This is me! Could this be the anthem for your employer brand as well as for the bearded lady?
Anyone who knows me accepts that I’m a little bit cheesy. I wear Tinkerbell earrings completely un-ironically (and got more excited to meet Chip & Dale at Disneyland than my 3 daughters ever would), I go to country music festivals and if you play a show tune I will sing it loud and proud regardless of who’s listening. Which is something my “cool” conscious 11 year old daughter struggles with at times. This was brought home to me as I attended her school achievement award assembly this morning. The assembly closed with the whole school singing The Greatest Showman’s “This is me” and I, along with most of the teachers and kids, sang along with gusto. Even my husband was bopping in his seat. I love the lyrics of that song: “I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be. This is me”. Because that’s what we all should aspire to, isn’t it? To be the true versions of ourselves rather than conforming to what other people think we should be.
And that got me thinking about a few challenges I’ve been working on with clients recently. When it comes to employer brand every business wants to show the best version of itself. Fair enough. But that version also has to be authentic, honest, and if it’s to be truly engaging, a little bit imperfect. Because that’s the reality. We can spend small fortunes on developing sexy attraction campaigns, showcasing our most engaging employees and shouting loud and proud about the values that are threaded throughout our company’s DNA. But we don’t really like to talk about the imperfect stuff. The parts that, as much as we’d like them to be better, aren’t going to change anytime soon. Digital businesses with patchy wifi in their meeting rooms. Transportation businesses with slightly icky loo facilities. Line managers who can’t quite shake their presenteeism mindset despite the company’s flexible working policies. Security passes, phones, laptops that aren’t ready on your first day/week/month. The list goes on.
And if you want your employer brand to ring true, it’s ok to hold your hands up to the things that aren’t so great. The bits you’d like to change but can’t. As a candidate there can be nothing worse than being sold the dream only to find the employee experience a total let down. It’s better to go in with your eyes wide open, accept that there may be challenges and embrace them.
As people, it’s our imperfections and quirky features that make us stand out and set us apart from everyone else. And it’s the same for businesses. Who wants to be the same as their competitors? We want to stand out, be bold, be brave. That’s what makes businesses successful. Not being vanilla, beige, safe. Yet when we start talking about employer brand, EVP (employee value proposition) or PVV (purpose vision and values) it’s amazing just how samey and safe everyone defaults to being. “We’re bold”, “we’re honest”, “we work as a team”. Internally I know that these feel genuine (and hey, we have some of them at Chatter!) but as an external employer brand consultant, I lose count of how many times I see the same behaviours and values crop up. And it all gets a bit boring.
So how about being brave and taking the path less travelled. Don’t be afraid of your scars, be glorious and unashamed (you can sing that bit!). And shout out loud and proud about your real life employer brand. After all, as I keep telling my 11 year old when she worries that people might laugh at her singing mummy, no one becomes exceptional by blending in or hiding who they are. And if people, or potential employees don’t like the real you, they’re probably not who you want to be engaging with anyway.