How To Improve Your Reputation and Brand as an Employer

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Feb 4, 2020

New research is shifting priorities for many recruiting and hiring managers. Traditionally, the ‘end-game’ of talent attraction has been to improve employee engagement and retention, decrease lawsuits, grow revenue, and boost business health. But now, hundreds of industry-leading HR professionals are designing a different strategy, using talent attraction processes to improve not next quarter’s financials, but instead the enduring reputations of their companies’ brands.

The idea here is that long-term, a powerful brand lifts up every aspect of a company’s performance, both consumer-facing and employee-facing. Brands that people know and love organically attract talented people who work smarter and remain loyal longer. The question is, how can you redesign your hiring processes to build a more magnetic, more memorable, more effective brand?

Understand what drives effective branding

In a word, branding is about feelings. Great branding inspires a deep, emotional connection that transcends what’s being sold. People are attracted to brands that manage to affirm both who they are and also who they want to become. At the core of this emotional alchemy is a fundamental connection around core human values.

Values are strong beliefs about what’s most important in life. Each of us has a unique values system: a rank-ordered set of beliefs that guides how we think, act, and feel about our actions (and, of course, the actions of others). Today more than ever before, in order to grow and thrive, big brands are openly and vigorously leveraging the values they share with coveted stakeholders.

Your strongest approach to elevating the reputation of your company’s brand, then, is to restructure your talent attraction processes and programs around your brand’s core values (instead of around compensation, your benefits package, or any other carrot you may instead be leading with).

But wait. Avoid this common blind spot in values-driven branding

Before you begin embedding brand values more thoroughly into your recruiting and hiring filters, consider:

Do your brand and your company actually stand for the same values?

That is, are your consumer-facing values truly being lived inside your company in HR’s relationships with employees and potential employees? Many organizations keep a separate ‘set of books’ when it comes to values. Publicly, brands set out to stand for admirable ideals, causes, and issues. But in the day-to-day operations of the company, those aspirational, charitable values – even workplace values like integrity and respect – get forgotten and trampled on.

When values become nothing more than a marketing tool, their transformational power becomes diluted and even toxic. It’s no secret that today’s consumers, employees, and investors demand ever-increasing transparency and authenticity, and are more than willing to call out brands that fall short publicly.

Align brand and company values with an Organizational Constitution

In my experience, the most efficient and effective way for HR executives to align consumer-facing and employee-facing values – and prevent getting burned when embarrassingly public Glassdoor conversations daylight your company’s values misalignment and hypocrisy — is to engage in the process of crafting an Organizational Constitution.

An Organizational Constitution is a formal declaration of your company’s servant purpose, shared values, and valued behaviors, linked to your strategic vision and goals. The best documents are developed collaboratively and transparently within a thoughtful process that involves top executives, middle managers, and front-line employees.

Once created, your Organizational Constitution affirms the company that you are while also propelling you toward the company that you want to become. It’s a powerful tool that liberates employees to connect at a deeper, more human level, an outcome that, like great branding, sparks a genuine, emotional connection within and without. Top candidates will be attracted by the hard work you’ve put into creating a purposeful, positive, and productive place to work. And that’s just accounting for the word-of-mouth factor before you’ve redesigned your candidate outreach.

Leverage your values to drive strategic branding initiatives

Now you’re ready to leverage your shared values to drive strategic branding initiatives, beginning with your programs that are focused on recruiting and hiring. How do your organizational values give life to the highest ideals of your brand promise? Connect those dots, verbally and visually, through values-focused employee testimonials and consumer testimonials that mirror one another. Use your Organizational Constitution to lead a more holistic, genuine approach to talent attraction messaging.

Do these things, and you’ll gradually dissolve the barrier between the values of the people consuming your products and the values of the people making them. This is how fanatical tribes of fiercely loyal stakeholders get created; when products and job positions become less about features and benefits, and more about finally belonging somewhere with people who ‘get’ you and respect you.

Does this culture change process sound like a lot of work? It is. It’s also energy-intensive and can, at times, force people out of your company who are not aligned with the core values your brand must stand for to stay competitive. When I coach leaders like you through a process like this, I often call on my favorite Aristotle quote: “Well begun is half done.” A sound, more sustainable approach to increasing awareness of your brand in 2020 is focused on forging genuine values alignment within and with your company.

Are you concerned that your senior leadership team may not be on board with a culture change initiative? In my experience, you’re not alone in this worry. That said — also in my experience — it’s never too late to teach your seasoned managers new tricks.