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The Strategy Behind Defining your Reputation as an Employer, with Bryan Adams – Episode 93




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Last updated Nov 3, 2023


The Strategy Behind Defining your Reputation as an Employer, with Bryan Adams – Episode 93

Last updated Nov 3, 2023 | 0 comments



This Wednesday, Bryan Adams of PH Creative discusses all things strategy in terms of defining your reputation as an employer.

About Bryan Adams

CEO and founder of PH Creative, there are many strings to Bryan’s bow – bestselling author, podcaster, creative strategist, specialist speaker – the list goes on! A recognized employer brand thought leader, Bryan changes the landscape of how it’s done with his ‘Give & Get’ philosophy and framework.

Bryan’s single-minded determination sees PH Creative recognized as one of the leading employer brand agencies in the world, with clients such as Apple, American Airlines, GVC, and Blizzard Entertainment. Somehow he still finds time for friends and family, likes nothing more than bouncing ideas around with the Ph team, and he still wishes he could play center-forward for Liverpool FC.

When Bryan isn’t solving problems and helping people; listening to experts talk about their passion; he can be found making his son giggle uncontrollably.

Points of Interest…

  • How Bryan got into the Employer Reputation Space 3:01
  • Defining Employer Reputation 4:20
  • Specific Symptoms Indicating an Issue with Employer Reputation 7:38
  • Key Component of the Give & Take Philosophy 14:17
  • Common Pitfalls when Trying to Build Employer Reputation 19:10


How Bryan got into the Employer Reputation Space

Having run PH Creative for 18 years, Bryan and his team are at the forefront of the specialist employer brand agency space. Calibrated to work with global brands with complex talent audiences, his mission is to help organizations better articulate their employee experience – so they can attract, engage and retain more people that thrive within their specific culture! In short, Bryan is a “defender of happiness”…

“If you love your job, then there’s a good chance that you’re happier in life in general. So, you know, that’s what we set out for!”

So this explains why PH Creative enjoys working with Global brands, but why focus specifically on employer branding? Well, honestly speaking, it was just one of those happy accidents that entrepreneurs build wildly successful businesses on.

“Honestly, Marcel. It was less strategic and more little bit of luck, really. The honest answer is we’re lucky now to be working with some of the biggest brands in the world, like Nike, Ford, and Apple. As a digital marketing agency – when we started out – Marketing Directors wouldn’t answer the phone to us!”

As for what changed? Bryan started working with people who worked in HR, thus finding a pivotal point of difference (a niche, if you will) that his agency had struggled to pinpoint over the years in the general marketing space. As he explored that further, he realized they could develop that point of difference into a philosophy that really resonated.

“We created results and built a reputation, which snowballed. We went from having 6,000,001 competitors, in our local geographic area to probably 12 globally. You know, timing is everything, and we got in right at the start of the employer brand space.”

Defining Employer Reputation

The next question I want to ask – to set the frame for this conversation before we talk about how those tides have shifted recently – is what is employer branding? How would Bryan define it for someone who’s listening and hasn’t really heard of this term before?

“Essentially, employer branding is the strategy around defining your employee experience and setting the expectations of what it’s like to work and be part of your organization. This helps you cultivate your reputation as an employer.”

As for how one does that? Bryan splits this process of reputation cultivation across three key layers of Employer Brand Strategy, including…

  1. Reputation
  2. Set an expectation
  3. Managing the experience

Let’s take a look at an example of Employer Branding, shall we? Elon Musk sent an email declaring everyone needed to come back to the office for work. Does that indicate a good or bad employer reputation? On the plus side; at least he’s being clear?! Is that where the positives end? I ask Byan for his insight into this potential minefield…

“Well, it is clear and simple; so there is a lot of value in that. And, to be clear, I’m an Elon Musk fan… Everything he touches does seem to turn to gold, but the one chink in his armor is the employer brand. They are some very smart people and – recession or not – there are a lot of organizations that would be keen to hire that talent. It’s a very risky strategy and he may live to regret those words.”

***I dig into the pace of change in technology as it relates to the business landscape from 6:28***

Specific Symptoms Indicating an Issue with Employer Reputation

Let’s take a deep dive into the key symptoms that you, dear reader, may be experiencing indicating that you should be paying particular attention to this conversation. How is your employer reputation being perceived?

