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The value of a good workplace

Jun 9. 2020

It may not look like much. But Netflix's culture deck with guidelines for their work culture has been read over 18 million times. It ignited a focus on employer branding around the world, and even though it is well over ten years ago, it is still just as relevant today as back then. So, if your workplace is not already fully engaged in caring for your employer brand, here's a little introduction to the phenomenon.


Netflix started. Google quickly followed suit, and Airbnb restructured an entire HR department because of it. We are talking about employer branding – the new battleground for the talent pool of the future. Here is the story of the best employer brands and five questions you should ask yourself if your company's recruitment and employee experience have room for improvement.

Employer branding is your company's reputation as a workplace. And when the talent pool is low, such as it was in 2018, it is crucial to both attract and retain the right employees. Forbes predicted that 2018 would be "The Year of Employee Experience" and according to World Economic Forum, business-to-employee relationships will be one of the key issues on the future labour market agenda.

It all started with Netflix & chill

The year is 2009, and Netflix publishes its 124-page culture deck. With a focus on free vacation and fair treatment of everyone, it has been viewed over 18 million times on SlideShare. Over time, it has become something close to a cultural manifesto and a regular part of Netlix's job site and recruitment. Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, called it "the perhaps most important document that has come out of Silicon Valley." The detailed corporate culture description sharpened Netflix's employer brand and became a model for global brands in the fight for the right talents: those who ensure future growth.

Happy Googlers

Have you ever dreamt of working at Google? Understandably! With free gourmet food, access to yoga and massage, paid holidays, and 20 per cent free play during work hours, it is more than just a prestigious job. For other brands, there is plenty of inspiration to draw from the tech giant and not only in terms of personal benefits: Google's transparent application process is the perfect example of a tailor-made experience that ensures the best match between applicant and company. As an applicant, you know where you stand and what is expected of you, throughout the entire hiring process.

It only takes three steps to become a Googler. For each step, there are FAQs and tips so you always know exactly what is going to happen and how to increase your chance of getting Google on your resume.

Belong anywhere - but preferably here!

There are others besides Google who know how to attract talent. Airbnb's mission to “belong anywhere” does not only apply to travellers. This equally applies to employees. Inspired by their customer experience department, Airbnb has developed an “Employee Experience” (EX) department. The EX department replaces HR and is assigned to make both employees and future talents feel comfortable wherever they are in their careers. It is a pioneering example of the new wave of employer branding that takes the employee experience just as seriously as the customer experience. With fewer talents to choose from in the job market, dissatisfied employees can quickly cost as much as dissatisfied customers.

Airbnb is an employer brand expert. They have been so successful with their employer brand that they now also offer Airbnb For Work: Out of office experiences that create better unity in the workplace.

Specsavers is well underway

A good reputation in the labour market has almost become a permanent part of the brand package for the most ambitious brands. Specsavers - which in Denmark goes by the name Louis Nielsen - is one of the larger brands at home (United Kingdom), which is also engaged in a focused effort in this area - with the help of Kontrapunkt. They recently launched a new career site as part of boosting their employer brand. Based on research with more than 300 respondents across 7 countries, the new employer brand has helped Specsavers put words on their ambitions and goals. And at the same time, position themselves more clearly as a brand in general. Often, it is the case that attractive employer branding has a positive impact on the entire brand.

Five questions to get started with employer branding

Here are five questions you can ask yourself if you want to get started with employer branding - and at the same time strengthen your brand in general.

1 – Does our image fit with our self-perception?

A corporate brand and an employer brand are two sides of the same coin. But unlike the corporate brand, the employer brand is rooted in your company's culture and employees. It is the employees who are at the centre and therefore the foundation of a strategy. It is, therefore, crucial to identify their attitudes - as truthfully as possible - so the foundation becomes authentic and solid. That's why it's all about talking to every link in the chain: From both the cleaning staff to the Office Manager.

