Brand Values: Crafting Authenticity
People crave purpose in the workplace. And believe it or not, the best way to give it to them is by creating, sharing, and living your brand values.
The truth is, job seekers can’t be swayed by a catchy job description or the promise of a paycheck, anymore. They want to do meaningful work in the world.
Whether that’s marketing a solution designed to improve workplace productivity or managing donor relationships for a non-profit organization, they want to be part of a company they resonate with. They want to believe in the mission they champion on a daily basis, and they want to be able to confidently and comfortably stand behind the values the brand espouses.
That means, if you want to continue to attract, hire, and retain top talent, you have to adjust your recruitment marketing strategies to speak to these desires.
Luckily, this is a simple adjustment that all brands can make in a short period of time. All you have to do is create, live, and promote your brand values.
What Are Brand Values?
Brand values are a core set of principles that, as an organization, you profess to believe in and do all in your power to uphold. They act as a moral compass for your business, guiding your decision-making and influencing your interactions with everyone who comes into contact with your brand – both internally and externally.
For example, many brands ascribe to being transparent. As a result, they strive to make processes more clear. They’re intentional about communicating frequently within teams and between departments. Their management shares non-sensitive information and news with employees as soon as they’re able. They endorse transparency in their content, in their marketing, and in interactions with customers. And so on.
By creating and upholding their values, these brands are able to both establish credibility with their employees and give them a code of conduct to adhere to.
Why Are Brand Values Important?
While brand values are often just a collection of buzzwords and business jargon that businesses post on their websites to earn points with their audience, they don’t have to be. In fact, they shouldn’t be. Brand values are designed to help you accomplish several important tasks, namely:
- They enable you to connect with your employees, by giving them a clear understanding of what you believe in and support.
- They give your company direction, enabling your employees to make pivotal decisions without veering away from your brand identity.
- They help your employees become powerful brand advocates, by giving them a set of guidelines for their behavior and interactions with customers and job seekers.
- They impact your job seekers’ perception of your business, by showing them what your organization stands for and deems important.
- They help your team attract leads and build deeper relationships with customers who share your brand values and perspectives.
2 Companies Living and Breathing Their Brand Values
Even though it’s important to have a set of core values written down, they don’t do you much good if they just sit in blocks of text on your website. The impact of having brand values is seen when you share them regularly across your organization and apply them in the workplace.
Here are just two companies who are reaping the rewards of making their brand values part of daily life for their employees.
Zapier has been at the forefront of business productivity for nearly a decade. But that’s not why people love working for Zapier.
Zapier’s employees come and stick around, because of the way the company infuses its values into the workplace. For instance, they believe that instead of doing robotic, repetitive tasks, their employees should find ways to automate, optimize, and streamline processes. And they do. Each and every one of their employees works from home (WFH), and they relentlessly look for ways to simplify processes with technology.
At the same time, Zapier holds to the belief that transparency is crucial for teams to operate effectively. But it isn’t just an empowering statement, it actually powers their company. Not only do they communicate clearly and regularly across teams – including the teams that involve external parties like freelancers – but they’re also transparent with job seekers, responding in a few short days with a “yes” or “no” to every application they receive.
Beyond just being an international producer of Oatmilk, Oatly is a shining example of a food company that stands by its brand values.
For example, Oatly believes in being fully transparent about it’s products. But the company actually stands by that. In fact, you can find out virtually anything you might ever want to know about their products, just by clicking through them on their website. You can view their ingredients, read their nutritional facts, see who their suppliers are, and get information on how their products pair with different drinks and meals. They’re even open enough to admit where products fall a little short.
They also profess to believe in and work tirelessly toward sustainability in their processes and products. And here again, they deliver. They minimize their carbon footprint in the creation, transport, and packaging of their products. They keep their waste low. And they work with sustainable suppliers. In fact, everything related to their supply chain is designed to be as sustainable as possible – which truly is no small feat.
How Do You Create a Set of Brand Values?
Honestly, creating your brand values is really just a sit down and do it kind of exercise. But here are some tips to make the process a little easier.
Poll Your Employees
Defining your values is much more difficult, if you’re going at it alone. Not just because your own perspective and preferences can take over, but also because brainstorming with such a wide option pool can take a long time.
So get your employees involved. Ask them what value system they think the company operates on and what inspires their own interactions with customers. You can even check in with new hires to see what drew them to the company in the first place, and what the experience has been like since then.
Ultimately, getting your employees to participate in this process will both help you see your company more holistically, and speed up the selection of your values, since you won’t have to figure it out by yourself.
Poll Your Audience
Your employees aren’t the only people that know anything about your brand. Your customers also have a good understanding of who you are and what you stand for. So involve them in the process too.
You can send out a poll to past and present customers, or ask for feedback at the end of a customer support call. You can even get feedback via a more passive exercise, by scanning your testimonials and reviews for common themes.
No matter how you choose to go about it, getting customer input will help you look beyond what you want to stand for and what your employees wish your brand values were, and give you a glimpse of what your customers actually perceive your values to be.
Sometimes going through a brain dump exercise, where you get everything out there on a white board or Google Doc, is the perfect way to start narrowing down your options.
You can start by pulling out a thesaurus and listing all the words and phrases that might apply to your brand. Once you have your master list, you can start narrowing your focus, by crossing options off that you don’t love or resonate with.
If you reach a point where you need to start the process over again or iterate specific words to make them fit your brand more closely, do so. Brand values don’t always come together right off the bat. Sometimes it takes iteration and revision to make sure they’re exactly what you want them to be.
Your values shouldn’t be a cut and paste exercise. You don’t want to just repeat all of the industry buzzwords, copy your competitors, or use vague terms that you think will carry a lot of moral weight with your audience. You need to be authentic and honest about your values.
So, if standard ones don’t apply to you, don’t use them. And if you like a value, but it sounds too stiff or off-brand the way it’s generally phrased, find a unique way to share your belief in it. Use words or phrases that are new and maybe even a little off-the-wall. Try out sentences. Maybe even combine the two.
The point is to make sure you’re as authentic as you can be. Not only will doing so give you something unique to stand behind, but it will also help your employees see the values as the genuine beliefs they are.
One of the worst things you can do is select a value or set of values you don’t actually believe in. The reason being, you’ll either be forced to run your organization in a way you don’t want to in order to stay aligned with the values, or you’ll end up going against the values altogether.
Obviously, neither one is ideal – which is why you want to pick values that fit your mission, align with your purpose as a company, and move you along the pathway to achieve your vision.
Once you have your values pinned down, it’s vital that you consistently hold to them. After all, actions speak much louder than words. And if you’re inconsistent, your employees will dismiss any value-based statements you make and ascribe a set of values to your organization that actually match the decisions you make.
Attracting and hiring job seekers, today, requires a lot of intentional work. But, by creating a strong set of core values and highlighting these values as a central piece of your employer brand, you’ll be much better able to onboard people who will be loyal to and engaged in your company for years to come.