Adventures in employer branding: Part 3 Unweaving the rainbow

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Like a rainbow is made from light refracting through millions of fleeting droplets, so a company’s culture is made by shining light through millions of fleeting actions, utterances, decisions and stories.  These millions of tiny elements, individually inconsequential, together form something that is visible, tangible and overarching. 

For employer branding within an organization trying to change its values this brings about some unique challenges.  As we discussed in part 1 of this series an employer brand must genuinely reflect the true culture of the organization and in part 2 we talked about how the values presented in the employer brand will dictate the values of the people you hire.  So what does an employer brand need to do to hire people to fit its aspirational culture?

Given that culture is made up of millions of tiny, fleeting elements, change isn’t a singular event.  Change occurs through changing the actions, utterances, decisions and stories within and around the organization, one at a time.  Recruitment of people who hold the aspirational values the organisation strives for is a key element in doing this.

In this third chapter we look at how you can hire people with the values you WANT to have even if you don’t have them YET.

Aspirational values are great but they can cause problems. Hiring someone who values innovation if the rest of your team value safety can cause friction and is unlikely to change anything. You’ll just end up with a worse culture than you started with.  The key to overcoming this is communication.

Framing a cultural change as a journey rather than as a binary switch over from one state to another (“We are becoming an organization that values innovation” vs “we are now an innovative organization!”) will start to change things.

And communicating this process of change as a journey will allow you to hire for your aspirational values. Addressing issues of the past, acknowledging shortfalls of the present and playing to the challenges of the change will attract the right sort of people: the sort of people who will relish the process of change.

If this is backed up by a genuine state of change within the organization - the destination AND the journey has been sold internally, training and change management programs have been provided, systems have been amended to reward and encourage the correct behaviours, correct behaviours have been well defined, senior management live the new values inwardly, outwardly and unwaveringly – then the issues discussed in part 1 are solved. The employer brand does genuinely match the culture. If the recruitment process is also brought into alignment then the organization will start to hire (and keep) people with the aspirational values.

Conveying this story via your employer brand, the story you tell about yourself in the recruitment process, the story your recruitment partners bring to the market, is a powerful tool in driving the process of change.  Being transparent and honest through the process will buy you brownie points from new employees, gaining some leniency if things aren’t exactly as promised. This is particularly true if the story is consistent throughout the hiring and induction processes.

Change is slow to start but once it begins it can take on a life of its own. Hiring people with the organisations aspirational values, communicating effectively about the journey being undertaken, and aligning the organization around a compelling roadmap will start to change things.

Different decisions will start to be made, new utterances will start to happen, new stories will begin to be told and new actions will be taken.  And then these few will generate many and eventually the millions of elements that make up the organisation’s overarching, visible, tangible culture will evolve.  And with them the whole rainbow.


Follow us on Linkedin to get the rest of this series or click ‘subscribe’ on this page.  Go on, you know you want to, it’ll be worth it honest.  

And why not check out parts 1 and 2 in the series here and here.