Candidates today want more than a job that fits their skills and a decent salary. They want a job that fits their goals, values and vision for their lives. Millennials, set to dominate the workforce by 2025, are particularly interested in the opportunity to make a difference and forge meaningful work relationships according to Forbes, while according to Glassdoor nearly 80% will look for “people and culture fit first, followed by career potential.”
Culture has become a competitive advantage and, similar to marketing a product, organisations (and their leaders) need to be able to market themselves effectively and authentically.
Most organisations grasp the importance of a brand strategy to promote products and services. Increasingly, however, there is an awareness of the role branding plays in successfully positioning oneself as an employer of choice. The term “employer brand” was first defined in the mid-1990s, denoting an organisation’s reputation as an employer as opposed to its more general corporate brand reputation. Times have changed, with the world more connected and transparent than ever before. As Harvard Business Review reports, employer branding is becoming strategically more important as we head towards 2020 and is now inextricably intertwined with consumer brand strategies.
So… what is a brand anyway?
More than just your name and logo! Your brand represents your identity – who you are, what you do, the values you stand for – and is the connection between who you are and who people think and feel you are.
Tangible aspects of your brand include how you speak, how you look, how you behave. Intangible aspects include perceptions and expectations, emotions and feelings evoked, recognition and credibility. Note that the tangible aspects of your brand are directly within your sphere of influence, while the intangible aspects are not. Brand custodians, therefore, need to be vigilant, ensuring alignment between the image and values they put to the market and the response it receives.
A strong brand is built over time, communicating your value consistently over and over again until repetition becomes recognition, and recognition becomes reputation. It is part of every single activity and customer touch-point. It is your promise – and it must be believable. It will influence people’s decisions to work in your organisation, to buy from or to partner with you.
3 steps you can take today in developing your brand
1. Know your purpose
Why does your organisation exist? What are your ambitions? What are you setting out to achieve? What and where are the goal posts? I.e. how will you know if or when you’ve “won”? Your purpose should motivate and inspire you, your team AND your customers.
2. DEFINE your organisation’s core values
Your values describe your desired culture and act as your north star when making decisions. Values are the glue that binds groups of people together, and defining them will help you attract as well as assess the right people for your organisations. In a recent interview with Startup Smart, Atlassian’s Head of Diversity Aubrey Blanche spoke of Atlassian as being governed by five corporate values which “truly lead the way we think”, crafting interviews that select for those qualities and hiring based on value alignment.
3. UNDERSTAND THE VALUE EXCHANGE
What are you promising? What makes you different? What benefits are you offering candidates? What do you expect from them in return? In considering whether the value exchange is fair what matters here is how you are perceived, not what you think. What are job seekers saying about you on social media, or sites like Glassdoor? Ask yourself: with employee advocacy becoming more and more important in the competition for talent, would current employees recommend working for your organisation to a friend?
The role of strong leaders in driving a strong brand
Once you have specified the key elements of your brand, the task at hand becomes how you manifest them in a real-world setting. For example, the colours you use, your tone of voice and language, the messages you put out, the actions you take. The best way to approach this is to consider how you want people to feel after dealing with you. Will you have had the impact you desired or left the impression you intended to make?
As the well-known proverb goes “a fish rots from the head”, typically laying all responsibility for an organisation’s ill fortune at the feet of its executive leadership. For example, if your culture is unhealthy or broken the argument is that only effective leadership can fix it. To keep the fish from rotting, the head has to be self-aware and savvy enough to look at what it’s doing (or not doing) and take remedial action. Your brand will offer powerful scaffolding, but to effectively drive it through your organisation, leaders need to step up and lead from the front. Your team, current and prospective, will be looking to you to model the values you claim your organisation espouses. This affords leaders a huge opportunity to mobilise and inspire their workforce, creating positive workplace cultures that power growth.
For Robbert Rietbroek, former PepsiCo General Manager Australia, now GM of Quaker Foods in the US, this meant asking “leaders to leave loudly” in order to champion the company’s family-friendly flexible work policies – “because if it’s okay for the boss, then it’s okay for middle management and new hires.”
Congratulations! You’ve successfully attracted the right talent, but the game is still afoot. Your brand must align with your organisational culture but also with employee experience. There will be an expectation to deliver on it beyond the recruitment stage, and a golden opportunity to turn new recruits into delighted and engaged contributors who ultimately become advocates and referrers.
Sonja van den Bosch, Founder and Managing Director of Twinlife Marketing, says “marketing can create energy and focus to lead your business and team in the direction you want to head. Don’t underestimate the value of your staff, they can be your best brand advocates. If they’re enthusiastic about working for your organisation, this will come through in their productivity and engagement, but also through all the incidental interactions with people outside of the workplace, championing your cause far and wide.”
Revere your employees as you would a VIP customer:
- Sell the benefits
- Engage on the basis of values-alignment not just skills and expertise
- Understand what’s important to them, then craft messages that will resonate
- Nail your on=boarding program to welcome them
- Create effective internal communication that reflect your culture and values
- Recognise, reward and appreciate
- Survey for satisfaction
- Develop and invest in them
“We strongly believe that people are every organisation’s most valuable asset and the key to success for every business, big or small. No matter how great your product, or how innovative your idea, without an inclusive culture, collaborative teams and highly self-aware leaders and managers, your business is unlikely to succeed in the long run.”
– Hiam Sakakini, CEO & Founder of The Culture Equation
If long-term growth and prosperity is your destination, then building a strong brand and employing effective marketing techniques to attract – and retain – the right people is the express train that will get you there.
THE GREATER COLLECTIVE
An immersive Leadership Program for your Execs ready to catapult their confidence to lead innovative and diverse teams which achieve exceptional business results.