Employer Branding – Over Used Words or Something More?

I’m sitting at my desk after having  two weeks of holiday bliss and was reflecting on the work we have done on our brand and employee value proposition (EVP).  I will talk more about the EVP later as the relationship to the brand is like parent and child, wine and cheese……….you get the picture.
When I was given the task of refreshing the company brand, I recalled some work I had been involved in at a previous company where we used the brand pyramid. The brand pyramid is a framework that helps to examine the deeply intrinsic features of the company, such as attributes, functional benefits, emotional rewards, values and personality.  Ultimately, the aim of the brand pyramid is not just to define these features, but to identify the brand essence.   The essence is that indispensable quality that makes something true and genuine.   If you want to read more on employer branding and the brand pyramid, a couple of the books which have helped me immensely in my understanding of the topic have been The Employer Brand: Bringing the Best of Brand Management to People at Work by Simon Barrow and Richard Mosley and Forced Focus – the essence of attracting and retaining the best people by Penny Burke.
Too often in recruitment advertising and collateral, I see the use of bold statements involving words like innovative, dynamic, largest, progressive, to name a few.  When I see this, I wonder how true these statements are.  Is it just the recruitment team doing what most do – selling the career dream?
Think about it.  How do you feel when you walk into a beautiful restaurant only to receive a bad meal or poor service?  How do you feel when you take your car to what you believe to be a professional mechanic only to have it stall on the way out of the garage?  Frustrated? Disappointed? Maybe a little angry?
It is no different to going through an employment process where you’re sold the career dream, only to arrive at your new job to find that things progressively go down-hill.  You were told that the company was innovative, only to discover resistance to change.  You were told that it was a dynamic organisation, only to discover there are so many levels of approval, it will take forever to get anything done. How do you feel? Frustrated? Disappointed? Maybe a little angry?
An employment relationship is a two-way street and needs to be based on something that is true and genuine.  Just like any good relationship.
So this is where the brand fits in.  It’s that courting part.  The part where you get to know each other and discover all that is great and what the challenges are going to be. Through that process, you decide whether you plan to go the distance.  Most importantly, you want to be reassured that what you bought into is genuine.
When most of us spend a large portion of our life at work we consider our employment choices some of our most significant life decisions.   So if your 2015 agenda involves a refresh of your employer branding, take the time to frame your thinking by using a tool like the brand pyramid.  I truly believe the time and effort we invested to define our brand pyramid was the reason our brand refresh was so well received in our business.
Through this process we were able to determine the words which best describe who we are and what we want to be.  Your employer brand can be aspirational to a degree but not to a point that you’ve set yourself an unreachable goal.  The closer it is to reality the better. Then throw in a dash of aspiration.
The employer brand can’t be created by a zealous person sitting at a desk.  It will take the input of many to refine it down to the parts which matter most, the parts which make the brand real.
It is important to engage as many people as possible in this process, most importantly the leaders in your business. You want to stimulate healthy debate amongst the members of the leadership team to determine the characteristics which best describe the organisation at all levels of the brand pyramid.  After all, they play a critical role in bringing the brand to life.   So if they aren’t believers, then why should anyone else believe in the brand?
Ask others if your brand is genuine.  Go further, ask others in your business whether it’s genuine through surveys and focus groups and if you’re fortunate enough to have a budget to play with; then engage a third-party to survey people outside the business about their perceptions of the company.
The effort is worth it, after all, this information helps identify your brand essence and will enable your communication agencies, designers and digital marketers bring your brand to life.  That is the real brand, not a bunch of over-used words.

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