Some organisations sweat over this one. Much money is spent on identifying values they already have and then trying to align this with a mission statement that delivers on the values that are fundamental to their vision. This is all very worthwhile, but executing incorrectly leads to a confused message and an inaccurate portrayal of an organisation’s positioning as an employer.
The vision and values of an organisation are so important to an employer brand that if they are not filtered throughout the organisation the entire concept is undermined. The bigger the organisation, the harder this becomes which is why an employer brand has to be owned by the people at the top and the research conducted has to be proportionate to its size and structure.
This has been said so many times yet it is so often ignored. There’s nothing wrong with someone initiating the concept, but without active buy-in and absolute support from those at the top the real objectives can never be achieved. Any employer branding project principally has a number of components and one of the main starting points is the workshops with the Executive Team. Depending on the organisation this will be a mix of people appointed through the system and those brought in from outside and any good business will ensure they’re on-song with what the organisation has set out to achieve. This will be the vision of where it’s headed, but within this will be their core values.
Most organisations will have a set of values. Those values they have drawn up they believe will ensure the success of the business. These may be well intentioned and well founded. However, unless they are true to the founding principles of the organisation are they effective? There’s no reason to say that they cannot be developed and adapted over time, but the organisation has to be aligned with the principles on which the organisation operates. In essence, it’s a case of thinking about who you are as opposed to who you wish to become.
Sometimes people too can try so hard to become what they think they need to be they forget who they actually are. This is as evident in employer branding as it is in all areas of life. ‘Be yourself’ is a phrase that’s said many times when people get up to do a presentation only to become shackled by the person they think they need to be and the image they feel they should present.
We encounter this every day. We’re constantly assessing people we meet and work with as to ‘What they’re really like’. Retaining and remembering the values of why you are doing something in the first place is the recipe for a greater level of reward. This can only come from a belief in what you are doing and a long term commitment and engagement with the values you hold.
The John Lewis Partnership is an example of a company that has strong founding principles that resonate throughout the entire organisation from the day it began from top to bottom. The vision was to put employees at the heart of the organisation knowing the success of the business depended on the happiness of its employees.
Born in 1885, John Spedan Lewis acquired a share in his father’s business that began with the John Lewis store in Oxford Street followed by the Peter Jones store also opened by his father. With a quarter share he began to realise that himself, his brother and his father were earning more between them than their entire workforce put together. He wanted his employees to share in the success, but as important to the success of the business itself was that they felt motivated, rewarded and contributed in enhancing the overall “spirit” of the company. Shorter working days, longer holidays, a staff committee and an in-house magazine – still distributed today were the beginnings of a vision that led to the profit sharing scheme of 1920 that was the basis for the John Lewis Partnership today.
The John Lewis Partnership Video probably wasn’t initiated as a project for an ’employer branding’ video, but is in fact an excellent example of what an employer branding video is all about. It articulates clearly the vision and values with employees talking about the application of these within the organisation. You can view the video on their website:
The roots of the John Lewis Partnership will determine its growth in the future. Organisations, like people, who try to be something they are not will always be find it more difficult to communicate with people who need to know what they’re about.
I’ve said many times that our obsession with labelling everything is not always helpful. John Spedan Lewis didn’t talk extensively about employer branding, I’m sure, yet his organisation is one of the best examples of what it should be.
Employer Branding is an appropriate terminology to describe an organisation’s characteristics in view of its relationships with its employees, but sometimes I sense people get so carried away with the terminology they lose sight of what it actually is they’re looking to achieve.
So, back to my point. As people we all have values. We instinctively operate in a way that is true to those values and we hope that we work with people and have friends that respect and maybe share those values too. Most of us have had times when people have let us down when we’ve misplaced our faith and judgement in what we thought their values were, but we learn and move on.
And its the same with organisations and employers. As an organisation talking about employer branding, think about the real values. The ones that really matter and the ones that reflect who you really are. Whatever they are, only they will truly be the starting point for attaining harmony and really understanding your employer brand.