Creating a compelling employee brand is key for engagement and driving success
More than half of employees today get information about their organization from external media sources. Along with the advances in online technologies and social networks, an organisation’s brand is no longer as controllable as it once was. In this online age of ultra-connectivity the latest indiscretions of employers are there for all to see in near real time on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs in addition to the usual media outlets – we have all heard of the banks’ recent rate-rigging and the phone hacking scandals.
These indiscretions and lapses in business process and principle have the capacity to affect not just the markets and public perception, but also employees’ perceptions. The web provides the perfect environment for sharing experiences of current or previous employers and it is fairly easy to find comments about an employer’s culture, management and levels of pay. It only takes a few negative stories for people to form their own impression, regardless of how accurate or typical those stories or experiences may actually be. Never have there been as many channels for bringing the brand into the public arena.
Employer brand can essentially be described as “what it is like to work here”. Every organisation has an employer brand. Whether or not it is a managed one, people will have an idea of what you are like to work for, and what your products are like. This brand has long been known to affect customer perceptions and return on investment. As early as 2006 the Corporate Leadership Board quoted that effective brand management could bring about a 20 per cent increase in available talent and the ability to attract candidates for significantly lower compensation. Our recent work shows that brand is also key to employee engagement and retention.
Denise Fairhurst, head of employee research at Ipsos MORI, says: “Not surprisingly employees want to stay with companies who have a strong brand and are sought after places to work, but also deliver on what they have promised.”
Organisations with a strong employer image are five times more likely to have engaged staff than those with a weak employer image. These engaged staff are more than four times as likely to think their organisation’s customer image is ahead of the competition. Their positive attitude strengthens the brand image internally and externally, and reinforces relationships between the firm and its customers.
In the same way as your customers, employees will evaluate you in terms of delivering on what you promise. As such, any brand strategy has to be an honest reflection of the organisation. At Google, where innovation and creativity are critical aspects of their image, the work environment is well known for its fun and unusual workplace designs. Employees can use 20 per cent of their time to work on a project that is of particular interest to them, further fostering the entrepreneurial culture. Virgin advertises its brand as being built upon Richard Branson’s original philosophy and is well known for breaking the mould and being unique and exciting. Again this external brand runs through all aspects of the workplace.
Employees are encouraged to challenge the status quo and contribute their unique individual perspectives.
So what does this mean for firms wanting to keep ahead? Employees reinforce the external image through their experience of the internal brand, through customer contact or their online presence. Organisations therefore need to identify and deliver an employee experience that is consistent with their promise to employees – after all, they are your brand ambassadors.