Your employer brand isn’t just your reputation in an industry space, it’s the personality of your company, the thing that brings the people, culture and aspirations of the business into the foreground.
Look at this way. Your business is like a character in a novel, and your employer brand is the exciting backstory that draws people in and makes them stay. It’s what has them eagerly awaiting the next chapter. As people leaders in an organization, you get to write that story.
No matter what stage of building an employer brand you are at, you might find yourself pondering “what questions should I be asking myself to ensure we show not only who we are now, but who we want to become as more people join our ranks?”
If you want to build a brand that’s as captivating as a best-selling novel, you’ve got to ask yourself the right questions aimed at revealing not only what you want to show your audience, but that you need to answer to ensure the impact is the same for current employees as the ones you’d like to hire in the future.
“A strong employer brand is a magnet for values-aligned talent because it doesn’t beg the candidate "Do you want a job?” Instead, it asks, “Are you like us?” says Eric Harris, CEO of MindHandle, an agency that specializes in employer brand consultation.
7 Questions To Ask And Answer
So where does this journey start? Like a lot of other long-term goals, the construction of your employer brand is something you’ll want to look at in phases.
Phase 1: An Eye Toward the Destination
Before you look at where your employer brand has been, you first need to hone in on where you want to go. Do this with a clean slate amongst the team so that historic, knowledge, and confirmation biases do not creep in for those who have been there and seen what did and didn’t work previously.
This sort of cognitive bias can create communication barriers and misunderstandings among people tasked with carrying out your employer branding efforts.
Once you have established the clean slate and the intention to make what the employer brand will become into your north star, you can ask this first, not so simple question.
Question #1: “What do we, as an organization, want to build/make/achieve? How do we want to get there and why should people care?”
Okay, technically that’s three questions in one, but you need to consider them all at the same time and create a common thread in your answer that can help you address all three.
This should be tied to the company mission. Your brand has to showcase the end goal of the business and make that goal come to life for your employer brand audience. If the goals aren’t compelling in some way, it’s like having a protagonist in a spy novel whose mission is inconsequential to thwarting evil or doing good in the world. Why would the audience care?
The "how" is really important as that will start unlocking a lot about what the founders' beliefs are, and by extension, the company. Do you believe in "move fast and break things" or “smooth and steady leads to sustainability.”
Once you understand these characteristics, you can better understand what type of people are going to help you get there.
Question #2: Who do we need to get there? What kind of traits and behaviors do we need in the team?
“Really go deep here,” Mariya Hristova, People and Operations Lead at Focaldata said. “It's easy to say ‘oh yeah we need team players.' The way I challenge founders and leaders to think about it is to imagine that from tomorrow onward they need to hand over the company entirely to a team, what does that team need to look like?”
From there you can examine traits of the team you want to build and start to investigate what it is that drives them from one employer to another.
Question #3: “What do people like and want in a job/career/company?”
This will give you an idea on how to shape your brand for the audience and to create two identities - who the team/company is (the two should be the same in terms of traits) and how the team/company works (behaviors).
Phase 2: Your Brand and Values
The brand you want to build is centered around not just who you hope to be, but who you are currently. Your culture, the employee experience you create and how leadership manages change in times of what seems like never ending volatility. All of these things are guided by values.
The perception and buy into those values internally is ultimately going to come through in your external relationships and image. If your employees are calling your culture bull in relation to your values, that’s not all they’ll be calling it on.
Question #4: Are your employees receiving treatment that goes along with your values, tenants and ethics that the public-facing side of your brand wants to proudly own?
The talent landscape is as volatile as seemingly everything else in the news these days. But if the biggest advocates for your employer brand come from within, the ability to expand your network for talent grows significantly.
“We rely heavily on referrals, and you need a truly great workplace for people to consider inviting their friends to join the team,” Hollie Castro, Chief People Officer at Miro said.
It all comes back to brand identity and how you align with the mission of the company.
