More and more companies are reaching out to us to find better ways to make their brand more attractive to recruits. They’re finding themselves in high-stakes races with competitors to hire top talent. And here’s the kicker: the prospects care about more than just a paycheck. Millennials and Gen Z say it’s more important to work for companies that stand for something purposeful and have a great culture. In one study, 64% of Millennials said they won’t take a job if the company doesn’t have a solid CSR policy; another revealed that Gen Z is the first generation to prioritize purpose over salary.
Jonathan Bell, the founder of WANT branding and a good friend I’ve partnered with on many projects over the past couple of decades, has a great saying: “Branding is about two things: 1) getting customers to buy and 2) getting employees to believe.”
In the past, the main objective for most of our clients was getting customers to buy. Recently, though, we’re seeing a shift. Companies are focusing their efforts on getting existing and prospective employees to believe in them — and to do that, they need to take care of how they brand themselves internally.
What is internal branding? why does it matter?
Internal branding is how you communicate your brand story to your people. Who you are. Why you exist. What you do differently and better than your competitors. For it to be effective, your internal branding must be built around an authentic concept, one that is relevant and purpose-driven.
This branding approach is not new. Wally Olins wrote and spoke about the importance of brand purpose back in the ’60s. Simon Sinek’s TED Talk advocating “start with ‘why’” has been viewed more than 50 million times. We often talk about purpose in terms of attracting customers, but it also most definitely applies to recruiting the best talent. Successful internal branding attracts the best employees, who will then believe in your brand and then sing your praises to attract more of the best employees, creating the ultimate marketing tactic there is, word-of-mouth.
When I started my first agency almost 20 years ago, the hiring process looked different. Most prospects leaned in to selling themselves to you, touting achievements on their resumes and selling how great and perfect they were for the position. Now it’s more of the opposite. People want to know first: Why would I want to work here? What do I get out of this relationship? What will you give me? They want a better company experience, and they are 100% not afraid to hold out for it.
According to survey data from Gallup, Millennials and Gen Z now make up 46% of the full-time U.S. workforce, and what they want in a workplace is similar. Younger Millennial and Gen Z (born between 1989 and 2001) and older Millennial (born between 1980 and 1988) respondents shared the top two priorities:
1. The organization cares about employees’ well-being.
2. The organization’s leadership is ethical.
The third reason varied: for younger Millennials and Gen Z, it was, “The organization is diverse and inclusive of all people.” For older Millennials, it was, “The organization’s leadership is open and transparent.”
When companies show prospective employees they care about their people and invest in a purpose, they see ROI. Purpose and meaning drive employee engagement, and organizations with high engagement have a significant increase in profitability, productivity, retention and customer engagement. It’s that simple.
Here are three ways to improve internal branding
Approach internal branding the same way you would external branding and marketing campaigns. Start with the following steps:
1. Identify pain points
Do an internal audit — explore what employees love about working for you and what they’d like to change. Make it safe for people to express their honest opinions, whether through anonymous surveys or 360-degree feedback. Create a process for collecting and analyzing insights and developing solutions. What are the common pain points? What short- and long-term steps can you take to alleviate them? What is the low-hanging fruit — the high-impact changes you can make immediately?
2. Campaign internally
Find your brand story, root it in a brand purpose and campaign it internally. Fully define your “why” or “purpose,” and tell that story in a way that gets your employees to believe. Don’t forget your best recruiters are your employees. When you effectively communicate your purpose, it leads to those word-of-mouth referrals and higher-quality prospects. Encourage them to spread the word and reward them for it.
3. Run externally facing purpose campaigns
Advertising campaigns don’t always have to be for products and services. Instead, create advertising that promotes your culture. Apple’s famous “Think Different” ads not only told the customer who they could be by using Apple’s products, but they also made a statement about who they were as a company. Most people don’t think about it that way, but it’s true. So, create external campaigns focused on your purposeful point of view of the industry or the world. Tell people you honestly care and that you’re doing something about it. They will care back.
If recruiting is a serious challenge, go back to the drawing board and redesign your brand story. Give your internal branding a makeover. Put purpose, values and company culture in the spotlight. The ROI is waiting for you.