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Culture Brand: Create Magical Distinction to Attract the Very Best Talent

Culture Brand: Create Magical Distinction to Attract the Very Best Talent
Meghan M. Biro
  • On November 5, 2010
  • http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghanbiro/
Meghan M. Biro
by
November 5, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot about brand abandonment lately. My next series of thoughts immediately go to how creating and maintaining a brand-based corporate culture can help businesses avoid brand abandonment, and help recruit and retain the very best talent.

I will refer way back yonder back to my post on building culture, which requires a company to establish several modes of interaction with employees, job seekers and customers. These modes of interaction – transactional, transformational and tacit – build trust with employees and candidates, enable competitive advantage, and may even facilitate the establishment of a social community within a larger organization.

A company that sees the benefits of building a brand-based corporate culture has a very distinct advantage in the hiring marketplace. Say you are running a small business. How do you attract talent? By creating a strong, desirable culture brand. A recent post at the Wall Street Journal speaks to the steps a small company might take to attract talent: communicate your success, share your excitement about the business’s potential, make a point of linking that potential to the applicant’s interests. Link corporate culture and brand with your people and the magic really starts.

Think you can’t compete on benefits and salary? Remember that your brand and culture are your biggest attractions. As Tim Hackett writes at MonsterThinking, most candidates want to work for a brand they admire. People love Nike because it’s cool, IBM because it’s a leader, Google because it’s an innovator. We can’t all work at those places, but we can observe their brands and cultures, and learn. Be your brand, treat people well, and don’t waiver or abandon your position.

Treating people well and running an ethical business is the secret sauce for really good brands. Bill Taylor says brand is culture, and culture is brand in a recent article at Harvard Business Review. When there’s a tight link between the two forces, customers will know, employees will know, job seekers will know. No risk of brand abandonment in this scenario: it’s baked right into the workplace culture as a foundation.

As the economy rebounds, employees may become restive. Job seekers may start flooding well-known brands with resumes in the hopes that finally someone will open the envelope, click on the email, or even a tweet. Your best defense, as an employer, is to have culture and brand in place. Be irresistible to your employees. Be desirable to candidates. Be your brand, revel in your culture, and never abandon either. The price is just too high.

  • http://www.getinfrontcommunications.com Susan Young

    Hi Meghan,
    This is a wonderful reminder to “stay the course.” Often times if we don’t see results (small business owners especially) we are tempted to abandon ship/brand and focus elsewhere. You are spot-on when you wrote that numerous elements make up the culture of any organization. “It’s baked right into the workplace culture as a foundation.” Companies with an “identity crisis” are difficult to sustain, especially in this economy. Flexible is one thing. Confused is another.

    Susan

    • http://www.talentculture.com/ Meghan M. Biro

      Hello Susan. Appreciate your valuable comments! Yes, small business owners particularly need to hear this message right about now as they consider growth and hiring options. Culture branding is an ongoing communication process that calls for a coordinated effort from all team members. It starts on the “inside” and grows outward to key target audiences. Indeed, brand confusion is a losing proposition – particularly in today’s digital landscape. Let’s spread the good news that it can work with patience and a commitment to staying open to brand discovery.

  • http://www.comerecommended.com Heather R. Huhman

    Meghan,

    I think having a strong brand and culture is particularly important when trying to attract Gen Y talent. In fact, in my upcoming book, (http://heatherhuhman.com/2010/11/college-recruiting-techniques-crowdsourced/) I’m devoting a chapter to each of these topics. Even if you manage to get Gen Y onboard, they are not afraid to leave if the fit isn’t immediately right. And people complain about that…but don’t we all (candidates and employers) want a good fit?

    “Your best defense, as an employer, is to have culture and brand in place. Be irresistible to your employees. Be desirable to candidates. Be your brand, revel in your culture, and never abandon either. The price is just too high.”

    Right on!

    Heather

    • http://www.talentculture.com/ Meghan M. Biro

      Hello Heather. Thank you. Right on is right! Smiles. I look forward to your upcoming book. Very exciting. Personality and culture fit is the difference between finding a “job” and carving out a “career” – very important naunce to consider when searching for the right opportunity. People hire and retain people. Chemistry and personality fit must be taken into consideration for a truly irresistible and sustaining career match.

