*PS. Below you will find an auto-generated transcript of this episode.
Arek Dvornechuck: Hey what's up branding experts, Arek here at Ebaqdesign and welcome to On Branding Podcast. Today my guest is Bryan Adams and Bryan is the CEO and the founder of PH Creative, which is a global employer branding agency that helps attract and retain top clients. So Bryan worked with brands like Apple, Dazn, Siemens, Cisco, just to name a few. And Brian is also a podcaster, a speaker, and an author of the book “Give and Get”.
Hello, Bryan. Thanks for joining us today.
Bryan Adams: That's my pleasure. Thanks for having me on.
Arek Dvornechuck: Thank you so much. Today we are going to talk about how to create a compelling employer brand. I just wanted you to start with a simple question. Can you explain to us what employer branding is and what's it value is for the business?
Bryan Adams: Yeah, sure. So, most organizations now, the only competitive advantage left in business is their people. And it's a competitive landscape trying to attract great people to drive productivity, create a great culture and ultimately grow a business. So the market of finding talent from a recruitment perspective and also engaging and retaining talent is fierce. If you're not treating your people well, we've seen through COVID and the great resignation, people leave and find bigger and better opportunities. So organizations more and more now are turning to a more strategic approach to position themselves in the marketplace .To create a reputation as an employer is desirable to attract great talent.
And also within that employer brand so an employer brand is people's perception and your reputation as an employer. We also create what's called an employee value proposition. So being really clear with what's on offer for talent if they were to join your organization, what do they stand to get in terms of strengths, benefits and opportunities in your organization? But also what they are expected to give, so what's the culture like? How will I find a sense of purpose, impact and belonging? Will I enjoy my career? Will I grow my career? All of those questions. It's putting a simple communication structure in place to make it very clear what people might expect and why they would entertain that as part of their career.
Arek Dvornechuck: Basically there are two main benefits, right? To create an employer brand to attract new talent. So making it more appealing to job seekers or retaining existing employees, right? So increasing their satisfaction with the job so they don't leave, as you mentioned with the example, the pandemic.
You already mentioned the EVP, Employer Value Proposition which is part of your framework. Can you talk to us a bit more about the key principles and perhaps some of the best practices that you describe in the book?
Bryan Adams: Yeah, absolutely. So conventionally, most organizations would set out a proposition that just talks about the strengths, benefits and opportunities of a company. In the book, we lay out, we context everything that you stand to benefit. With the challenges that you might face in the areas of growth, the capabilities required. So it's much more of a well rounded, authentic, and clear view of what you will find if you join that organization. It all comes down to setting expectations.
The last thing you want is somebody to be sold on an organization because it sounds great. But then the reality when they've joined a company isn't what they've been sold. The “Give and Get” principle is about using the reality of setting expectations as a great way to compel people who are ideally matched to your organization and actually repel people who aren't ideally matched, which is a little bit of a new concept in the world of employer branding.
Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah, that's interesting. So it's not only about setting those expectations and then making it match the reality, but also making sure that, as you mentioned, repelling people who are not qualified, who wouldn't, align with the business and the brand culture and so on.
So this brings us closer to talking about, how to build a brand culture, how to build a strong culture and engagement within the team. And then maybe you can give us some examples of, maybe some case studies of how you successfully implemented some of your framework.
Bryan Adams: Yeah, sure. So it all starts with understanding what culture we want and need that is conducive to moving the organization forward. And usually that's a misstep. That's a piece of that organization. miss out. And the reason that's important is you want to ultimately be left with a culture that is conducive to the business so the leaders buy into what we're building, they see the value in it and how it will drive the organization forward. But it's also an optimum, competitive culture that people want to be part of. So the value lies in the overlap there.
When we look at employer branding, there's three layers of strategy. There's reputation, there's expectation, and then experience. When it comes to reputation, and you ask most organizations, what reputation do you want or need in the marketplace? Typically, the answer is we want to be known as the best, or we want to be the most attractive employer. And what we look at is we believe that you need to be a little bit more tangible than that. And we have a 3C model, which is a career catalyst, culture, and citizenship. Now, most organizations from a branding perspective can be positioned in one of those buckets. Amazon, for example, is known as a career catalyst. You go there to accelerate your career. They're not the warmest and fuzziest sort of culture, like the environment. They've got a reputation for being quite a tough place to go, but they are a career catalyst because if you can do two years there, you're going to accelerate your career.
Organizations like HubSpot, Salesforce, Unilever, they're known for having a great culture. So they trade on how it feels to be part of that organization. And they build a reputation around being inclusive and offering a sense of belonging and bringing your whole self to work. And then there's the third C, which is rising in priority now that millennials and Gen Z's are running the world officially now. It's this idea of citizenship where an organization can build a reputation for leaving the world better than they found it. So the example there is Patagonia, who, famously now, they say, Earth is our only stakeholder. Everything they do is designed to make the world a better place.
So depending on which one is right for your organization, aligning with a very clear reputation as an employer is the place to start. And then we lay out the how, the proposition element, setting expectations and that's where the give and get methodology comes to life. A good example of that is I remember when we worked with Apple we did all the research and we came back with the insights and one of the insights was the work life balance at Apple at the time wasn't particularly great. In fact it was almost like, you leave your soul at the door and it's blood, sweat and tears, you give everything to Apple. It's a tough competitive environment. You've got to be at the top of your game. Their standards are second to none. And it's relentless in terms of the workload. It's also for one of the largest organizations on the planet, quite organic. There's very little structure, believe it or not within Apple. So you need to be a relationship based person and comfortable with ambiguity. When you think about all of those things that would repel a lot of people, some people, in fact, if you look at Microsoft, who we've also done some work with, on paper, they're very similar to Apple, but actually in reality, they couldn't be any more different. It's a very structured hierarchical place to work and there's a very different vibe and feeling in Microsoft compared to Apple.
