How to develop your brand to become an employer of choice

George Thomas, Senior Vice President, EverStaff

Any company can attract average employees, but it takes developing your brand to become an employer of choice to attract and retain the best and brightest, says George Thomas, senior vice president of Everstaff.

“Developing your brand is key,” says Thomas. “You need to have a consistent message, a strong ethos and a clear vision that can be understood at all levels of the company. Everybody needs to be able to conceptualize and understand that vision, and everyone needs to be working toward a common goal.”

Smart Business spoke with Thomas about how to develop your brand to become an employer of choice.

Why is it important for everyone to understand the vision?

If don’t have a clear vision as a company, you’re dead. To use a military analogy along the lines of the Napoleonic leadership style, Napoleon was a very successful leader because he knew what he did well, understood his limitations and always had a clear vision for his troops. There was always a clear focus on everyone in every unit (including the lowest ranking foot soldier) understanding all of the tactics to be used in a particular encounter (or battle) and thus bought in to the big picture and were better prepared and motivated to influence the outcome. Having a vision is key, and to develop the vision, you have to understand first what you do well as a company and then what you want to do well. Once you align those two, you can make it happen.

How do you begin communicating that vision to employees?

The goals and vision should always be simple at all levels — don’t complicate it and make sure everyone knows how they impact the ‘big picture’ at their level. There should be reports and metrics that can be used daily by employees so that everyone understands exactly where you are as a business, why you’re there, where you need to be and the steps you need to take to be successful. If everyone understands the vision and expectations, no one should ever be surprised by anything that happens in an organization.

What is the difference between a good company and a great one?

To move a company from good to great, everyone needs to understand where the company is going and that, no matter their level in the company, they play a key role and more importantly, understand what that role is. They’re not doing things just because you said so but because they understand their role in getting the company and themselves to the next level.

Too often, the vision gets watered down. Many times at the senior level, there is a complicated vision that is then simplified for mid-level employees. But it shouldn’t be that complicated at any level, as everyone should be able to understand it and conceptualize it in the same manner.

Without a common goal that they can communicate to each other, people become siloed and are likely to just do what they have to do to keep their jobs. They aren’t sharing ideas or communicating about how to improve the company, they’re just working for themselves. In that case, you are not going to get buy-in, which is the key to success in any organization. You only get  buy-in when people understand why they are doing what they’re doing and how it impacts the overall success of the company. If you don’t get buy-in, people are just going to be processors, not producers. And processors don’t make a company great.

How can a company begin to change its culture to become an employer of choice

Start with introspection and be most critical of yourself first. Say, ‘I’ve done a lot of things right to get where we are now, but I may have a dysfunctional company because we don’t have a strong ethos, or I don’t have a clear vision, or people don’t understand why they do what they do. I want to stop treading water and go from good to great, so what do I need to do to improve?’

Then get input from middle management, as they are key to understanding what is going on at your company. Next, go down to the employee level to get feedback on what they think you’re doing well and what you’re not doing well. You’re going to hear a lot of things you may not want to hear, but you need to encourage honest feedback in a professional and constructive manner because it’s going to help you improve your company. Once you’re gathered that information, you can work with senior management to produce a vision and a plan to get your company to the next level

Is this a difficult process?

Change management is by far the most difficult thing you are ever going to deal with as a company. But if you can figure it out, you are going to succeed. It’s well know that employees don’t necessarily love sweeping changes and especially in a company that has been siloed, they’re going to be suspicious. Overcoming that suspicion takes time and patience. If you try to change too much, too quickly, you’ll throw off your operations and productivity because people will be focusing too much on the changes. You have to be willing to invest the time and money to implement change properly.

How can creating this culture help improve your brand?

By attracting the best people. If you can get your best employees to take ownership and have a sense of worth in where the company is going, then they will network with other great people and you will attract the best talent instead of having to search for the best talent.

Your brand is a byproduct of your company culture. You can have a strong brand, but if your culture is not good and everyone knows that, people may recognize your brand, but they recognize it for the wrong reasons.

Take it slowly, get buy-in, make sure people know why they’re doing what they’re doing and communicate the vision in such a way that everyone can conceptualize. Develop the culture, and the brand will follow.

George Thomas is senior vice president at EverStaff. Reach him at (216) 369-2599 or [email protected]

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