For 11 years of my career I ran a digital marketing and brand agency. In the time I was there I worked on hundreds of brands for clients of all shapes and sizes, and in all fields and particularly loved the creative outcomes of the work we produced.
The term ‘brand’ has a lot of different connotations. In retail, a brand often associates a product with it’s manufacturer and gives a sense of identity and often value to the product. It can have tangible elements such as a logo, colours, typefaces, materials and slogans, all of which make the brand instantly recognisable and give it a sense of identity.
Good brands are consistent and well recognised. If you remove the logos and writing from a whole variety of consumer products you can still easily identify those brands by other facets such as colour and design.
Building an amazing brand inspires huge customer loyalty. The nirvana of any good brand is to inspire such deep rooted psychological love of the brand, that your customers won’t consider other options. Personally I wouldn’t consider any tech hardware options other than Apple.
The way that Apple products have been woven into the fabric of my everyday life means that it’s different for me to move anywhere else now, but I also love the brand for a whole bunch of reasons including usability, design, marketing and of course the founder vision created by the late Steve Jobs.
For consumers, brands inspire loyalty. With that loyalty, your customers become sticky and keep on buying. But how does this brand loyalty transcend into your workforce?
What is 'employer brand'?
In the same way that marketers create a compelling ‘customer brand’ to inspire customer loyalty, so too must HR teams create a compelling ‘employer brand’ that they can apply to the entire employee lifecycle.
All businesses have an employer brand. It’s the way in which businesses differentiate themselves in the labour market to recruit, retain and engage people. It helps businesses gain a competitive edge in the recruitment of great people and establish greater credibility.
In the CIPD 2008 guide ‘Employer Branding - A no nonsense approach’, employer brand is defined as '...a set of attributes and qualities, often intangible, that makes an organisation distinctive, promises a particular kind of employment experience, and appeals to those people who will thrive and perform best in its culture'.
In the wider context of the business, a solid employer brand should be linked to a company’s values, policies, people strategy and external brand. Without this there can be a huge misalignment between the type of people that the company hires and their ability to deliver the brand promise outlined by the marketing team.
Why is it so important?
Developing a high value ‘employer brand’ can benefit a company in many tangible and intangible ways.
For marketers, a quality ‘consumer brand’ makes it easier to attract, engage and retain customers and build extreme loyalty. This is known as the customer lifecycle. For HR people, adopting the same approach builds extreme loyalty with employees for the ‘employee lifecycle’
‘Employee lifecycle’ is the experience that an employee has with their employer. It can start way before they ever become an employee, but is associated with their experience of how they are recruited, onboarded, managed, rewarded, communicated to and ultimately how they exit.
Positive experiences in these areas will lead to a better ‘employee experience’ and build an engaged employee that feels valued and respected by their employer. The payback here is that they usually want to work harder to adopt the company’s mission , vision and values in their working behaviours. Even if a highly engaged employee chooses to leave the organisation, chances are they'll still add value by acting as a ‘promoter’ of that organisation; telling everyone they know about their positive employee experience! Conversely a negative experience in one or all of these areas can have the opposite effect, as was experienced by Brewdog recently.
How do you create and amazing employer brand?
This is where a blog could easily become a 100 page whitepaper. There is a written methodology to this, which is very similar to the marketing methodology around customer brands. This involves;
- Discovery - Understanding more about your employees, your management and the current situation
- Creation - Analysis the data from your discovery process and create an employee value proposition
- Implementation - Getting the employee value proposition out there and embedding it into the culture
- Maintenance - Ensuring that the company lives and breathes the employer brand through careful measurement and optimisation
This is not a one-off exercise, this is a strategic exercise and it’s an ongoing exercise too. In just the same way that a consumer brand can be devalued overnight, so too can an employer brand so it’s vitally important that building an employer brand is viewed as an exercise in continual improvement.
Make a start today - The discovery!
Without a good discovery (or good research) you run the risk of making the wrong decisions or even reversing some of the good you’ve managed to achieve. I’ve seen first hand how the car industry invests millions of dollars into market research to ensure that they make good decisions about the future of their products. These sums are huge, but the consequences can be billion dollar losses.
Using great technology and great methodology to achieve a great discovery is helpful. Running workshops with your senior management, running focus groups with your employees and conducting employee engagement surveys are a great start. If you have a great way to collect this data, to measure improvement and importantly to understand ‘what good looks like’ then you’re taking your first steps in the right direction.
And as a final thought, don’t get hung-up on the scores - these are often vanity metrics. Instead invest your energy in the qualitative feedback that comes back from your employees. That’s where the great ideas come from that help you build a brand that your employees really buy into.
We’re here to help you make that start. Drop us a message on our contact form and we’ll show you how.