It’s easy to forget that your Employment Brand matters. But it affects your overall brand perception significantly. How people perceive your organization as an employer affects staff morale, customer service, and your ability to achieve results. Companies like Walmart learned quickly back in 2005, when their poor healthcare coverage was revealed, that they ignored employee needs at the peril of their brand. In addition to health coverage, your employment brand includes policies like flex-time and maternity/paternity/parental care leave.
And the impact of the choices you make towards employees extends beyond them to their family members–your company’s extended family. I worked with a 50-year-old corporation on a branding and marketing project, and as part of the process polled and interviewed many of the staff. One of the founders shared his concern that the company was losing its reputation as family-friendly. He recalled how they used to invite families to an annual picnic, go to ballgames together, and invite the wives (back then!) to special company dinners and recognition events. He acknowledged the firm needed to find new ways to involve families. I pointed out the firm could become more family-friendly by also acknowledging its people needed time away from the company.
With a Blackberry in every pocket, setting boundaries that allow employees to have “off limits” time is difficult, but in my view essential to creating a positive employment brand. But let’s face it: when you burn people out, they don’t perform at their best for you or your customers. Calvert Investments has repeatedly won awards as a great place to work largely because it supports work-life balance and good health for its team. Some of their non-traditional benefits include paying 100% towards health club membership, paying 100% towards public transportation, helping employees pay for a bike or walking shoes if they use them to get to work, paid parental leave—to see school plays, chaperone a field trip, etc.
So what can you do to ensure that you create a culture of a great employer?
- Focus on your mission and let staff do the same. Empl0yees get very frustrated when they are side-tracked from job goals by things like excessive meetings or unproductive reviews.
- Offer routes to advancement and professional development. People need to feel they can improve and learn.
- Offer feedback loops. If staff get additional training or educational experiences, give them the opportunity to share back to the group.
- Consider non-traditional benefits that don’t cost a lot but encourage good behaviors–time to work out, time to volunteer in the community.
- Consider how much time “on” you are really expecting from employees and assess staffing. If you’re expecting one person to respond to customers 16 hours a day, that job probably needs to be split up among more people.
- Assess what flex-time and telecommuting options you can offer that reduce employee stress and time on crowded roads.
- Look at the companies that repeatedly win top employer awards and see how they have developed a positive employment culture
An often overlooked component of employment brand is the perception of your company from the outside–from those applying for jobs. A job applicant today could be a staff leader tomorrow. Or a customer. Or a donor or volunteer. Except when that person is completely turned off by your job application process. Today, job applicants are faced with a “buyer’s market.” So employers may think it’s acceptable to not be responsive to applicants. I have a friend who’s an executive and has been in the job market for many months and it’s shocking how many corporations have had high level managers interview her face to face as a finalist for a job, but then not made the effort to even send an email if she is not selected. Don’t think that I’m not influenced by this treatment when I consider doing business with these entities.
What should you consider about your job application process as it relates to your brand?
- Who is receiving applications and responding to applicants? This person is now the “face” of your organization. Make it clear they should be courteous and prompt in their responses.
- What is the process by which you notify applicants you have received their application? At a minimum, send applicants a brief, polite email acknowledging the application. This will save time and frustration handling phone calls.
- What is the timeline for your process? Let applicants know what to expect.
- If an applicant doesn’t succeed, you should notify them–again a brief email will do.
These aren’t difficult steps, but they can make a difference in how well your company competes in the marketplace–both for excellent employees and for satisfied customers.