Employer branding is not just about hiring new talent. It is also about building loyalty, boosting productivity, and increasing retention.
Sadly, many companies that invest in employer branding forget that there is a crucial internal aspect to it. As a result, they miss out on the opportunity to gain insights and motivate employees.
The downside of focusing externally
When a company is strictly focused on becoming more attractive to job candidates, it sometimes ends up promoting values that are inconsistent with the experiences of actual employees. This, experts say, breeds cynicism among staff and undermines managerial credibility.
“Empty value statements create cynical and dispirited employees (…),” writes business consultant Patrick M. Lencioni.
It can also increase turnover. If a company hires people based on values that turn out to be meaningless, new hires may want to leave as soon as they catch on to what the culture is really like.
What engaging employees in employer branding looks like
Companies that do not overlook their staff when building their employer brand strategy often take one or more of the actions below.
Surveying employees to clarify the EVP
For some companies, building an employer brand starts with surveying employees to discover where the organization’s strengths as an employer lie.
The combination of benefits, perks, opportunities, and aspects of the culture that make an organization great to work for is known as the employer value proposition (EVP).
Clarifying the EVP is essential to crafting a successful employer branding strategy. While leaders and marketers may have a guess at what the EVP might be, employees can offer surprising insights into what motivates them about their workplace.
Getting employee feedback to define company values
Another part of building an employer brand is identifying the company values, as a brand and an employer.
Zappos, the online shoe and clothing retailer known for its successful employer branding, enlisted employees to come up with the values the company lives by. As explained on their core values page, the process went like this:
- Employees submitted hundreds of ideas
- The ideas were narrowed down to 37 foundational themes
- These were narrowed down to 10 core values
Although this approach worked for Zappos, it may not be right for all companies. According to Lencioni, “crowdsourcing” values from within the company can be a bad idea. In his opinion, “the best value efforts are driven by small teams that include the CEO, any founders who are still with the company, and a handful of key employees,” he says.
Regardless of the route taken, what’s most important is that the chosen values are meaningful and that the company commits to practicing them. This, says Lencioni, is not easy.
“When properly practiced, values inflict pain. They make some employees feel like outcasts. They limit an organization’s strategic and operational freedom and constrain the behavior of its people. They leave executives open to heavy criticism for even minor violations. And they demand constant vigilance.”
Once a company defines what its values are, the next step is to incorporate them everywhere — including hiring processes, performance management systems, promotion and reward criteria, and dismissal policies.
It’s also important to communicate them repeatedly and in different ways. To this effect, it helps to come up with clear, simple, and unique language that is simple and fun for employees to use — a good example is Google’s former motto, ”Don’t be evil”.
That said, a company’s most powerful way of reinforcing values is through action. As Zappos states on its core values page, values are more than just words. They’re a way of life.
Employer branding with employee buy-in
Building an employer brand isn’t just about attracting new talent. It’s also about motivating and retaining employees. What’s more, a company’s employer brand is based on employees’ actual experiences. So it only makes sense to get staff involved in the employer branding process. Here are three ways to do that:
- Surveying employees to clarify the employer value proposition (EVP)
- Getting employee feedback to define company values
- Communicating values internally
How has your company engaged employees in the employer branding process? For more about employer branding, check out Employer Branding: How to Become More Attractive to Employees.