My friends, family, and colleagues know that I am in the middle of a huge home renovation. Earlier this year, my husband and I bought an almost 100-year-old homestead in the northern Door peninsula of my home state, Wisconsin. As first-time homeowners, taking on this project from a distance (we live in New York City) and doing all of the work ourselves, we knew we had to be wise with our time, budget, and resources. We needed to be strategic, efficient, and to plan wisely. Sure, we could have gone to an open house, made an offer, closed on the property, and started renovating right away. Imagine if we went straight to laying new tile floors without doing any research to understand the condition of the foundation first. Then, after the floors were complete, we installed cabinets on top of them. If the foundation was flawed from the beginning, over time we would end up with cracked or loose tiles. We would find ourselves back at square one, with a few thousand dollars less in our pockets, and a lot of rework on our hands.
From purchasing a home to renovating it, this past year has been full of lessons learned. Looking back, I've realized there are many parallels between renovating a house and building an employer brand. Both undertakings require a holistic approach, and their success (or failure) comes down to the strategy and supporting structure that’s put in place. Read on to hear how having an authentic, rock-solid foundation, grounded in research, is vital to the outcome and longevity of your home and your employer brand.
BEGIN WITH RESEARCH
Before making a major real estate investment — especially one that’s a fixer-upper — it’s key to understand the landscape first. Why? It’s important to understand what you’re getting into. It can be tempting to make assumptions based on what the eye can see. But old homes have an incredible way of holding surprises. In our case, we did a home inspection, well and septic inspections, and water testing to understand the condition of the home itself. Knowing that there are external factors that influence the home’s value, and ultimately our decision, we also looked beyond the property’s lot lines. We familiarized ourselves with the neighborhood and community, looked at property tax history, and read up on what was happening in the local news. To get a better sense of renovation requirements and costs, we walked through the house with a contractor and spent hours on home improvement stores’ websites investigating materials needed and costs.
Research is also the first step when building an employer brand. Conducting workforce insights with employees across the organization, such as surveys, focus groups, and interviews, allows you to develop an understanding of what’s truly in the hearts and minds of your people. These insights, in turn, can help illuminate the attractors and uncover the realities of the employment experience, while disproving any assumptions. They are the building blocks of the foundation that holds up your employer brand.
Just as you wouldn’t want your home to look like every other house on the street, you want your employer brand to be unique and differentiated from your talent competitors. Take the quest for insights beyond your organization and look at what is happening in the market and competitive landscape to create visibility into what other companies’ messages and strategies. Is everyone trying to gain candidates’ attention by selling the same things? Where does your organization have an opportunity to stand apart from the others?
BUILD A STRONG FOUNDATION
As a homebuyer, one of the first things you want to understand is the foundation’s condition. If your research indicates that the foundation or key structural elements are compromised, addressing them should be priority number one. Without a rock-solid foundation, everything else is at risk. It can be tempting to want to skip ahead to the more visible transformation such as new paint, flooring and the like, but glazing over this crucial step is guaranteed to come back to haunt you. This Google search results page illuminates just a few of the many possible disasters of ignoring a bad foundation.
To sell your employment experience to candidates, and for your employer brand to resonate with employees, you need a strong, authentic foundation that’s grounded in research. In ways that strike similarities with a bad foundation in your home, there’s a risk in selling candidates on false pretenses. Sure, they might accept their offer, and once they’re an employee, things can appear sound for some time. But in the long run, what they were promised isn’t reality, and it results in a loss for everyone. The employee is left disappointed, their customer experience may be impacted as a result as well, and the company faces turnover and wasted dollars.
BRING IT TO LIFE
On home renovation shows, this is like the big reveal at the end. The walls have been freshly painted, light fixtures have been installed, and new decor brings the space to life. The homeowners ooh and ahh over the upgrades that have been made to their living space.
When it comes to an employer brand, the big reveal comes in the launch and activation phase. Only after you have built a foundation grounded in research to uphold the brand can you begin to bring the brand to life in ways such as through social media content with a custom employer brand hashtag, a careers site refresh, an employee advocacy program—you name it! Once the foundation is in place, your organization is positioned to bring your employer brand to market.
If you enjoyed reading this post, check out this one: 5 Reasons Employer Brands Breakdown & How to Avoid an Employer Brand Fail.