Welcome to the first feature in our new series, Expert Interviews, where we invite a panel of leading industry experts to answer our customer’s most burning questions relating to improving their culture.
One of the key business lessons I learned early on is that it makes a lot of sense to obsess over the employer brand. And, having talked to so many of our customers who are also obsessed by their employer brand, I know we’re not alone.
So we reached out to some of the world’s leading HR experts and asked:
I’m delighted to say that we’ve managed to convince some of the top authorities on employer branding to generously share their words of wisdom with our readers.
Ready? Let’s hear it from the Experts…
The simplest truths are often the most profound. One of the core truths that guides my professional life is that empathy and transparency have the power to inspire dedicated employees and loyal customers. These attributes serve as the foundation for an authentic culture, strong company vision, and trusted brand identity.
Fostering an Authentic Culture
Your corporate culture is a reflection of your leadership team. Leaders that embrace empathy and transparency in their conversations and actions foster a culture of authenticity. Prioritize meaningful discussions in which all parties talk, share, listen, and care. There is an art to conversation, and it honestly boils down to just being human.
The rise of digital technology has driven us all online and reduced the authenticity of our conversations with team members, customers, and vendors. Because of this, business leaders that embrace empathy and transparency often exceed the expectations of their customers and employees.
Offering a Meaningful Vision & Purpose
People want to be part of something special, so a company's vision and purpose go beyond specific services and financial goals. A meaningful vision and purpose make a substantive difference for employees, customers, and the community in which you operate.
Most professionals would prefer to join a company doing its part in making a difference in the world (even if it is in small ways). Companies that demonstrably care about their community and any relevant causes will attract more dedicated employees and improve their brand’s positive influence. This concept is not limited to philanthropic or socially-driven organizations. Even brands that offer a commodity product can add value and work towards something bigger than themselves.
Sharing Your Story with The World
From the outside looking in, consumers and potential customers actively seek positive content online. We're all drowning in heavy and stressful stories and life events, so when a beacon of hope is made visible by a brand online, it can have quite an impact.
Business leaders should be consistently highlighting authenticity and empathy across multiple social media channels. There are so many platforms to choose from, including LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, and YouTube, as well as tools such as stories and boosted content. These channels serve as valuable touchpoints with employees and customers and can engage with various demographics. Using omnichannel branding, you should be aiming to deliver a consistent, positive message that helps improve your brand sentiment and exposure.
Showcase your Employer Value Proposition (EVP). When a candidate visits your career page and LinkedIn company profile, they should get a very clear idea of the company’s values, culture, and vibe. Why should a candidate want to work for you? This is your recruiting sales pitch, but note that it must be legitimate. This is a great place to show more pictures, videos, and quotes from employees.
Focus on independent contributors here and let them shine. If your company says they value transparency, talk about how that is operationalized. Does “transparency” mean a weekly email from the senior leadership team recapping the week or does it mean that there are no silos and lots of cross-collaboration? Note: if it’s the former, you do not have a culture of transparency, and claiming this as a value is illegitimate. As a candidate, I should be able to look at your EVP page and have a good grasp of whether or not I would fit in with that vibe, understand roughly how things work (e.g. hierarchical or flat organization), and, ideally, feel compelled to join. Remember, however, that your EVP has to be legitimate.
If you say you have a flat, agile organization, yet you have multiple layers of management and silos, then you need to either change your EVP or change your culture so they are well aligned. This is also a good place to highlight the supplementary aspects of the company, such as ERGs, weekly virtual games, happy hours, and outings.
Your biggest asset is your people. Use them! Once you have a strong culture, high engagement, and an EVP, turn your employees into brand ambassadors. Set parameters, of course, but encourage them to talk about your company. If you use TikTok, you’ve surely seen Starbucks baristas sharing drink recipes that they've created. I would bet that Starbucks discourages this and has a clause in their contracts or policy in their handbook about not sharing company information. But these videos get thousands, if not millions, of likes, show the barista having fun and being engaged in their work, and drive sales as we viewers rush to our local Starbucks to give it a try.
Your company could hop on this trend and encourage employees to share funny anecdotes, talk about their work, and talk about how great the company is. Twitter and Facebook still exist somehow and the same sharing should be promoted. Most employees are afraid to speak publicly about their employer; flip that and encourage it. These brand ambassadors can help drive recruitment, increase sales, and spread the word about your company.
As long as employees are advised not to share trade secrets, proprietary or protected information, or announcements not yet cleared for publication, it’s free marketing. Encourage employees to follow the organization on socials and follow them back. This not only boosts your social media engagement but also gives your marketing team a chance to see what people are posting to ensure policy compliance.
If someone does post something that you don’t want to be shared, assume good intent and nicely ask them to remove it. Accidents happen; don’t make it into something bigger or they will surely share more anonymously. Also, let the brand ambassadorship come naturally; don’t force it or make it feel sanitized. And don’t actually name people brand ambassadors.
Know your "special sauce."
Strong employer branding is easy when you're clear on what makes you unique in your business. Our CEO, David Couper, had a powerful vision when creating DCC: help people find joy in their work. Our tagline was a no-brainer, "People are the REAL bottom line." That concept informs our systems, communications, hiring practices, and an in-depth and personalized approach.
Reflect your mission externally AND internally.
In business, it's understandable to focus on the next sale. But what will make you shine and grow are your invested people. We learned we need to treat our cadre of consultants as well as, if not better than, the client. Using our tagline as inspiration, we created systems to support them that feel personal and hands-on. Keep repeating your mission back to yourself when thinking about systems, processes, and communication.
Your humanity is your superpower.
One of my favorite things about David Couper is his willingness to be vulnerable. A huge traumatic event changed his life, then inspired his leap of faith to create DCC. The lesson here is this; tell your story. Be vulnerable. Your people and the people looking to work with you connect with your humanity. The thing that drives you to do what you do sells your product/service. It informs your mission, defines your unique approach, and engages people. Don't be afraid to be fully you.
Your brand is how you connect your company to its stakeholders. It is your story, your reason for being, wrapped up in a package through your company name, logo, website, and culture used to attract the stakeholders to join you in your mission. Having a compelling employer brand helps you find candidates that are great fits for the roles you seek to fill and, more importantly, correctly set expectations for what it means to be a part of your organization.
I recently built my company’s brand. I came up with the company name, logo, and the story of what we do. But when I looked at it from a customer’s perspective, I couldn’t see how to connect the dots between what the company is doing and why someone would want to be a part of it. Something was missing.
One of my favorite Ted Talks is Simon Sinek describing his golden circle model. Rewatching it helped me improve my brand by reorganizing my message. I believe it is excellent advice to enhance your employer brand.
First, explain why you exist. You want employees who believe what you believe. Make sure your mission statement is clear and persuasive. When candidates start talking to people in your organization, it should come to life.
Second, be clear about how you function. These are the values that drive your company. They are what you stand for. Potential and current employees can then align their values with those of the company to share in the mission.
Finally, describe what you do and what defines success. It is essential that candidates understand their role and how it fits into the mission. It provides a clear line of accountability for everyone.
Taking this “inside-out” approach to your brand will help you attract and keep the right people.