The Link between Leadership and Employer Branding
By: Roberta Matuson
There’s more to employer branding these days than meets the eye. Candidates are looking past the sea of stock photos floating around the career pages of company websites and are often focused on what matters most -- company leadership.
When it comes to employer brand identity, leaders are key. Why? They set the tone across the organization and often personally impact what it’s really like to work for a business – an often-discussed topic in online reviews.
Companies with strong employer brands are the ones that invest heavily in building strong leaders. These leaders strategically manage their employer brand by practicing authentic leadership.
While researching my forthcoming book, The Magnetic Leader: How Irresistible Leaders Attract Talent, Customers and Profits, I interviewed a number of top leaders to gain a better understanding of how leadership style can impact a company’s ability to attract and retain talent. I quickly noticed a pattern.
There is a direct correlation between magnetic leaders and a vibrant employer brand.
Of course the opposite is true as well. Disconnected leaders can significantly damage their company’s brand and most have no idea they are doing this.
Here are two leaders who understand the powerful connection between brand and leadership.
The Leader Is Brand Ambassador
Rob Nixon, founder and CEO of Panalitix, a membership firm for accountants headquartered in Brisbane Australia, shared with me something that most CEOs would never admit. “My worst people year was in 2010. I had 26 people depart in a team of 16. Not good!”
Nixon decided to take action. “I sat down and thought about what I wanted my company to look like. I wrote down the culture I wanted to have in my business and the way I wanted people to feel about the work they were doing -- and I then designed something new.”
Since then, Nixon has had very few top performers leave. Those employees that have moved on have said great things about their experience -- several have even returned.
Nixon learned the hard way that his leadership style was often repelling talent. As the leader of a small firm, his policies and management style were turning people away. He often spent a good part of his day re-staffing positions and training new hires – time spent away from other workers.
Today, Nixon spends more time with his employees and regularly asks for their input. He gives credit where credit is due, often showcasing the successes of his people on Facebook and Twitter.
While he may not have realized it, Nixon actually went through a rebranding of his employment brand.
His efforts are paying off. Today, Panalitix is known as the kind of workplace where employees love to come to work and clients love to do business.
Business that Reflects Core Values
“I don’t own my team,” says Rob Castaneda, CEO of ServiceRocket, Inc., a Palo Alto-based software company. His attitude as a leader is rare, especially in the tech industry, where employers are often trying to out purchase each other, in their quest to own talent.
Rob started his business when he was just twenty-one years old. Despite this young age, Castaneda knew he wanted to build the type of company that he’d want to work for. Even more striking was his intent to not just make money. Castaneda wanted to create a business he could be proud of. He has always seen himself as a steward of his team and the work he is doing.
Fast forward fifteen years. Today, Service Rocket is located in the heart of Silicon Valley and Castaneda is known as a genuine leader who shares his vision with bankers, the VC community and most importantly, with his employees.
Castaneda asks a lot of his employees while being cognizant of their work-life balance . “I believe that people who are more relaxed do better work.” He makes it a point to be seen leaving work early to coach one of his kid’s sports teams. “I don’t mind if the team sees me leave work. I encourage them to do the same.”
His beliefs and leadership traits are reflected in his company’s playful style – which is woven into the ServiceRocket careers section -- the same style that he brings to his work.
By sharing his enthusiasm up front, Service Rocket can attract talent from across the globe. But the company isn’t resting on its laurels. Castaneda and his team are building solid relationships with universities and participating in career fairs to ensure their employer brand remains front and center.
Both Castaneda and Nixon realize the powerful connection between leadership and their company’s brand reputation. They’re taking steps to ensure that the people who are tasked with managing employees are prepared to do so, in a manner that aligns with their company values and vision.