My first experience with a major organizational challenge didn’t occur while working in a traditional corporate HR role. Rather, it was while I was deployed in Iraq as a company commander.
When my unit was converted to military police, we had to retrain everyone involved, reassign people to new roles, and reconfigure the entire organizational structure. After helping orchestrate this major change, I knew then that I wanted to shift to people operations.
I share this story because, today, as the vice president of people operations and care at UKG, I bring a unique perspective to employer branding — one informed by my military background. I recently sat down with my friend and colleague Jody Kaminsky, chief marketing officer at UKG, for a candid discussion about bringing out the humanity in your employer brand (you can watch our conversation here). Pat Wadors, chief people officer at UKG, also offers her insights.
One thing we all strongly agree on is that there’s an undeniable need to connect the organizational mission to the brand that’s projected to employees — if those two aspects of a brand are disconnected, it’s obvious to people both inside and outside the organization. It can cause more harm than good for current employees and potential talent alike.
Keep reading for more highlights and takeaways from our conversation on why employer branding matters more than ever in 2024.
Five best practices for building a strong employer brand
1. Understand why employer branding matters.
An employer brand is not only the public persona of an organization in the market but also the internal portrayal of an organization (projected through its unique culture) to its current and potential employees. Organizations must realize how powerful the connection between their external and internal brand is when it comes to measuring success. Everything that an organization does to build a great internal culture must be exhibited in its organizational brand, and authenticity is key.
A large part of branding strategy is the “employee value proposition.” In simple terms, it’s the part of an employer’s brand that represents everything it can offer to its current and future employees. This affects the way employees feel about their investment of time, energy, and effort into the organization they work for. They want to know that they’ll be sufficiently recognized and rewarded for their contributions and how those contributions influence what their organization is trying to achieve. The employer brand plays into the employee value proposition directly — there are countless studies that have shown how powerful a strong, interconnected culture and brand are, the presence of which leads to benefits like higher revenue and lower turnover.
2. Build your employer brand on authenticity and purpose.
Something I’ve learned from my experiences along the way is how important it is for organizations to remain authentic. But what exactly does that mean? To me, it means breaking down that wall between your organizational brand and your employer brand — in plain terms, remaining human. Not staged or always perfect, but instead, focusing on what makes your organization unique and developing real, deep connections with both employees and customers alike.
People crave that level of authenticity. They want to know that the way an organization portrays itself is how its employees actually feel about working there. With the internet at our fingertips, it’s never been easier to find anecdotes and reviews from current or past employees about the good, the bad, and the ugly of working at almost any organization you can think about.
3. Activate your employer brand.
How does an organization decide what their brand image will be? The most important part is coming up with a mission, vision, and values. Everything that your employees do will ultimately be in service of that mission. One of the best ways of creating an authentic brand is to ask your employees directly what they want from the organization. What do they care about the most? What do they love or not love about their work? I know firsthand that asking questions like these matters deeply. At UKG, we send out a twice-annual survey we call UKX (UKG Employee Experience). We read every single comment on these surveys. They provide an incredibly powerful glimpse into the individual experiences that every employee at UKG has, and we as leaders at UKG have implemented changes after every single survey we’ve sent out — helping us strive toward becoming the people-first brand that we want to be.
4. Bring your employer brand to life throughout the employee journey.
The employee value proposition is critical in every step of an employee’s journey. From the moment a potential candidate starts the interview process to their first day of work and all the way to their last, each interaction and experience they have is an opportunity to make your brand tangible.
I believe that the saying “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers” is very true. Good managers are an incredibly important part of leading by example via the mission and goals of every organization. I’ve seen firsthand at UKG the importance that’s placed on managers being tuned in to their employees’ needs — understanding their issues and supporting them through life events in a genuine way connects to our greater purpose of putting people first, always.
5. Collaborate with your business partners: HR and marketing.
HR and marketing working together just simply makes sense. Marketing can put into words what HR is trying to achieve, and the alignment of the two is where successful brands are born. I think the partnership of these two specialties is absolutely imperative to creating a cohesive brand, visible both internally to employees and externally to clients and potential customers. As the line blurs more and more between your employer brand and your organizational brand, looking at your overall talent strategy through the lens of marketing and HR as a symbiotic team is crucial to ensuring the sense of unity you’re trying to convey in every aspect of the business.
I truly believe that anyone can build a brand that people love working for and working with if they develop the right connections. Don’t just take it from me, though.
Check out the UKG Exclusive — In Focus: Bringing Out the Humanity in Your Employer Brand — and see for yourself why building a reputation of authenticity means breaking down the barriers between your employer brand and organizational brand.