Comments from two recently departed members of Boris Johnson’s team got us thinking about the fragility and importance of employer brand.
Former minister Johnny Mercer said the government was the “most distrustful, awful environment” he’d worked in and Dominic Cummings went further in his blog.
Putting aside any potential political damage that can be done by disparaging comments like these, it’s easy to imagine it might make civil servants and advisors think twice about working at No.10.
In our daily work we speak with and interview many leaders in industry and it is fascinating to hear about their experiences within different businesses. Some companies leave a lasting great impression and strong loyalty years after an individual has left, while others come across as basket cases.
All organisations, whether they realise it or not, have an employer brand. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development says “A strong employer brand helps businesses compete for the best talent and establish credibility,” adds the Institute. “It should connect with an organisation’s values and must run consistently through its approach to people management.”
If you want to get a snapshot of your own employer brand, you could try visiting glassdoor.co.uk and reading some of the reviews current and former employees have anonymously left you. Although there may be the odd vested interest and bitter swipe in there, you will probably see a pattern emerging in some of the views and experiences.
And you can be sure of one thing – whatever you are reading about your company or your competitors, jobseekers in your industry will be reading too. In the digital age, employer branding is everywhere and potential employees are seeking it out.
So, how can you improve your employer brand?
1. Honest Communication
It’s not just what you do as a leader but how you do it. To be respected and maintain strong employer branding it is critical to be seen as acting in an honest, transparent manner. If you are going to have to cut jobs or move offices, for example, then being open with people about these processes will go a long way in tempering the disquiet.
Quantity and quality of communication is a big factor in influencing employer branding. The tone and nature of communication in the current environment when staff are more remotely located is key and getting this right will do wonders for your employer brand.
Most large organisations have corporate values, but how many actually live by them day to day? If a company expresses itself to the world it is committed to sustainability, it will attract employees aligned with this outlook. If business leaders then take decisions contrary to that value, not only will they be seen as dishonest but they will be working against the desires of many of their staff, creating a double blow for employer brand.
People spend long hours among their colleagues in the workplace – whether that be on site, in a head office or more recently perhaps attending endless video meetings from their own home. Either way if employees don’t feel they can be themselves at work – then that can take a heavy toll and they will leave, making their feelings about the business known to others. To maintain a positive employer brand, it is vital to be truly open to all.
Fairness is a concept that runs throughout these tips as most people will come to terms with most things if they believe they are being treated fairly. Never is this more important than when it comes to money.
As long as employees can see that the salary and benefits they receive are reasonably equal to those given to others doing similar work both inside and outside their organisation, they are unlikely to moan too loudly about their employer. But word gets around and perceived injustice in this area can be far more costly to an organisation in the long run than a small pay rise. External benchmarking advice can really help if you aren’t sure what the market is paying.
In big organisations it is easy for individuals to feel lost. Does the meeting they have that day really have any impact on the end outcome?
If you can directly connect someone’s work to the organisation’s mission then you start to give them real purpose, which is a key driver for many in their job. They will then start to speak highly of the business and boost your employer brand.
From coaching through to training courses, job shadowing and clear routes for promotion, if you can find ways to keep employees engaged with their own development they will not only grow into more valuable employees, they will think more positively about you as an employer.
As well as looking to enhance the work that employees do in the future, another important facet of keeping them happy is to value the work they’ve already done. Praising people, giving out CEO awards and supporting entries into industry awards are all useful tools in boosting employer brand.
8. Maintaining Relationships
If you can look after someone while they’re with you, and critically treat them fairly when they leave, they can offer useful bridges into other organisations and become a real positive for your recruitment and retention in future.
But remember the dangers of employees scorned – once they leave, you can find yourself on the receiving end of damaging criticism. Just go back and look at Glassdoor.