Over the years, the concept of branding changed from spreading the word about a specific product manufactured by a certain company so as to encourage customers to buy it to a promise with a considerable value customers will receive through that product. Branding and this promised value, as a result, have then become the main pillars of any company’s reputation.
As we discussed before, every employee is a brand, well, a personal brand. Such a brand is represented by the employee’s unique skill set, strengths, abilities, mindsets and expertise, which they earned throughout their personal and professional life. When people leverage these skills and abilities and define the values they can provide others with, whether those others happen to be customers or employers, they are actually branding themselves.
As it turns out, companies or employers, too, are brands and therefore, the action of promoting these brands is, yes, known as employer branding, which is not too far from personal branding anyways. In this article, we are going to demonstrate what employer branding is and walk you through a simplified framework companies can use before they start their employer branding campaigns. So grab yourself a big cup of iced coffee, and let’s hop into it.
Put simply, employer branding is the work done inside the company and for its very own employees, so they go ahead and brand the company on the outside.
More elaborately, employer branding is the process companies undergo to promote themselves as employers of choice for their own employees. Through this process, companies aim to present themselves as the Garden of Eden and showcase how amazing it is to work for them so they can attract top talented employees and make more customers interested in them.
One of the companies famous for its terrific employer branding is Google. We all have seen those Life-at-Google videos where smart, happy, well-appreciated employees work in the company’s tremendous venue that pretty much looks like a kindergarten, a top-notch kindergarten, with its beautiful colourful decor, very modern furniture that looks like it was brought right away from IKEA, huge glass windows, indoor plants beautifully scattered everywhere, bubble meeting rooms, global cuisines available literally 24/7 and the many recreational areas where employees get to enjoy their free time and practise real well-being.
Admit it. You, too, wish to work for a company like Google, do you not?
If you watch closely, these videos feature employees who very proudly explain how terrific it is to be part of the big team of Google, the one that is defining the future of technology, literally shaping the world and impacting the life of everyone on this planet. They also demonstrate how exceptional the environment at Google is and in what way its design helps them create and innovate.
Well, this pretty much is employer branding in its finest application. Google is literally the employer of choice for its own employees as well as millions and millions of others from all around the world. This, in turn, attracts the brightest minds in technology to work at Google, which is one of the main pillars of the giant company’s success.
That said, Google did not, for sure, reach that level of internal success overnight, which is precisely what companies’ top management needs to understand when undergoing their employer branding campaigns. It is quite a long process that takes so many practices, not really exclusively done by the company’s very own employees but also involves its board members and management.
Moreover, so much work must be done first so companies can pave the way for implementing a successful employer branding strategy. In other words, such a company-promoting campaign cannot be launched, nor will it drive any good results without determining where the company stands on the scale of being an employer of choice.
So let’s have a look into that.
Employer branding framework
Employer branding is pretty much a shared responsibility between everyone in the company but with different percentages. As we will see in another story, employees are quite the main players when applying the employer branding strategy.
Like with Google, employees are the ones who act like brand ambassadors and talk to the world about how much of an amazing workplace this company is, which allows them to grow, develop, reach their full potential, stretch beyond their comfort zones and step into brand new worlds of creativity and innovation.
That said, employees will only happily take this responsibility if they feel their needs are satisfied, their suggestions are taken into consideration, their expectations are met, and their overall well-being is being taken care of.
In other words, before you start your employer branding campaign, you must investigate how likely your employees are to take on their new roles as your brand ambassadors. The results of this investigation may require you to make some or a lot of changes in the company in order to get your employees to genuinely spread the word about your company.
So let’s see how you can do that.
1. Assess the company’s brand
Just like how you were asked to take a placement test when you decided to learn Spanish at the age of 28 to assess your knowledge of the language that you attained during your high school years, you also need to get a clear idea about how your employees perceive the company at the time of applying the employer branding strategy.
This assessment is usually done using surveys, which employees should take seriously and answer very honestly. The results of these surveys particularly highlight what your company does right and what it is missing to be the best place for your employees to work.
Such surveys must also assess how aware your employees are of the company’s culture and values and how much this culture matches the reality they live in the company day in and day out.
Here are the top three surveys companies can use in the assessment step.
1. Employee engagement survey
An employee engagement survey, more or less, assesses your employees’ engagement with their roles, tasks, team members, seniors, the top management and the whole culture of the company. It also helps you shed light on the factors that influence your employees’ engagement and gives you insights into what you actually need to do in order to increase that score.
One of the highly trusted employee engagement surveys is the Q12® Survey developed by Gallup, Inc. This is a 12 yes/no question survey that will give you a clue about how much of a healthy, positive work environment your employees believe your company has.
Gallup has found that employees are more likely to be engaged as long as the following four areas are taken care of, in the same order of importance:
- Basic needs: What do I get? (Questions 1 and 2)
- Management support: What do I give? (Questions 3 to 6)
- Teamwork: Do I belong? (Questions 7 to 10)
- Growth: How can I grow? (Questions 11 and 12)
Once all employees take this test, Gallup produces a detailed results report that provides a percentage for the employee engagement in your company, accompanied by how much the previously-mentioned factors contribute to that percentage. This consequently gives you an idea of the areas you need to enhance to achieve a higher employee engagement score.
