FROM THE DESK OF EMMAJANE — Walking into a friend’s workplace recently, nothing hit me harder than then dark grey, medium grey and medium-light grey walls and carpets. Many of the employees were wearing grey too.
My friend is a cheery and jokey sort and has a disposition so different to her mother’s, the nature/nurture debate beckons every time I see her.
“We had to tidy up our desks the other day”, she said as she gathers her things from her desk. “Management thought all the pictures of pets and family made the place look a bit messy.”
Words like ‘exciting’, ‘fun’, ‘family’, ‘ambitious’ and lots of other lovely sounding words appear on the company Intranet and website. The brand itself has a colourful logo. The recruitment advertising (so I hear) is colourful and has lovely, smiley people in it.
The problem is that the external employer brand hasn’t been translated at all internally. So the employee brand is off key the minute an employee sits at their desk.
There’s nothing around the place that tells you where you are. You might as well be in one of their competitor’s offices. The company values contradict the behaviours going on. Companies that do this well, are often incredibly successful. No employee at Google thinks they’re working for Facebook when they’re at the Googleplex.
If they’re employing talent like my good friend – then all the processes and initiatives around attracting the best people are obviously working. But keeping the talent and impressing other people is equally as important. People like me, (the visitor), customers, shareholders and even ex-employees – we can all smell false wallpaper immediately. All of us form an opinion of that brand. Brands can look great on the surface – but scratch one inch below and you’re a bit disappointed. The employer brand has to be built inside out.
Granted, hints and tips from Elle Decoration aren’t going to improve your employer brand overnight. It takes good internal communication, a sound employee proposition, reward and recognition, training, learning and development and so on. But as a starting point, employee brand opinion is very emotional and people need to feel part of something, regardless of whether they are the employee or consumer. Building a brand on wholesome common purposes and values is a great start. People just need to see them for themselves and believe in it too.
Management have to take the words a brand is built on and make them real inside. Only then can they be valid, sincere and actually true.
[Emmajane Johnson is a consultant at Able and How.]