Official Values and Internal Behavior – building an Employer Brand

Every company want to retain their talents and lure new ones to join their ranks to build an awesome company… Few however really succeed in this endeavour and there are a few good reasons to this.

While you spend a lot of time, effort and money on building a public image and brand for your products or services you might be slipping on the inside…

In my opinion one of the absolute key factors to this is as in the header. If you have a mismatch between your officially stated Company Values that is stated in your mission document, employee manifest etc and your Internal Behavior. I e how you actually do your day-to-day business and how you treat your employees. The discrepancy between your official values and your internal behavior cause disharmony and petrify development and the social interaction in a company. To say the least it also kills creativity and explorer mentality that could bring you the next invention, great customer service or just very efficient operations.

In my former post on employer branding I discussed a bit about internal conduct and management of your managers incl behavior on executive/board-level since they are the pace-setter and role model for a the rest, not necessarily consciously, but on a very unofficial level for the rest of the management and employees.

Many start-up companies comes to life with gusto and can-do attitude but while growing there comes need for structure, formal corporate policies, middle management, HR-departments, Employee Handbooks etc and often in the process you lose the spirit that was the cornerstone that the company was built on. Then you hire a CEO from another larger company that might not be schooled in the start-up mentality and he/she bring values from the large company. This is often where you start a slow downward spiral in creativity, community-feeling in the company and when you grow it is very much harder to keep the spirit that was the root of the company.

To manage this you need all ready from the beginning think of the art of storytelling. Set the values you have told and act a compelling image of why and how you live your company life in the eco-system you decided is yours. How you do storytelling is however a totally different art form that you often need help to do properly

What can you as a manager/owner/board-member then do keep it fresh and open-minded?

I have a few suggestions that could make a difference

  • Ensure that the spirit of the company is constantly communicated from founders, senior managers without the obvious standard company wording but in person and at least make it seem un-rehearsed.
  • Storytelling is what brings the company together, a common set of beliefs and actions that show what the company and it’s mission is all about.
  • Be vigorous in enforcing cross-company team collaboration in projects where you have an open session at times to get input from all parts of the company. Not only experts are valuable. Finance or customer service might ask relevant questions and it gives all employees a sense of worth no matter position (yeah it can be a bit time-consuming but might bring tremendous value).
  • Make sure senior management set aside time to meet with customers and employees to understand what is going on, do not rely on fitness reports and do visit unannounced and just stroll around informally to get a sense of daily business, this is encouraging if you ask kind questions and you will have a world good will and learnings. And it sets a very good example for engagement and commitment for the rest of the company.
  • Be generous with training of people, even if it might not be a job description training for the employee, you might unlock creativity and ideas you could not imagine was there for the company’s benefit. On top of that you will get a more satisfied employee that will spread the word about the great company they are working for.
  • Make sure you understand and harness the power that social media unlock among employees and the eco-system.
  • Be active in your community or globally with projects that makes the employees feel good for bringing some of their expertise or just common sense to use for those in need. CSR well managed is a very powerful storytelling tool for recruiting good people.
  • Of course be active and generous within the school system, make opportunities for post-docs, internships, offer support and funding for projects… This is a very powerful way to attract young talented people and still, many managers do not really understand, they think it is for the big companies.
  • Ensure equal treatment and fair possibilities for parents to have flexible working time and place.
  • From my former blog this statement is crucial for building a good and open internal culture and values: Train and make sure that your managers have an ethical and empathic point-of-view on their teams and keep track of it with a company wide audit of employee satisfaction that encourage honesty and that it would be a part of the management bonus to ensure a constant flow of feedback to make sure that numbers are constantly growing. I.e. make sure that your managers are on their toes. Also be vigilant in ensuring that managers do not go after their teams if rated poorly. People as a group seldom rate some one poorly without a reason. The grade is usually earned.
In my humble opinion, if you can at least implement the basic structure of my above mentioned ideas you will have a good start for building a good employer brand among your own team, the alumni and potential employees.