How to Create an Employer Brand for Today and Tomorrow3 min read.
A strong employer brand should reflect the reality of how an organisation is, not merely what it wants to be. But it can also compel candidates with an aspirational vision of the future. Here’s how…
It's a myth that to be authentic, your employer brand strategy can't include aspects of aspiration. In fact, to be valuable, as well as true to your organisation, your employer brand must point to the aspiration of the future, while representing the reality of today.
There's an assumption by a lot of people, that aspiration creates a sunshine version of the truth, and glosses over everything that’s really happening within an organisation to the extent that it's not what you will eventually find in the workplace if you join.
There is a right way of doing things, and there's wrong way of doing things. That describes the wrong way.
But, as an example of how aspiration can align with the current reality of an organisation, what if a company were to aspire to be more innovative, for instance?
Supposing the stated aspiration was along the lines of “our business model means that it's essential for us to get more innovative, because we've got to come up with creative ways to solve for a set of tough problems. We're not there yet, but here’s what's going to happen over the next 12 months when it's going to be an innovative and exciting place to work.”
A statement like that builds a very tangible bridge between the reality of today and the aspiration of tomorrow, framing it in the context of why it's important to the company, providing validation; outlining a conviction to put resource and leadership behind it and being explicit with the impact new recruits can make, by helping it go from a place of reasonable innovation today to really strong innovation tomorrow.
It says to the candidate we need you to be part of that journey, and your contribution can make a real impact.
That can be an incredibly powerful story arc, positioning the team as the heroes in a journey that will see the organisation hit new levels of excellence and achievement.
It says, “you're not joining a company where it's all perfect, and your point of view, or contribution doesn't matter, you're joining a company with an inspirational direction of travel”.
Creating Employer Brand aspiration
When you talk about innovation, the sort of companies that immediately spring to mind are in the tech sector, where innovation is a standard USP.
But let's just say you're a health company, close to curing a particular aspect of cancer for example. It’s a very powerful statement to be able to say to your talent audience “the only way we're going to do that is if we can use your set of skills”.
Not only is that compelling in terms of impact, purpose and belonging but it’s a very brave position to take because you are revealing the vulnerability and weakness of the organisation, which is extremely authentic and compelling in itself.
A Give and Get like that offers a really exciting journey to the candidate from the reality of now to the exciting aspiration of tomorrow, and a purpose that would be hard to turn away from.
Three things that we often talk about are the leadership view, the employee view, and the market view.
So, using this healthcare branding as the example, the market view is that there still isn't a cure for cancer, the leadership view is that we are determined to get this cure for cancer, and the employee view is we haven't got a cure for cancer, we haven't got the resources, and we haven't got the technology, the capability, or the people. And all those things are true in this scenario.
But it is invigorating to hear leaders say “this is the direction we’re headed. We are achieving a lot with this small team and it's exciting to think how much we are going to achieve in the next five years”.
The challenge is the way. In other words, there are a lot of problems, but they are also the key to inspiring the team to move forward.
Aspirational Employer Branding
VCA Animal Hospitals is under massive pressure to do what it does, looking after animals, and it's a constant struggle, but it makes a significant impact in people's lives. Its Employer Brand is both in the now and aspirational in the way it talks about “taking care of the future of veterinary medicine” and asks candidates to be part of “The story we’re writing together”, telling them that ‘Power is in your hands”. It offers a direct and compelling challenge to those looking for it.
Robotic surgery specialist Intuitive’s Employer Branding is all about the inclusivity, the collaboration of the team, the dedication to innovation, and the motivation of the impact that they make. It’s perfectly aligned.
When the employer brand is aligned with the business properly, then you're telling the story of the people behind the brand, explaining the human impact behind the conviction, the purpose, the company, and the vision and offering a reason to become part of it.