Culture session: the power of employer brand
Bringing brilliant people together is a great way to get to the heart of the challenges and opportunities businesses face. Our People Made Culture Sessions do exactly that.
For our latest event we welcomed three incredible culture leaders from very different backgrounds to talk about how candidates and employees navigate a complex landscape of product brands, business brands and employer brands.
Vik Gartside from PZ Cussons, Caroline Collins from Dr. Martens, and Sian Hall from Lithia all work in businesses famous for their iconic products. We were keen to understand how this affected perceptions and expectations, recruitment and talent strategy, and how it impacted employees’ sense of connection and belonging.
We were lucky enough to be joined by Charlie Cottrell, writer at our sister copywriting agency Stratton Craig, who kindly summarised three key takeaways from a fascinating evening.
1. Brand perceptions: external versus internal
Naturally, people outside a business – whether consumers or prospective employees – tend to judge a brand by its overall reputation in the marketplace. Where a brand wields significant cultural capital and evokes strong affinities in consumers, this connection and passion can be a real draw for talent.
However, it’s important for brands to recognise that the reasons people choose a product aren’t necessarily the same as their motivations for joining – and staying at – a business. New hires with a real passion for your brand make ideal brand ambassadors, but they will also be arriving with a preconceived idea of what the employee experience might look like. And this could cause friction if that experience doesn’t align with the real thing.
What’s important then, is for brands to articulate the reality of the employer brand from the outset. Every business will have commercial goals, and this can be jarring for people who are deeply invested in the brand's other priorities and core values. The sweet spot is for brands to harness the positive energy of these people by communicating with them honestly and authentically about the role they will play in the business reaching its goals – commercial and otherwise.
2. Stand by what you stand for
Businesses need to sell themselves to attract the best talent. But in doing so, it’s important they don’t sacrifice what makes their employer brand special. Sure, use the pulling power of a famous product to make your employee value proposition attractive – but have confidence in your employer identity too. In the same way a market-facing brand develops over time, an employer brand is on its own journey – and rowing back on this to get new people through the door can hinder progress.
Ultimately, it’s people who make a brand what it is, whether that be through their perceptions as consumers, or their actions as advocates. Defining an ever-evolving employer brand can be challenging – so it’s important to keep communicating with the people in your organisation about the employee experience. What do they think it’s like to work for your organisation? These sort of temperature checks can offer valuable insights into what makes your culture special and what may attract fresh talent.
This validated consensus could also give you the confidence to stick to your guns when faced with candidates who may not be a good fit culturally, even if they are passionate about the masterbrand and products. 
3. The brand tug of war
There’s no single way that people interact with a brand. While the overarching masterbrand will often be doing the heavy lifting on shaping public perceptions, don’t underestimate the impact that an employer brand can have on reputation. Remember that most people can name a brand that, for better or for worse, stands out for its internal culture.
Plus, it’s the employer brand that is out in the world engaging with talent. Whether prospects or candidates are familiar with the brand or not, their impressions from this experience will count, and they are likely to share them with others.
So just how important is an employer brand in shaping the public perception of a business – and how important should it be? Sometimes, there can be an internal battle between marketing and talent teams to ensure employer brand isn’t resigned to the back page of an employee handbook.
Working towards any sort of equilibrium can be challenging, but a strong purpose can serve as a north star for businesses. Even if this purpose isn’t shared with the wider world, it can manifest in the way a company markets itself. Equally, a strong purpose can guide the development of an employee value proposition and how it is communicated to talent. So, while it’s important for an employer brand not to lean too heavily on the master brand, a strong purpose can serve as a key link between the two. 
Finding the best and right talent is becoming increasingly challenging, so it’s vital your employer brand hits the mark. At People Made, we help businesses uncover insight and develop practical, strategic direction to help you find, attract and hold on to your people.
Want to learn more? Get in touch today: [email protected]