5 Ways HR Can Build Your Organization's Brand

Build Brand Recognition from the Inside - Out

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••• Copyright David Young-Wollf / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

When most people think about branding, Human Resources is not something that naturally comes to mind. Instead, you think of slick advertising campaigns and instantly identifiable logos that inherently promise value, quality and a desirable image or personality.

When you think about the world’s most successful brands, you think of names like Google, Coca-Cola, and Apple—brands that have transcended their category of product or service to become icons themselves. But if you look closely, these brands also have another thing in common.

They consistently top annual "Best Places to Work" lists. In addition to brand recognition, they also have a strong company culture and highly engaged employees.

Many would argue that strong brands attract strong talent, but strong brands are also built by strong talent. It’s no secret that employees who are engaged work harder, are more productive and are less likely to leave their companies.

Study after study shows that organizations that score high in employee engagement have higher productivity and profitability and lower turnover and absenteeism.

Engaged employees who believe in the companies they work for, who feel bought into the workplace culture, create value for a brand through productivity. But, they can also become brand ambassadors for your organization.

Your current employees are a trusted source of information for potential employees. Branding is no longer solely the job of the marketing department. HR professionals must now embrace their roles as internal branders. Let’s take a closer look at five aspects of that role: onboarding, reward programs, communication and messaging, culture, and technology.

HR Streamlines Onboarding Programs for Employees to Build Your Brand

Making a strong first impression with potential employees goes a long way in building your brand. The same is true for your employees. During those first few weeks of onboarding and starting a new job, it is critical to meet or exceed expectations.

For example, employees spend significant amounts of time engaged in new-hire and benefits-related administration during their first month with an organization. Paper form completion and fragmented enrollment processes can challenge an employee’s expectations of their new organization.

This is especially true when processes are inconsistent with the organization’s approach to other aspects of the joining process. A disjointed onboarding process can lead to unhappy hires.

A company well-known for its streamlined onboarding process is Facebook, where new hires are sent key documents to complete before their start date. In addition, all devices–computers, phones, and so forth–are calibrated for new employees when they arrive.

Many businesses are seeing the value of investing in technology and processes that streamline the onboarding experience for their employees. Some businesses use tactics like onboarding-in-a-box, wherein new hires are given tablets or USBs containing all of the forms and applications necessary to enroll in their benefits.

In some cases, using technology to streamline the benefits process can reduce the employee enrollment time from two and a half hours to just nine minutes. Efficiency in onboarding processes can plant the seeds for growing future brand ambassadors.

HR Uses Reward Programs and Communication to Build Your Brand

Just as marketers must consider the customer experience when developing products and programs for their patrons, HR pros must keep the employee experience at the forefront of reward and communication strategies.

Benefit provision is one of the largest business costs for the majority of organizations and a major driver of staff engagement. Providing the right rewards can be central to incentivizing employee behavior and engagement.

But there is a challenge for employers to ensure that their employees truly value the benefits package offered and recognize the investment that the company makes in its reward spend. That’s when strong employee communication and branding become key.

Internal communication programs and tools should be engaging, intuitive and informative, with visuals and language that helps staff better understand the benefits available to them. They should also have a look and feel that is consistent with the company’s public image.

Furthermore, it’s important to reach staff through their preferred communication channels - whether that’s email, face-to-face in department meetings, text messages, or online video guides. HR pros should do regular audits of their internal communication programs and survey staff to better understand their preferences.

As with communication, one size does not fit all for employee benefits packages. That’s why it’s important to consider the demographics of your workforce and which benefits are going to be the most important to them.

You’ll want to brand those packages appropriately. For instance, a younger worker may value more paid time off or a flexible work schedule over the retirement benefits sought by older employees.

Keep an eye on new benefits trends like wellness programs and flexible spending accounts. Assess whether these benefits might be right for your organization to stay competitive. Just as the world’s top brands evolve with industry changes, so should benefits packages.

Starbucks, for instance, has a workforce with a large population of part-time workers, but they are still eligible for full health insurance benefits, stock awards, and free coffee.

Employees who feel their companies offer competitive benefits packages are likely to share that opinion with others, which, of course, is great for your company brand.

HR Uses Culture and Messaging to Build Your Organization's Brand

Employees want to feel connected to their organization and its culture—whether they work from company headquarters or a remote location. Businesses seeking to strengthen their brand among workers must clearly communicate the company’s values, employee expectations, core-culture, and commitment.

An example of a company that does this well is Netflix. A PowerPoint presentation released by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, which has been viewed more than 5 million times on the web, outlines the company’s talent management strategies, which are based on philosophies like:

talent managers should think like businesspeople and innovators first, and like HR people last. Forget throwing parties and handing out T-shirts; make sure every employee understands what the company needs most and exactly what’s meant by high performance.”

This strategy appears to be working well for the company, whose high-performing workforce grew the U.S. subscriber base to 55 million in 2018. Netflix hit a record 117.6 million subscribers thanks to an addition of 1.9 million domestic and 6.4 million international streaming subscribers.

A challenge facing many businesses today, particularly multinational organizations, is in creating a unified global approach to messaging and communication. The employee journey, branding, and messaging must remain consistent and build a global identity. This is accomplished through harmonizing, branded reward and communication programs with the same look, feel, and structure across all locations.

In this way, each time an employee receives communication about policies, procedures or company news, whether they access that information in California or Canada, or the U.K. or the Philippines, they can engage with the brand and the company’s key messages.

HR Uses Technology to Build Your Organization's Brand

The technology an employee uses at work has an impact on his perception of the employer’s brand. Robust technology that is easy to use and engaging indicates that an organization is innovative. Workplace technology that is perceived as cool and cutting-edge among your employees will help position your brand as an industry leader that invests in its resources.

An engaging smartphone and tablet-friendly portal that employees can access anytime, anywhere, can help reinforce employee interaction, participation, and engagement with your brand.

Using cloud-based technology solutions, that are easily integrated, can also enhance the employee user experience. They give the employee the ability to move between self-service applications seamlessly—without even noticing the use of multiple software solutions.

Additionally, just as Chief Marketing Officers use marketing automation to manage customer relationships, HR pros can use automation technologies to develop positive relationships with their customers, the employees.

The technologies can identify employee status updates such as address changes, new job titles, or family changes. They can then automatically generate personalized messages to offer congratulations, alert employees to required actions, and aid in benefits selection.

This can all be achieved using consistent branding and messages to reinforce employee engagement with the organization.

The role of HR in branding will continue to be an important one. The research has shown that an engaged, productive and inspired workforce of brand ambassadors can have a positive impact on your brand as well as any marketing or PR campaign you put together.

Organizations that approach branding from the inside out build a strong foundation for success.