When you think of “branding,” there are likely tons of things that jump into your mind. Logos, taglines, fonts and signature colors, which are pieces of visual brand identity. And then there are more interactive things like what a company represents and how it interacts with and treats its customers, which relate to brand personality and brand experience. All of these elements and more come together to create this intangible thing called a corporate “brand.”
In the same way your company’s corporate brand sends a message about its personality, your employer brand sends a message about personality too, but specifically about your personality towards people who work for you.
One way to illustrate the difference between the two types of branding is by thinking about the ultimate question each addresses for people outside of your company:
Your company’s corporate brand answers: “What is [your company] all about?”
Your company’s employer brand answers: “What is it like to work for [your company]?”
Every company has both a corporate brand and an employer brand, regardless of whether there has been an effort to shape it or not.
And while both types of branding are closely tied to each other (unless your company has some sort of split personality!) the definition of employer branding is distinctly different from any other branding. And there are things about your company’s personality that your employer brand conveys that your corporate brand doesn’t quite do.
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Here are a few very specific things that your employer brand says about your company’s personality:
Your employer brand reflects your company’s mission.
What do you stand for? Why do you do what you do? Your mission answers these questions and is the ultimate reason why you exist as a business. So everything you do as an employer—from how members of your leadership team interacts with your current employees, to how you treat job candidates—all reflect that. It’s really not even a matter of if your employer brand reflects your company’s mission, it’s a matter of how much.
For instance, if you’re a biotech company that’s committed to investing in innovation to treat serious diseases, your company likely values innovative thinking from current and prospective employees because it helps you further that mission. You also likely use current technology platforms to help your employees do their jobs better and to recruit top talent. In this hypothetical case, the idea of innovation has trickled all the way through your organization and is a part of your employer brand.
Now replace that biotech company example’s mission with your own – how clearly is your mission reflected in your employer brand?
Your employer brand shows how you treat your people.
In the same way your customer service demonstrates how caring your brand is to the general public and its customers, your employer brand does the same thing except in relation to YOUR people.
Do you listen to or even acknowledge your employees’ feedback? Do you respect your employees’ (and prospective employees’) time, energy, and health? Do you value them as individuals, all with their own unique thoughts, perspectives, and motivations?
These are the things employees and job candidates wish that all employers would do, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. And now that so much can be shared online, how you treat your people will become public knowledge one way or another, and that will become a key part of your employer brand.
Your employer brand reveals the culture of your company.
One thing about your company that employer branding is able to reveal is what your company culture is like. After all, isn’t what’s going on the inside of your company (company culture) going to naturally shine through to the outside? Maybe not all of it, but definitely the highlights (just think back on what the Uber PR crisis early this year revealed about its internal culture).
To help conceptualize the connection between company culture and employer brand, I like to use this equation:
Your employer brand =
The external expression of your company culture + your company’s core identity & voice + the experience employees and job seekers have with your company.
As for what actually makes up your company culture, we could have a whole separate conversation about it as it’s a grand combination of a lot of things—from all of the different workplace behaviors you find day-to-day, to personality patterns in your team members, to how it feels in the workspace.
For the sake of this article though, what I’ve found helpful from having interviewed dozens of company leaders about their definition of company culture is that company culture can be described as “the spirit of your people,” “the intangible glue that holds all of the pieces of a company together,” and the “heart of your company.”
Whatever that means, looks like and feels like on the inside of your company, your employer brand will reveal pieces of it to the public—whether that’s through social media, your own website, articles written about your company, or your employer reviews.
Your employer brand shows what is different about working for you over any other company.
All of the things I mentioned above are things that your corporate brand reveals too, in some way. So I’ll end with one unique element that your employer brand says about your company that your overall corporate brand does not: what’s different about working for you over any other company?
For instance, what programs do you have that employees can benefit from (career development, equity option, benefits package)? What are the relationships actually like between managers and employees within your company?
What are the thousands of interactions between the employee and employer like? Your employer brand includes the experience your company gives to its employees—from before they even become an employee, to the day they leave your company and beyond.