6 minute read

Bold employer branding tips

With multiple industries facing a talent crunch in a challenging economic period, now is not the time to be restrained by your master brand guidelines when designing or updating your employer brand. Principals’ Jodine Bell explains.

If ever there was a year to have a bold employer brand, this is it. With the focus firmly on employees and the employee experience, now is the time to take an objective and open-minded look at your internalfacing brand to see whether it is working in your organisation’s favour, specifically for existing staff and potential new joiners.

The bigger picture

Let’s step back for a second and define what we mean by an employer brand. We’re all familiar with external branding. That’s the face of an organisation the world sees. From a design perspective, it includes the logo, the colour palette and distinctive brand assets, such as graphic devices, strap lines and the tone of voice.

An employer brand is an extension of this external brand, but it has several roles to fulfil that the external brand does not. It needs to speak to the organisation’s culture, the way teams see the business and how it operates. If it’s done well, it will inspire and motivate existing employees while exciting and enticing new recruits. The two aspects of your brand should have common elements; however, the employer brand needs to do some heavy lifting in the areas where the external brand does not. This gives you scope to have fun and break away from your established brand guidelines.

The proposition

For a start, any employer brand needs a concise umbrella promise, positioning, story and values, like Vodafone’s – now One New Zealand ‘Freedom’ employer value proposition (EVP). This was developed by working with the company’s people and culture team and facilitating staff workshops to explore why people like working for the organisation. The result is flexible ‘freedom’ messaging and an EVP platform and identity: freedom to design your career, to have autonomy and ownership of exciting projects, to work flexibly and remotely, to have a good work–life balance, to pick the kids up from school, for example. With numerous industries currently experiencing talent shortages, there is an increased focus on the employee experience, with firms able to lure great talent with the promise of a better culture.

The New Zealand government is working to combat the shortages by doubling the working holiday intake and fast-tracking permanent residency for temporary migrant workers. But this will take time to kick in as the impact of limited migration and COVID-19 continue to bite.

In the meantime, the employer brand is a powerful tool to help businesses retain and attract staff.

Case in point is the successful Fulton Hogan ‘Good Work’ EVP that appeals to a range of staff from road workers to senior executives. Fulton Hogan is an 80-year-old, multibillion dollar, still family owned and values-based company with 8,000 staff across Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and Fiji. ‘Good Work’ was developed after 22 workshops with everyone from teams in Townsville to highway maintenance crews in Dunedin and Central Otago.

Create security

If you want to compete in this climate, you’ll need to consider how your organisation can stand out. Companies that don’t respond to this moment risk not having an impact or, worse, getting left behind.

During economic uncertainty, job insecurity and financial stress can also affect employee engagement with a brand. This can be mitigated through your employer brand. Put it to good work by promoting open and transparent communication. Encourage everyone to participate in innovative thinking on business growth and cost savings. Offer support and resources to manage financial stress. Recognise and reward employees for their contributions, and provide opportunities for professional development and career growth.

Additionally, companies should remember to create a positive company culture and emphasise the mission and values of the brand to foster a sense of belonging and purpose for employees. It’s obvious but when times are tough it’s easy to forget.

Pump up the volume

With everyone taking stock, consider how you can make your employer brand convey high energy. Make it friendly, lively and reflective of the space, place and culture people want to work in. It is particularly important for businesses that are also looking to get people back into the office post-COVID-19 lockdowns. You want your people to view a workplace as an extension of their lives rather than something they don’t enjoy, and your employer brand is the perfect way to make that happen.

Looking at the challenge through a design lens, there’s the opportunity to step away from your day-today brand feel and main brand guidelines to create an expression that opens up the appeal of working with you. Get more creative and playful with how your brand can function.

Remember, you’re not talking to clients. You’re talking to your people. You want these to convey the ethos of your brand to others. By making it interesting, inspiring and fun for them, they’ll be happy to imbue your EVP and values in their interactions with each other and customers. The same goes for applicants and potential staff. Word of mouth is recruitment’s holy grail. Even if they don’t join you, if you’ve clearly articulated and expressed what you’re all about and why you’re a good employer, it will get out and about. Like good gossip about a good restaurant.

It’s okay to differentiate and be more real. And talk to your employees about the power of employer branding. The caveat, of course, is that you need to be a good employer with a healthy culture. But if they’re happy, your people’s voices will help you to attract and retain more talent.

The talent squeeze is far from over, and an employer brand is a tool you have at your disposal to get your organisation through. So why not go bold – what have you got to lose?

Employer branding is critical to any organisation’s recruitment and retention strategies. Tips to consider when enhancing your employer brand.

• Clearly define your organisation’s values and mission – ask your teams for input.

• Ensure your recruitment process is transparent and job adverts accurately reflect your company’s values and culture.

• Invest in your current employees: how is every employee’s work meaningful and competitively compensated? What learning and development opportunities are there? Is the working environment inclusive and supportive?

• Work with your marketing team on employer brand consistency across all channels – website, social media, brochures and so on.

Jodene Bell is the Creative Director of brand agency Principals in Auckland. Jodine’s career has gone from strength to strength from the early days of digital design to packaging and brand. She’s developing a team and culture with Principals that is creating amazing design work for small business and large corporates both locally and across the ditch. To find out more, visit principalsbrand.co.nz