Skip to content

Building a strong employer brand through a vibrant workplace culture


Your company’s workplace culture and brand are permanently linked. Business leaders often view it as a one-or-the-other undertaking, but that’s a mistake. If you want to improve an employer brand, you should couple brand and culture together.

Impossible, you say? Too much of a heavy administrative lift? Keep reading, you’re in for a surprise.

When you address culture and brand simultaneously, you’ll discover these two parts of any corporate psyche have a mutually beneficial symbiosis. Your company culture can drive your brand, and your brand – now on a solid foundation – can reinforce the culture.

First, what is an employer brand?

An employer brand refers to the reputation and image that an organization cultivates as an employer – both to current and potential employees, but also to clients, customers and stakeholders.

Building a strong employer brand is done through many factors including work environment, employee wellness programs, organizational values, learning and development opportunities, and more.

All of these factors can be rolled up into one umbrella, which is your company culture, which, overall, creates your employee experience.

What comes first: Company culture or employer brand?

It’s a chicken and the egg scenario, and it’s a trick question.

Positive culture feeds into a successful, effective employer brand. Similarly, your brand will sputter if your workforce isn’t committed to the culture or if the culture is simply a bad fit.

Once your organization accepts and embraces the unbreakable link between company culture and employer brand, you will have taken the first step toward unlocking the combined power of both.

When HR and marketing are free to work together to develop, communicate and promote the employer brand and company culture, you give your company the best chance to make both successful.

Assess your current employer brand

For such an endeavor to succeed, you and your leadership team need to collectively commit to achieving the following:

  • Discuss and decide on your core values – this includes building an employee value proposition.
  • Define your organization’s culture.
  • Begin building a brand that meshes with that culture.
  • Create a long-term plan to clearly and repeatedly communicate the values, culture and brand to your employees, current customers and potential clients.
  • Rely on that culture to organically yield brand ambassadors.

Integrating employer brand strategies with company culture

How do you begin the process of building an internal culture with your outward brand identity in mind while ensuring the brand and culture complement one another?

1. Make it clear throughout your organization’s leadership that this is a top priority.

2. Insist on patience and discipline. On the surface this might seem to run contrary to the notion of a priority. Yes, this is of great importance to your company’s future, but you must temper the natural impulse to confuse importance with urgency.
Creating or refreshing your culture is a time-consuming and ongoing process. It’s infinitely more important to do it right than to do it quickly.

3. Select a team that is representative of the organization. This should include executives, front-line employees, people from different departments and people with different levels of organizational experience. You want some relatively new employees along with people with deep institutional memory to craft your missions, vision and values.

Engaging your employees

Once the team is established, how do you get the process rolling?

1. Select a facilitator

Choose someone who will guide, rather than lead, the conversation. An effective facilitator will work to keep everyone on track, encouraging each person to speak and share their perspective.

2. Organize meetings

Use different settings and approaches to harvest the best ideas from each person. Allow for constructive disagreement. Eventually a consensus is likely to form.

The CEO or other top leaders often will be part of this team, however, it can be a productive decision for the facilitator to hold a couple team meetings without C-suite in the room. For understandable reasons, certain team members might be reticent to speak freely – and critically – if the head of the company is sitting next to them.

3. Answer one simple question

The team’s goal should be to clearly answer one question: What do you do? It’s a simple question, however, the answers from the team might be wildly different at first. That’s OK.

4. Double check your answer

Ensure the culture and brand are intuitively compatible with the answer. If it’s not, then the both the culture and brand should be adjusted accordingly.

5. Communicate your brand

Engage your HR and marketing teams to communicate the team’s final conclusions internally and externally. Deliver these communications at the same time to ensure the message is consistent and that everyone is getting it from the source and not second-hand.

You can’t over communicate about your culture. Everyone in your company should be fluent. Look for opportunities to reinforce the culture: visual reminders, break room television screens or table tents, website and intranet postings, business cards, etc.

Following up

Creating and maintaining a positive culture and brand is an ongoing process. Your organization should revisit this process every 2-to-3 years to ensure both are still a good fit.

Prior to beginning the process, consider working with a third-party to perform a customized survey. Depending on the size of the company, you might consider directing the group conducting the survey to also host focus groups. Certain important factors such as eye contact, inflection and body language can escape a survey yet still should be factored in.

Whether using a survey, focus groups, or both, collecting feedback from customers and employees is a valuable tool. The results will provide you a better vantage point by which to judge if your culture and brand need to be tweaked, revised or – on rare occasions – completely overhauled.

When creating the survey questions and reviewing the data from the survey, don’t overcomplicate things; use common sense. Your reputation is a mix of customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and some luck. Keep that in mind every time you review at your organization’s culture.

Also keep in mind that HR needs to stay focused on communicating the culture and the brand throughout the recruiting process. From the job description to recruiting, from interview questions to onboarding, you want to steep potential new hires in the culture.

Summing it up

Today’s job market is tight, and it’s a challenge to find qualified candidates and retain talented workers. Your culture is essential to hiring the best people and convincing them to stick around.

If you’d like to learn more about how to build a strong company culture, download and read our complimentary magazine: The Insperity guide to company culture.