“Your brand identity is just as important internally as it is externally,” says Joanne Schneider DeMeireles, Chief Experience Officer of Oula Health. “Ask yourself if the core values, mission statement and social initiatives you boast about to your target audience are aligned with that of your employer brand. You have to ensure your identity is cohesive both internally and externally to build the best and most engaging employer brand possible.”
The answers to these questions will shape approach, help define values and if reflected in culture, help attract talent.
For Michael Alexis, CEO of Teambuilding.com, one question that stands out and has yielded valuable insights is simple, yet paramount.
Question #5: What does our company truly stand for?
It might sound a bit grandiose, but in a world where burnout is rampant and the two largest generations in the workforce cite corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a factor in who they spend their money with and who they work for, you’d better have an answer to this question. But don’t take my word for it, look at data from recent reports.
- 71% of people aged 18-29 say they would leave their employer for one that creates a more positive social impact, 62% of those aged 30-44.
- Almost 40% of Gen Z and Millennial workers have turned down a job opportunity because it was inconsistent with their values.
- 57% of Gen Z and 51% of Millennial employees who are not satisfied with employer efforts to have a social impact say they are looking to leave within the next two years. Among those who are very satisfied, the number of those looking to leave drops to 34% of Gen Z and 17% of Millennial employees.
- Commitments to diversity had similar results, with 52% of each group saying they’ll leave if not satisfied with diversity.
- On sustainability, 56% of Gen Z employees are willing to leave versus 48% of Millennials.
- 46% of Gen Zs and 45% of Millennials feel burned out due to the intensity/demands of their working environments.
- 44% of Gen Zs and 43% of Millennials say they have recently left an organization due to workload pressure.
For the health of your employer brand, these are key issues to address, an effort that the organization has to embody in its day-to-day practices and culture. But how do you get to the bottom of what you truly stand for?
“This question delves into the core values and principles that drive the organization,” says Alexis. “For instance, let's say we discover through employee feedback and market research that our team greatly values work-life balance. This prompts us to ensure flexible working hours, remote work options and robust employee well-being initiatives are central elements of our employer brand. By aligning our brand with what genuinely matters to employees, we can attract top talent who resonate with these values and foster a positive workplace culture built on mutual understanding and support.”
Phase 3: Look at the People You Have Now
While your employer brand is crucial in the talent market, let’s not forget that there are presumably employees within your ranks that believe in what you’re doing, have faith in leadership and are mostly satisfied with their jobs. Their insights can also prove valuable as you consider what’s important to shaping your brand identity.
Question #6: What drew our current team to work for us?
Finally, it’s time to look at where your employer brand has been in order to understand the entirety of the journey you’re about to go on. This question helps us uncover what any past branding efforts brought to the organization.
“When we know why our team decided to work for us in the first place, we understand the base we’re working with - because no employer is ever branding from scratch,” says Robert Kaskel, Chief People Officer at Checkr, an employee background check provider with more than 1,300 employees. “From that base, you can lean into the values that are already driving recruitment while you strategize around values that aren’t connecting strongly enough with candidates and employees yet.”
This phase can also tell you a lot about how the brand you have now is impacting both customer facing interactions as well as those between employees. If you want to know how your culture falls short or which values have failed to resonate with people, you can look at customer service complaints and employee engagement survey results to start.
Question #7: Are there elements of our brand that are fueling or attracting negative behaviors?
This process of identification can yield solutions to what ails your brand currently. If left unaddressed, these problems can resurface and become institutionalized into cultural norms that impact the next iteration of your employer brand.
“If a brand, at its core, doesn’t value positive interactions — that is, if there’s nothing in its vision, values or mission statements about this — then the brand team should work together to fill out this element,” William Sipling, Director of Workforce Transformation at Hubstaff, a time tracking software company said. “If those ideas exist in the core identity, then a conversation should be had about how to more effectively communicate these ideas, both to internal employees and to the customers that the business is trying to attract.”
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