Authentic relations with employees build trust and grow stronger connections, so how can organizations ensure authenticity in their internal branding strategies?

Attracting and retaining skilled workers has become an unrelenting issue for employers, and that isn’t exactly an epiphany – the tussle for talent has been ongoing for some time now – but given the longevity of the issue, organizations will be eager to discover new ways to finesse the employee experience and boost job satisfaction for existing workers, while also improving their image for job seekers.

Having a strong internal brand can be hugely beneficial, and when it comes to building or refining your internal branding, authenticity is key.

What is an internal branding strategy?

An internal branding strategy, also known as an employer branding strategy, is the way in which an organization controls its own perception among its employees and cultivates a strong connection between its people and its purpose.

A good internal brand will help employees recognize why the organization exists and the goals they are collectively working towards. A great internal brand will ensure that employees not only understand those elements but believe strongly in them. It should win their buy-in and boost loyalty and engagement.

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Core elements of internal branding

Key benefits of an internal branding strategy

A strong internal branding strategy can help to retain and engage employees by enabling them to connect meaningfully with the organization and understand their purpose and importance as part of the wider business.

As employees embrace the company culture that is cultivated by internal branding, they can become brand ambassadors, advocating for the organization and its internal culture through networking and their own social media channels. This enhances external brand perception and can help to position the organization as a destination employer.

Having strong employee advocacy from internal stakeholders can also help to drive inbound job applications, reduce hiring costs, and attract talented candidates who see themselves as a good fit with the company culture.

Why authenticity matters in your internal branding strategy

Authentic internal branding can delight and engage employees
Authenticity can play a major role in improving employer-employee relations.

Authenticity can play a major role in improving employer-employee relations and building an organizational culture outsiders want to be part of. The talent market’s recent shift in favor of wider employee choice leveled the playing field in terms of what employers and employees expect from one another. With a greater choice of opportunities elsewhere, employees can demand more from the organizations that want to keep hold of them, and those that want to recruit them.

Why do employees demand authenticity? Partly because it provides them with the comfort and sense of belonging that they need in a turbulent and often unpredictable world. As Deloitte puts it, ‘This is leading to individuals finding solace in everyday life. For most of us, this means turning to the organization to find a sense of meaning and solidarity.’ If their employing organization is deemed to be authentic, this also confers an important status back on the individual.

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Behaving authentically also shows employees that the organization respects them enough to treat them with candor and transparency. This can pay dividends in improved job satisfaction. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2022 report, 95% of people who are thriving at work report being treated with respect all day.

The fact is, employees expect respect to be mutual. The Dickensian days when employees had to respect their employers but were expected to put up with whatever treatment the employer deemed necessary are long gone, but even today elements of that antiquated imbalance can still linger. Common examples include a lack of internal transparency over why certain business decisions have been made, or a poor internal communication cascade leaving people feeling disenfranchised when they only hear it through the grapevine.

So, how can organizations instill authenticity internally and show their people the respect they deserve? This is where organizations need to place their focus on building authentic internal branding and communications.

How to build authenticity into your internal branding

Communicators creating authentic internal branding
An authentic internal branding strategy should prioritize inclusivity, engagement, and collaboration.

These are the key features you can expect to find in an organization that helps its employees thrive through an authentic internal branding strategy:

Create inclusive communications

Organizations are continually striving to be more inclusive, but authentic inclusivity can be difficult to convey when not everybody in your organization understands how to write in an inclusive way. This is where AI-powered content analysis can help. For example, Interact’s intranet block editor provides anyone with publishing permissions with an inclusivity checker tool that scans the content they’re creating and provides suggestions to ensure the content is as inclusive as it can be.

This is where the rubber hits the road for organizations who make great claims on inclusivity. By actively giving people next-generation tools to get better, they show that they are investing in inclusivity in an authentic way.

A two-way approach to communication and engagement

An organization can’t cultivate an authentic internal branding strategy when there is only telling and no listening. Allowing your people to have a voice will help to foster authenticity because encouraging dialogue allows those at the top to understand and digest how employees feel and what they think. It also allows anyone to raise concerns that the organization can then address.

Giving employees the opportunity to respond to internal communications through different channels, and providing them with dedicated spaces – such as communities, forums, blogs, and discussion groups – to start their own discourse about subjects that are important to them can breed an authentic culture of communication and collaboration among employees throughout the organizational hierarchy.  

Monitor engagement and adjust your approach

No organization can create an authentic company culture if it doesn’t understand what types of communication resonate with its people. Yet a recent Gartner report found just 16% of organizations monitor employee engagement through technology.

Those all-important two-way conversations between people at either end of the corporate hierarchy are far less likely to happen if your organization has no way to measure what its people are thinking, feeling, saying, or doing when they respond to internal communications. Therefore, being able to monitor engagement is crucial to finessing your internal branding strategy and comms.

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With the right technology in place, engagement can be measured in a variety of ways, such as through annual surveys or more regular pulse surveys that deep-dive into employee motivations and connection with your internal brand.

Having access to data analytics can make a big difference here too as they can allow communicators, HR, and other people-focused teams to uncover deep insights quickly and easily. Knowing what kind of content and comms people engage with most on your intranet can help you make informed decisions that move the internal brand and company culture forward.

A digital home for your authentic brand

Every piece of external content your organization puts out into the world will be branded up with your logo and other characteristics that people associate with your brand, such as colors and wording. That external content will also feature carefully curated messaging that sells your organization’s purpose and positioning to the intended audience.

The same approach should be applied to your internal branding strategy, but how can you achieve this in the modern workplace that is so often broken up and disjointed by digital siloes, such as people communicating through different channels, and different arms of the business failing to communicate with each other effectively?

Leading organizations overcome this challenge by having a digital home that brings all of their people together in one place – a single source of truth and a single brand home. Interact’s customers achieve this using our customizable intranet software that informs and connects their people on a platform that is branded with their logo, colors, and internal messaging, and which reflects those all-important internal brand elements: proposition, purpose, business vision, mission, and values.

Need help naming your organization’s digital home? Check out our article on intranet name suggestions.

Thematic customization to boost authenticity

From Pride Month to Black History Month, there are plenty of important events that your employees will expect your brand to participate in, and, of course, they will want these events to be celebrated authentically. All too easily, participating in these annual observances can seem like tick-box exercises to fulfill internal and external expectations, so any brand that wants to authentically acknowledge these events needs to go beyond the surface.

Technology can’t do everything here, but making an effort through thematic customization of your internal communications platform can help to strengthen your brand’s allegiance with cultural observances. From a Pride-themed makeover of your intranet software to themed playlists and buttons that fill the screen with virtual confetti, hosting your internal brand’s digital home on a platform that is easily customizable can have huge value in instilling a greater sense of authenticity.

Authenticity is everything

With people becoming increasingly choosy about the organizations they work for and using company culture as a key metric for their decision-making, it pays to keep your internal branding front of mind. Existing and potential employees place a lot of value in authenticity, so ensuring you have the elements in this article covered could be crucial to meeting their exacting expectations.

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Optimize your ESG communications to drive engagement and get better results.