Good brands serve customers. Great brands serve employees too
Lauren Tannenbaum is the SVP, practice lead at US-based brand consultancy Joe Smith. She discusses here the necessities of building an authentic employer brand in a time of chaos.
We work with a lot of talented brand and marketing teams who are on top of every activation and touchpoint for their company. However, too often, one of the most essential aspects of a brand is overlooked: employees. But we’re not here to point fingers. Most brands overlook the role of employees, because engaging them is a job that requires getting a much broader group on board. Sure, that makes it a harder lift, but the rewards are there for those who earn them.
It doesn’t take a huge leap to imagine how each employee has the power to affect the quality of the products you make and the experience you deliver to customers. Your employees are an extension of your brand – arguably, the most important extension. And how successful you are at engaging them has a huge impact.
Thinking about how to make each employee a champion of your brand can feel like a tall order these days. Just ask your HR Team (really, go talk to them!). We went from difficulty hiring talent because of nearly all-time lows in unemployment to turmoil over a great resignation, “quiet quitting,” hybrid work, and fears about AI.
Employee environments and their engagement with work are in flux. And it’s likely that your brand – and your customers – are feeling the impact of the chaos.
So where does that leave you? It means that extending your brand building efforts into the realm of employer brand is a necessity. An employer brand sits at the intersection of brand, business strategy and culture. It not only inspires employees with a sense of purpose but helps them see their place in it. It not only communicates the vision for the business but enables the behaviors to make it real.
And yet, even if there is an acknowledgement from leadership that “our people are our greatest resource,” when translating that intention into the words, actions and engagements that matter, a lot of organisations come up short.
Why are companies struggling?
- Communication is structured around surface-level perks that, while important, aren’t enough to set an organisation apart or motivate employees on a deep level.
- Leadership vision or aspirations for ‘what could be’ are captured by a catchy tagline that doesn’t resonate with employees or reflect how they view their work.
- Emphasising talent acquisition over retention, they don’t think about how the brand shows up in a current employee’s day-to-day experience.
Overcoming these pitfalls requires a strategic foundation that articulates that magical intersection of what employees are looking for and what you authentically provide. And we mean it when we say “authentic.” You’d be better off having no employer brand than one that promises something you aren’t delivering – otherwise, you’re just setting yourself up for turnover.
So, as you build this foundation, talk to your employees. Find the champions and the critics. The operators, admins and managers (not just the executives). The newly hired and the nearly retired. Hear why they joined your organisation, why they stay and what inspires them each day. Use what you hear to define the value you provide as an employer, why an employee’s work matters, the opportunities one can find and what it’s like to be part of your organisation. Aspiration can still find a place within the brand. What do you hear about the company on its best possible day? Capture that as you craft the strategy.
Now, a meticulously articulated employer brand strategy that lives in a PowerPoint presentation isn’t where your brand building ends. It’s where it starts. The expression of the brand through personality, voice and visuals makes the strategy real in ways that piques interest and sustains engagement. How you build and express an experience that reflects your strategy – throughout an employee’s journey – not only drives desired behaviors but also strengthens culture.
Together, employer brand strategy, expression and experience work to motivate current employees and intrigue those exploring job opportunities. When built thoughtfully and executed effectively, an employer brand helps your business deliver the experiences your customers – and your employees – deserve.