Clothes do not make the man, but can be part of employer branding: CEOs are working to adapt their corporate image to new times and new customers.
“Put your heads up! Clap your hands! Pump up the volume”. We have all heard these phrases a thousand times in a disco, a club or on the radio and TV.
Nothing strange. But if they are spoken by the CEO of one of the largest banks in the world, then it definitely sounds a bit bizarre.
For real, it’s not fake news. The person in question is David Michael Solomon, sorry, DJ D-Sol, CEO of Goldman Sachs, one of the most well-known and authoritative banks in the world.
So it won’t surprise you that while I am writing this article, to inspire me, I have “Don’t Stop” playing in the background, a song which is a bit of a remix, a bit dance, a bit pop, written and played by Solomon himself, which has had quite a bit of success.
“Never stop thinking about the future”, goes the chorus. Which is exactly what Mr Goldman Sachs seems to have had in mind when, in line with his double life as a banker-DJ, he decided to allow bank employees to dress more casually at work. Goodbye suit and tie, welcome T-shirts, sweatshirts and trainers. Clothes that only until recently would have been inconceivable in the very staid bank environment.
Is what we have here a smidgen of posturing? Self-publicity? Not exactly. It is definitely a revolution, especially for the company in question, but certainly not dictated by a whim. After all, no one would risk jeopardising the name and prestige of a bank which manages assets for hundreds of billions of dollars and with 150 years of history.
Solomon’s strategy fits perfectly into what is one of the final frontiers of brand management, i.e. employer branding. What is it? It’s a particular marketing strategy aimed at improving brand value through corporate reputation obtained from a company’s quality of working conditions, the ability to cultivate employees, retain them within the company and attract new ones.
But words are important, as GS’s note says: “Our bank has a diverse clientele, we want each of them to feel at ease with us. Dress appropriately”.
Clear, right? It doesn’t say to dress casually but to adapt to your customers. And, as a dressed-to-the-nines Italian banker with a passion for MV Agustas wisely revealed to me a long time ago, the only variable that you need to master if you want to interpret events and take advantage of them is: demographics.
Wall Street stalwarts are aware first and foremost that their clientele is rather mature. But they also know that today the richest and highest-spending population on the planet are made up of millennials, i.e. those born after 1980. And to top it off, they are even more conscious of the fact that today 75% of employees on Wall Street are also millennials or even post-millennials.
You don’t need to explan that behind an “AD who deejays” there’s a precise repositioning strategy, with a threefold intent: convey an image of a smart and modern company, attract the best talents and winking at a vast audience of new and “rich” customers.
This is obviously not an isolated case, nor a new one. More than ten years ago Eni, the very Italian oil company, introduced a more informal office dress code for the whole of the summer. The aim was clear: on the one hand, in that sweltering summer the biggest Italian energy company – and one of the first in the world- wanted to show its sensitivity to its employees’ work conditions, and not force them to be part of the po-faced “suit & tie” brigade; on the other hand, there was also the desire to project an image as a virtuous and consistent company, which encouraged a more reasonable use of air conditioning, and thus lower energy consumption.
These are just two examples but we could cite others: some time ago the CEO of a well-known Danish toy company started an internal blog to talk to his employees. Dick Costolo, former Twitter CEO, has a penchant for comedy and has also appeared on “Saturday Night Live” to openly display his comic verve.
These are all concrete examples of several studies that correlate working conditions, worker satisfaction and the perception that the outside has of that company in terms of attractiveness.
Research developed by Industree Communication Hub – which also deals with internal branding – attempted to map the tools and channels most used by companies in the recruiting phase on a sample of four thousand HR professionals in Italy, France and Belgium.
What emerged was that 50% of the companies surveyed had already started internal branding projects; not only that, but what came out is that the work environment (63%), innovation (57%) and work-life balance (44%) are the factors that make a company attractive when looking for new employees.
So, adopting policies to improve the company’s image, which stimulate the workers and consequently the perception from the outside of that company and its employees, seems increasingly to be a determining factor in snapping up the best workers and thus gaining a significant competitive advantage. And Solomon seems to be speaking to the same beat:
“Today’s leaders should be more vulnerable and abel to put themselves out there a lot more than they probably are comfortable doing. People want to work in open and diverse organisations. It’s just harder to be productive if you can’t find a way to have passions and pursue those passions and mix them into your professional life and your personal life”.
If DJ D-Sol set his own words to music, with the right beat, he could have a hit on his hands. That’s it.