“Pandemic or no pandemic. Great resignation or not; most organizations are going through a period of transition and change. They’re digitizing, transforming over to a much more tech forward environment, which is making for a really interesting marketplace. It’s creating a demand in certain sectors far beyond what we can comprehend.”

Therefore, the need to articulate the employee experience with clarity is more important now than ever. In Bryan’s view, it’s not good enough to be a great company, you MUST be able to convey that fact. How do you do that? By leaning into that fundamental question that potential employees ask themselves; “Do I have what it takes to thrive at that organization?”

In Bryan’s experience; once potential employees understand the harsh reality of that commitment, they then want to know if it’s worth it. Candidates are currently researching in the region of six-to-eight hours before deciding whether to apply for a role. They really care about this stuff. And the biggest downfall for most organizations is only showcasing the rainbows and unicorns aspect of why it’s fantastic to work there.

Instead, you should outline the following…

  1. That the company has the necessary processes/supports to help navigate potentially tough situations
  2. How the company deals with stress
  3. What form of resilience, character, and capability does it take to find purpose, impact, and belonging in your organization?
  4. Clearly chronicle the employee experience.

Creating a compelling proposition and giving consideration to how best to market it is crucial in the current environment – especially if you’re hiring a C-Suite. ***This is discussed further from 10:27 minutes***

Key Component of the Give & Get Philosophy

The tendency is for people to gravitate towards tactics. Instead of focusing on writing a job description, or locating the optimum candidate on the best platform, you need to have a core thesis in place in terms of a hiring management system.

And that brings us neatly to PH Creative’s Give & Get Framework. What are the key components of this philosophy?

“Conventional employer branding is essentially about putting your best foot forward and talking about the strengths, benefits, and opportunities within your organization. It’s been lifted and shifted from marketing, and still works to a degree. The difficulty is, the more attractive you are from an external perspective, the more applicants you get – and they’re not all qualified for the specific position.”

Not only has the candidate (who, let’s remember, has spent hours researching the position/your company) had their time sucked, your HR person is now drowning under applications.

What you should be doing is using Employer Branding to act as a smart filter, not a magnet. If you get this right, more people should be repelled from your organization than compelled towards you.

***Bryan provides a pertinent example of the Give & Get ethos via his work with Apple from 16:06 minutes***

Pitfalls when Trying to Build Employer Reputation

When it comes to crafting a narrative, what are some of the mistakes you should try to avoid?

“A lot of the time, with an employer brand, it’s thought in order to be authentic it needs to be a very true representation of the snapshot of today in the organization. In fact, there are three views when researching an employer brand.”

So, what are these Three Views?

  1. Employee View: this is the “warts and all” snapshot of the reality of today. That’s really important for an authentic employer brand.
  2. Leadership View: that will tell you the aspirational version of the truth; a glimpse of what the organization should look like tomorrow. Leaders are innately forward-facing and spend a lot of time focussing on the future.
  3. Market View: namely, this is what you need to calibrate against and what you need to differentiate from. How will you craft something to increase your relevancy to the talented audience over your competitors?

it’s a complete myth that you can’t be both authentic and aspirational in tandem. Now, a good employer brand should be a sharp tool to drive the organization forward. And it’s okay to set expectations of how the organization is going to change and what those demands and expectations are going forward. However, it’s also an opportunity to leave certain cultures and behaviors behind because you know what got you to this point, won’t necessarily get you to the next.

The biggest thing is balancing the reality of today with the aspiration of tomorrow – in an authentic way. The lesson here is this is a process, not an event.

***As has become customary; I merrily nerd out about the importance of processes from 21:21. Join me, won’t you?***

Key Takeaway…

Regardless of company size, there is an employer brand. You should leverage that inherent reputation/brand to attract the right employee to your company.

Remember, your Employer Brand shouldn’t be an advert to draw as many people as possible. It should be honed in clarity, and designed for specification to bring in people that are going to thrive in your work environment. Essentially, this is the Give & Get philosophy.

See more from Bryan…

Did you learn anything new from this episode? Let us know in the comments below! We have helpful blogs designed to bolster your agency profitability, such as How To Calculate Your Billable Employee Cost-Per-Hour.

Our next installment of #APP, on August 24th, will see Marcel chat with Amanda Hamilton. Our previous blog – Episode 92 with Brad Smith – can be viewed here...

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