Branding is one of the most underutilized strategies companies can use to improve employee recruitment and retention. But what does branding have to do with talent? Your brand is not just your logo, fonts, and colors. It should actually define who you are, what you offer, whom you offer it to, and how your products/services differ from your competition. This includes your vision, mission, core values, and ultimately your brand culture – every touch point with customers and employees.
More than ever, workers want to work for companies that make a positive impact – for their team and the world. 82% of workers surveyed recently said they consider a company’s values when deciding whether or not to apply for a job.
By the standards of employees, potential employees, and customers, values aren’t simply what you list on our website or in company bylaws. They are the manifestation of an organization‘s actions and integrity over a period of time. It’s impossible to put a price on maintaining a positive brand, and likewise, it is difficult to estimate just how much damage it can do to an organization’s recruitment efforts when a brand is viewed as unethical or untrustworthy. Customers and employees want to support companies whose values (social, political, environmental, etc) they can believe in.
In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of maintaining a strong employer brand, how you can improve your brand perception, and how good branding can benefit your employee attraction and retention efforts.
A breakdown of good branding
Your brand is the reputation that precedes you … it’s the perception of your company in the minds of your customers, employees, and future talent prospects. While you can’t directly alter their perceptions, it’s essential you do everything you can to clearly define who you are and what you stand for and that your culture - internally and externally - follows suit.
In today’s globally connected world, just about any information about a company can become public knowledge at any time. It’s important that companies take a long look at their policies and practices to ensure they’re ethical and can withstand public scrutiny. But even more important, check in with your employees to get their feedback. And then take action immediately when legitimate concerns are raised.
Your reputation hinges on every aspect of your company - every decision, every action, every reaction. It’s a combination of factors, including but not limited to:
- Customer experience. A positive customer experience is essential in maintaining a good reputation. Naturally, customers want to work with companies that show respect and effectively communicate. Potential employees don’t want to work for a company known for bad customer experience and/or a toxic workplace culture.
- Values. This does not refer to the boilerplate values a company shares on their website, but rather to their actions. Does your company pay your employees fairly? Do you treat them well? Do you value diversity, equity, and inclusion? Do your products or services pollute or otherwise damage the environment? Do you support any charitable causes or lobbying efforts? Expect consumers and potential employees to ask these questions.
- Crisis management. When bad things happen, whether within or outside your company’s control, you’ll be called upon to respond. How your company responds during a crisis, both internally and externally, is a factor consumers think of when it comes to brand reputation. Do you have a crisis management policy to get ahead of potential public relations nightmares?
Employee experience. Employee experience is relevant to both potential employees and customers. Think of Amazon’s lingering reputation problems concerning the shameful working conditions for warehouse and delivery workers. Customers want to know that employees are paid a living wage and work in fair conditions. Potential employees want to know this too and report a much higher level of confidence in the testimony of current or former employees than the brand itself. Outside of making your company a good place to work, you can boost your brand’s reputation by encouraging employees to use sites like Google and Glassdoor to leave reviews about their experience with your company.
Company culture may be difficult to pin down, but most employees agree that it can make or break the work experience. Company culture includes things like values, atmosphere, expectations, and norms. What kind of behavior is tolerated, and what is encouraged? Are employees able to take time off? Working at a company with a creative, respectful, hardworking culture can be deeply fulfilling for employees and fosters priceless company loyalty. But likewise, working in an office with toxic management or an otherwise unpleasant work culture may drive employees to underperform or quit.
When thinking about a potential employer’s company culture, employees look for:
- Diversity. 64% of candidates say that diversity is important to them when considering where they want to work.
- Engaged employees.
- Respect and kindness (internally and externally).
- Flexibility and/or a respect for work/life balance.
- Good leadership.
- A purpose-driven mission.
Company culture can and should be a part of your branding. When done well, this kind of branding conveys your values and tells candidates what they can expect when they work with you.
Companies can also improve their branding by incorporating the brand’s foundation into current strategy, marketing, and employee attraction efforts. And while it’s always better to show your values with actions than it is with mission statements, you can use your brand’s foundational characteristics to guide your branding moving forward.
Here are a few different angles your organization can take to build on your existing brand foundation to improve branding and brand awareness.
- Brand story. The story of how your company came to be is a branding opportunity. People like to connect companies with people; show the humanity of your company and use it to engage employees and celebrate big company milestones.
- Brand purpose. Today’s consumers want to support brands they believe are making a difference in the world. It’s not enough to have an inoffensive business model. Consumers are actively seeking brands that use their considerable social and economic weight to advocate for positive change. Research suggests that 82% of consumers consider a brand’s purpose when making purchasing decisions.
- Brand personality. Consumers and potential employees can engage with companies through many more avenues today than even a few years ago. Social media lets customers share feedback with brands instantly and directly, which presents both an opportunity and a challenge. With so many different avenues of communication (social media, news media, company websites, packaging, advertising, etc), it’s vital that your brand personality remain distinct. You’ll want to maintain the same tone and style across all platforms to ensure consistency.
Compensation and retention
When it comes to attracting and retaining employees, compensation is a significant factor. In a market that increasingly demands pay transparency and pay equity, refusing to pay a living wage is a mistake few customers and potential employees are willing to forgive.
Would you rather your company be known for paying employees well or for wage theft and unfair pay? Inadequate compensation isn’t just an ethical problem, it’s also a liability for your brand image.
When deciding what pay is fair for a particular position, keep in mind that what constituted fair pay one year ago is no longer standard. Inflation reached 8.5% in March 2022, so if all you do for current employees is offer a 2% annual increase, you’re essentially cutting their salary by 6.5%. Inadequate pay was one of the top two reasons people left their job in 2021 – and that was before inflation reached 8.5%.
Any conversation around company culture, or any aspect of your brand, only has value as long as it’s transparent. Employees, customers, and the general public find it blatantly obvious and often borderline offensive when companies broadcast their “so-called” values in public and then violate them in private. And as we’ve discussed, with today’s easy and fast flow of information, you can trust that any values violated internally will eventually be aired publicly.
Authenticity can strengthen employee loyalty and make it easier for your team to attract candidates as well. Be honest with employees about why you’re making certain decisions. Give them opportunities to share their experiences and take them into consideration when deciding on the best path. Make sure they know their needs and well-being are a priority. Raises and accessible growth opportunities are tangible ways to show you value your employees and want them to stay.
Having a strong employer brand can help you attract and retain new employees. The best branding isn’t about making your company look better – it’s about helping your company be better. Make sure your branding aligns with your recruitment strategy to attract the right candidates for your business.
Interested in having a conversation? Contact PeopleSuite today to discuss your company brand, culture, and hiring needs.