• Transform magazine
  • June 21, 2018

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Employer branding: Another job on the CEO’s to-do list?

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A company’s employer brand should come from the top, but should be a reflection of corporate culture, Sheila Parry from theblueballroom says

Join Parry at the Employer Brand Management conference on 12 December. Attendees will learn from almost 20 in-house experts from global organisations who have mastered the art of managing their employer brands. To book your place, click here.

Step into any organisation and talk to the first person you meet; if it’s big enough, loiter in reception and listen to some conversations. Once inside, look at how people are interacting: is anybody smiling, laughing, what’s the mood? Office, shop, hospital or factory, I reckon 15 minutes is enough. You might never meet a senior manager, let alone a CEO, but something will happen to give you an idea of what it’s like to work there.

Looking through the lens of an employee, there are a literally hundreds of words and deeds that demonstrate an employer brand.

The CEO and how he or she chooses to play the role makes a massive impact. There to lead and communicate the vision, establish direction and champion the principles of the company are all on the job description. The influencing skills that earned them their leadership position in the first place will inevitably impact their immediate colleagues and their behaviours and tone will set an example, a norm for others to follow. Whether hierarchical or networked, a visible and vocal CEO with high levels of personal integrity and emotional intelligence can have a massive positive impact on employees’ experience at work, and hence the employer brand.

Nevertheless, relationships with your team, your line manager, your customers, the physical conditions of your workplace are all equally vital factors at play. The strength of an employer brand has as much to do with its reputation in the media and amongst your mates as the performance of your CEO at the latest team meeting. It would be a mistake to think of the employer brand as an entirely internally-driven concept; it is simply a different expression of your brand – focused on the desires and aspirations of people when they are at, looking for, or looking back at work. It needs to sit comfortably with the external expressions of the brand in the consumer marketplace.

Our own research and sheer common sense has backed up recent insights from LinkedIn about the ‘Top 20 most in-demand employers among UK LinkedIn members’ which was communicated at the recent Talent Connect event in London. The research showed that 100% of people want to work for companies or brands they know and trust.

The impact of a CEO on the employer brand also differs according to company size and maturity. Look at start-ups and you’ll find examples of entrepreneurs that convinced people to sign up to an unknown quantity. The sheer passion of a James Watt (Brewdog) or Richard Reed (Innocent) forms a large part of the appeal. At the other end of the scale, the public profile of Lord Sugar or Sir Richard Branson would surely count in the employment arena, but whether the brand is the embodiment of them, or they are the embodiment of the brand is open to debate. These founders and now leaders of hugely successful companies are such exceptional CEOs that they belong in their own category.

The best CEO I ever worked for led a company of 500 people and knew every one of them. He was a big communicator and had a big personality, but at the same time, was humble and inclusive. A saint? Not at all. He was a demanding boss, at times intolerant and intensely ambitious, but his overriding strength was that he found a way to transmit his passion and drive to the people who worked for him and their confidence grew as a result. Making that sort of impact scalable to organisations of 50,000 or 500,000 takes some doing but it starts with identification of other people who are leading or influencing others and establishing standards of expected behaviours at work that consistently reflect a brand’s values. I reckon the Romans had it right; every 100 people need a centurion.

Sheila Parry is the managing director of theblueballroom