I recently attended a webinar hosted by San Francisco-based Hired that explored the trending topic of culture and employer brand. The panel included Hired’s SVP of People, Kelli Dragovich, Stitch Fix’s Chief People and Culture Officer, Margo Wheeler and Patty McCord, former Chief People Officer at Netflix. Their discussion centered on finding consistency between an organization’s culture and its external brand – specifically its employer brand. Which is to say, the image a company wants to portray to prospective employees. This is critically important in a tight labor market as companies compete for talent who increasingly aspire to work for organizations whose cultures mirror their own values. In fact, Kelli shared a recent survey of Hired’s candidates, of which 45% make culture the top factor they consider when looking for a job or accepting a job offer.
Should your culture and employer brand be synonymous?
Sort of. While distinct, there is a symbiotic relationship between the company culture and the employer brand – and likewise your consumer brand. They don’t have to be the same, but they can’t conflict. Your company culture is how your company actually works internally – and that is evident to customers through the interactions they have with your employees, services, products and operations. As Margo pointed out, “You want to be a jerk? Then you have a jerk culture.” And as Patty noted, in today’s socially networked society, these feelings, management practices, contradictions, are shared and available immediately. The result being that your culture is reflected in your employer brand reputation. This reputation can and will drive behaviors – either favorable or unfavorable – in both current and potential employees as well as current and potential customers.
Manage your culture. Manage your employer brand.
Regardless of whether your HR team has codified your ideal company culture, culture is not owned by HR. It’s also not owned by the executive team. A company’s culture is owned by everyone within the organization. It’s generated through the everyday words and actions within your company. And as your company grows, this is exactly how your culture will scale. If a company truly wants to manage its culture and ultimately its employer brand, it needs to be ready to hire to it, reward to it, fire to it, and everything in between to it. Your people are generating your culture and in turn influencing your employer brand.
Is there a “right” culture?
No. Every company is different. Leaders need to put a stake in the ground as to what that culture (and in turn, employer brand) will represent. Margo suggests that it should be polarizing. Allowing your candidates to react to your culture and say “I want to be in that,” or conversely, “I actually don’t want to be in that.” As Kelli suggested, attempting to be all things to all people will not work. Candidates want to know the good and the bad – give them the chance to make their own decision. It’s like dating. What’s right for one, isn’t right for someone else. Unless leaders are unhappy with their current culture, the advice is to focus on attracting employees who are attracted to who you are as an organization. Don’t change your stripes.