By Karin Eldor
What if we told you that as part of the Human Resources team, you are accountable for developing the positive vibes surrounding your company? In other words, creating the magic.
Do you ever wonder why some companies attract a slew of candidates vying for jobs, while others are more like a revolving door, with employees constantly on their way out? Imagine the luxury of being at a brand with a large pool of candidates to recruit — who all seem like the cream of the crop. A pretty good problem to have, right?
This, friends, is the magic of employer branding. And it’s an important part of the pie when it comes to brand perception.
So, have you thought about the kind of brand your company stands for? What image you are projecting to the public when you launch a new marketing campaign, or when a customer calls your customer service line and speaks with someone from your support team?
And most importantly, is your HR team creating the best possible employer brand?
The basics of branding
Branding is the piece of the marketing puzzle that anchors and guides an entire company’s marketing mix. But here’s the difference: while your marketing team is focusing its efforts on engaging with and speaking to external customers, the HR team’s objective is creating employer branding to target your internal team members.
And when a company’s employer brand includes a clear vision and values, it leads to a positive reputation (and in turn, attracts top job seekers).
6 steps to building your company’s employer branding
1: Define your employer brand
This step can require months or even years of internal meetings with executive teams, the board of advisors and likely even an external consulting agency (especially if you are launching an internal survey for current employees). The goal here is establishing your brand DNA, from the perspective of what you’re communicating to the outside world: What makes you unique? What makes your product offering special? What is your promise? And what are the core values of your brand?
Establish the persona of your brand by asking yourself: if your brand were a fictional TV or movie character, who would it be? James Bond or Walter White? Is he the suave Don Draper type, or the co-conspirator who is always stirring up mischief?
2: Use your business vision to create your brand
If your HR team conducts a survey, the results can help you pinpoint your business vision. The brand vision should be one or two sentences that then become the internal mission statement for the company’s activities and raison d'être.
Consider your corporation’s “persona” and how this will impact decisions you make as an employee, such as every tweet that gets sent (or not sent) by the company’s social media team, or how a sales associate engages with a customer at the store level.
You want every employee, at every level, marching in the same direction and using the same keywords and verbiage — so there is no disconnect or confusion.
3: Offer perks that will strengthen your employer brand
Once the company’s branding is established, it becomes easier to choose which benefits you’d like to offer your employees.
Now, keep in mind that your current employees are the most important audience when it comes to serving as ambassadors for your brand. If you have unhappy employees, word will get out; in turn, happy employees make for a positive brand reputation, which leads to strong candidates applying for a role at your company.
Satisfied and fulfilled team members = positive word of mouth for your brand!
The factors that lead to happy employees include: fair salaries and compensation packages, work/life balance, and professional, lifestyle and health-related programs on-site.
Here is a list of other perks that help bolster a company’s reputation:
- Recognition programs honouring accomplishments throughout the year
- Early Fridays: either all year long or during summer months
- Employee team building days
- Flexible work schedule / opportunity to work remotely
- Charity work & giving back: participating in fundraising activities organized by the company, or participating in hands-on community work (more on this soon…)
- Regular town halls and company-wide rallies: maintaining an open and transparent environment is critical to keeping employees happy. A lack of transparency, especially during a period marred by layoffs or restructuring can lead to negativity and in some cases, a mass exodus.
- A strong exit strategy
This final point isn’t really a perk, but it’s an important one to mention in order to maintain a positive work environment. If employees are leaving, the changes need to be openly addressed by department heads and communicated to the respective teams. And it’s also important for HR to perform an exit interview to understand why an employee is leaving. There might be feedback to learn from and apply going forward!
4: Market and communicate your employer brand
Make sure your brand’s vision and values are communicated throughout the company and are clear to every employee, at every level. Have the vision painted or emblazoned on the walls, install it on every team member’s computer screensaver, and print it in a playbook to distribute to everyone in the company.
Think of branding as a holistic experience, which the entire company needs to embrace. It’s not the marketing department’s role, but rather every department – from distribution to sales – to ensure that the company’s brand is being represented correctly. It really is a 360-degree experience, so make sure everyone is on board and understands the vision.
Eyewear retailer Warby Parker is renowned for having a tightly woven corporate identity, which every employee — at HQ and at the retail level — is exposed to. According to Fast Company’s feature on Warby Parker, all new hires receive a “brand book” to ensure that “all employees, even data analysts, are expected to be stewards of the brand’s identity.”
The style guide includes suggestions about usage and grammar but also encourages everyone, when they communicate with customers, to "write like Warby Parker is the person you’d want seated next to you at a dinner party."
See this excerpt from Warby Parker for branding inspiration:
Tip: A great place to start rolling out your branded vision is as part of the introductory kit for new hires during new employees’ orientation sessions. Introduce the identity of your brand in the package, and list the keywords that help describe it.
Evaluate whether your corporate logo needs a little refresher or a complete overhaul, with your new brand vision in mind. It could simply be a matter of tweaking a font or colour to make your logo more relevant, and more in line with your new overall brand (external and internal).
At the same time, assess whether some corporate tools need refreshing, like your font and corporate colours, even when it comes to internal documents.
A word about values: when you decide on your corporate values, make sure to provide examples of how your company “gives back.” It’s important to job seekers, and especially millennials, to see how a company puts its corporate responsibility into action — in other words, “walks the talk.”
5: Enlist brand advocates
The best way to communicate a company’s internal branding efforts is enlisting and encouraging team members from all levels to serve as advocates. Whether that means fostering brand ambassadors to be front and centre in your company’s activities, enlisting them as social media representatives on behalf of your company, or even creating a branded #hashtag for employees, you need to ensure your company has a solid social media policy spelling out the information that must always remain confidential.
Leverage your internal team members at recruiting events and invite them to participate in recruiting videos, for example. This type of authenticity is appreciated!
6: Manage your corporate reputation
It’s important that your HR, social media or corporate communications team keeps a close watch on the online reputation of your brand. Online comments can be damaging to a company’s reputation, usually due to disgruntled employees posting negative reviews on third-party websites such as GlassDoor and RateMyEmployer, or even on your company’s own social media platforms.
Whether a potential candidate had a negative experience while interviewing for a role at your company, or an internal employee went on a social media rant, these types of posts call for damage control before they go viral.
Use a social listening tool to monitor inflammatory comments and make a habit of checking your company’s social media platforms twice per day (morning and afternoon). This is especially critical during a company-wide layoff or restructuring.
A brand new HR vision
A strong employer brand can serve to help the overall brand. And this power is in the HR team’s hands!
You want to ensure your company is attracting the best talent out there, to keep the halo on your company shining bright. Employing the best of the best is what will lead to your brand on top, performing well, and continuing to surprise and delight.