2. Employer value proposition survey
Well, an employer value proposition is the benefits you, as an employer, give your employees in return for their skills, abilities and work. Assessing the value your employees are currently getting and comparing it with the real value proposition, the company has supposedly set and the value employees believe is satisfying to them will help you make the necessary changes to make your company a better workplace for your employees.
In this context, employer value proposition surveys usually check things such as salaries, bonuses, rewards, recognition, personalized business awards for your team, learning opportunities, growth, environment, culture, autonomy and other benefits that employees might be getting while working in your company.
Another thing that employer value proposition surveys investigate is what exactly your employees consider valuable and important. Is it working on new and innovative projects? Giving them the chance to take initiative? Is it a work schedule that matches the way they want to live their lives? Is it how much their work fits with their talents? Or maybe what they are looking for is more opportunities for self-growth and making an impact.
3. Workplace culture survey
One of the main pillars of every company is culture. Simply put, company culture is the set of values, rules, attitudes and standards that run the company and shape its environment. While a company culture must be identified as early as the company’s establishment itself, that does mean it is destined to stay the same. On the contrary, as the company itself grows and expands, its culture must be modified to match its current position and help it keep going forward.
So before starting the employer branding campaign, you must also assess whether or not and to what extent your employees are aware of their company’s culture and how much they believe this culture is genuinely applied.
A workplace culture survey can measure things like purpose, company goals and vision, values and qualities such as communication, decision-making, respect, integrity, trust, teamwork, responsibility, accountability, learning, agility, support, collaboration and wellness.
2. Modify/establish the company culture
Now that you have conducted these surveys, you should have a clear idea of how engaged your employees currently are, what shall make them so engaged that they would perceive your company as the best workplace and how much your company culture contributes to that.
The next step is to create an environment where employees’ needs and what they consider valuable are provided, which in return will make them satisfied, allow them to work in harmony, and establish a thorough connection with and a sense of belonging to the company. The pillars of this new environment are a modified or even a brand-new culture.
In the light of the results you got from the surveys, you can make the necessary modifications to your company culture. This means genuine changes can be made to the company’s mission, i.e. the purpose for which the company was established, vision or where the company wants to be in the future, values, performance, people management, employer value proposition, policies and practices.
The new culture needs to be finely crafted, very specific and better if self-explanatory as well. It has got to be ambitious but still capable of being aligned with and, for sure, relative to what employees have stated in the surveys.
3. Introduce the new culture to employees
Now it is time to introduce the new culture to employees. You need to make sure they grasp it and are aware of all of its aspects and how important each of them is.
But it does not stop here.
Employees need to be constantly reminded of the company’s culture, which means it must be shared everywhere. The top management should also respect and align with the company culture since it is the core law that governs the entire workplace. When employees see that everywhere, they are more likely to implement and comply with the culture on a daily basis, which consequently increases their engagement.
It does not stop here, either.
The company culture needs to be clear in every act that the company administration takes. This includes, but is undoubtedly not limited to, marketing campaigns, customer treatment, decisions, the content posted online and even the products or services the company offers.
4. Engage your employees
To encourage employees to align with your new company culture, you actually need to make them feel they are taken care of; to provide them with what they have declared before would make them more engaged and satisfied. In other words, you should start implementing employee engagement practices if you really want your employees to become your brand ambassadors.
The following are some areas that, when developed, can highly elevate employee engagement.
- Compensation and benefits
- Career development
- Rewards and recognition
- Communication systems
- Work environment
More specifically, to increase employee engagement, you should
- Offer help to and support employees when needed.
- Recognise their good work.
- Include them in decision-making.
- Show them their contributions are needed and appreciated.
- Offer them training to learn and grow.
- Organise fun activities.
One thing to keep in mind is that these are not one-time practices but should instead be adopted as an essential part of the company’s culture and something the company offers employees on a regular basis. This is to keep them engaged and encourage them to genuinely assist in branding the company as their employee of choice.
5. Remeasure employee engagement and value proposition
This step is all about reassessing how much your employees are engaged and the new value proposition they have received a few months after you started applying the employee engagement practices we suggested above.
Having said that, you must not rush but instead, give the new changes enough time to sink in and become part of your employees’ work routine. Employees also need to take their time to interact with these recent changes, examine them and measure how satisfying they are for them.
When reassessing your company’s new value proposition, check whether or not it is what employees expected. Ask them to describe it and then compare it with the previous value proposition and their answers from the surveys. Do they feel the change? Have they started to develop this sense of belonging to the company?
This reassessment step is essential to measure the impact of the work you have done so far and track the progress the new changes are supposedly making. Eventually, you will be able to determine what went right and was worth every minute and penny you spent and which are the areas that still need some work.
6. Optimise your employer value proposition
Based on as many tests and tries as you want to do, it is necessary you finally optimise your employer value proposition, that is, to come up with the most suitable and authentic value proposition that achieves both the company’s vision and goals and is highly satisfactory for your employees.
Once this is clear, you have to state the new optimised value proposition very clearly and share it all around the company. Employees must be fully aware that it is what they get in return for their work. This value proposition must also be highly unique in a way that makes them proud of working in your company.
Employer branding is an excellent concept companies can use to attract top talent, grow and expand but before undergoing it; company owners must first know if they have what it takes to make their employer branding campaigns succeed.
By taking the six essential steps we have demonstrated in this article, you can develop a better company culture and achieve a high level of employee engagement which will, in return, encourage employees to take responsibility for branding your company as their employee of choice employer.