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Building a Winning Employer Brand

Building a Winning Employer Brand

After years of on-and-off running, I decided to start training for my second Marathon in 2023. Planning routes, slowly increasing distances, refining my timing, pacing, and nutrition - every detail mattered. When training for a marathon, consistency isn't just important; it's everything. You can’t successfully run 26.2 miles without regular, disciplined training.

The same principles apply to employer branding, where one-off efforts or random initiatives will take you nowhere quickly. Instead, it’s about consistently communicating your company's values, culture, and People Value Proposition (PVP).

At Cpl's Future of Work Institute (FOWI), we define a PVP as the total design of the value people receive when they join and stay in your business. It is the essence, the experiences, the culture, and the story of your organisation all rolled into one.

Similar to how a runner's body and mind become increasingly stronger and conditioned to the challenges of training over time, the market perception and employee trust in an employer brand also strengthen. With transparent messaging and consistent, meaningful human experiences, organisations can create a winning employer brand that resonates with talent and stakeholders alike.

Here’s what training for a marathon taught me about employer branding.

Setting the Pace (Essence)

In the same way, as you define your race objectives – whether it's finishing within a certain time or simply completing the marathon – establishing your employer brand goal is equally crucial. This process requires a comprehensive review of your company's current state, gathering and evaluating feedback from both employees and candidates, analysing HR metrics, and researching how your employer brand is perceived, both internally and externally. Essentially, this means understanding the real issues in your workplace, the nature of work tasks, and the composition of your workforce. Gaining this insight is key to identifying what's hindering your brand's progress, enabling you to set a clear and achievable employer brand goal.

Comparable to the way a marathon runner relies on a support team such as a coach, physiotherapist and nutritionist, the success of your employer brand also hinges on the collective effort of key players. It's crucial to meticulously identify and bring together stakeholders who are instrumental to your branding journey. This team, a diverse mix of individuals from various departments like HR, Talent Acquisition, Communications, Marketing, and front-line staff, will champion your brand's vision and values from the very beginning to the culmination of your branding efforts. Their diverse insights and expertise will ensure a holistic and effective brand strategy, embodying the essence of your company and ensuring every step taken is aligned with your organisational goals and culture. By fostering a collaborative and inclusive environment, this team becomes the heartbeat of your brand, driving it forward with passion and purpose.

Forging a Pathway (Create)

Training for a marathon requires understanding your pathways and designing your training plan based on the inputs from your coaches and team. When you understand your starting point it is much easier to execute a plan. This principle is mirrored in employer branding. It involves taking all of the inputs of the ‘Essence’ stage, including internal employee sentiment, external digital footprint analysis, SLT workshops, and valuable market research to initiate the phase of creative transformation.

The 'Create' stage focuses on generating new concepts or adapting and localising ones that articulate your organisation's brand story from both internal and external perspectives. New concepts may involve innovative approaches to brand representation, while localised concepts tailor branding strategies to specific markets or audience segments.

Similar to a marathon runner adjusting their running shoes and gear to navigate different terrains and weather conditions, employer branding initiatives must adapt to the diverse landscapes of internal culture and external market dynamics.

Building a Winning Training Plan (Plan)

Similar to mapping out a training plan for a marathon, the ‘Plan’ stage is about channelling insights and resources into a structured roadmap for success.

Comparable to a marathon runner who meticulously plans routes, calculates distances, and refines their timing and pacing, you must meticulously plan your marketing and engagement plan. It's about turning the ‘Create’ outputs into a tangible strategy with a distinctive look, feel, and voice. This involves translating the company's values, culture, and People Value Proposition (PVP) into experiential marketing initiatives that resonate with your target audience.

In the 'Plan' stage, you conduct briefings with internal talent acquisition teams, marketing, internal communications teams and broader stakeholder groups. Much like a runner continuously consults with coaches, physiotherapists, and nutritionists, these sessions ensure that everyone is aligned with the vision and goals. Here you analyse the landscape of the organisation, identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that guide your strategic planning.

