The pandemic has taken a toll on the confidence of employees and candidates in high-risk industries, especially the travel industry. Employees are worried about the stability of their positions long term, and are more susceptible to seeking out something safer. Candidates may also think twice before applying out of fear that their position might be gone in the future.
As the Director, Culture & Engagement at Klook, a travel technology company, my team and I turned our focus internally. Our brand is our people, and that’s where we started – aligning on our values and reinstating confidence in the company.
In this blog, I’ll be sharing how our employer brand has changed over the past year, how and why we’re rebuilding it from the inside out and how we align our efforts internally and externally.
Hopefully, you can apply our methodology at your own workplace to attract like-minded talent with the right expectations, who are willing to take risks and, if you operate in a high-risk industry like us, can identify the opportunities of joining your workplace at a time like this.
How our employer brand has changed over the past year
As terrible as the pandemic has been, I feel very grateful that it has shone a spotlight on people-centric topics such as employee engagement, work environments, wellness and mental health.
Our leaders have developed new empathy towards work culture and employee welfare, and more and more we’re seeing the blurring of lines between people and culture discussions, and operational business discussions.
Leaders have come to realize that engagement and culture do have a strong correlation to productivity and impact. Because of this realization — and the increased leadership advocacy that has accompanied it — we’ve also seen an increase in employee advocacy. For example, we’ve seen an increase in employees sharing posts from our official LinkedIn page compared to the year before.
Another huge change is the formation of my team — Culture & Engagement! Back in 2020, the topics that my team now drives like wellness, DEI, engagement and core values were all previously championed by separate project groups in the people and culture department.
These groups were made up of folks who had extra time on their hands, or who had a passion for the topic and were willing to contribute. They met periodically, brainstormed and shared ideas, but ultimately went back to their core jobs with no clear owner of who should really take initiatives forward.
This is no longer the case since we formed the Culture & Engagement team. Now with formal and focused management, we’re creating even more impact by aligning our internal culture work with our external narratives.
Why employer brand should be built from the inside out
I believe that culture is the product that you will eventually be “selling” to candidates and employees via employer branding.
Your employer brand is nothing without your people. Think about it: the stories we tell come from real employees and the projects we highlight are the real results of our teams. We can’t pull an employer brand out of the air. It’s simply impossible and wouldn’t be real even if you managed to pull it off.
A strong employer brand is one that is advocated by leadership, promoted by employees and is inspiring to the right candidates. With employer branding, we are not looking to attract all candidates, but the right ones. The only way to be real and authentic is to seek out — and actively build together within the company — the culture and brand from the inside.
That’s why my team works on initiatives such as effective employee listening, employee wellness, diversity and inclusion and core values. We work on optimizing and innovating on the “product” (components of culture) itself to make sure we get it right internally before we extract and shape the narratives for our external audiences. That way we can be assured that the message is always authentic, always resounds with our existing Klookers and always manages expectations of candidates who are interested to join us.
How we keep our culture-building and employer branding efforts aligned internally and externally
It has proved essential that my team stays actively involved in internal communications, and that we work very closely with our global communications and PR teams to make sure we integrate both people and business narratives.
Leadership advocacy is always the first step. It doesn’t matter how much you push a message if your leaders don’t stand for it. So for any rollout and any key culture initiative, it is crucial that we get the buy-in and support of all our key leaders.
Rally note: To learn how Jenn Dunn achieved leadership buy-in when implementing an employee advocacy program at Vanguard, check out this article.
Next, we need to ensure that as many people as possible “walk the talk.” Culture should not be seen as “just an HR thing” or a “poster on the wall” — it’s super important that it’s visible and demonstrated on the ground.
A snippet from my presentation at the 2020 RallyFwd Virtual Conference discussing the importance of walking the talk when it comes to employer brand.
Imagine you’re a new hire and you just joined Klook. You’re observing how people behave in meetings, listening to how people speak to each other and learning how teams work together to get things done. This will greatly influence the way you choose to behave and work with others yourself, and, if done right, will further strengthen the culture internally.
These on-the-ground behaviors will naturally lead to many great stories and examples, which we can then seek out and highlight to an external audience through our various channels.
My top tips for practitioners getting started internally with their employer brand efforts
- Identify what makes your employer brand unique, and which pillars of your culture make the most difference to the narrative. Start by talking to employees across departments, and remember that everyone plays a part in owning and contributing to company culture.
- Break down silos and build strong relationships internally. Work with leadership to get their buy-in, and collaborate with other teams. Employer brand doesn’t exist in a bubble, and you’ll need the support from many stakeholders within the company to help advocate and make policies into a lived reality. It’s crucial then to sync regularly to invest in building ongoing key relationships across the business.
Rally note: Hear from Lever’s Annie Lin about how to integrate DEI into your company culture in an authentic, impactful way in this article.
- Work closely with colleagues tasked with managing internal communications. The way you communicate and the tone of voice internally needs to resonate with your external brand tone of voice. Candidates shouldn’t see a memo on their first day and feel that they have joined a totally different company than the one they applied to. Getting that alignment right in messaging is crucial and will pave the way for all your rollouts and other brand initiatives.
After a year of change and needing to be adaptable in our business goals, we’re confident that it’s a matter of when, not if, we in the travel industry will fully rebound and recover from the pandemic.
By taking this past year to focus on evolving our company culture, and sharing the resilience of our Klookers externally through our employer branding efforts, we hope to give candidates the confidence they need to apply.
To learn more about improving your employer brand, check out Rally’s 50 Ways to Brand Your Candidate & Employee Experience guide!