Having a recognizable external brand is something every business knows is essential, but how often do you think about your internal branding? Developing a strong internal brand and company culture plays a massive role in keeping your current employees happy and successfully growing your team in the future. Learn more about the connection between internal branding and employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention.
What is internal employer branding?
Internal branding, or employer branding, is “a corporate philosophy that focuses on bringing the company’s core culture, identity, and premise to its employees [… to help them] understand and really live into the mission,” writes Smart Capital Mind. “It often involves some degree of training, but also includes a lot of culture-based education and teambuilding.”
That definition sounds a little stuffy to us, but it’s a start. This is not a “get them to drink the Kool-Aid” play—the approach needs to be genuine, not generic and generalized. Put simply, your employees need to feel like, as the company’s leaders, you care about them. They cannot be treated like cogs in the machine whose sole purpose is to contribute to your financial gain.
Employees need to be active participants in the formation and evolution of your company culture. This helps show them that they work for a responsible organization that values critical thinking and feedback. To do so, your employees must also clearly understand how internal branding lines up with the company’s external image to display a unified front of your core values.
In a 2021 article by AnaTkalac Verčič for Public Relations Review, 1,805 employees from 12 large companies were surveyed with positive results in all variables. “Promoting an engaging workplace provides many benefits, including improved employee satisfaction,” summarizes The Institute for PR. “Organizations can also enhance their internal communication by creating a supportive environment in which employees’ contributions are valued and employee wellbeing is taken into account. Organizations should also develop internal branding strategies which communicate the brand’s ethics and values, making the organization a more attractive place to work.”
Why does internal branding matter?
Developing an internal branding strategy is not the same as a marketing campaign. When you’re not crunching numbers, it can be more challenging to envision what the end result will look like. The payoff from successful internal branding efforts will, however, be seen across every aspect of the business, both internal and external.
While immediate, tangible gains seem more satisfying, business experts agree that the benefits of internal branding implementation are equally as important. In the long term, having a strong internal brand and company culture helps to ensure the following:
- Lower employee turnover
- Higher job satisfaction
- Better output
- Increased employee engagement
- Less money spent on recruitment and training
- Higher levels of productivity
Moreover, “Employee brand engagement doesn’t produce just happy, engaged employees; it develops happy, engaged employees who produce the right results,” writes Denise Lee Yohn for Harvard Business Review. “The company isn’t recognized just as a great place to work; the work itself becomes great. And the company doesn’t establish itself just as a great employer; it lays the foundation for great customer relationships.”
How to develop an internal brand
As with most things in life, the hardest part is getting started. The goal is to build a workforce that wholeheartedly believes in your business; no marketing tool is more compelling. But sending out a few newsletters isn’t enough to establish a strong internal brand. To achieve authentic employee brand engagement, you have to do exactly that—engage. Here are some top tips on internal branding best practices to get you headed in the right direction.
Top six internal branding best practices
- Give your team a purpose. That means establishing a strong company mission statement, vision, and core values. If you already have these things, revisit them. More likely than not, they could benefit from a refresher. These three elements are not just words. They must serve as reference points for everything your company does.
- You are more than what you sell. Products and services only go so far. How’d you get started? Where did the idea come from? What do you care about, and why? Your employees and customers need to know the company story and where your passion comes from. Leadership must fully embrace this message, which must also be clearly transmitted through all forms of internal communication.
- Get your employees involved. We already said it, but it stands to be repeated. Employee insight is invaluable. Why did they want to join your company? What is their experience working for you? How do they feel about the company’s internal communication efforts? What would make this a better experience for them? How else would they like to get involved? Encourage honest feedback and ensure everyone knows how to submit feedback and how it’s being considered and implemented.
- Align your internal and external branding. Once you’ve established the above, it’s time to implement. Update your website, internal platforms, onboarding documents, marketing materials and internal communications. You must also provide updated training sessions for all employees so they can absorb the new or revised mission statement, vision, and values.
- Start with baby steps. Expect resistance. You need to build momentum to achieve long-term success in employee brand engagement. No matter how carefully you prepare, you can’t avoid the fact that many people don’t like change. What most people like less, however, is inconsistency. Be transparent, communicate thoughtfully, and make sure the entire leadership team embodies the internal branding you’ve developed. With time and consistent communication, your workforce will get the message. Anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable will likely seek other employment, and that’s okay. The goal is to unite and strengthen your company.
- There is no end date. This isn’t a “one and done” strategy. Internal branding efforts must be ongoing to be and remain effective. Remember, the goal is to permanently align your company’s external and internal branding.