Employment Branding Strategy 101: Do You Need Some Brand Work?
Every business has an employer brand. The question is: Is it working for you - or against you? Is it an asset that differentiates your organization in a positive way, or an albatross that costs you customers, talent, and reputation?
As a leader, you face a graying workforce, growing skills gaps, and unprecedented competition for customers and talent: you can't afford not to answer these questions - and this one: How do you build an employment branding strategy that empowers you to meet these challenges head-on?
Diagnosing Your Employer Brand
In Brand From the Inside: Eight Essentials to Emotionally Connect Your Employees to Your Business, branding experts Libby Sartain and Mark Schumann explain the "essentials" for creating "an emotional connection with employees on the inside of your business, so that they, in turn, deliver to your customers on the outside."
Since you already have an employer brand, even if only by default, you don't have to start from scratch. You do, however, have to evaluate the health of your brand. How? Sartain and Schumann suggest asking yourself:
- What work, if any, has your company done to build its employer brand? Has your leadership team defined the employer brand? If so, how has it influenced employees' attitudes and behaviors?
- Do your employees understand your "customer brand promises"? Employees must understand what it is you're doing, and how they fit in. Can they explain the customer promise?
- Do you think your employees believe in your customer brand promises? Understanding is the first step - now do they actually buy-into that promise? They are the ones who will deliver on it, or not.
- Have your people committed to taking the necessary steps to deliver on brand promises? Assuming employees know and believe in the customer promise, are they taking concrete steps to ensure they deliver? If not, do they lack training? Skills? Support?
- Do your employees have a solid understanding of, and belief in, your employer brand? An employer brand is a promise from you to your people. Do they understand and connect with that promise? Is that connection demonstrated at each customer touchpoint?
- Does your talent management strategy dovetail with your employer brand? Given the "war for talent," does your brand enable you to attract skilled people? Tell a compelling brand story that gives folks a reason to work for you.
- Does your employer brand support recruitment targets? If you're having trouble finding, and keeping, good people, look for holes in your employer brand. There is something amiss.
- Are employees fully engaged? Your employees are far more likely to be engaged when what you say about your company aligns seamlessly with what they experience in your company.
- How do you tell the story of your brand? Are you happy with it? Look at any employee materials (guides, manuals, brochures, etc.). Do they tell your brand story? Are they clear and concise with a strong call-to-action? Your communications with your people should be as carefully considered as those with your customers.
- Do you have an employer brand crisis? Examining your answers so far, how healthy is your brand? Is it solid? Does it need some tinkering - or does it need a complete overhaul?
Curing What Ails Your Brand
What if you don't like the answers? It means you were honest, and it means that you're one step closer to a viable employment branding strategy. It also means that you've got some work to do. How do you prepare yourself, and your company, to tackle problems with your employer brand?
- Make the business case to build, or rebuild, your employer brand. Start at the beginning: why do you need to build or rebuild the employer brand? Why is it so critical to the organization? What barriers stand in your way? What resources do you need? Build a solid, logical argument for embarking on this brand journey.
- Knock down silos. Assemble a team that crosses corporate boundaries. Involve HR, marketing, operations, finance, and other critical functions. If you are the champion, you need a committed group of people to help address issues and create solutions.
- Don't reinvent the wheel. Again, you already have a brand. It needs work, sure, but you have a start. Leverage the work that has already been done.
- Develop a clear picture of what you want to accomplish. Clarify your vision, and then take small steps to achieve it. Don't overwhelm people with grandiose plans. One step at a time.
- Prepare your team. Set reasonable expectations. Work to clarify objectives, customer brand promises, and understanding of stakeholders. Think about how you will bring your brand promise to life. Your team needs to know, commit to, and advocate for the brand.
- Engage your leadership team. You can't expect your people to connect with an employer brand if you don't. Your top leaders/managers need to buy in and commit to delivering on these promises.
Implementing a cohesive employment branding strategy is not an option; you need this competitive edge to survive and thrive in the 21st century. You already have a brand identity. Like it or not, people already have opinions and beliefs about your business. If those opinions and beliefs are more of a hindrance than a help, it's time to take action.