What makes this contract tricky to manage is that it can, and will, affect employee expectations before employees even become employees. Before employees have their first interview, your brand has already made certain promises about culture, reputation in the community, working expectations and company values. This brand contract makes certain promises about what the company will offer employees. What is the word “out there” about your company? So, how do you know when your employer brand is in trouble? Employees are cynical when they become convinced that the organization cannot be trusted to keep its promises, including the promises made in the brand contract. A consistent, strong brand and culture give employees a sense of safety that keeps them feeling confident, even when the organization is changing. REI gets it. So can your employer brand. The employer brand sets expectations around the employee experience.
For every six employees, there is one doing what he or she can to tear your brand apart.
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On Oct. 27, 2015, outdoor recreation specialty retailer REI sent a letter to its 5.5 million co-op members. It would be closing its stores on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. The company would also give all of its 12,000 employees a paid holiday so they could get outside and enjoy nature, something at the heart of the REI message. Later, as the national “shop ‘til you drop” fiesta grew closer, the company released a television ad about the shutdown featuring the Twitter hashtag #OptOutside. They launched a website, optoutside.rei.com, where users could find trail suggestions and other outdoor recreation ideas.
It was a doubling down on their brands — both their consumer brand and their employer brand. Did the risk pay off? On the consumer brand side, it appears the answer is a resounding, “You bet your hiking boots!” Apart from garnering REI enormous press coverage, the Black Friday closure boosted the company’s online sales on Black Friday by 26 percent. More than 1,408,000 people joined the campaign on the company’s social media channels.
More important, the decision was a full-throated shout of authenticity backing up the co-op’s stated brand and values — bold and trust-building support of REI’s promise to both its customers and employees.
Jumping on the brandwagon.
Today’s businesses operate in an economy where brand is everything. A brand represents a set of promises made to the consumer. Companies are constantly working to build, enhance and defend their brands. But when the world began this decades-long love affair with the brand, we forgot that the brand’s promise affects employees, too.
Your brand promise or “employer brand contract” consists of everything your culture, marketing, reputation, media coverage and the behavior of your people does to create expectations in your employees. What makes this contract tricky to manage is that it can, and will, affect employee expectations before employees even become employees.
Before employees have their first interview, your brand has already made certain promises about culture, reputation in the community, working expectations and company values. These promises may or may not be explicit, meaning they don’t have to be written down and presented to candidates before they apply for the job. However, they have already formed an idea, gathered through your website, word of mouth, recommendations from other employees, social media, community involvement and even their own experience with your products or services. This brand contract makes certain promises about what the company will offer employees.
Your ability to recruit talent is either enhanced or damaged by your brand. Employers in all industries are reporting being ghosted by potential hires that no-show for interviews or their first day on the job….