Paul Hitchens: 10 indicators of a meaningful employer brand

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RecruitmentWe live in a noisy world filled with competing voices all crying for our attention. We instinctively filter these messages for meaning and relevance in order to focus on the things that matter most to us.

In this melee brands don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. customer brand and employer brand are just different sides of the same coin and there is only room for one coherent brand ideology. When HR and marketing work together and support the same idea, meaningful brands emerge that stand for something in our conscience and have an emotional connection in our hearts.

A strongly held belief in the ideology of a brand is critical in attracting and retaining the best staff, suppliers and customers. The employer brand is the fulfilment of the brand idea in a mutually beneficial relationship between employee and employer.

1) The brand champion

The founder, owner or CEO must provide a strategic narrative about where the brand is, where it has been and where it is going. A confident and strong brand champion inspires team morale and improves investor relations. They must be ready and willing to represent the brand at all times whatever the circumstances. Evidence suggests that millennial graduates have a high expectation of positive global citizenship from the companies they choose to work for and the corporate culture they identify with.

2) A higher purpose

It all begins with a simple question: How do you make the world a better place? What need do you fulfil? Every organisation, product or service must have a ‘reason for being’ – so identify what your brand’s purpose is and the benefit that it provides, making sure it’s clear and easy to understand. In a competitive market, employees will take great care in how they invest their time and career. Is your brand making its presence felt through ethos, culture and values? Are you offering something more than just a salary?

3) A compelling vision

What does your future look like and can your employees visualise their part in it? A strong vision is an inspiring projection of the future that motivates its listeners to work together to realise its potential. A vision can be infectious and provide a beacon of hope and a picture of success. Organisations must innovate to survive, and can’t afford to stagnate. Make sure that your employees are equipped to achieve this vision and have every opportunity to enhance and extend their skills through training and development programmes. Create demand – giving people what they didn’t know they needed but cannot imagine ever having lived without. Sometimes we simply can’t imagine what we want until we are shown it.

4) The real value in values

What do you stand for? What do you believe in? A brand’s values form the organisation’s moral compass and provide confidence and guidance in our everyday decision making. Brands can use values to recruit employees and define brand behaviour. You must be careful to ensure that the values that you preach are the values that you practice. Celebrate positive values based behaviour and promote or reward individuals who best exemplify these values. It is also important to reprimand those that behave in discord with those values. Do what you say and be consistent – loyalty is born of trust.

5) On a mission

Your brand can be based on a firm constitution. It’s 800 years since the historic signing of Magna Carter at Runneymede and the advent of the first bill of human rights. Think of old sailing ships, places of worship or civic buildings, they often have inscriptions and texts carved into walls or displayed in prominent places. They remind a community that they are bound by an ideology that is measured by their behaviour. The key to writing the Mission Statement is to make it relevant to its audience. An effective Mission Statement should codify the brand ethos providing a clear measure of achievement and allow room for personal and corporate growth.

6) A clear proposiiton

Make it clear what you can offer that no other employer can. Highlight the key points of difference that are hardest to emulate and provide the strongest barrier to competition. Ask yourself is this a compelling reason why anyone would want to work with you? Is it succinct, short and to the point? Is it relevant and truthful? Doing things differently can create rewarding and memorable experiences. Be clear about what makes you and your colleagues special and what it means to your customers and suppliers.

7) Pole position for front place in the mind

Where is your brand ranked in the top five companies your ideal candidate would want to work for? Brand Positioning concerns where your brand sits in the priorities of its intended audience. We all rank and categorise the ephemera, experiences and acquaintances of everyday life.

Children have their best friends, teenagers rank their favourite chart music and adults recall their best holidays? In a crowded marketplace, a competitive brand needs to be at the front of the queue in the consciousness of the potential employee. That list might not be judged on a sliding axis of salary against prestige. The tables could turn in your favour if you measure culture against wellbeing.

8) A winning personality

When considering the brand’s personality it is helpful to think of the brand as an archetype or famous person and imagine who they might be. Is there a prominent person of influence, a celebrity, a historical or fictional figure who best typifies your brand? Consistency and continuity are the hallmarks of well-managed brands. The aim is to make sure that each and every touchpoint of the brand experience is delivered with a consistent tone and personality. The brand’s personality influences communication, behaviour and aesthetic style and the opportunity is to capitalise on it so that it becomes a valuable differentiator.

9) Connect with your audience

Deeper bonds of loyalty are earned when a brand understands its audience. The experience employees provide to customers and clients is the realisation of the brand promise. Each member of staff is a potential Brand Ambassador so it’s essential that they understand the part they play in building the brand’s success. A positive spirit of fellowship and common purpose among employees is critical in communicating brand confidence because positive employees create positive customers.

10) Managed with care

Line Managers have a special role to play in bringing the brand to life. They need to ensure that everyone they are responsible for understands and lives the brand, so that it permeates through every level of the organisation. Line Managers facilitate the dissemination of the brand narrative and create natural brand ambassadors through their influence and example. Great Managers listen to their colleagues and coach and reward them when they excel. Employees will see through shallow and insincere incentive campaigns and always respond best to genuine encouragement. As the old adage goes, actions will always speak louder than words.

The meaningful Employer Brand is the effective activation of the brand strategy that generates the behaviours necessary to ‘Attract, Retain and Engage’ the best employees and deliver a great Customer Brand experience. Employers and the Human Resources Department have a vital role to play in building a meaningful brand by hiring people that will contribute to the brands culture and live its values. Conscientious and engaged employees will best exemplify the brand proposition and deliver the best brand experiences. Employees really do have the potential to be a brands greatest asset.

 

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