Recently on a trip to Seattle, I had an opportunity to visit Amazon.com headquarters — one of the many remarkable corporate campuses located in that region. I’d never explored a “corporate campus” before. But I’ve always been extremely eager to get a first-hand experience after reading many articles about the concept. This was my shot.

Needless to say, I was impressed! But it isn’t just the size of this sprawling facility that blew me away. I was also struck by the branding that is present throughout the environment. It made me think about the whole “employer branding” thing.

Branding From the Inside Out

I know HR practitioners struggle to implement a strong public brand that will attract and recruit top-notch external candidates. It’s one of HR’s primary functions in today’s world of work. But what about the internal brand? It’s also vital to retain talent that is already onboard. What are we doing to keep existing employees engaged and loyal to our organizations? Competitive compensation isn’t the only way to stop an employee from walking.

You may not be an enormous company like Amazon, Google, or LinkedIn. You may not have deep pockets for internal branding initiatives. But you certainly can be inspired by the way the “big boys” cultivate their brands, their work environments, and their corporate cultures. What’s more, you can leverage and adapt some of those heavy-hitter concepts to fit your organization’s circumstances.

Four Key Questions

1) What’s the vibe in your workspace? When I think about world-class employer campuses, one of the most notable characteristics is that many workspace options are available. Yes, I said OPTIONS. Their offices are not set up with jail-like cubicle rows, and an occasional office or conference room here or there. They have open spaces, co-working options, lounge areas, and unique personalities. Perhaps you don’t have the space or budget to create luxurious common areas, but there are plenty of ways to create an open environment that seems welcoming and non-restrictive.

2) Are you committed to internal recruitment marketing? While riding in one of Amazon’s elevators, I noticed a vibrant poster promoting a department that is recruiting Software Engineers. One side of the poster showed a man sitting at a computer with the saying, “This is what it looks like to work on my team.” The other side showed an imaginative, creative, fun scene surrounding the man at the computer with the saying, “This is what it FEELS like to work on my team.” Below that, removable tags featured contact information for the team manager. I absolutely love that. Amazon is huge, so internal communications like that can make it easy to recruit for internal candidates who wouldn’t otherwise know about your team. Makes sense for a company that large, right? Here’s the kicker — even  in small organizations, employees say that they aren’t aware of other jobs or openings. This can be a huge issue, especially since many employees leave their company because they feel like they have no internal mobility options. That situation might not be true — their perception may simply come from lack of information.

3) Are you too scared to adapt? I understand the phrase, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” And that phrase is perfectly reasonable. If your company is functioning fine, there is no reason to fix it. But what about offering more options? Compensation isn’t the only thing that can retain your employees. Sometimes other options can be the deciding factor: telecommuting; flex work; tuition reimbursement; on-going training; co-working; employee engagement initiatives, and so on. Your competitors are coming out with really cool options to retain their employees. Don’t let them beat you out because you were too scared to adapt to the changing world of work.

4) Is it a place of hierarchy or community? There most definitely needs to be order within an organization, but top down communication doesn’t really work as well as it did in the past.  Employees want their voices to be heard — they want to make suggestions, they want to contribute, and they want to build relationships. I have worked in an organization where the president and directors are extremely open to two-way communication. They make it very easy to initiate a conversation — even to the point where interns aren’t scared to make suggestions or casually chat with one of the company’s leaders. It has created a strong sense of community — which has helped position the company as a progressive work environment.

Your employer brand isn’t just about convincing external candidates that your organization is a great place to work. It’s also about making sure your current employees love working there — so much so that no other company or job offer seems more attractive.

(To read Ashley’s original post, visit The Social HR Connection blog.)

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