Today, a strong employer brand is seen as a critical way to attract, engage and retain the best people. At a time when top talent is highly mobile, those are certainly laudable goals. But is building a special, separate employer brand the way to achieve them?

Based on our experience with hundreds of organizations, we believe what has been called “the employer brand” should in fact grow out of the established company brand. We recommend a three-step process, led by the CEO and the executive team.

First, create a talent framework that lays out the key qualities, behaviors and motivations C-suite managers want to see in their workforce, so the company can deliver on its total brand promise.

Next, validate the talent framework. Customer-facing workers have the best understanding of their needs and how work really gets done. Key questions in focus groups and on questionnaires for these employees should include: “Does this capture capabilities critical to our success?,” “How do you think prospective hires will react?” and “Do our values come across clearly?”

It’s also important to ask employees for candid feedback about what needs to change in the organization for it to retain, motivate and attract the best people over the long term.

A major challenge is learning how well the talent framework resonates with potential hires. One effective approach is to reach out to new employees, asking them to assess important areas such as the company strategy, sense of purpose and quality of customer service, as if they were still looking at the organization as a potential place to work.


The final step is to fully embed the talent framework into the business. This means encouraging the right behaviors so that potentially abstract qualities, such as “teamwork,” are assessed and rewarded.

As any good leader knows, their most important job is attracting, retaining and advancing the best people. Integrating talent into the center of the corporate brand, rather than spinning out a separate employer brand, is the best way to do that.

Written by Ken Banta and Michael Watras. Banta is the founder of the Vanguard Network. Watras is the chairman and CEO of Straightline.