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May 2024

Making your employer brand fit for purpose in a new era

Defining life in your firm is challenging and people will want to know more clearly than ever before, why they should join your business and stay. What are the components of and influences on employer brand today, and how can you be sure yours is both distinctive and authentic?

1. Get with the programme

Once upon a time, all we had to worry about was EVP – an impenetrable acronym, but broadly understood. Now we have employer brand, of which EVP is just one small part. Employer brand captures what defines life in your firm, what the ‘give and get’ is, how you reward your people, what you value and how people behave, what you expect of people and what they can expect of your firm. And why they should dedicate part of their career with you, rather than somewhere else.

That’s not all. Employer brand needs to connect firmly to your commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as being a responsible business. It needs to clarify what your approach is – or isn’t – to flexible working. What career path or flexible career journey is offered. And how you balance the pursuit of excellence, with wellbeing.

It’s an era-defining moment, one shaped by constant change, changing expectations between employer and employee, the consolidation of the above concepts – and at times, over-simplification. One of the greatest areas of this relates to intergenerational difference. Professor Bobby Duffy, author and professor of public policy at Kings College London, has written and spoken extensively on the subject. We’re inclined to his view that ‘generational analysis is a mixture of fake conflict and horoscopes’.

2. Frame the deal

Employer brand isn’t all about what you’re going to give

Employer brand isn’t all about what you’re going to give. It’s about what you expect as a business too. So ideally your employer brand will reflect the two sides of ‘the deal’ and there are various ways of achieving this.

Klarna claims to be one of the world’s biggest fintechs, with an exciting past, present and future. So what does it mean to work for the brand? People are encouraged to find their moment in the midst of Klarna’s own moment of success. They make it clear that since they’re playing to ‘change the game’, it’s ‘more than a place to work’ and you need to ‘have what it takes’. Doing so means being ‘brave enough to take risks, bold enough to fail, unreasonable enough to accept nothing but the best’. And the culture is one of balance. Delivering high quality results and being customer obsessed, is offset with giving the team the opportunity to shine. Diversity is met with collaboration. Challenge is balanced with reward.

Leading international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, ‘Life@HSF’ is referred to at The HSF Deal and therefore clarifying the interdependent nature of employer brand. Its point of difference Your growth. Our ambition succinctly captures how the success of the firm and that of its people, are perfectly aligned.

Employer brand isn’t all about what you’re going to give

3. Weave it through everything

Once you’ve defined the key messages that you want to sit at the heart of your employer brand, it’s important to ensure they’re woven through all your communications so that the messages are consistent, supported everywhere and are therefore credible.

As a business that’s ranked #1 in the UK and US on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work List 2024, Bain is a firm that’s clearly doing something right internally. And that’s matched with the quality and consistency of their employer brand communications. Having defined the key employer brand messages they want to communicate in their Be more at Bain film, those points are then clearly referenced and evidenced throughout the rest of their careers site – whether that’s their commitment to enabling their people to make a difference, supporting them to grow and develop or to benefit from a flexible hybrid approach.

This consistency, supported with evidence and proof points, really embeds and reinforces the messages they want to convey about life at Bains.

4. Put your money where your mouth is

To make your employer brand authentic and credible, you need to ensure you’re not just paying lip service to the claims you make, but that you have the evidence to support them.

Greggs does this in abundance in supporting their ‘Greggs is for everyone’ claim: they say up front ‘we don’t believe it’s enough just to say we’re a company for everyone, we like to show it too’ and they have a whole range of programmes, initiatives and commitments that do just that. These include their colleague networks (each of which is sponsored by a Board Director) and their Fresh Start initiative created specifically to reach candidates that might not normally apply through their mainstream recruitment channels. And in terms of their broader commitments to their people, customers, suppliers and communities, they also have their impressive ‘Greggs pledge’ covering everything from providing free breakfasts in primary schools, affordable food in areas of social deprivation through to their policies on animal welfare, the environment and the profit-share scheme for their people.

And Spotify do a great job of this too. When talking about their mental health initiative ‘Heart & Soul’, they have an ‘Under The Spotlight’ report which they use to assess how well the programme is working. They want to ensure it’s having an impact so they include questions in their staff engagement survey so they can measure its success – and then report back on this. They also partner with other organisations to realise their ambitions as a firm and an employer.

And they literally put their money where their mouth is with their impressive employee donation programme – where they match donations made by their people to charities – with each full and part time employee having the ability to get up to 15k USD in donations matched by Spotify. Impressive stuff.

5. Be flexible and be clear

Flexible working is now a topic that all employers need to have a clear position on. Whatever the deal in your company, the most important thing is being up front and clear about it. Not everyone can offer completely flexible working and what ‘flexible’ looks like will vary from business to business. But what everyone can (and should) do is to be clear about what the options are and what the expectations are in return.

So who’s doing it well from a communications point of view?

Looking at Bain again, they have a great section on their careers website around their hybrid working policy – it makes clear their principles, what’s expected of their people and, importantly, highlights the fact that it’s an evolving picture that they will continue to adapt. So they provide complete clarity about their position.

Like Airbnb, Spotify has a ‘Work from anywhere’ programme and while that won’t be right for everyone, what’s great about Spotify’s communications is the clarity they provide. They do this via the ‘How it works’ information on their careers site and the ‘Still curious?’ section that provides answers to frequently asked questions. Again, complete clarity.

Finally, Microsoft also provides really clear communications about flexible working. On their website they not only talk about the different aspects of flexibility (work site, work location, working hours etc.) but they provide a wealth of thought leadership of how to approach it for their clients.

So don’t shy away from it. Establish your position and communicate it clearly. Even if it’s an evolving picture – it’s absolutely fine to make that part of the message.

What these companies all have in common – and what they’re doing right – is the clarity they provide in what flexible working means in their organisation.

6. Be true and be you

The most important advice above all is to be authentic. If what you claim as your employer brand isn’t broadly a reflection of the truth, you’ll be swiftly found out.

There are many ways to be authentic. Zendesk’s ‘This is Zendesk’ film may not be aligned to everyone’s culture, but it’s an honest expression of this quirky technology business – and crucially, all of the areas that matter in relation to employer brand, are covered off in just a couple of minutes.

And if you fail to be authentic, you risk being lampooned, as the award-winning ‘Diversish’ campaign developed by the Valuable 500 amusingly showcases.


Employer brand has a broader definition and reach than ever before. There are more moving parts to consider and areas once considered separate, now need to be communicated cohesively with it. But what matters most is ditching the spin and keeping your employer brand promise authentic, as well as compelling.
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