Whether you’ve been with the same company for 30 years or you’re currently in the market for a new career, employer brands affect you. In fact, almost all of us have bias towards certain brands. Think about it. We’re all pretty aware that companies like Google are exceptional places to work, but what exactly makes it so? Is it the food court stocked with gourmet food and snacks? Is it the free ride to work via Google bus? Maybe its the complimentary massages, but we think there’s probably more to it than that.

First things first, what exactly is an employer brand? Simply put, an employer brand is an organization’s reputation as an employer. It is the image that the company is a great, or not so great, place to work. As such, the employer branding process is generally focused on attracting top talent, employee engagement and retention strategies, which are all intended to enhance the employer brand.

Think of it like baking a cake. If all the ingredients are of high quality (I’m talking the finest Madagascar vanilla), and the oven is perfectly heated, and the baker is attentive enough to save our dessert from possible burnt-doom, chances are that this cake will be delicious. Is it enough that the cake tastes great? Unfortunately, no. In order to coerce our friends and family into trying our delicious cake, it has to look the part too! So now we frost to our hearts’ content to attract people to eat our cake.

Employer Brand Cake

Let’s bring this cake talk back to employer branding. In our example, the ingredients are your current employees. They’re your organization’s backbone and as such, you want them happy because we all know that satisfied employees are productive, profitable employees. Without quality talent, your organization will produce sub par services and products to your clients, and inevitably, fail.

The single most important thing current employees can communicate are the unique aspects of your company’s culture, which brings us back to the cake metaphor. In this case, your firm’s culture is the oven where the cake’s ingredients bake. In other words, a great company culture facilitates positive employee growth, commitment, and empowerment.

Much like a baker must keep an eye on the oven and its contents, management must keep track of changes in company culture and employee satisfaction. As employee values and needs change, the company culture must inevitably evolve. In order to keep up satisfaction, wary managers must address what is important to employees. For example, employees with families probably want to spend time with them. Companies can address this by allowing flexible schedules or remote work.

The values and practices that make up your company culture also make up the Employee Value Proposition (EVP), aka your cake’s frosting. A compelling EVP consists of the unique reasons that people commit to your organization and as such, is a key driver of talent attraction, engagement and retention. These reasons vary, from catered lunches every Monday to annual volunteer trips, but they must speak to your ideal employee’s values.

To successfully bake an employer brand cake, organizations must understand what makes their ideal employees tick. They must survey current employees to find common characteristics and research workplace trends. A great resource, Net Impact’s Talent Report: What Workers Want in 2012, examined a national sample of MBA students and employed graduates across three generations (Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers) to understand exactly what employees are looking for.

The report revealed that most people believe “having a job that makes a social impact on the world is an important life goal,” and the numbers don’t lie. A whopping 72% of surveyed students rank this as more important than having children, a prestigious career, being wealthy, and being a community leader – with financial security and marriage the only two goals ranked higher. As the chart shows, professionals have very similar prioritization.

Employee Happiness

It’s pretty clear that future and current professionals believe a positive impact on the world is important. The report dives into this deeper by examining the relationship between employee satisfaction and positive social impact. Over half of professionals (55%) stated that “they are in a job where they can make a social or environmental impact on the world.” Of these respondents, 49% report higher satisfaction levels than those who do not have impact opportunities at work (24% satisfaction rating). With a 2:1 ratio, its easy to see that employees are more satisfied at work when they believe they have a positive impact on the world. And once again, satisfied employees are…? Say it with me this time: satisfied employees are productive, profitable employees.

Since we all dream of taking the Google bus into the office for our monthly massage, lets look at how the tech giant enables Googlers to make a positive social impact.

In the past 3 years alone, Google has donated more than $353 million in grants, $3 billion in free ads, apps, and products, and 150,000 hours of employee time to nonprofits worldwide (great Googley-moogley!). Jacquelline Fuller, director of Google Giving, stated “Giving back is a huge part of what motivates us as a company, and as individuals. We invest in social entrepreneurs who are using technology to crack the code on the world’s toughest problems. Last year we invested in tech-based efforts to expand access to clean water, stop wildlife poaching, prevent the horrible practice of human trafficking and reduce poverty worldwide. In addition to our dollars, we provide Googlers–everyone from engineers, marketers to business operations gurus–who help nonprofit teams carry out their work. Googlers are intensely passionate about everything they do, and that includes rolling up their sleeves to make their communities a better place—whether it’s responding to natural disasters, tutoring kids in computer science or helping nonprofits collect real-time impact data.”

While Google is a tough act to follow, giving your employees the opportunity to work and make an impact in their communities has shown higher job satisfaction, an enhanced employer brand, and ultimately helps attract top talent.

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