Your employer brand matters. You might be thinking, “Of course it does! That’s why we have teams dedicated to branding, marketing, etc.” But listen, we’re not talking about the “face” that you portray to the world. This isn’t “thought leadership” or your “customer engagement strategy”.
Your internal brand, or employer brand, isn’t contrived — it’s who your company REALLY is, on the inside.
Brand is a matter of identity.
Both your customers and your employees identify with your brand in a meaningful way. The explosion of the subscription economy is the clearest evidence of what modern consumers want from the companies they partner with. They are subscribers, not merely customers. They develop relationships with brands they trust.
Subscribers believe that these companies provide ongoing value, memorable experiences, and most of all, a commitment to listen and respond to their personalized needs. These same consumers also represent the modern employee.
More than any other brand relationship, today’s employees want to feel this level of identification and belonging with their employer. They don’t switch jobs every two years because they are bored, fickle, or disloyal. The modern employee identifies deeply with their work and with the company they work for. They are simply looking for a home. When this happens, employees become subscribers. They subscribe to the vision, the mission, the culture, the purpose, and the brand. A subscriber stays, and not only do they stay, but they evangelize to others why they ought to become subscribers as well.
Ultimately, your employer brand is your promise to current and potential employees.
How to Build an Employer Brand
So if an employer brand isn’t a contrived internal marketing campaign, then how is it built? The good news is you already have an employer brand. The bad news? It’s not easy to change it.
A great way to begin talking to a potential employee about your brand would be to say: “Here’s who we are, for real, when no one else is looking.” Unfortunately what you, as a talent, HR, or an executive team, say about your company isn’t really what matters. What your people say about you is the essence of your employer brand. “Here’s who they are, for real, when no one else is looking.”
According to Gallup, 75% of millennials (the highest of any generation) ask family and friends about job opportunities.
Employer brand builds on the purpose, culture, and values of a company. The values determine the purpose/mission, and these two together impact who gets hired and how they are treated — thus a culture is born.
But it all starts with values. Not the cheesy banner on the wall that touts “passion”, “excellence”, “customer first” or something of that nature — that’s a marketing campaign (though admittedly not a good one). True values are those characteristics genuinely espoused AND exhibited by the leadership of the company. It comes down to the age-old adage: “actions speak louder than words”.
No Recruiting Necessary
Recently our VP of Sales, DeJuan, was on a call with a very notable company showing a demo of our product and advising on their Total Rewards package. The Chief People Officer says “we are looking for added benefits or perks for little to no cost”. DeJuan pauses, then screen-shares the company’s website that states: “We invest in our people because our people are our most valuable asset.” DeJuan read this sentiment back to the CPO and said “are these the same employees you’re looking to spend little to nothing on?” Through a heavy dose of charm and wit, somehow this CPO (to his credit) got called out on this inconsistency and had the humility to admit that perhaps looking for a cheap add-on wasn’t really the best approach.
Nothing against your recruiting department (or mine), but a company with an incredible employer brand hardly needs recruiters. With a great internal brand, prospects line up at the door, grab a number, rock the interview, take the job, and give it their all because they are excited to be invited into the family.
If your employees, of any generation, feel a genuine sense of belonging — you’ve made a “subscriber” for life.
Your employer brand is your reputation. It can’t be bought, spun up, or contrived. You must care for your people AND show it. This expression of care has to be meaningful, but it also needs to be specific and personal. Get this right, and the whole company will soar.