Your Employment Brand: It Must Reflect What Your Workplace is About

If you work for a healthy, thriving organization, it’s likely that you can identify a consistent set of workplace values that are pretty much held in common by your workforce — or at least by your high-performing team members.

Doesn’t it make sense to base your recruitment branding initiatives on these proven and authentic attributes of your workplace, and on what it’s really like to work at your organization day-to-day?

It’s a relatively straightforward proposition to get a handle on what your team members value about their jobs and your company culture. So why do so many employers start at the other end of the brand continuum?

It’s not about best-places-to-work preferences

They seem to shape their employment promise around what their intuitions, or commonly held assumptions, or even hard research tells them are the leading ‘best-places-to-work’ preferences among the potential candidates in their industries. This is not nearly enough.

Certainly there’s a kernel of validity in this approach, descended as it is from consumer brand research. But centering your recruit engagement initiatives on this outward-looking approach may be putting too much reliance on blind faith. And it’s certainly more than a little risky to make it the lynchpin in your recruit brand strategy.

Why is it risky? Because everyday experience in your workplace may not correspond with the attributes you trumpet in your recruiting pitch.

If you’re experienced in the onboarding game, you know what can happen next, both with recruits who may feel duped into signing on, and with otherwise satisfied and productive team members, whose morale and commitment can be infected by disengaged newcomers, however short-term their tenures turn out to be.

Start close to home with your value proposition

In our view, it makes much more sense to base an employer brand on the demonstrated truths and shared values you uncover in your workplace. If you choose, you might shape and refine this organic brand promise after the fact with what you have learned from your research into the recruitment marketplace.

But the core of your recruitment brand should be true to your culture. By centering your employment value proposition on your enterprise’s “signature workplace experience” (in Tammy Erickson’s wonderfully apt phrase), you start with a creative thematic platform for engaging the kind of candidate most likely to succeed and thrive in your enterprise.

Executed skillfully, an “inside-out” employer brand will prompt optimally-desirable candidates in the talent marketplace to self-select. And, more than likely, to stay for the long haul.

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If you do this accurately, empathetically and creatively, you can craft a reliable thematic platform for engaging, recruiting and retaining productive and engaged team members. Tying retention into the equation introduces yet another invaluable dimension of this approach.

Your organic employment brand accurately expresses what it means to work at your enterprise as perceived by successful team members who live the experience every day. So why shouldn’t it figure prominently as the creative engine of your retention and organizational development programs as well?

A Talent Brand is more than a recruiting brand

Viewed from this perspective, what starts out as a theme for recruitment takes on a far more inclusive and organizationally significant coloration. That’s why a few commentators, myself among them, call this kind of human capital positioning “talent branding.”

Still, it’s important to remember this: to engage the right people with the right degree of resonance, an authentic talent brand has to entirely overleap the bland and lifeless formulas we often encounter in enterprise mission statements. It should not only capture the shared values and workplace experience of your enterprise in concrete, engaging terms; it should be capable of inspiring candidates outside the walls and current team members alike.

Most importantly, a sensitively-crafted talent brand should invoke the promise of belonging to a special group, the singularity and social engine of any successful brand today. It should do double duty as an outward-facing engagement platform and as an internal creative foundation for retention and a good deal more. Consider a talent brand’s relevance in employee orientation, training and development and inclusion programming, to name just a few human capital initiatives central to your organization’s health and continued prosperity.

So consider turning the telescope around and looking inside your enterprise first, and only then to the talent marketplace.

Bob Duffy is founder and principal at Insight Consulting, LLC, which specializes in corporate culture, research, and brand development. His teams have worked with the ITT Corporation, Verizon Communications, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Navy Recruitment Command, and the U.S. Army Reserve, among many others.

A committed advocate of brands based on shared values and substantive intellectual capital, he holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The Catholic University of America and the University of Maryland.