Ward Alles

How to think about your company’s Employer Brand

By Ward Alles on December 15, 2016

Meet me at the corner of Meaningful & Exceptional

Magic happens at intersections.

To illustrate:

  1. Take one Oreo cookie. (Great on its own, right?)
  2. Pour one glass of cold milk (Also, a lovely standalone product.)
  3. Dunk said Oreo cookie into glass of cold milk … and – voila!


Now, apply this simple principle to your business. Specifically, to your employer brand. (CEOs, VPs of HR, and other executives at your company concerned about recruiting, engagement and retention: this is for you.)

  • Your Oreo is your company’s mission. Its purpose. Its reason for being.
  • Your “glass of cold milk” is your company’s culture and values.

When the right mission intersects with the right culture, you create an experience that employees eat up. You create a spectacular employer brand. You create a place where employees want to work, want to stay, and even want to help proactively promote.

Okay, so there’s an “intersection formula,” but how do you actually go about combining those two ingredients? Our branding agency is asked by companies of all types, shapes and sizes this very question.

First, we audit: what is the mission of the company? Is it expressed in a MEANINGFUL and inspiring way? Do you clearly and passionately tell your internal (employees) and external (customers) audiences: THIS is what our company stands for; THIS is what our company stands against. And do you say it in a way in which everyone can remember it, parrot it back, and share it with friends?

Legend has it that Walt Disney once wrote 7 little words down on a sheet of paper, describing his vision for his theme parks. After watching children “enjoy” an old, dilapidated merry-go-round, he jotted: “NO CHIPPED PAINT. ALL THE HORSES MOVE.” Seven, stand-for, stand-against words. (“Oh, I get it, Mr. Disney. You will stand for nothing less than excellence, wonder and delight. Count me in!”)

Second, let’s look at this elusive thing called culture. This one’s tougher. It’s not one person’s declared statement of what shall be. It is a collection of values, principles, behaviors, traditions, rituals, etc. that needs to be engrained into your company’s DNA everyday … and celebrated by everybody. No small task. However, the company that invests in making its culture EXCEPTIONAL will reap the rewards.

When you intersect a MEANINGFUL mission with an EXCEPTIONAL culture, you energize your employees. You give them something very rare (ask them, they change jobs a lot for a reason!), i.e.: a purpose that they can truly get behind and an environment wherein they can truly thrive. Oreo cookies and milk. Magic.

This is when your company becomes a perennial “Top Place to Work.” This is when your company becomes “Fastest Growing.”

Why doesn’t magic happen at more companies? The answer always comes down to people in positions of authority, i.e. ownership or management. This may sound harsh, but the folks at the top are either:

  • Unaware (ignorant of the power behind purpose and culture)
  • Don’t care/subscribe (have other priorities or values)
  • Lazy (don’t want to tackle these topics because they’re “too big” or “a lot of work”)

We can help the first group with a little consulting and creativity. But the last two, well, such companies will never be able to set the powerful flywheel of a healthy employer brand into motion.

And that’s too bad. Lots of employees under their management suffer as a result. These are the “disengaged.” The job hoppers. They are looking for meaningful work … they are searching for an exceptional support system. They are looking for magic. And it’s your job (and ours, if you want a little help) to make that intersection happen.

Let’s meet there.

Ward Alles is a Brand Consultant and President of Core Creative.