By Caryn Best
“Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.”
This is the outdoor clothing retailer’s mission. In 2019, the company evolved its overall purpose to focus its efforts solely on environmental activism and shift away from product promotion. And they’re walking the talk by donating almost $145 million in grants and in-kind donations to support environmental efforts to date, further demonstrating how they’ve truly transformed their brand to address the urgent need to protect the planet.
This brand shift is not only gaining attention from consumers, but the workforce as well. Nearly half of Gen Zs and millennials in senior positions have rejected a job and/or assignment based on their personal ethos. Many believe the pandemic propelled workers to reevaluate what’s important to them and embrace companies that align with their values – thus holding brands to higher expectations than ever before.
A company’s ‘brand’ is an asset valued well beyond just the company’s logo; it is what a business stands for, its values and mission and the actions it takes to demonstrate them.
Leveraging your brand identity for recruiting doesn’t require having an awe-inspiring mission of social purpose like Patagonia, but it does take intention. Today, the workforce has unprecedented access to information. Through traditional media, social media and live streams, the world has constant visibility into what your company does and stands for – giving potential employees a peek behind the curtain at what it could be like to work for your business.
5 ways to leverage your brand for recruiting
Recruitment marketing is how you represent your brand to potential and future employees. The goal of recruitment marketing is to encourage diverse talent to apply for positions within your company as well as build strong employee engagement that contributes to high employee satisfaction, development and retention.
Here are five ways to leverage your brand in your recruitment activities, and how these methods work at IAT.
- Create a single message that captures the employee experience.
What does a strong message look like? Most importantly, it must feel authentic to your business.
It’s a mistake to create a brand’s message from the top down. While leadership may have a strong sense of the company’s goals, your employees have greater insight into how they experience the company culture. The brand identity should be authentic based on how employees feel about your workplace and the brand, but it can also have an aspirational component.
At IAT, we found our message through employee focus groups. We brought together cross department and cross functional groups to ask: “What does it mean to work at IAT?” Their feedback helped us identify themes to develop our messaging. Our employer message is: “A Family of Answers,” which speaks to how our employees feel about each other and the service we provide. Employees embraced and resonated with that message which then inspired us to define IAT, both literally and figuratively, as “Insurance Answers Together” to help tell the story of who we are to our external partners and customers.
This positioning is reinforced through all content we produce, both internally and externally whether it’s explicitly expressed or conveyed in tone.
- Practice social listening.
What are folks saying about you when you’re not in the room? While that determines your personal brand, the concept is also true of your corporate brand. It’s important to understand what others are saying about your brand online. While there is technology designed to help with social listening, you can also perform this task manually. For recruitment marketing, keep an eye on outlets like Glassdoor, Indeed and LinkedIn to understand what employees (past or present) are saying on platforms that jobseekers frequent.
Not only will social listening provide constructive feedback, it can also show you what stories and content resonates with your audiences. You can also look outside your own channels to see what other companies and industries are doing and draw inspiration from their successes. Also, be sure to build out your company profiles on social media channels like Glassdoor and LinkedIn and update them regularly.
At IAT, we found that our audiences on social media especially enjoy stories about our employees. We responded by creating more of this content – like our Meet the Team Monday recurring spotlight. Our creative department often seeks inspiration outside the insurance industry – we look at tech companies, as well as some financial services companies that have done a great job of modernizing their brand and embracing social media.
- Survey internal and external partners.
Listening is a theme. Direct feedback from your internal and external partners can’t be beat. Surveys can provide unfiltered descriptions of one’s experiences with your brand. Frequent and consistent monitoring and tracking of employee sentiment through surveys can help you solidify your branding goals as an employer.
At IAT, not only do we perform annual workplace culture surveys, but we also field anonymous questions at our quarterly all hands meetings and hold small group discussions throughout the year to see how people are feeling about particular topics or events. For example, when evaluating our return to the office after extended remote work during the pandemic, we asked employees how they wanted to come back. We found that many wanted more flexibility to support work-life balance, so we listened to their feedback and developed an action plan to phase folks back in first on a volunteer basis and offer a hybrid schedule.
- Tell your story.
A strong message is nothing without effective storytelling. Developing a storytelling culture is important because stories are easier to remember than facts. Think about the media and advertisements you engage with. It’s less about what the brand wants to tell you and more about why you should care.
For many companies, the material and message already exist. These are the components that make the company unique. It’s just a matter of leveraging them and telling the right story.
At IAT, we believe in telling the stories of our people and what our people care about. In 2021, we interviewed our people to understand how they found their way into insurance and what about the industry (and IAT) makes them stay. Quilting their collective narrative together around common themes, we were able to develop this video to help illustrate the many pathways to insurance from the voices of IAT.
In addition, we have an IAT Gives charitable program that exemplifies our company values and offers philanthropic support and volunteerism to the communities where we live and work. Rather than just talking about this employee benefit, we have focused on the stories of why employees give and have shared those stories on our intranet. We’ve also created videos showing our employees rallying around common causes and creating lasting impacts – like this video of our Sarasota team at a beach cleanup, or this video of our Kansas City office supporting Wreaths Across America. We have found that leveraging video to share our story and what our people care about is more personal and engaging. It also allows potential recruits to understand our personality and ultimately see if they share the same values as the IAT brand.
- Empower employees.
Employees are your brand ambassadors and employee driven content beats corporate content for its authenticity all day every day. Empower employees to share and engage on social media.
At IAT, we provide training for using social media sites like LinkedIn and actively engage with employees’ content signaling support and encouragement. We also leverage a social amplification tool that serves up content (like the storytelling videos mentioned above) for employees who are designated brand ambassadors. We frequently recognize and sometimes award employees who help support brand building efforts as well.
If you’re interested in a career with IAT, please visit our careers page.
 Forbes “Patagonia’s Focus On Its Brand Purpose Is Great for Business,” November 27, 2019.