“All it takes is a belief that people are fundamentally good,” says Google’s Laszlo Bock in his inside account of how Google and Googlers work. “And enough courage to treat your people like owners instead of machines. Machines do their jobs; owners do whatever is needed to make their companies and teams successful.”

From employer brands and employer value propositions to employee branding — we coin new terms every decade. Yet experience with hundreds of organisations concludes the obvious: everything boils down to the core ethos. The employer brand grows out of the established company brand.

Done right, employee branding is simply the outcome of a successful employer brand — employees internalise the brand and that means they’re willing to endorse the brand externally with both customers and prospective employees. Because outsiders are far more likely to trust an employee’s review of a company than corporate spiel. Consider this,

  • An employee gets 561% more brand engagement when sharing than when the same message gets shared by the company.
  • 41% of consumers believe reviews from employees are more credible than information from companies.
  • 65% of consumers say they are attracted to organisations that treat their employees well.

Getting Personal: How to Build Employee Advocacy

Top Down: Fix the value mismatch

Patty McCord helped shape the culture of freedom and responsibility at Netflix. She picks up on the conflict companies often face: the mismatch between the values they talk about, and the behaviours they actually model and encourage. And this begins with the senior leadership.

“I often sit in on company meetings to get a sense of how people operate,” Patty says. “I frequently see CEOs who are clearly winging it. They lack a real agenda. They’re working from slides that were obviously put together an hour before or were recycled from the previous round of meetings. Workers notice these things, and if they see a leader who’s not fully prepared and who relies on charm, IQ, and improvisation, it affects how they perform, too.

“It’s a waste of time to articulate ideas about values and culture if you don’t model and reward behaviour that aligns with those goals.”

Employee culture begins at the top, and how leaders act and communicate have an outsized influence on the brand. Fixing dissonance between projected values and reality lets employees know what behaviours they’re expected to bring in to work every day. And how they speak about their work to others.

2. Inside Out: Create a genuine culture and educate employees about it

Companies that succeed in building great and lasting employee brands tend to have a more holistic view of what makes their workplace: and it isn’t down to one department — recruitment or HR or wellness. They’re listening to their employees and leaning into the values that matter to them.

Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder didn’t write the employee brand book Let My People Go Surfing to boost social recruitment. Patagonia’s product innovation, stewardship, and an engaged and happy workforce (4% turnover for 3,000 employees worldwide) are all parts of one genuine goal: “Do well and do good.”

Virgin embraces it’s “serious fun” ethos by allowing employees to bring their personalities to work everyday, with front desk staff doing moonwalks while checking you in, or chefs incorporating their love of art into new dishes.

Once there’s a culture in place, communication and example are key. Internal messages and behaviour should clearly, frequently, and consistently convey the brand mission, values, and desired image.

Embrace Social Media Training — and leverage employee stories

An employer brand playbook comes in handy when working with fresh hires. To get everyone up to speed and on the same page, Hootsuite built an employer branding asset library with tags so people could search and share rich media assets. They ended up with a more consistent tone, clear brand themes, and a 50% increase in qualified applicants per job (with 43% stating the employer brand influenced their decision to apply).

    To boost employee presence on Social Media, Dell doesn’t enforce employee social branding, instead they offer social media and brand training. They gave their employees the tools needed to personally improve their social presence, while at the same time ensuring employee social profiles remained authentic and personal.

    Merck, Slack and countless others use the stories of their own employees as content pieces to engage with and attract talented people to the company. Rather than a stock “about us,” these stories expose candidates to the culture, values, and purpose of the company in powerful ways.

    In addition to ongoing training, a big part of employee branding success is down to making relevant and timely resources available to employees so they are able to engage and maintain their audiences.

    Prior to launching an employee branding program, it’s a good idea to have a few details in place

    — Identify brand champions across the business
    — Create a centralised, regularly populated portal of shareable material
    — Develop an online talent community to encourage engagement and employee referrals

    Then actively measure social engagement, social hires, and Glassdoor feedback to track impact. Plus, interview every new candidate on their experience, using the results to coach recruiters and hiring managers for the future.

    4. Think Beyond Glassdoor Reviews & Best Places to Work Lists

    It’s helps to proactively manage and monitor your employer brand, actively solicit reviews and referrals. But it’s equally important to listen to and address valuable employee feedback, provide accurate and specific job previews, and make the commitment to grow the organisation by selecting the right people for the job.

    Gathering feedback and evolving their workplace practices, the best are constantly evaluating the basics, and investing in the areas that will have the most impact — whether that’s through recruitment or ongoing support, creating employee culture by design, rather than default.

    It’s down to individual organisations to think about what they value in their best employees and translate these into the employer and employee brand values. There’s reason to blaze our own trails, thinking about what we want to live up to, rather than what we feel we should. And this means employee and brand values align quite naturally, without coercion.