Eric Harris is the CEO of MindHandlethe employment agency in Dallas, TX.
Cultural shifts such as we have seen in the macro employer/employee relationship are rare. The permanent, global disruption of power dynamics was inevitable after market turbulence, the gig economy, the maker movement, the pandemic, an awkward return to work paradigm, many instances of social unrest and much more in recent years.
Still, a 2019 iHire report found that roughly: 39% of respondents lack an employer branding strategy and about 20% were “unsure of their branding efforts”. Still, a 2015 study found that: 86% of American women and 67% of American men would not join a company with a bad reputation. Nearly half of respondents said they would need at least a 50% raise to move to a company with a bad reputation.
If you look at your organization and think you could improve your employer brand, here’s how to do it.
1. Create a business snapshot.
Start by answering some big questions: Who are you, what do you value and where do you want your business to go? The answers to questions like these breathe life into an employer brand and inspire people around a common goal and a central vision that you don’t just talk about, but act on every day.
Talk to people within your organization, many of them. Talk to employees in many departments of varying seniority and tenure. Ask them what working there means to them and what it stands for. This is an excellent test to see where your employer brand currently stands and if anyone is listening. Then see what your customers think of your brand and what it means to them. Listen openly, empathically and consciously and look for patterns in the answers.
3. Roll up your sleeves and align.
Invite stakeholders to come on board with the information gathered in the listening phase. Welcome them in creating your employment brand. Get started interactively and break through traditional meeting formats with workshops, brainstorms, surveys and other forms of dialogue. Look for ways for everyone to share their ideas.
4. Stir up emotions with storytelling.
A story is wickedly powerful and infinitely divisible. Once you’ve aligned the ingredients of your employer brand, bake them into a story that can be easily repeated throughout the halls of your organization. A great brand story will be most memorable if it is told according to familiar patterns and includes elements such as tension, conflict and victory. Above all, remember that your brand is not the hero of your story; are your employees. If they feel empowered to take the win, everyone wins.
5. Determine the journey.
An employee journey map gives you important insights into the experience of working at your company. The map is drawn by how an employee feels during various procedures or interactions at work. Once outlined, this is an informative tool that can identify strengths and inefficiencies, as well as how improved communication can eliminate friction.
You may discover valuable steps in the employee journey that you thought happened, but didn’t. For example, many organizations recognize an “information drought” at manager level. This means that important communications don’t reach employees because their managers are either too busy or unable to share it with their teams as leaders expect them to do.
When your travel map is complete, you’ll have a great snapshot of where to focus communication to improve the experience for the people on your team.
6. Mold and mold.
Now it’s time to unleash the creative team as they create the materials that bring the story to life. You’ve identified the channels and tactics for them to create strong, emotional messages, and you’ve equipped them with a storyline to turn to for language and feelings. A talented creative team of designers and copywriters will turn this input into a campaign of elements that inform, inspire and guide your employees to the best of themselves at work.
7. Call out your message.
Now comes the fun part: you can share your post with anyone. Don’t do this once or a few times; consistently and persistently amplify your employment brand’s message. Communicate these new messages in town hall meetings, thread them into internal communications, and program them into employee interactions such as benefit guides, onboarding sequences, and more.
Think about how you equip employees themselves to be the media for these messages. This can include testimonials videos, employee spotlight articles on the intranet, and more.
8. Listen again.
Your new campaign is live. Your employees are engaged with your employer brand, your customers are interacting with your employees, and it’s your turn to re-listen to any adjustments. Does the brand need to adapt to different contexts, such as macroeconomic changes, new leadership or new strategic plans?
Measure your engagement regularly. Changes and adjustments are natural, but keep in mind that you stay true to the core vision and values you defined early on.
Please do not actually squeeze someone. But sometimes communication can get stuck or disrupted. Mistakes happen and sometimes well-intentioned communication can be misunderstood or seen as off-center. This is no reason to panic. It’s an opportunity to gently push communication back into place.
10. Be patient.
Employment branding is not a sprint. It’s a series of steps that build on small decisions and perseverance when things get messy. Employment branding is groundwork, meaning it takes time to see the fruits of your labor, but the results are beautiful. To ease the slog sensation, look for opportunities to celebrate victories and publicly acknowledge people’s contributions.
Step back and look at what you’ve built.
Employment branding is more than the logo on your pay slips. While they have value, a brand is a set of beliefs, living in the minds, hearts and hands of your employees. About 70% of people derive a sense of purpose from their profession. A strong brand, communicated consistently, provides language, beliefs and actions that inspire and empower your employees as they define themselves.