In brand crafting exercises, there’s one incredibly important audience that tends to be forgotten: your own team.
That includes everyone from the C-suite down to your latest recruit, paid and voluntary roles, employees and contractors. And it includes both your current staff and people who may consider working for you in the future.
Your employer brand describes how you present yourself to your team and potential future team members. It’s the basis of your reputation as an employer. Like your wider brand, you can define and shape this perception through the way you communicate who you are.
Employer branding is in our DNA here at OXygen. We started life as the design and communications team for our sister company, Oxford HR, who recruit leaders into the for-purpose sector. So we know first-hand the power that a strong employer brand can have in attracting and retaining an impactful workforce.
Why employer branding matters
Inspire and motivate your team
Ultimately, your team members are the people who are most actively engaged in what you’re doing. They are deeply, personally invested in your success. And they have the power to make or break your mission through the way they perform their roles.
When your team is fired up about your mission, inspired by the possibilities, and they know that they are valued and supported, it creates an environment that fosters creativity, innovation, and commitment. In other words, they will bring their best ideas to the table and work hard to make them a reality.
Retain your best people and attract new staff
Who are your main competitors? As an employer, you’re also competing to retain and attract incredible staff.
People make decisions about whether to stay or go based on practical factors such as salary, location and travel requirements.
But more emotive factors also play an enormous role: how much they believe in your mission, want to be part of what you’re doing, and feel that their contribution is valued. We all know someone who has left a high-earning role in order to do something they believe in.
Being a great employer means getting both of these aspects right: treating your people well, but also helping them to see their part in achieving something bigger.
Build a powerful team of ambassadors
Your people are your greatest advocates out in the world. An inspired, motivated team member is the best salesperson you could ask for: they know your mission inside out, can communicate it compellingly across their own networks, and their opinion will be trusted by people outside your organisation.
When people move on from a role with you, they’ll continue to talk about their experience within your organisation. If they feel connected to your mission, they’ll continue to share their passion and enthusiasm with their own networks. And they’ll be highly likely to consider rejoining your team if the right opportunity comes up.
Even people who’ve only interacted briefly with your employer brand can become influential ambassadors. Whether someone has simply stumbled on a job ad or they’ve been interviewed for a role, there’s a valuable opportunity to present your brand in a way that inspires support and enthusiasm.
Crafting a strong employer brand: where to begin
Build a compelling narrative around your work
As a for-purpose brand, you already have a clear sense of what you are doing and why it matters.
But don’t assume that your team knows and understands that.
To help build a sense of purpose, you need to be regularly and clearly communicating what your mission is and how their work moves that mission forward.
A few key tools can help with this:
- clearly stating your mission and vision (and relating everything you do back to those)
- defining your values, and making sure that your choices as an employer and more widely reflect those values
- telling your brand’s story: this could include revisiting your founder’s story, why your organisation was started and formative moments that shaped your mission
- sharing and celebrating recent wins that help your people see what they are achieving in the here and now
Consider your internal communications
It can be tempting to put less effort into internal communications because at face value, they are just that: communicating information that your team need to do their jobs. At the same time, perfunctory communications can make people feel that their contribution isn’t valued and dampen enthusiasm.
As your brand grows, there will be less direct interactions between different teams or between the leadership and staff on the ground. Internal communications are a key tool to maintain a shared narrative and sense of purpose.
Here are some questions to ask:
- are you regularly communicating how current initiatives fit into your bigger purpose?
- are you celebrating the contributions of individual staff – both those working on less glamourous, back-office tasks, and those achieving big wins on the frontline?
- are you building connection between key decision-makers and the staff who need to enact those decisions (for instance, with a regular message from the CEO to staff)?
Some of the internal channels you can use for this are:
- email updates to staff
- staff handbooks or training materials
- visual reminders such as office decor or branded stationery
Be authentic in your external marketing
External marketing is primarily directed at your wider audiences. But it’s also visible to your team. If the messages your team receive internally don’t match up to the ones you’re sharing publicly, it undermines trust and credibility.
As a for-purpose organisation, this shouldn’t be a challenge, since the reasons you’re asking your customers or supporters to back your cause are the same reasons you’re asking your team to step up.
Alongside this, external marketing is likely to be the first exposure that potential employees have with your brand.
Keep a critical eye on external communications to make sure they’re positive and relevant to current and potential team members, too.
Don’t cut corners on recruitment materials
Whether or not they’re familiar with your wider brand, recruitment materials are the first place potential staff get an impression of what you’re like as an employer. A well thought-out, well presented job description shows that you value your staff and understand the contribution they will make to your mission.
They’re also a great tool to help applicants self-select based on whether they align with your goals. As a for-purpose brand, you want to bring on staff who believe in what you’re doing.
Making your purpose clear at this initial stage can filter out applicants who don’t find your work compelling, and draw in people who are closely aligned with your values – even if they wouldn’t consider applying based on salary or location alone.
Building a strong employer brand – one that communicates your mission to current and future team members, and builds your reputation as a great employer – is key to building a coherent, committed and motivated team.
Clearly defining your purpose and relating your work back to it in both external and internal communications is one of the most powerful ways you can motivate and build up your team.
If your organisation has any employer branding needs that OXygen could help with, feel free to get in touch with Suzie Mills at email@example.com.
Suzie Mills – Managing Director
Suzie joined the Oxford HR Group in January 2019 as Communications Director. She holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism from Cardiff University and has worked in Marketing for over 15 years.Prior to working for the Oxford HR Group, Suzie has developed through the line advertising campaigns and worked on the global strategies for companies such P&G, Nissan, Delta Airlines, Barclays, COI, World Horse Welfare, Vodafone and VTECH. Suzie is particularly interested in how technology and digital innovation can contribute to the global UN goal of ending hunger and poverty by 2030.
Suzie has previously been a Trustee on the Board of the charity CMV Action, endeavouring to support awareness and fund vaccine research for this virus.