  • http://www.xperthr.co.uk/blogs/employment-intelligence/michael_carty.htm Michael Carty

    Really good post, Meghan!

    I’m particularly taken by this message: “Be irresistible to your employees. Be desirable to candidates.”

    It’s always essential for employers to bear in mind that culture is at the centre of the employer brand, and central to attracting and retaining top performers.

    These issues are of course perennials for organisations. But I think they become ever more relevant (and consequently need to be revisited/borne in mind ever more constantly) as social media serve to accelerate the potential rise and fall of culture brands. I mused on these very topics in a recent blog post on the XpertHR Employment Intelligence blog: http://www.xperthr.co.uk/blogs/employment-intelligence/2010/07/employer-branding-in-2010-famo.html

    Please do keep the thought-provoking posts coming, Meghan!

    Kind regards

    Michael

    • http://www.talentculture.com/ Meghan M. Biro

      Hello Michael. Always nice to see my friends from across the pond here! Appreciate you stopping by. Employers of every size and shape are empowered to revel in their workplace culture when they decide to actively explore and *engage* in the endless options to connect with viable talent. Yes, social media has opened up an entirely new channel of possibility. History tells me companies are accustomed to creating one process to attract talent and one separate function to retain good hires. Perhaps we will see these two functions merge more as employers have an opportunity to add a collective voice and clarity to the recruiting and culture branding process. The first step in understanding what your culture is actually offers managers a rare opportunity to collect feedback from employees. Why wait?

  • http://www.tanveernaseer.com Tanveer Naseer

    Hi Meghan,

    I think your post is an important reminder to organizations to answer the question ‘what is our purpose?’. Naturally, the easy answer a company can give is to be profitable, make our shareholders happy, etc. But if you think about it, that’s merely a result or outcome instead of a purpose. It’s also something that’s unlikely to inspire key talent to want to join your team, or even holding on to the talent you currently have in your workforce.

    Unfortunately, many companies tend to look at their brand as being more a part of their marketing platform than a succinct description of what’s their purpose, of what they want to be recognized for or identified by. And yet, if organizations were to recognize their brand as being inextricably linked to their culture, to what defines their purpose, it would be a lot easier to attract the key talent they need as the purpose that drives them would be compelling to those they need to help make it a reality.

    After all, no one wants to wear a company’s logo because they make people rich; instead, they’d want to identify themselves with a company’s brand because their purpose, as defined through their culture, is something people can relate to and feel as though it’s their purpose as well.

    • http://www.talentculture.com/ Meghan M. Biro

      Hello Tanveer. Thank you for sharing the fabulous insight! You have captured an important essence of this topic = People > Emotion. Much of this secret branding sauce is a unique combination of people, personalities, and a culture “experience” – Emotion is a key byproduct of this equation. When hiring leaders move away from culture branding merely as a marketing function and start aiming to understand their people we are closer to capturing the magic we know as “culture” – it’s about people first. Engaging is the very first step to understanding. Finding purpose is really important – I agree with you. Sometimes we lose this special factor when it becomes all about a logo or slogan. It’s the emotional take away that inspires people to “buy” into a workplace culture.

      • http://www.dorothydalton;wordpress.com Dorothy Dalton

        Hi Meghan – well said! Interesting post. I always wonder about branding and think it can be easy to be swayed by image. Some organisations with strong market brands are well known poor employers, but still manage to attract candidates by the thousand because of a certain reputation on the product or service market. Some industry sectors are awash with them.

        So as you rightly say, branding not only has to be a strong composite of first class goods, services and excellent customer/client relations but has to include being an ethical employer.

  • http://www.careertrend.net Executive Resume Writer

    Hi Meghan,

    What a crisp read. I literally swept through your well worded insights without pausing (this is writing at its best!).

    Your reference to your own past post on building culture reminds us that the process is layered (transactional, transformational and tacit). This multidimensional effort, however, differentiates and creates an advantage in the hiring marketplace, as you point out.

    As well, I agree that candidates are drawn to working for admired company brands; fortunately, though Nike, IBM, Google are the well publicized such brands, there are many, many, MANY small- and mid-sized companies whose reputations emanate. Just ask around, read local news and business reports, join professional/business networking conversations, observe – great (and not-so-great) corporate cultures abound. Gravitate toward the great and participate in their abundance!

    Another thoughtful post – thank you, Meghan!
    Jacqui

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