On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed 17 executive orders aimed at swiftly dismantling a number of Trump administration policies that his aides say caused “the greatest damage” to the nation.

Don’t worry – we’re not going to dive into a lengthy political debate. But it did get us thinking…

What happens when a business leader – who influenced, directed, or dictated the terms of culture at an organization – leaves the building?  

How does this impact the direction and momentum of an employer brand – should it flex and adapt to the aspirations of a new CEO?

OK, these are some big questions to take in. Noted.

But they’re certainly warranted, given that, over a 12-month span, nearly 1 in 5 companies can expect their sitting CEO to be fired. With this transfer of power becoming ever more common, we set out to explore the role of employer brand at a time of transformational change.

By taking an honest look at the status quo, organizations can course-correct without changing the wider direction and momentum of their existing employer brand.

The new CEO on the block – what should employer brand professionals do?

Let’s be honest: nobody appoints a new leader to maintain the status quo. By and large, this move indicates change.

However, that doesn’t mean you need to tear up your employer brand and start from scratch.

When a new CEO or senior executive joins a company, employer brand leaders need to find the conviction to interrogate the status quo and ask important questions. What you’re really looking for is the truth.

You want to uncover, warts and all, the accurate realities of today and pair these with the aspirational vision of where the new leader wants to go tomorrow.

This could mean that 90% of your employer brand stays the same and 10% changes. The exact figures are irrelevant – the point is that from an employer brand perspective, you need to capture, characterize and articulate the realities of today and the aspirations of tomorrow.

After all, sometimes the journey yet to be realized is the biggest motivator in encouraging people to work for your organization.

By aligning your existing employer brand with the new leader’s business strategy, you can ensure the two are moving together on the same path. This is the key to building an employer brand that becomes a functional tool for your organization.


The building blocks of an employer brand

To help make sense of the role of employer brand at a time of change, we use an evolving employer brand philosophy that aims to break down and establish how each element should work together.

At the most fundamental level, an employer brand needs to be able to satisfy basic psychological needs. We consider purpose, impact, and belonging as the three foundational ingredients that every successful employer brand should strive for.

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Next, we arrive at the specific expectations and behaviors that an organization espouses and believes in. Essentially, these should be a distillation of what matters most to your people. Remember, this will vary depending on the company and the culture.

The key is to find expectations and behaviors that can serve as guiding principles (something everyone will buy into).

As we move up the pyramid, we arrive at perhaps the most interesting, tactical component – the strategy and proposition. Here, an employer brand needs to satisfy the material and conscious needs of employees, which is best delivered via a ‘Give and Get’ employee value proposition (EVP).

This EVP statement should encapsulate what an organization expects of its employees and clearly outline what they stand to receive in return. We can analyze this through the lens of three different ingredients: citizenship, career catalyst, and culture.


Why you should invest in the 3 C’s

The three C’s – citizenship, career catalyst, and culture – play an instrumental role in shaping the material and conscious manifestations of your employer brand, especially at a time of leadership change.

From an employer brand perspective, citizenship encapsulates things like political voice, diversity, the integrity of leadership, environment and social responsibility, supply chain management, and much more.

Each of these issues is now top of mind for candidates and employees alike. As such, they need to be baked into an employer brand so that there are clear rules and expectations across the organization.

This mutual value proposition should define what is expected of employees and what employees can expect from the company in return.

Remember, a real employer brand shouldn’t look like a sunshine version of your company. It needs to address the harsh realities, the obstacles and challenges to be overcome.

By doing this, you can actually better account for the career catalysts that people truly care about. Whether that’s challenging work, proof of career development, or access to learning and development programs, defining these and working to enhance them is key, particularly at a time of wider organizational change.

Last, but certainly not least, we arrive at culture.

By looking objectively at the culture you have, you can identify the gaps and move in an aspirational direction towards the culture you want. At a time of change, this provides organizations with an honest and objective look at the current state of affairs.

When you uncover what people truly care about, then you can start to shape the culture around the issues and values that matter most to your people.

C-suite and executive teams have a vital role to play in demonstrating a commitment to these new principles. When there is a clear synergy between the company vision, business strategy, employer brand, and EVP, it becomes much easier to demonstrate where, how, and why change will be made.

This evolving employer brand philosophy will not only serve you well under new leadership – it will also ensure you build a more meaningful, effective, and impactful employer brand.


Bryan Adams

Bryan Adams is the international best-selling author of Give & Get Employer Branding. He is also the CEO and founder of Ph.Creative, a leading employer brand agency that specializes in building world-class employer brand, EVP, recruitment marketing, and talent engagement strategy for companies such as Apple, American Airlines, Entain, and Blizzard Entertainment. An employer brand thought leader and speaker, Bryan's aim is to change the way people think about employer branding and EVP through unconventional and even controversial methodologies.