In the same way that a marathon runner tailors their training plan to their specific strengths and goals, you should adapt your marketing strategy to align with the organisation's business goal and culture. This stage is crucial for refining the messaging, defining the most effective communication channels, and set measurable goals to measure the progress.

“The real marathon is never the race, but the preparation leading up to it.”

– John Hanc, editor to Runner’s World magazine, as well as the author of The Coolest Race on Earth.

The Starting Line and Marathon (Activate)

The 'Activate' stage is where the key experiential marketing and engagement elements come to life. It involves the strategic activation of various assets such as visuals, microsite development, and targeted campaigns aimed at generating interest and engagement.

Launching communication and people initiatives signifies the transition from planning and preparation to action, much like the starting line of a marathon. Maximising the impact of these assets and strategies requires an effective distribution strategy. This entails knowing who your target audience is, determining the optimal timing for asset release, and selecting appropriate delivery channels. By precisely targeting distribution, organisations can optimise resource utilisation and ensure that their employer brand resonates with the intended audience at the most opportune moments.

Managing the employer brand is an ongoing marathon that necessitates alignment with internal systems, HR policies, and practices. It demands continuous attention to both candidate and employee experiences, coupled with the flexibility to adjust tactics in response to evolving circumstances.

Monitoring Your Performance (Impact)

Measuring the business impact of your employer branding initiatives can be likened to how a marathon runner continuously monitors their heart rate and performance during a race. Just as they adapt their pace and strategy based on real-time feedback, your employer branding strategy requires regular assessment to ensure it meets its objectives and remains effective.

However, impact measurement goes beyond mere ROI analysis. It involves a deep understanding of what resonates with your stakeholders, identifying their pain points, and developing tailored metrics that address these areas. Metrics such as employee net promoter score (eNPS) or people index are akin to a runner checking their Garmin or Apple watch. To this end, at the Future of Work Institute, we collaborate closely with Wrky, a people analytics platform that provides tangible insights into the health and engagement of your stakeholders.

Demonstrating transparency and innovation, Wrky provides an interactive dashboard, which serves as a tracker of ongoing progress. It showcases the advancements organisations make, whilst also identifying areas that require further attention.

As an illustrative case study, we assisted a large technology organisation in understanding and connecting the dots on their key people challenges. This collaboration enabled them to co-create a strategy that improved their employee satisfaction and overall eNPS scores. A year into the implementation, our review highlighted a significant increase in eNPS scores, positioning them as an employer of choice and further emphasising that the journey to building a winning employer brand is truly a marathon and not a sprint.

Adopting a holistic approach in employer branding is akin to considering all aspects of a runner's performance – not only their speed, but also their endurance, recovery, and overall health. This means looking beyond traditional metrics and aligning both quantitative and qualitative measurements to each stage of the employment lifecycle and the objectives of your employer brand. Doing so allows you to capture the full story of your brand's evolution.

Start with foundational metrics like employee satisfaction and brand reach, gradually integrating more complex ones like career progression rates or diversity index. This mirrors a marathon runner's progression from tracking distance and time alone to include cadence and vertical ratio.

And similar as a marathon runner proudly shares their medal, race photos, and story (with anyone willing to listen) don't forget to showcase your brand's journey through internal and external channels. This not only celebrates your achievements but also narrates the ongoing story of your brand's development and its business impact.


In summary, building a winning employer brand requires setting clear objectives, understanding your landscape, developing resilience, and managing your brand with consistency and agility. So when considering yours be sure to set your pace (Essence), forge your path (Create), execute your plan (Plan), get to the starting line (Activate), and check your performance (Impact).

And when the process gets tough, keep going, keep innovating, and I'll see you on the track!

If you need support building a Winning Employer Brand, reach out to [email protected] or download our People Value Proposition Brochure today and receive a complimentary consultation with one of our specialists.