BrewDog aims to be one of the world’s best employers. Praising employees for speaking up and being themselves, BrewDog has set a precedent for employer branding worldwide. Their consumer brand is excellent, their employer brand to external candidates is incredibly appealing with cool perks like pawternaty leave when a team member gets a new pet and strong values from environmental and ethical standpoints. Many of us can only aspire to their tone of voice, effortlessly cool approach and unique identity as an employer. Well, who wouldn’t want to apply for a company that is so sure of itself, its values and its mission?
Therefore, when a group of BrewDog’s former employees, self-dubbed “Punks With Purpose”, decided to reveal their own experiences of the brand, the world was shocked. Of course, it’s a word of employees against leadership teams, and we’re not here to pass judgement on who is telling the truth. However, what this scandal proves more than anything is that it’s vital to validate your employer brand internally and ensure it runs throughout the business.
Our Client Partner Heather Niblett has shared some of her insight around why it’s vital to get your current employees to buy into your employer brand as well as external parties:
We all know that employer branding is all about getting the outside world to see what you’re like as an employer. However, it’s also about retaining the talent you already have and giving them motivations, something to be excited about in their workplace and something to live by. Sometimes, it’s easy for employers to get caught up in promoting their employer brand externally to attract new talent. They forget about the people within it. Employer Branding communications and a streamlined, seamless experience are very present within the recruitment process from stages of attraction through to interview and even onboarding in many cases. However, this employer brand attitude and enthusiasm often dies after joining the business. With a lack of internal buy-in, the employer brand is lost, and those aspects of work that excited and inspired your new hires often fall by the wayside.
Like BrewDog, the standout branding, great reputation, amusing and outspoken social media presence work with the perks and culture presented to potential candidates to make them highly desired employers and drive applications at scale. However, what the former employees “Punks With Purpose” claim went on in the workplace doesn’t quite match up to the employer brand image BrewDog are presenting. In fact, they went on to say there’s a culture of fear within the organisation, which couldn’t be more different to BrewDog’s relaxed and hipster image. Employees clearly aren’t experiencing the atmosphere that they’re sold when they begin working at the company and instead claim a negative culture dominates and the perks that captured their attention aren’t translated. Advertising aspects of the workplace that aren’t true will anger employees just like it would customers. For example, if you advertise an inclusive culture and candidates feel micromanaged and looked down on, it’s bound to cause frustrations.
This negative culture could be a result of growing too quickly – we all know it’s hard for scaling businesses to maintain their company culture as they grow from startup to bigger enterprise. Or it could be simply because they didn’t check on the state of their employer brand internally. Either way, there is a misalignment of cultures; what candidates and applicants are promised isn’t what employees are experiencing.
So how can you validate your EVP internally to avoid a scandal like BrewDog’s?
Get Employee’s Input From the Beginning
Firstly, you need to test your employer brand internally by talking to employees. Running focus groups through the development stage is critical to ensure your employer brand is authentic. Through these focus groups, you can establish what your unique selling points are as an employer. Discover why people love working with you and highlight areas for improvement to ensure that you’re dealing with employees pain points and actively trying to correct them. Through these focus points, you can ensure that your employer brand is based on your internal culture and that you’re not presenting an inaccurate image to the world, which could come back to bite you.
That’s not to say your employer brand cannot have some aspirational points. Your employer brand is built on pillars. If these pillars outline everything you are now with no goals or aspirations, your employer brand will be out of date before the end of the year. Having something to aim for and to tell candidates you’re working towards keeps you relevant and gives everyone in the business something to aspire to.
Conduct Employee Engagement Surveys
However, basing your employer brand on employee opinions in the development stage isn’t quite enough. If you want to create an employer brand with longevity, you need to constantly monitor it and ensure it’s maintained. This is particularly important for growing businesses. Like BrewDog, you could lose your company culture and detach the reality of working for you from the promises made during the recruitment process. You can monitor your employer brand externally through brand perception surveys, career site traffic and application numbers. But, it’s even more crucial that you monitor your employer brand internally to ensure your culture and values are still being lived. By conducting regular engagement surveys with your team, you can ensure there is still the same excitement within the workplace and that your employer brand values and attitude run through all aspects of the business. If for some reason, these surveys identify that your culture isn’t quite in line with the employer brand you’re promoting, it will give you something to work on and ensure that problems are resolved. Engagement surveys are a way of ensuring your employer brand remains strong internally and aligns with the employee experience. Identifying any discrepancies isn’t an imperfect reflection of you as an employer but rather gives everyone something to work towards and values to strive to.
Acknowledge Areas for Improvement
There’s no shame in acknowledging that you haven’t gotten everything right regarding employer branding. As your business grows and changes, your employer brand will also fluctuate. In some areas of the company, it may get a little lost, but also, as candidate and employee expectations change, your employer brand will have to adapt. What’s important is that you identify areas for improvement and strive to improve your workplace for everyone within it. Rather than blaming discrepancies on a few outraged employees, it would help if you worked to constantly improve your culture and own up to areas that are falling short. Employees will value that you’re actively trying to create a culture more like the one they bought into and are constantly trying to make their lives better.
Link Your Business Mission to Your Employer Brand
Of course, your overall company mission may differ from what your employees on the ground experience. This cannot always be helped; it depends on the nature of your business. However, for your employer brand to succeed internally, you need to find a way to link the two. For example, we helped CityFibre create a new EVP and Employer Brand, which was in line with their brand mission of transforming the UK’s digital infrastructure to enable faster broadband for all. We worked to create an EVP centred around “changing it up” as the brand is changing how the UK connects. However, the key for us was to find out how they’re changing up their company culture and helping their employees to change their careers for the better. We wanted to find out how the people within the business were also changing things up from their ways of working, their end product, and their personal development. Aligning this messaging helped us to engage the team with the brand mission and create a real buzz around the workplace, no matter what division. This made employer branding content easier to come by as employees felt more involved and willing to share their stories; however, most importantly, it ensured that the brand mission was felt throughout the business.
Without your people, your company is nothing but a product, idea or service. It is the people who make it what it is, and it’s the people your employees will miss the most when they take on their next role and leave your company behind. Therefore you must make them happy and live up to their expectations as an employer. The image you project to the world of your workplace should be accurate, and your aspirations should be achievable and actively worked towards. By involving your people in your employer brand development and monitoring their engagement over time, you can easily avoid falling into the same trap as BrewDog. You’ll be called out about false promises and any discrepancies in your culture that make teams unhappy.
At Talent Works, we help growing tech businesses to build, leverage and monitor their employer brands through market research and creative convepts. Our in-house teams work as an extension of yours to ensure they understand all elements of your workplace and gain an in-depth understanding of employee experiences and attitudes. To learn more about how Talent Works can help you to build and monitor your employer brand, contact our team today.