It’s not the “Brand” – it’s the “Experience”

pinocchioWe can talk all day about employer branding – and we often do.

My friend Lars Schmidt has a definition that I like (and shamelessly use): “Your employer brand, at its core, is the shared values and employee experiences of your organization.”

The important part of that definition, in my estimation, is “employee experiences;” the most critical and often over-looked part of the equation.

Branding is often the sparkly part of HR; there are keynote speakers talking about it, talent acquisition experts are put in charge of Employer Branding departments, and loyal devotees act like evangelical preachers as they roll out EB initiatives in company-after-company. Pretty fun, I imagine, when one’s organization exists to sell technology or entertainment or trendy hipster-friendly fashion. Not as exciting when one is manufacturing cancer-causing chemicals or running a for-profit prison because the department of corrections has been outsourced by the local government.

Of course it’s easier to promote the brand at the beginning stages of the employee life cycle – Join us! Here are our values! See how we fly every employee to Cancun for onboarding!

But the depth and breadth of the employee experience includes environment and supervisors and coworkers. It includes the fact that passive-aggressive employees have been allowed to create internal fiefdoms and exert ridiculous control. It means there’s a historical practice of managers chastising staff members in public forums in the name of transparency. It means that the C-suite folks are out of the office 24/7 while the average employee, who has been wooed with flexible work programs, is expected to sit in a grey cubicle between the hours of 8 and 6 and needs that abundant PTO balance (promoted by Joe the Recruiter!) because she must use PTO every time she leaves the office for an hour-long dentist appointment.

The employee experience includes handbooks and policies. It includes an over-reliance on PIPs because “treating employees fairly and justly” is merely code for giving people a heads-up notice that they’re on their way out the door.

It’s the reality of “we promote from within” meaning “we’ll never pay you as much as an external candidate because employees are capped at a 15% increase even for promotions.”

 So, I wonder… where are the companies truthfully talking about the entire – and real – employer brand?

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