Employee branding has never been as important as it is now. The Great Resignation is an ongoing economic trend, driven by people demanding more from their employers.
By Cara Rodgers, Strategist, BLVR . Before BLVR, Cara honed her craft at the VCU Brandcenter, earning a Master’s in Business, specialising in brand strategy.
Coupled with this is the rise of the purpose-driven brand, with brand integrity becoming increasingly important to drive consumer affinity. And having a committed workforce of advocates is the best way to walk the walk when it comes to showing what is at the heart of your business.
Just as we want customers to become loyal advocates, we should be thinking of our employees as the ultimate champions – individuals that understand, feel inspired by and ultimately live out what the company stands for and strives to achieve.
The ultimate advocates
There are three main components to nurturing such champions – perception, alignment and motivation. Your employees need to have a positive and accurate perception of what you stand for. They need to be able to relate to the purpose and standards of their company. If they feel their brand’s values align with their own, they are more likely to feel fulfilled in their career and inclined to promote their company with conviction.
Once an employee has a positive perception of their organization, and their values align, their motivation to project the company’s brand into their daily life is the final step. It’s not that they need to totally embody the company they work for – there will always be a balance. But from investing energy and care into their work to recommending the brand to the people in their lives, motivation is one of the most important factors in the employee-employer relationship.
Living out your core values
To nurture such advocacy, however, you need to have articulated your core belief in the first place. Whether you’re a start-up looking to take off or scale, or an established organization that’s going through major change, having a clear belief to start from helps inform your purpose, your vision and ultimately your behaviour – including your employees’.
If you want to take a more strategic and effective approach to employee branding, make sure you know what you stand for. Without it you are just offering a collection of perks and a vague notion of company culture.
For example, we worked with hair tools and products brand Andis to help it modernise its experience by standing for more. The aim was to drive growth, defend against legacy and emergent brands and strengthen loyalty with its customer base.
We repositioned Andis as a lifestyle brand with its core brand belief at its heart – that creativity makes the world a better place. The project reimagined every aspect of the customer experience, from establishing the brand identity to creating an authentic communications strategy to implementing it into the product and packaging design.
But crucially, alongside those customer-facing manifestations of the belief, the project included ongoing support with internal rollout. To help shape the perception of the brand, foster alignment with it, and motivate employees to become brand advocates, we worked with the internal team to craft tactics and resources.
Designed to help educate and inspire, these ranged from swag kits and onboarding decks to brand ladder charts that illustrated how each department’s role laddered back to the brand belief, purpose, vision and core values.
Tying employee branding tactics to the core of the company in this way is crucial. For Andis it transformed the business and rebuilt the culture of the company from the bottom up.
Tailoring the tactics
But these aren’t the only examples of tactics you can use to engage your employees. One of the best ways to build and maintain employee loyalty is through engagement. It is important that businesses tailor resources to what works for their needs.
Once brands have defined their belief, purpose, and vision they can gauge the temperature of what kind of experiences are most effective at educating and engaging their employees. A workplace culture that serves the needs of the employees, while celebrating and embodying the brand, can strengthen the relationship with the brand.
Most of the time, this doesn’t mean more snacks or beer on tap. Full engagement comes from positive experiences that are worth the employees’ time.
Those can be as simple as offering a well-designed culture book or implementing regular days to celebrate elements of your culture, like volunteer days or innovation competitions. For example, if your belief is all about the power of education, why not offer opportunities that promote and encourage learning; or if innovation is at the core of your brand, how can you give employees the headspace to think big and experiment within the status quo? Zappos is known for its quirky, family-oriented culture that invests the same amount of effort in its employees as it does with its customers. The late CEO Tony Hsieh said, “We’re willing to give up short-term profits or revenue growth to make sure we have the best culture.” Zappos has experimented with employee branding in many different ways. One of its initiatives offers new joiners a ‘Pay to Quit’ bonus. ‘The Offer’ is a financial perk given to those who decide after initial onboarding that the company is not for them. No hard feelings.
It is a rite of passage that separates the ‘Zapponians’ from those who will never live out the Zappos culture. While this approach might seem extreme, it’s all based on Zappos’ fun-loving and team-oriented culture. Not every type of employee branding is for everyone; that’s okay.
But thinking of bespoke ways in which your employees can live out your purpose and mission is the key to a successful internal brand experience.
We are at a critical point in time in which the power is shifting in the professional world. Employees have more impact and a louder voice than ever before. At BLVR we often advise our clients to be thinking of bespoke ways in which their employees can live out their purpose and mission. It is the key to a successful internal brand experience.
Make sure it all circles back to who you are as a company, and the perception, alignment and motivation will follow.