The you, the me and the we
Attract, engage and retain – how to build a strong employer brand.
So first off, let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. It’s not some airy-fairy concept to be used in the ubiquitous ‘town hall meeting” where your Chief Exec runs through a meaningless mission statement littered with trite ‘core values’ that no-one in the business can ever quite remember.
No, your employer brand is about your reputation as a place to work and your value proposition to employees – how you attract, engage and retain talent in a competitive market.
Brands live in the hearts and minds of the people they touch. They’re about the perceptions and experience of the audience. This is the case for all facets of the brand puzzle – whether internal, external, employer or consumer.
The perceptions and experiences of past, present and future employees can build (or destroy) your employer brand. While you can’t completely control those perceptions, you can certainly influence them.
A strong employer brand needs to bring together two essential elements. Firstly, what the business expects of its employees – the values and behaviours it wants them to support. And secondly, what employees expect from the business and what they want it to provide for them.
An employer brand is built on this two-way relationship. It’s as much about what the business expects in order to achieve its vision, as about what the employee is looking for.
Building an effective employer brand is therefore about understanding the drivers of this relationship – in other words, the needs and motivations of both the business on the one hand and your existing and prospective employees on the other – and what they need to offer each other.
And it’s important to think about both practical and emotional motivations.
Practical motivations can also be described as ‘deficiency needs’, such as a better salary or being able to work close to home, because they motivate people if they’re not met.
Emotional motivations, on the other hand, can be thought of as ‘growth needs’ like wanting to make a difference in the world or being part of a supportive team. These needs don’t stem from a lack of something, but rather from a desire to grow as a person.
In search of a brand personality
Once you have a clear understanding of these needs, it can then inform how you go about attracting the right talent to your business sector and to your specific business.
Brands that may appear very similar to competitors in terms of functionality can define a clear market position by capturing and amplifying brand personality traits.
The tricky bit is to ‘humanise’ your brand. Just like people, brands can be aloof and snooty, warm and approachable, funny and witty – even dark and brooding. But unlike most people, a brand’s personality can be adjusted – bringing its positive and unique personality traits to the fore.
Really examining and capturing the personality of your brand can help you highlight the important traits that can be used to help you engage with your chosen audience once you understand their needs. One way is to use Jennifer Aaker’s ‘Dimensions of brand personality’ framework.
Think of your brand as a person and things start to get a bit easier. Here are just a few examples.
Do you believe what this person says? Is it easy to go to this person for advice? Does this person remember you and are they always happy to see you?
Is this person daring and disruptive? Are they exciting to be with? Is this person cool and funny? Does this person have creative ideas that excite you?
Is this person reliable, trustworthy and hardworking? Are they an expert in their field? Is this a confident, successful person who loves their work?
Is this a stylish person? Or is this person understated and quietly confident? Are they charming, persuasive, even seductive?
Is this an outdoorsy person at one with nature? Does this person have a can-do attitude? Are they sporty, healthy and agile?
Of course, gaining an in-depth understanding of the talent needs of your business and the motivations of your employees, as well as the brand personality traits that will resonate with them can seem like a daunting task. In fact, it doesn’t need to be. We have a cost effective and speedy solution that can fast-track you to employer brand success without all the fuss and nonsense you sometimes get from traditional brand agencies.