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How to Leverage Aspiration in Employer Branding

2 min read.



Employer Branding

How do you include an aspiration in your employer brand that will drive your organisation forward, while remaining true to its current reality?

Let me give you a quick example.

We worked with VF Corp a while back - that's the organisation behind Vans, The North Face, Timberland, Supreme - and one of the themes that we found through our research was that everybody was nice and polite, and there was an amazing sense of camaraderie, teamwork, positivity, ethics and integrity.

Nobody had sharp elbows; the prickly types just didn't last.

And that was a recurring theme whether it was employees in a manufacturing plant, a retail store, head office or marketing and finance. It was fascinating and remarkably consistent.

However, what was abundantly clear from the feedback from across the business was, there was a sense of being too nice, to the point where people didn't want to disagree.

There was a lack of challenge that delayed decision-making because people didn't want to be seen to be too assertive or aggressive.

Since successful businesses are built on effective decision-making, VF’s kind passivity was holding it back.

The solution

So, our challenge was to devise a way to highlight VF’s culture, while setting it up for a shift towards what was conducive for the business to move forwards.

What we ended up with was a pillar built around ‘radical candour’. It said, holding people to compassionate accountability is part of our employer brand, and it’s going to help us solve for something that is universally showing up across the organisation.

It allowed VF to tell the story: “We are staunchly proud of our culture, of how supportive, positive and inclusive we are, but we're going on a journey to compassionate accountability and radical candour. That means we give you permission, to give honest (but compassionate) feedback for the good of you, the team and the wider business.”

That was the start of a transformational change across the organisation in line with something the leaders recognised needed to change, but it was anchored in the present reality.

So that's just one theme of the VF solution that was universally recognised. It was effective because it maintained what people valued about part of the culture, while moving the organisation forward to a better future.

Key takeaway: Balance aspiration with authenticity by finding the overlap between what the CEO wants from the culture and what employees want, and expect.

It may not be your job to manage organisational change, but you can still cultivate a proposition that equips the organisation to go on that journey.


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