Your Company Culture Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect — Just Authentic

Just over half of the companies surveyed in the 2014 Employer Branding Global Trends Survey stated that they had a clear employer branding strategy. With employer branding positively linked to employee retention and lower cost of hire, it’s surprising that more companies aren’t making an effort to articulate and implement a clear employer branding strategy. After all, many candidates have come to expect information about a company’s culture as they apply and interview for jobs.

Wendy Nolin, business and career coach at Change Agent Careers, advises her clients to clarify what they are looking for in a company culture before they apply so they know what to look out for when reviewing information, not to mention what questions to ask in the interview. “People will get their information anywhere they can,” she said, “but they are mostly limited to what’s on the corporate site, plus LinkedIn, published articles and review sites.”

For large global companies with career websites, established employer branding programs and rankings on best place to work lists, this is less of a problem. “But a lot of people don’t want to get lost in the shuffle at big companies,” said Nolin. “People who want to work at smaller companies where they can really stand out often have a hard time finding information.”

Terra Winston, principal at Interract Consulting, advises candidates to have conversations with current and former employees to verify and expand upon marketplace perceptions. “The things they want to know are: What type of people are successful here?  What is the work/life balance like? How hard is it to get promoted? Is it as cutthroat as I heard? Is it as collaborative as I heard? Is it as competitive as I heard? Is it as intense as I heard?”

This real-world information is important, Nolin said, because “there’s a good amount of skepticism. People know that information published on a company’s website is window covering.”

Authenticity is more than a buzzword in branding. It’s a necessity. “Anyone with experience knows the perfect environment doesn’t exist,” said Nolin. Balancing a positive employer brand with the reality of everyday workplace challenges can be tricky for some companies to convey on a careers page.

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While people on the outside may be more cynical, employees may not be aware of the deliberate efforts behind employer branding. According to Winston, “Employees often look at branding statements about the ‘experience of working here’ and compare it to their real life experiences.” A disconnect between messaging and experience can create cynicism among employees that will eventually trickle down to candidates.

As the marketplace becomes more competitive, employer differentiation also becomes more important. Winston takes the long view that interest in employer branding ebbs and flows with the job market in that industry.

“Right now there’s a shortage of software engineers and programmers, “ said Winston. “It’s not surprising to find that the larger tech companies are very interested in employer branding.”

How well does your company compare to your competitors, and who is doing it well? In the coming months we’ll provide more specific and actionable advice for evaluating the health of your employer brand.

Read part one of this ongoing series on employer branding.