How to Build an Employer Brand That Extends Beyond Recruiting

If you’ve been on on LinkedIn, perhaps you’ve seen the text image of following conversation:

CFO to CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave the company?”

CEO to CFO: “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”

This profound observation speaks directly to the value of company culture and employer branding that each HR manager seeks to develop within an organization. But when such proactive steps mean added expenses with no contractual guarantee that employees will provide a return that investment, it can be a hard sell to your CEO or board.

If you want to provide the best product or service, you must recruit the best employees. And the only way you can do so is to create an environment so engaging, attractive and aligned with the employee’s personal interests that the right people fight to join your company and sustain your culture. It’s time to connect the dots between productivity, growth, company culture and employer brand.

How to Go Further With Company Culture

We’ve already written about how you can tweak your office environment, onboarding process and company branding to be more appealing to candidates. We’ve also outlined several steps you can take to evaluate your current employer branding and create a plan that speaks to your candidates. Now it’s time to put a plan in place that will help you take control of both.

Organizations are constantly striving to influence the external perception of corporate identity and company culture. EMC Corp., recently profiled in Forbes, is a great example of a company that actively pursues a positive employer brand. The common theme among companies with attractive company cultures and positive employer brands is that these achievements are no accident. If you aren’t actively crafting your employer brand and company culture there is little chance that either will accurately reflect what your company is doing.

Here are three ways that you can shape the vital building blocks of company culture and employer brand:

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Engaged and satisfied employees are brilliant billboards for your company culture and employer brand. These employees are valuable assets that will spread a positive word of mouth and attract more like-minded fans of your company culture. Low morale, on the other hand, is almost immediately obvious; tired, impatient coworkers who avoid eye contact will speak volumes to your prospective hires.

Address low morale problems by actively identifying and stopping up the “leaks” in your environment. Low morale can be the result of a chronic lack of trust, respect, responsibility, appreciation or even bullying. Employees also may feel underutilized or marginalized by management. The way to improve morale is to identify the particular source of distress in your environment and address it head on in a manner appropriate for your workplace and the needs of your employees.

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Employee retention is an important indicator of cultural health within your company. Just consider the CEO’s response to the CFO from the introductory quote. The more you invest and give to your employees, the more loyalty and drive they will feel to return that investment to your company. And if you let your employees stagnate? You’ll find out that high retention isn’t always the goal. It is possible to have very low employee morale and very high employee retention if your low-achieving, negative employees decide to stick around and bring your morale, culture and productivity down with them.

If your low-performing employees are comfortable with the status quo, then the status quo needs to change. It’s time to zero in on key points of the development of company culture such as performance reviews and employee anniversaries, which is when you can address employee concerns before they become big problems. Open yourself up to constructive criticism by accepting feedback from the exit interview process and actually implementing the ideas that come from them. The employee leaving has nothing to lose by being honest.. And as former employees continue to network with current employees, the appeal to leave the company may grow if you do not address any of those concerns.

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Speaking of stagnating, a key factor in encouraging growth and talent in your current employees is to create an environment that is conducive to professional development. Grooming your employees to be their best selves will create a company made up of informed, talented and productive individuals who produce creative and innovative ideas and solutions for your customers and clients.

Your typical professional development opportunities include an annual development budget for individual employees and an overall effort to sponsor development events throughout the year. But even if this process looks good on paper, it can often be overlooked in an environment filled with important deadlines and other priorities. A truly development-friendly company culture will keep professional development at the forefront of everyone’s mind and provide the time and space to make the most of these opportunities. In some organizations this takes the form of daily “off time” for pursuing hobbies and interests that might relate back to an employee’s work. Google and SAS are two companies noted for providing this kind of professional development, freedom and support.

At its heart, company culture results from the relationships that exist within your organization that are then passed on to others through social media, interpersonal relationships and word-of-mouth reputation. Breaking down this process into the building blocks of company culture can help HR managers achieve deeper control over their employer brand and a more desirable company culture.