Employment branding has three distinct facets
There are three distinct facets of an employment brand. Each of them are an aspect of the employment brand and not the whole thing:
- Stories and positioning for people unfamiliar with the brand
This is what most employment branding conversations are about.Stories about company culture, the relative extent of benefits, the aspirational qualities of the company, pretty pictures, good stories and transparency are all aspects of the outreach to novel employees. Active job hunters consume much of this content as they try to figure out whether or not they should apply for a job. This is the stuff that gets the greatest attention from branding specialists and advertising agencies.
- The way that experienced people within the industry see the company as a place to work
Once you’ve worked in an industry for more than a year, you know who the players are and have a sense of what it’s like to work there. You get it at the water cooler or by talking to the gal who used to work for a competitor. Contract workers who move around an industry are great sources of intelligence about what it’s like to work ‘over there’.This view is usually at odds with the other two, even when the reputation is very positive.
- The way that people inside the company see their employer
Working for company X is the core experience companies try to convey in their branding. The internal zeitgeist is hard to articulate and varies somewhat from supervisor to supervisor (or plant to plant in the case of Apple), Nevertheless, there is a core DNA of the experience of working for a particular employer. It always includes a certain amount of groupthink. Like any perception rooted in a core audience, there are advocates, detractors and the middle.
Do you recall the story of the blind wisemen and the elephant? It’s a great explanation of how the same thing can look very different depending on your perspective. Each of the wisemen is sure that he has the explanation of the total elephant. In fact, they each understand an aspect.
That’s what debates that try to stuff complex ideas into little sound bites get you. The poem ends by noticing that the blind wisemen were arguing about an elephant that none of them had seen.
These three facets of the employment brand do not necessarily perfectly correspond with each other. Experience varies by individual. When you go ask people from each of these groups about the workplace, you get a range of answers.
It’s particularly hard to see the realities inside your own bubble. There is almost always some level of dissonance between the story put forth in the formal employment marketing materials (website, standard job ad text, brochures, recruiting talking points) and the way it seems to experienced industry people or insiders. Similarly, the insider’s view is usually different form the rest of the industry.
Sometimes the problem is that a company has a great brand but it’s not the one that they want. Many companies are ‘great places to be from’. That is, putting your time in Company X is a gateway to increased wealth and better assignments. So, you have to put your time in that company if you want to be credible in the industry.
But, no one wants to stay there longer than they have to.
So, that employment brand means one thing to newcomers, another to insiders and another to folks who have left. Tampering with any of those aspects will affect the whole.