Open up your culture

Corporate brands and employer brands are important to employees’ own brands as individuals. What you do for a living, your work community and your organisation’s vision are essential aspects of your identity and image as a person. The best scenario would be a win-win situation where the employees draw attention to the employer to boost their own brand, while at the same time the employer empowers a network of employee ambassadors.

But how can a company nurture a culture that all employees can stand proudly behind, regardless of the generations they belong to or their professional profiles? This was one of the questions that were raised when Miltton held an employer branding speed dating session earlier this spring.

To a large extent, employer branding is about revealing your corporate culture and telling others about where your company is heading. To ensure that the messages are true internally and at the same time please external groups, the employer value propositions that form the basis for employer branding often tend to be very generic, at least in the case of large global corporations. In contrast, it is much easier to build distinctive employer stories for smaller specialist organisations made up of fairly homogenous work communities.

Regardless of the company’s size, the key here is focus – talk about what you really are and what you want be. Leave out all the rest. It is also interesting to note that a number of companies, even large ones, are willing to go beyond generic messages by taking moral, ethical or political stands, even those that may not be in line with the views of all of their employees. An example of this was the over 950 companies and organisations that joined the #metahdomme initiative, supporting equal marriage in Finland.

One thing is for sure, thanks to today’s open communications environment, working cultures are more and more exposed to the world outside the organisation. Stora Enso’s employee Instagram account is an example of a great use of this opportunity. The Russian Inplacer site shows work atmospheres at different workplaces, with the company behind it aiming to act as a third party interpreter of corporate culture.

Greater transparency can introduce threats, but for the most part the potential results should be positive. More diverse communications made up of both official corporate messages as well as different voices of the members of the working community are bound to present potential employees with a more authentic picture of the organisation. This boosts the chances of a better cultural fit between the jobseeker and employer. However, employers need to make sure that isolated, extreme minority voices do not get a disproportionate amount of attention. Perhaps among the best ways to do this is by encouraging and empowering the majority voices to communicate about their work community externally. Social media provides tools for this. In certain companies this might involve providing all employees with smart devices.

Transparency was also on the agenda at Tulevaisuuden Työpaikat, a seminar arranged in Helsinki in end of May. The event brought HR, marketing and communications professionals together to discuss the topic of improving working life.

One of the speakers at the event, Aki Ahlroth, responsible for culture and personnel at Siili Solutions, has become known for his uncompromising approach when it comes to internal transparency. At Siili, a publicly listed company since 2012, any information is open as long as there are no strong reasons against publishing it. One important part of this is maintaining transparency with regard to individuals’ competences, responsibilities and work results. In my own understanding Siili’s approach reflects the idea that in a knowledge-based company, success is ultimately based not as much on delivering the right products or processes, but more on employing and retaining the best people. By communicating this clearly a company builds internal pride, while also advancing its employees’ brands as individuals.

A minor detail, but an important one – when I was checking some facts for this blog text on Siili’s web page I came across their standard “About us” webpage. This is how the company describes itself: “Siili was founded to be a home for experts. Siili employees have both the skills and the will to become the best in their field.” This is a great example of a corporate story with employer branding at its core.

Pelagia Wolff

Pelagia Wolff works at Miltton as an advisor with a special focus on employer branding. She also heads one of Miltton’s corporate communications teams. Pelagia is interested in stories and in the pursuit of work-life balance.

Twitter: @pelagiawolff