So this isn't about good or bad culture. This is about articulating reality in a way that you're compelling the right people who are attracted to your particular culture. So you get a good culture fit. And just to finish off with Apple, as part of the research, we also found that some people were doing 16 hour days going home and still doing more work because they were obsessed about what they were doing. They were passionate. They loved it. That's what they would be doing if they weren't paid. So it's clear what they've got to give, but what they get is they become the best version of themselves quicker than anywhere else on the planet. They work with some of the smartest, best people in the world, and they see their work in the hands of millions every day. And that's a great example of a very clear give and get proposition that is compelling to some and would make a lot of people run for the hills and be repelled by that proposition. So it's more a smart filter to make great choices than it is just a general magnet to attract people.
Arek Dvornechuck: Okay, so this brings us closer, so you gave us good examples with Apple and Microsoft who are quite different, as you mentioned. Apple is not so well structured, but it's obviously a big corporation and Microsoft is totally different. They may focus on different things, they may have different value propositions. So as you mentioned, it all comes down to articulating that value, right? So it comes down to storytelling and creating, writing the messaging and crafting those stories. So can you talk to us about those or perhaps give us some examples of once we have the clarity of what type of value proposition is best for our organization, then how to find the right stories or craft the right stories to convey that proposition to the outside world.
Bryan Adams: Yeah, sure. So one of the most challenging and interesting aspects of employer branding is trying to articulate how it feels or why you should join an organization in just a few words in a sort of we call it the brand essence, so a slogan or a tagline. Directly under that you need to be able to unpack it at a global level and tell a story that everybody will universally identify with if you're inside that organization from wherever you're sat, you need to be able to identify with the sentiment and the articulation of those words. Now that's fine for the spearhead of representing an entire global organization. But most organization's cultures are fairly complex. They might feel different in different geographies, different departments, different level of seniority in an organization. So the storytelling model is really important. And typically the employer brand will have any number of pillars, of themes that we've found throughout an organization. So the trick there is being able to tell a diverse range of stories that all have the same themes of the employer brand strategy. Whilst your experience might be very different from, say, the finance department compared to a creative department or sales or engineering or research and development. The skill sets, the day to day would be different, but you can identify with the sentiment, the values the capabilities, the behaviors and the motivators and drivers that motivate everybody towards one shared vision, which obviously is the employer brand essence right at the top. So typically, you're absolutely right. It comes down to being able to strategically design. A series of stories that show diversity, but also show unity in the messaging.
Arek Dvornechuck: Okay yeah, so you already touched upon that was my next question actually because as you mentioned, we have different sectors and companies operate within different regions and cultures. So how do you actually adopt the employer branding for all those different sectors, regions and cultures that may actually differ a lot, right?
Bryan Adams: I mean, 99% of employer brand success comes from aligning with the mission, the vision, the values, the existing priorities of an organization. So everybody can see how it hangs together. And then if you tell stories around purpose, impact, and belonging, which are typical three skeletal themes of every organization because that's typically what we're looking for in our careers, in our life we're looking for evidence that our contribution matters, evidence that it's purposeful and has some meaning, and evidence that we can find a sense of belonging in like our surroundings and the people that we're working with. So there's sort of universal themes if you like, but then if you go to a certain geography or you go to a different office or a department, allowing them to use the basic ingredients that everybody agrees with, but telling a different story from a different perspective in a different circumstance. We get to appreciate the themes much more because we're seeing them show up in a diverse range of places, but all identified with, and that's where inclusion and diversity can be amplified, celebrating difference. As well as aligning with those core strategic themes and everything comes back to those core strategic themes rolling up to the vision of the organization and the employer brand essence. And if you do that then that's where you get the consistency of the brand message and the authenticity of how it feels wherever you are in the organization at the same time.
Arek Dvornechuck: So you start with developing those teams. You find those teams, and then you craft your messaging accordingly for what you believe would be more compelling for all those different sectors, regions or cultures. What would actually connect with those people.
Okay. We are going to link to your book. This book is available on Amazon. Your website is ph-creative.com. So if you guys want to learn more and check out Bryan's website, just go there. Are you active on social media?
Bryan Adams: LinkedIn is probably the most prolific. So if you just search for Bryan Adams, pH creative, I'm easily found there.
Arek Dvornechuck: Okay, so we're going to link to that too. And just last questions. We are approaching the end of our episode. How do you see employer branding, moving forward in the future? There is this shift now happening, people want to work from home more companies actually, some companies are okay with that. Some of them are not. We have this revolution with AI. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Bryan Adams: Yeah, I think artificial intelligence has given us lots of opportunities to create efficiencies in how employer brand is managed and distributed. But ultimately it comes down to the job of branding, whether it's employer branding or consumer branding is to humanize a corporate entity. That's what it's designed to do. And it's not easy. The fundamentals of storytelling and truly connecting with an audience on an emotional level are always going to be the fundamentals. And I think working remote and organizations finding their feet in terms of a blended culture of remote and office based work, It's actually getting harder to do that. And it's going to come down to more effort and more listening and more agility from an employer branding perspective to keep up with constant change. So it's a challenge. AI brings efficiency. Ultimately there's no shortcut
Arek Dvornechuck: I agree. I agree 100%. Okay, awesome. I really appreciate you coming on the show. Thank you so much.
Bryan Adams: My pleasure. My pleasure. Great to talk to you.
Arek Dvornechuck is a strategist and designer who helps brands grow by crafting distinctive brand identities, backed by strategy. Need help with your project?—Get in touch
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