A version of this article originally appeared on Forbes.com.
Is your C-suite abuzz with concerns about the Great Resignation? If your organization has been experiencing an alarmingly high employee quit rate, you’re not alone. Companies everywhere are feeling the impact of the Great Resignation. According to Gallup, nearly half the American workforce is now actively job hunting. Many other employees are resigning to start their own businesses or even quitting with no other plans in place.
Competitive salaries, great benefits and other perks are all important. But perhaps the most powerful strategy to retain (and attract) employees is an authentic employer brand that clearly expresses what’s special about your culture. A strong employer brand can attract job candidates, but it also helps remind current employees why they chose your company in the first place.
But before you build that employer brand, take a closer look at your culture to evaluate its current state. You may need to start with some work on your culture before launching an employer brand that promises something the company can’t deliver.
What’s your culture like, really?
Your executive leadership certainly has a shared vision for the company’s future and goals that they’re working toward to build the company’s success. Your company has probably developed a mission or purpose and a set of values. Most likely there’s a page on your website about the company culture, where the vision, mission and values are highlighted.MORE FOR YOUEmpathy Is The Most Important Leadership Skill According To ResearchWhy U.S. Talent Shortages Are At A 10-Year HighYou Probably Need More Friends—Here’s How To Make Them
But if you ask employees at various levels and in different functions throughout your organization, would they describe the culture using the same words as that website copy? If not, how wide is the gap between what leadership is preaching and what employees experience?
The reality is that a gap does exist in most companies. The further away employees are from executive leadership, the larger that gap usually is. Indeed, the leadership team should be thinking aspirationally about the culture they’re trying to build. However, if the gap is huge between leadership’s version of the culture and employee feedback, then there may be other work to do before developing that employer brand. In that case, a lot of the heavy lifting will probably fall to the leadership team itself.
Start at the top.
The first step in evaluating your culture is to begin with what the top leadership believes the culture to be and/or wants it to become. When working with clients, we like to do short interviews with as many members of the executive leadership team as we can, asking them to describe the culture and the values. We want to hear their vision for the company’s success, as well as how they see employees benefiting from and contributing to that success. Why do they believe this is a great place to work?
Go deep and wide.
The next step is to get input from a wide representation of employees. Think about a cross-section of function, location, tenure, seniority, generation and any other factors that might create different employee experiences. We like to conduct small focus groups — and to make sure that nobody’s boss shows up in their same focus group.
We ask employees to describe the culture in their own words, to tell us why they chose this company and how they see themselves contributing to the company’s success. We’ll ask about their career growth here and what they like about their job. We’ll also steer the conversation to the company values and which ones are really in use day after day — even in times of great stress or at a great financial cost.
Ask these two questions.
There are two questions we ask employees in these cultural focus groups that can guide us to a meaningful and authentic employer brand. First, we ask them to describe a great day at work for them. Secondly, we ask what they would tell a friend who wanted advice on whether to accept a job offer at their company.
Both these questions result in answers that cut to the heart of what’s best about a company’s culture. Maybe it’s a place where employees enjoy an enviable work-life balance or maybe it’s a pressure cooker but careers move fast. Both cultures could be appealing to different types of people.
There are many right answers to what your employer brand might represent, although promising that the culture is something it’s not could backfire. At Tribe, we call this the “eyeroll test.” Will employees roll their eyes at leadership’s version of the culture? That’s one of the biggest reasons to get both leadership and employee input when you’re evaluating and articulating your culture. It’s important to get it right, because in the war for talent, it’s your unique culture, as expressed by your employer brand, that will keep current employees from jumping ship — and entice new ones to come aboard.
Interested in shifting your culture or building a strong employer brand? Tribe can help.