OP-ED: A company’s greatest asset: the what, why and how of employee branding

OP-ED: A company’s greatest asset: the what, why and how of employee branding

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — You know how there are brands and then there are brands? Thinking about some of the world’s most successful companies — Google, Apple, Microsoft, Starbucks, Netflix — it might be difficult to find loads of commonalities among them. But something all those companies do well, and something that plays a key role in their success, is their employee branding.

Royann Dean

There’s no denying that a good product and access to resources are key components of building a top-performing brand. But the best branding — defining a company’s identity to the world so that it’s easily recognizable and its values and associations are clear — is also built on a strong employee brand.

Employee branding is all about companies using their core values to build the right experience for employees, one that helps to attract the best talent, fosters a positive relationship with employees and inspires them to function as effective brand ambassadors. Employee branding is also an important part of establishing an external reputation as a brand that is authentic, caring and committed to its core values. People are more likely to connect with and support brands that treat their people well. And employees who are content are more likely to provide better service and bring in more business.

A good and effective employee brand can help to attract and retain top talent, improve employee engagement and productivity, and enhance the overall reputation and credibility of a brand. When employees are proud of their employer and feel connected to the company’s mission and values, they are more likely to go above and beyond in their roles and become advocates for the company to both customers and potential employees. A strong employee brand can also help to differentiate a company from its competitors in the job market and can lead to positive word-of-mouth and social media promotion. And all of this impacts the bottom line, helping to drive sales and growth, because, ultimately, people want to work for and spend their money with brands that treat people well.

A company can build an employee brand by taking a strategic and holistic approach that focuses on several key areas:

1. Develop a clear and compelling employer brand – Define the company’s unique value proposition and communicate it to both current and potential employees. This includes highlighting the company’s mission, values, and culture.

2. Communicate consistently – Ensure that all internal and external communications, including job postings, social media, and employee communications, are consistent and aligned with the employee brand.

3. Create a positive employee experience – Invest in programs and initiatives that support employee well-being and development, and create a positive and inclusive work environment.

4. Encourage employee engagement and advocacy – Create opportunities for employees to share their experiences, feedback and ideas, and empower them to be brand ambassadors.

5. Measure and track success – Regularly measure the effectiveness of the employee brand, gather feedback and make adjustments as necessary.

6. Align with the customer brand – The employee brand should be an extension of the customer brand, and it should align with the overall strategy and messaging of the company.

7. Lead by example – The leadership should be the embodiment of the company’s values and culture, and lead by example to ensure that the employee brand is consistent throughout the organization.

8. Actions speak louder than words – Leaders who are in tune with their brands’ core values are vital to the employee brand.

Remember a few months ago when Elon Musk bought Twitter, laid off thousands of employees and told the remaining few that they would be expected to work excessive hours? Yeah, it didn’t go so well. Fewer than half the remaining employees chose to remain with Twitter. Long regarded as a safe and inclusive space on the internet, Twitter’s trajectory since Musk’s takeover has been turbulent and marred by controversy. While Musk still owns and remains at the helm of the social media platform, its employee brand — and the brand in general, by extension — has suffered greatly in recent months. And so has Twitter’s valuation. And what’s worse? The reputational damage Musk attracted as a result of the Twitter chaos has also had negative implications for Tesla, the brand that skyrocketed Musk to his household name status in the first place.

The reputation of an individual leader can make or break a brand. There’s no separating Tesla from Musk, no separating Facebook from Mark Zuckerberg, no separating Microsoft from Bill Gates, and the list goes on. These leaders are the faces of their brands, representing them in the media and other presentations to the public, and their companies’ reputations are deeply intertwined with their personal ones. 

So, it’s essential that people in leadership roles within companies ensure they’re living the corporate values.

One of search-giant Google’s offices.

Google — a leader in employee branding

Tech companies have in many ways led the way in transforming workplaces across the globe as it relates to valuing employees. From salaries to benefits, dynamic workspaces, and remote work opportunities (even pre-COVID), Silicon Valley’s innovation hasn’t only been digital.

So, it’s no surprise that Google, one of the longstanding leaders in tech, has almost become synonymous with the idea of employee branding. With just 0.2 percent of applications to Google resulting in a hire, the company has an acceptance rate that’s lower than Harvard, M.I.T., Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge — so pretty much anywhere. It’s the company everyone wants to work for. But why?

Google’s attention to employee satisfaction has been top-notch for years. And there’s no denying that salary is a factor in employee satisfaction. Google knows this, and it’s known for paying well.

But it’s not just about the money. Google has developed a distinctive work culture — known for being both accommodating and fun for its employees. Work-life balance is something the company tries to encourage from the inside out, from free meals to in-office gyms, daycare facilities, nap pods, and video games, Google’s offices are designed to be about more than just sitting at a desk.

And Google believes that the right company culture, one that’s not overly formal, is ultimately best for its bottom line. One of its core values states, “You can be serious without a suit.” It notes that the brand was founded on the belief that work should be challenging, but also fun.

“There is an emphasis on team achievements and pride in individual accomplishments that contribute to our overall success,” Google says.

“We put great stock in our employees–energetic, passionate people from diverse backgrounds with creative approaches to work, play, and life. Our atmosphere may be casual, but as new ideas emerge in a café line, at a team meeting or at the gym, they are traded, tested, and put into practice with dizzying speed–and they may be the launch pad for a new project destined for worldwide use.”

Like Google, we believe that the right work culture and employee branding encourage creativity, inspires loyalty, and, ultimately, drive success, as customers see the impacts that happy and fulfilled employees can have on a brand.

Royann Dean is the managing director of ONWRD Advisors, a digital solutions, communications and design agency in Nassau.