Going beyond surface-level branding to create genuinely inclusive cultures is no longer a nice to have. With companies just like yours fighting for top talent, it is now a must-have.
To explore this topic further, we invited Emily Firth, co-founder of The TruthWorks, a renowned agency specializing in employer branding.
In this blog, we aim to uncover the 4 uncomfortable truths that often lie beneath the surface of employer branding:
- DEI & business are inextricably interlinked whether we like it or not
- Your culture doesn’t have to be the perfect fit for everyone. Nor can it be
- It’s tempting to lead with grand statements and avoid the hard conversations
- Prepare to be called out on your ‘performative’ posting
Truth 1: DEI & business are inextricably interlinked whether we like it or not
Contrary to the belief that businesses can dissociate from societal issues, Emily emphasises the inextricable link between business and social dynamics. In fact, businesses have a unique opportunity to not only tell meaningful stories but also make a tangible difference.
Edelman 2023 Trust Barometer survey also revealed that businesses are the most trusted institutions according to 62% of respondents, surpassing NGOs (59%), government (50%), and media (50%). The survey also revealed that CEOs, in particular, bear the highest expectations in terms of taking action on employees (89%), climate (82%), and discrimination issues (80%).
However, some businesses are trying to avoid wading into this at a cost to their employer brand:
Truth 2: Your culture doesn’t have to be the perfect fit for everyone. Nor can it be
In a world where trust in various institutions is slowly falling, your company has the opportunity to step up. By harnessing employer branding to showcase a company’s DE&I efforts, you can catalyse the transformation of your culture and set a precedent for a better future:
- When a strategically highlighting your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion through employer branding initiatives, you send a powerful message to both internal and external stakeholders.
- By actively promoting and celebrating a diverse workforce, inclusive policies, and equitable practices, a company can create a culture that fosters collaboration, innovation, and respect.
- This, in turn, attracts top talent from diverse backgrounds and cultivates an environment where everyone feels valued and empowered.
Through intentional employer branding efforts centred around DE&I, you have the opportunity to shape your company’s culture, inspire positive change, and contribute to a better future for all.
“Your culture doesn’t have to be the perfect fit for everyone” Emily highlights. But she urges companies to consider:
- Who do you exclude with this culture?
- What contribution could they be bringing?
- How will this impact your chances of success?
- How does this reflect the customers you serve?
Truth 3: It’s tempting to lead with grand statements and avoid the hard conversations
But let’s be real. Building an inclusive culture is not easy. It takes intention, effort, and a willingness to address uncomfortable truths. It means having those difficult conversations and challenging the status quo.
For example, encouraging employees to bring their whole selves to work is a noble aspiration. However, for some individuals, it can be challenging and risky to do so. Emily explains that this is because “bringing your whole self to work means being open about your identity and experiences, yet many people fear judgment or negative consequences that can stem from this.”
That is why a DEI approach to employer branding should involve introspection, self-reflection, and a commitment to meaningful change. It’s about understanding the impact your company has on society, both internally and externally, and actively working to create a positive and inclusive environment.
The bottom line: talent needs more
Employer branding cannot rely on empty statements alone. It requires a supportive foundation that enables individuals to embrace their authentic selves. In some cases, employers must step out of their comfort zones and take action to retain valuable employees and provide them with choices that allow them to remain in the workforce.
Meeting the evolving needs of talent requires employers to go beyond rhetoric and actively support their workforce, even if it means venturing into unfamiliar territory…
Truth 4: Prepare to be called out on your ‘performative’ posting
In this digital age, performative posting has become a widespread phenomenon that transcends generational boundaries. From Gen Z to established professionals, individuals engaging in performative posting are increasingly being called out publicly.
Remember the trend of black squares during the Black Lives Matter movement? Many employers might have thought that a simple deletion would make it all blow over. However, the truth is that such actions don’t just blow over. As Emily puts it: “When you engage in performative posting, be prepared to face challenges and scrutiny from others.”
It’s essential to recognize that this movement isn’t limited to impassioned Gen Z individuals. “Even senior leaders are becoming sceptical about publicly endorsing their company’s practices”, Emily highlights. A decline in endorsements from 2020 to 2022 demonstrates a growing cynicism towards company rhetoric. Leaders and employees alike want to witness tangible actions, not just empty words. The power and responsibility of business leaders in shaping their organization’s practices cannot be underestimated.
So what can you do?
Emily suggests four things everyone should be mindful of when having a DEI approach to employer branding:
- Understand the power and responsibility you have as a business leader.
- Be international and consistent about the culture you are creating.
- Understand who it excludes and the impact of that on your business and the world.
- Expect to be held to account for what you say. Back it up beyond words.
We have to do more when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and that’s a difficult conversation to have. However, it is a dialogue we must continue having.