense of belonging to the organisation - a real emotional connection," Jes says.
Behavioural guiderails can also help people deal with situations that don't have a clear answer - giving staff a way to approach problems that is on-brand, without imposing strict rules. They provide a framework that is flexible enough for individuals to adapt, but still stay aligned with the company's desired outcomes.
Although behavioural guiderails are primarily an internal device, they can be used to promote a company to customers, says Jes.
"Some of our clients do it. And I think it doesn't necessarily happen on purpose, it might happen by accident. If you get it right, and you get a really unique set of guiderails, they become the internal language which people start to use about how they should be working with each other, and treating colleagues and customers alike."
"And there's no reason why an organisation shouldn't put them out there - 'this is the way we do things around here - this is what makes us different, this is what makes us unique'. If it's used well it can be a real competitive advantage."
How to implement behavioural guiderails
"The only way to do this effectively is to engage and involve people throughout," Jes says. "You can't just make them up and tell people that's the way you're going to do things from now on. That's pushing someone else's way of working onto an organisation."
Rather than making up something new, Jes says defining behavioural guiderails is about 'unearthing' existing positive behaviour.
"Behavioural norms already exist in every organisation, and not all of them will be good. The secret is to unearth the good stuff, put emphasis on it, and structure around it. So as a leader or as a manager, I know the sort of things I should be rolemodelling, reinforcing and rewarding."
ON Brand Partners' role in defining behavioural guiderails.
"Something that is unique about ON Brand is how we do the unearthing," says Jes. “While many consultancies talk about co-creation, the way we engage and excite people in the process of co-creation sets us apart”.
By exploring the culture of the organisation through techniques like storytelling and appreciative inquiry, we get to the heart of who that organisation is - and specifically what they're like when they're at their best. Together we identify the common threads, and from there we co-create a set of behavioural guidelines that are unique for that organisation.