Human Resources Today

"I like good strong words that mean something."

—Louisa May Alcott (from "Little Women")


Inspiration comes from the most curious of places. The other night, as I sat through Middle School Orientation, one teacher shared she encourages students to “choose their words wisely.” Such sage advice for this crop of new sixth graders. And for organizations. 

When it comes to our organization’s employer brand, the words we choose matter. 

Do we offer careers or jobs

Do we refer to employees as ladies and gentlemen or staff

Are we guided by a mission or a purpose

Is our culture collaborative or competitive

Is the work experience challenging or meaningful

As a logophile (a lover of words), a self-proclaimed member of the grammar police, and an employer brand strategist, I believe every word we select, write, and say about an employment experience matters. 

Words fuel movements. Words become our rallying cry. Words inspire, incite, and endure. The words we choose help to communicate what we want people to know about our organization. Words have the ability to create feelings -- positive, negative, or neutral. Words let people know what to do. Know, feel, do; these three simple words are important tools in the employer branding toolbox. 

How do we know which words to choose? 

On individual pieces of paper, ask your executive team to write down words to describe your organization. Put them in a hat, shake it up, and pull out five or six. Now, STOP! This is not sound advice, though often it seems to be what happens. This built-in-a-vacuum approach leads to inauthentic and often unrealistic messaging. 

To tell a story that is authentic to your organization, find your words by listening to what’s inside the hearts and minds of your people. Through research, you can understand what it’s truly like to work for the organization and uncover the words that mean something to your people. Through competitive analysis, you can ensure the message doesn’t sound like everyone else. Through testing, you can validate that what you want to say connects with the people you want to reach. 

If you’re using the same words as everyone else, you won’t stand out. 

If you’re using the wrong words, you won’t attract the right people. 

If you don’t know which words to use, we can help

Words matter. Choose wisely. 


Shannon Smedstad (@shannonsmedstad) is an Engagement Director and Senior Employer Brand Strategist for exaqueo, an employer brand experience firm building employer brands and the talent strategies that drive them through research, consulting, and creative and digital execution. Contact exaqueo to learn more about our employer brand innovation, workforce research, and recruitment strategy offerings.




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