Your Employer Brand is a Waste of Time

Yep! You read it right. Your employer brand is a waste of time. Let me explain…

The way companies so often create their employer brand reminds me of merchandising and shop windows - and that’s a deliberately analogue reference, because in the physical context of the highstreet (remember the highstreet?!) in order to catch the opportune eye of a passerby, you have to be well… eye-catching.

You have to be shiny, or bright and ideally, different. You’re competing for attention. In the digital world, where companies proactively create content and drive traffic to their employer brand, maintain social media profiles representing their culture and invest heavily in doing so, things haven’t progressed enough (IMHO).

It’s still all about being shiny, bright and different.

A couple of times in my career the ‘who should own employer brand’ debate has cropped up… Is it marketing’s job? Or does the People team own it? I’ve always found it a tedious discussion, not least because (also IMHO) it’s borne of good old fashioned departmental empire-building, but ultimately because it is a distraction from something much more important; all departments working together to create an awesome Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that can be evidenced, collaboratively.

Your EVP should be viewed as the starting point; the source of authenticity when crafting your employer brand.

Authenticity is what potential new hires - and your current employees - are seeking when they look through your ‘shop window’ employer brand.  Because you can’t lie…

Assuming you want people to stay and spend time in-store, there's no point filling your shop window with bright, shiny cars when inside you’re selling furniture.

It may feel at a time of mass layoffs that you can excuse yourself for cutting EVP corners and for getting lazy with employer brand (there’s loads of people on the market, and they all need jobs, right?) Wrong. That might work for you in the short-term, but people are angry.

HR people (as we established in our launch edition of Culture Correspondence) are definitely angry - and they are the ones so often lumped with the ‘make the reality look better than it actually is’ challenge. Stop making the People function do your window-dressing.

When the pendulum swings back the other way, job seekers are going to be analysing your company’s culture, the People Experience you deliver and how engaged your employees are, with even more scrutiny. 

Defining EVP

Ask your friendly neighbourhood AI writing tool to define EVP and it will tell you this; 

“Employee value proposition refers to the unique set of benefits and rewards that an organization offers to its employees in exchange for their time, talent, and effort. An EVP is essentially a promise made by an employer to its employees about what they can expect from working for the organization. It encompasses both tangible benefits like salary, benefits, and perks, as well as intangible aspects like culture, work-life balance, career growth, and purpose.”

It’s pretty spot-on. EVP is the grand sum of all of those things. And in 2023 any company that is still defining EVP by ‘hard’ reward factors only, needs to get with the times. (Don’t get me started on ‘salary + bens + whatever you can try and use to make up a financially quantifiable package; what’s that, you want to lump in the office lease costs… the tea & coffee in the kitchen… the lack of commuting cost you get back when working from home, the amount people save at home by using the office’s heating and hot water? Sure, sure. * eye roll *)

We can do much better. And, the word that’s missing from the ChatGPT definition, is impact. The impact your company has on its employees. The evidence of how your company’s actions demonstrate your employer brand. If you’re not the inspiring, motivating, rewarding company you profess to be, you need to know about it. And you need to correct it. Letting your EVP slip backwards, is like writing the word “LIAR” across the front of the shop window. 

Delivering EVP

As long as you’re telling your audience why you’re a great place to work, you’re just doing a sales job. Not that you don’t have to ‘sell’ your company - you do! But selling can quickly become lying when you’ve got any reasonable number of employees working for you, experiencing a different reality.

This is a nuanced game. The lies are not big obvious ones, I’m not talking about saying ‘we provide unlimited holiday’ when in fact you have a statutory provision in place. The lies are when you provide unlimited holiday until the year in which someone decides to leave, at which point you claw back overtaken days from their final pay.

It’s not a matter of saying you offer a fully flexible, work from home policy when in fact you don’t and everyone is in five days a week. The lies are when you say you adopt a flexible work from home policy for everyone, and then let presenteeism be a legitimate consideration in performance management conversations.

Flexibility - What’s the Fuss About?

Genuine flexibility and genuine choice are what people want. Flexibility being provided intentionally and existing tangibly, is the new normal in the future of work, as it should be - regardless of how competitive a job market is, and not just to win a war for talent, but because it’s what human beings need. 

The thing is, with flexibility there really is nowhere to hide. You’re either flexible, and you either give people choice - or you aren’t and you don’t. That’s because you either have a trust-based culture, or you don’t. And what EVP shouldn’t include trust? 

The shop window analogy is an oversimplification. I wish though, that companies would invest as much in their employee impact, and nurturing the culture they espouse to have, than they do doing the espousing!

Fix your EVP, your employer brand will follow *

(* Some of you might - like me - now be humming a song that was released in 1992! {What. A. Tune} Some of you might not have a clue what I’m referring to! What’s that you say? Generational differences at work? Stay tuned, that’s what the next two weeks’ of Culture Correspondence content is all about.)

Word From The Street 

Ginni’s favourite quote of the week from the HR Community

This week’s ‘Word on the Street’ is the proof in the employer brand pudding; a linkedin post from Molly Johnson-Jones, CEO & Co-Founder at Flexa Careers. Molly’s post went viral and is evidence that demonstrating trust-based culture and people-first EVPs works! 


No cookie cutters or silver bullets here, just things Ginni thinks are interesting and/or useful.

On the theme of optimising for attention… and in honour of our lead article’s mention of ChatGPT, this week’s useful thing is an essay; food for thought on the pitfalls of AI, and hopefully a particularly interesting consideration for HR professionals who are about to assign tasks to ChatGPT; “remember, AI is aggregate, not accurate.”

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