Employer branding is an important part of effective recruiting, but it can also play a powerful role in other phases of the employee life cycle.
"An employer brand impacts employee engagement the same way that a strong external brand impacts customer engagement," says Amber Hurdle, CEO of Amber Hurdle Consulting, a talent optimization firm. "When you're intentional about the environment you're creating and the experience employees can expect, it increases discretionary output."
Here's how boosting your internal employer brand increases engagement across the employee lifecycle.
Your employer brand should be aligned across the employee lifecycle. Disconnects between what you promise to candidates and actual employee experiences can quickly lead to disengagement. "You can't claim to have a positive culture and strong leadership and then expect people to come in and stay once they've found out those things don't exist," says Cara Silletto, president and chief retention officer at Magnet Culture and author of "Staying Power." "You've already broken their trust."
Your employer brand can't be a selling point in recruiting until you get it right internally, Silletto points out. Sometimes that means stepping back to re-evaluate what your brand actually is: your employees' day-to-day experiences.
"Identify where you want to be and compare it to where you are today," Silletto says. "Figure out what adjustments and changes you need to look at in order to facilitate that stronger brand." Anonymous surveys can help you figure out where you are and solicit input for changes. Getting employees involved and actually listening to their input is vital to increasing engagement. They live the brand; let them help author it.
Daily interactions between team members and leaders form a significant part of employee engagement and should be guided by your brand standards. For a starting point, look to your organization's marketing team, who is already equipped to align customer experiences with the overarching brand. They can share these valuable techniques with the employer brand, too, Silletto suggests.
In particular, Hurdle suggests, look at how the customer-facing brand sets and aligns service standards. Service standards sustain the brand that initially attracted customers throughout their entire lifecycle, and the same principle applies when dealing with human capital. HR can cascade the employer brand used for recruiting into consistent standards for direct managers to follow in day-to-day interactions with employees. "When you set those expectations, everyone can move in the same direction," Hurdle continues.
The employer brand should be present in routine interactions, including performance feedback conversations. If an employee is late to a shift, for example, direct managers can point to the value of trust and demonstrate how their actions impact other team members rather than just penalizing them for being late. The broader scope makes those experiences more meaningful and engages employees in a purpose beyond themselves.
Infuse employee experiences with your brand's mission, vision, values and service standards in everyday functioning — but don't stop there. Engagement relies on passion and enthusiasm for your organization's work and the experiences had along the way. "Your internal employee brand has to evoke emotion," Hurdle says. Evoke those feelings by sharing employee stories and celebrating moments when they live your brand.
As a starting point, conduct stay interviews. You conduct exit interviews all the time, so you probably have a good sense of what doesn't resonate with employees. "Engagement comes down to whether or not a person is proud to work there," Silletto says. Stay interviews flip the script and show you what they love about working at your organization.
And when employees live the brand in positive ways — like an employee volunteering to help a colleague meet a deadline — recognize them for it. "Collect and share the success stories," Silletto says. Share any recognition or awards with the whole company, and understand each employee's role in those successes.