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Employer branding: what you need to know

By Emma Tolhurst | Executive Director, Brand-led Employee Experience EMEA



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September 26, 2022 | 8 min read

What is an employer brand? Emma Tolhurst of Landor & Fitch answers the burning question, and advises how to show up for employees.

Pink and orange balloons with (mostly) smiley faces

Your employees are the truest reflection of your brand / Madison Oren via Unsplash

What makes a successful employer brand? This is the question most companies are asking today, particularly with ever-increasing demands for companies to provide meaningful work and improved working experiences.

As we know all too well, the pandemic added complexity to the workspace as we knew it. Employers were forced to think anew and embrace remote working while dialing up on a more parental role, where trust and duty of care became non-negotiable in their relationship with employees.

What is an employer brand, and why does it matter?

An employer brand is the realization of your brand through the lens of the employee experience. It is dependent on a solid value proposition which is clearly articulated and lived in the day-to-day. The brand itself must play a central role.

The ‘great reflection’ saw an upsurge in people leaving jobs as they paused to re-evaluate their work lives. Employees have raised their expectations and, subsequently, employers have had to rethink how they engage and reward them.

If employees feel valued, this will have a domino effect. They’ll not only deliver brilliant work, but they’ll naturally champion the brand as a result. Reports have found that employee experience can positively impact that of the customer. Still, many companies are yet to focus on how they can deliver a better employee experience.

Talent will inevitably leave, but it's key to ensure that those that do have a positive experience when they are with the company. These people will go on to be your brand influencers, potential clients, suppliers, or boomerangs. Leavers should be considered as important as those employees who stay.

Where to start?

With a great employer brand, leadership and operational decision makers put people at the center. The Lego Group's Leadership Playground is a great example: an inclusive model that ensures leadership responsbility is distributed and less hierarchial.

The Lego Group’s chief people officer and head of corporate affairs, Loren I. Shuster, said: ‘’Children are our role models due to their hands-on, minds-on approach to learning. This has inspired our approach to leadership and how we all play and get inspired in the Leadership Playground, just as kids do’’.

Incorporating your workforce into decision-making structures, and prioritizing their passions and needs, provides a greater opportunity to pursue personal goals within the walls of work.

When people join a company, it should be a mutual value exchange. It’s important to understand what will motivate individuals to ‘personalize’ the employer offer accordingly – whether through flexible benefits or inclusive working philosophy. Research shows that those who work at leading employee experience companies are more likely to surpass expectations, having a 40% higher level of discretionary effort.

At Landor & Fitch we have ‘The Good Squad’, a global community offering employees the opportunity to dedicate up to 10% of their annual time to sustainability and doing good in the context of their job. Initiatives like these enable employers to creatively engage with their team’s individual wants and interests to deliver a unique and differentiated experience.

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How your brand shows up in spaces and places

Designing your working spaces and places to reflect your employer brand is crucial. If people are only in the office one day a week, is the environment optimized to foster collaboration in ways that are specific and unique to your brand?

The brand experience should complement both peoples' and the business’ needs. This sat at the heart of Microsoft’s new APAC Headquarters in Singapore, an experience designed to bring the brand mission to life by leveraging Microsoft technology and encouraging collaboration and innovation in a way that is connected and intelligent.

Expectations have fundamentally shifted; online is just as important as the physical workspace. The challenge is to create a sense of belonging and emotional connection among a workforce that translates online and offline.

Technology is central to facilitating a sense of belonging, but also changing mindsets and equipping employees with what they need. Pragmatic approaches include things like reminding people to always add Teams links within invites and ensuring meeting spaces enable remote employee participation. These are now considered basic hygiene factors.

Transformational results

Transforming the employee experience is the task of the moment, but only those who approach it from a brand perspective will endure. Companies need to connect people with a coherent brand story, activated through design and visible at every touchpoint, ensuring people understand their role and how it contributes to brand purpose and business ambition.

Being a purpose-led employer brand and having a strong culture isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s essential. It’s the key to retaining and motivating your current workforce, as well as attracting the best future talent. As employees become increasingly discerning, the companies who cultivate a strong employer brand will be the ones who set themselves up for success.

Emma Tolhurst brings 20+ years experience working with clients to drive change and transformation within their organizations across retail, finance, energy, and the public sector.

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