Labour shortages were already a problem pre-pandemic. Since then, everything has just been amplified. In a recent study by the BDC – Business Development Bank of Canada, 55% of Canadian entrepreneurs are having difficulty hiring employees, while 26% are struggling with retaining their talent.
This has had a snowball effect for business across sectors, including order fulfillment issues, overtime, burnouts, limited growth, eroded margins, and overall inefficiency.
So why, when all this is at stake, should we be considering our Employer Brand?
Because just like an iceberg, 90% of the brand lives hidden, underwater – or at least internally. And this is precisely where the opportunity lies.
Our external world is a mere reflection of our internal world
Employer branding is all about the internal processes, quirks, and rituals that align and empower employees to deliver a specific customer experience in a consistent fashion.
Internal branding plays a crucial role in the successful implementation of business strategy. An organization’s most powerful way of delivering a defined brand experience is through the active role its employees play by delivering on the brand promise. This brings longevity and executability to a business strategy, enabling business plans to be achieved. So, to put things into perspective – ignore internal branding and the foundation of your iceberg melts away every day.
IF INTERNAL BRANDING IS ALL ABOUT EMPLOYEE BUY-IN, WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Having researched studies from human resource professionals, it became apparent that three elements are fundamental to the success of an employee internal branding strategy and implementation. These are:
- Pride/confidence – Creating or sustaining a sense of pride in the company.
- Reward/recognition – Developing employee reward and recognition systems that are directly connected to the brand promise or values.
- (c) Consistency – Consistently supporting the culture, human resources programs and processes over time.
PLACING MORE VALUE ON VALUES
The foundation of brand is directly correlated to the set of values with which it is associated. The closer everyone across the organization is to its values, the faster its brand equity is built across the community, both internally and eternally.
Some values may include:
|– Integrity||– Passion||– Loyalty|
|– Respect||– Determination||– Mastery|
|– Diversity||– Accountability||– Innovation|
|– Creativity||– Commitment||– Responsibility|
|– Team work||– Optimism||– Freedom|
|– Excellence||– Empathy||– Growth|
Which reflect your company the most? Have these values ever gone further than merely being posted in the lunchroom or job postings?
The manner in which the values are developed is key, as is the manner in which they are brought to life in daily operations.
So, how are values developed and sustained?
These 5 steps will help you, regardless of your sector of activity.
STEP 1 : THE QUEST FOR MEANING
This initial reflection typically involves looking both inside, and out. It includes competitive analysis and external research, review of best practices, discussions on internal processes, mapping employees’ experiences, conducting focus groups with employees, clients, non-clients or suppliers.
A Brand Audit is an efficient way to drill down to the deeper meaning of who you are, and how you position yourself as a company. If you have the internal resources to lead this type of discovery session, ensure they include questions such as:
- “Who are we?”
- “What do we do?”
- “What problem do we help solve?”
- “How do we create change?”
- “How do we operate?”
- “What does success mean to us?”
- “How do we offer different value from the competition?
STEP 2 : WHAT GETS MEASURED, GETS MANAGED
This step involves the development of KPIs, key drivers, or metrics and the identification of gaps between best practices and internal practices. Celebrating successes as well as failures creates more clarity on what is expected, but also denotes an environment that supports taking initiative.
Two different aspects of measurement are: 1- the resources allocated to internal branding efforts and the – return on those resources; 2- the measures of how effective these internal brand initiatives are in changing employee or C-suite behaviour, as well as creating more positive customer impact.
STEP 3 : ALIGNMENT WITH THE BRAND
This step essentially aligns the values into over-arching themes, putting them through the corporate brand filter. Are the values skewed in too much of one direction? Do they support the company’s strategic or financial goals? Are they relevant across departments?
Building a unique and aligned culture goes beyond internal aspirations. Companies that do this well are able to clearly identify a desired brand identity, which is at the crossroads of how you want your organization to be perceived and experienced by customers and other external stakeholders – and how it actually is. If your company culture is aligned and integrated with that identity, your employees are more likely to make decisions and take actions that deliver on your brand promise.
It takes some effort and dedication to make this culture-brand connection. Creating change often comes with push-back because employees have been accustomed to doing it another way for so many years. Or perhaps upper management has recently changed, and they come with new goals and strategies that differ from past leaders. For younger companies, there often is too much openness to try whatever works, which also impacts the synergy between culture and brand.
You can start by considering the different types of brand identities and where your company fits. Brand types are categories of brands that share the same strategic approach or take similar stances to shape their competitive positioning.
The most efficient way to determine these identities is through Brand Archetypes, or personas which classify brands according to classic storytelling character types such as the Hero, the Jester, and the Sage. This is important because Brand Archetypes give direction to the narrative and tone of voice. This can be used in advertising campaigns and other communications, both internal and external.
STEP 4 : VERBALIZING THE VISION
To make the vision come to life, everyone must be able to see it and understand it. This development of concrete behaviour to be associated with the values, on-going communication messaging and channels, the implementation of measurement process, and rollout plans – are all effective ways to solidify the brand vision.
Recognizing and rewarding the right behaviours, whether officially during yearly performance reviews, or unofficially, in the lunch room, also goes a long way.
STEP 5 : WALKING THE TALK
To keep the vision thriving, everyone must embody it. The development of workshops, trainings, team building days and maintenance programs are all initiatives that help drive that message through experience.
Apart from training programs specifically designed around imparting internal brand values and desired behaviours, companies must ensure that management demonstrates the company culture in all their interactions. A recent Canadian Marketing Association survey showed that only 22% of employees surveyed strongly agree with the statement: management ‘walks the talk’ with respect to brand values. This is evidence that example needs to be cascaded down.
Internal branding is truly a cross-functional practice. The ability to create a strong employer brand is a shared responsibility and an on-going journey.
We see three trends becoming stronger in the immediate future:
- Management is expected to walk their own talk
- Co-creation of branding makes everyone more involved
- Social responsibility is not just a buzz word anymore. A Bank of Nova Scotia study discovered that 61% of Canadians would change their job if their employer demonstrated poor corporate social responsibility practices
So, if anyone asks “why does company culture matter?” send them this article and have them truthfully ask themselves if it’s time to rethink their employer brand.