One thing is what your employees think. Another is how you are perceived as a workplace externally. Talk to people who do not work in your company. Both potential new employees and, if you have the opportunity, people working for your competitors. Often, their opinion will be coloured by what they know about your corporate brand, but they will probably still provide some valuable insight which you can compare with your internal investigations.

Once you have gathered these insights, it is time to map out your internal culture and external image. Where do the two match? Where is there a gap? Knowing the landscape, in which you navigate, it is easier to find the way forward.

2 – What is our biggest problem? Reputation, retention - or something else?

Are you having trouble getting enough qualified applicants? Or is it hard to hold onto employees? Is there a clear strategy for hiring new employees? It is crucial to find out what challenges you face before going into solution mode.

Use the mapping and insights from your data collection to frame your challenges as accurately as possible. Prioritize which areas are the most important to work on and make sure you align with the company's overall strategy and objectives.

3 – What do we offer? And why?

Your companies Image and culture is now mapped and the problem(s) identified. The next big step is to define a strategic direction and an Employer Value Proposition (EVP). An EVP is at the heart of what you as a company promise all employees. It reflects the strategy and briefly explains precisely what an employee gets out of working at your company. And when it works well, it is closely related to your brand purpose. So, whether you are thinking about changing lives through sports in Adidas or want to help transform not only the healthcare system but also your career at Specsavers: as an employee, you have chosen to work somewhere that speaks to your values and goals.

The EVP should be clear and easy to relate to. It should also be long-lasting, and then it must be able to be unfolded and activated in many different ways. Think of it as a strong direction-setting tool that sets the tone of the employer brand.

At Adidas you create change. With their EVP, they promise to change lives through sports, and in 2018, expanded the EVP with the #HereToCreate campaign. So, you are not just an employee at Adidas. You are a Creator who creates change and breaks the rules.

4 - How do we live what we promise?

It may be self-evident, but we have seen it over and over again – an EVP has been devised – it excites and also sounds good. But then it never really goes any further. Even the best EVP will not strengthen (or save) your workplace unless action is put behind the words. Therefore, the next step is to live what you promise.

Often, the EVP is translated into messages that can be activated in various ways. Focus on initiatives, activities, and campaigns that are rooted in the EVP and employees' everyday lives. If, as Specsavers say, they want to improve the eyesight of the community, it makes sense to organize conferences that bring together the optical industry around the latest science in the field. If you, like Adidas, proclaim you are #Here to Create, you can show how the employees contribute to creating Adidas from within different positions.

If you go a step further, you can create 'employee advocacy'. Satisfy your employees to the point where they share the good experiences around the workplace with their network. It has high credibility and low cost and can be done more or less structured. You can choose to do as Specsavers and pay tribute to the employees on the career site. Or you can do your work so thoroughly that employees share positive stories about their workplace on different social media - preferably under one united hashtag.

In the 'This Is Specsavers' movie on Specsavers' career site, a group of employees from different countries are portrayed as people who are passionate about eye health...

...and much more. E.g. running marathons, flying with drones, or playing PlayStation games.

5 - So ... What is it worth?

Employer branding is quite a mouthful, which also requires a similar budget. And that is probably where the biggest challenge lies. Just look at the difference between the marketing budget for corporate branding and the budget dedicated to HR recruitment. To succeed in attracting and retaining the right talents for your desired company culture, the corporate brand and the employer brand must both have common ambitions, anchoring – and budget.

Fortunately, it can pay off to invest in your employer brand. So maybe you can't answer our five questions yet. But now you know how to get started. And tomorrow you can start by asking your colleagues if they are happy to go to work. It is free of charge.

Article written by Strategists Emil Andreas Bruun Sørensen & Kira Skovbo Moser. First published on Kommunikationsforum in 2019.

Emil Andreas Bruun Sørensen

Strategy Lead, Japan

Reach out to Emil to learn more about this project or how we can help you.