Company values – check. Employee value proposition – got it. Corporate brand refresh – complete.

“Now, what if we could bring all of these elements together in a strategy to showcase our culture and tell the story of who we are? Wouldn’t that be something.”

That’s the question we were asking ourselves when we embarked on pulling together our first, formal employer branding strategy. We had all the pieces of the puzzle, and it was finally time to put it together.

WHAT WE DID & HOW WE DID IT:

Brand and Employer Brand: Two peas in a pod.

In early 2018, a cross-functional team came together to refresh our corporate brand, and our HR team was asked to join the refresh to help weave in our culture message and values.

As luck would have it, the revamp of the corporate brand started around the time we were beginning to build our employer brand. Which raises a question for many of us in this field:

How does a brand and an employer brand work together?

For us, we see our employer brand as an expression of our company brand, focused on attracting and retaining top talent, which is why the refresh of our company brand was the perfect opportunity for everyone involved in the project to make sure the two worked together. Because the brand and employer brand are two peas in a pod – they showcase not only what you do, but who you are – your culture, your people, your employee value proposition.

And just like a corporate brand, an employer brand isn’t a one-time campaign – it’s an actively managed business strategy. We’re constantly thinking about how to tell the story of who we are and how we stand out as an employer of choice. So, we needed to make sure our employer brand was/is a reflection of the corporate brand.

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But so many companies look like a great place to work, how do you differentiate yourselves? How do you highlight what makes you truly special?

That is the million-dollar question. Ok – maybe not a million dollars – but it is a tough question to answer. We have 14,000 employees in almost 60 countries around the world working in almost every job you can think of – from data scientist and software developer, to sales and marketers, to landscapers and chefs.

And if you ask anyone at SAS, they’ll tell you this is a special place. We’re one of twelve legends who have been on the Great Places to Work list every year, and our people take a lot of pride in that. When we’re looking at attracting new employees and engaging the amazing talent we already have – how do we capture the essence of this place? What makes us different and special at the same time?

To answer this, we asked the people who know us best – our employees. We talked to our people in all corners of the world and in all areas of our business. We held workshops, focus groups, and interviews, and asked what they thought made us special and unique.

We realized that whatever this “it factor” was, it couldn’t be exclusive. Meaning, it couldn’t be an idea that only resonated with a portion of our employees – it had to be something that unified us. It had to be an idea that reflects all of our people, no matter who you are or what role you play at SAS.

And as we dug through the research, a central thread seemed to tie everything together: Curiosity. (Which also happens to be one of our core values – it’s nice when everything falls into place, isn’t it?)

OUR OUTCOMES:

Your Curiosity Matters: Be a part of something extraordinary.

After about a year of collecting employee feedback and developing our strategy, we finally landed on differentiator.

When you come to work at SAS: Your Curiosity Matters.

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Shortly after landing on this idea, we headed to Talent Brand Summit where we learned from our peers, workshopped a few ideas, and came back energized to begin bringing this idea to life.

We rode the momentum of the event and shifted gears into “execution” mode when we got home. We were ready to shine the spotlight brighter on our employee stories, leverage recruitment marketing, enhance a paid and organic social strategy, and activate employee programs that engage and recognize our people.

So, we turned up the heat and charted our course.

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We focused our efforts on:

Developing our core “Who we are” message: At our heart, we’re problem solvers, explorers and knowledge seekers – always asking, “What if?”. Whether you’re developing algorithms, creating customer experiences or answering critical questions. Curiosity is our code and the opportunities are endless.

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Revamping our Careers and Culture pages (HT to our Web team)

Building a new page to highlight Our Storytellers (HT to Internal Communications for sourcing those stories to share)

Created a 53 page *gasp* Employer Branding Guide that includes our key messages, look and feel, design elements, personas, and governance (HT to the Creative team)

Integrated the designs, storytelling and key themes in to our social media strategy – both paid and organic (HT to the Social Media and Digital Advertising teams)

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Built personas and created campaigns around Your Curiosity Matters and #SASlife (HT to our Talent Acquisition team)

Everything above we identified as our top priority items as a business and completed in about four months with the help of partners from across the business. Now that we’ve tackled these, we’re shifting gears once again to tackle a whole new list this year!

Because let’s be honest, when you check one thing off, there’s always more to do, but that’s what keeps this talent brand work exciting.

WHAT WE LEARNED:

Work together: At the end of the day, you’re all on the same team.

As you can see, bringing an employer brand strategy to life takes a village. And even though people may be on different “teams”, at the end of the day, we’re really all on the same team. That may sound cheesy, but it’s true.

With that, we’ll leave you with a few more thoughts:

  • Don’t recreate the wheel – You may not be going through a brand refresh, but you probably have a brand team. Go meet with someone in that group or connect with other communicators in your company. Have coffee, share ideas, look for areas of alignment and see how you can build off each other’s work. You might be surprised how many dots you can connect just by talking to people at your own company.

  • Design and do – Design your strategy, and then more importantly, go do something with it. If you’re already working on pieces and parts of employer branding – like building an EVP or content marketing your culture on social media – create a document that brings all the pieces together. That way the work you’re doing in each area aligns to a larger, cohesive strategy.  

  • Walk a mile in your partner’s shoes – Many of us work with people on different teams – and in an employer brand role, we often rely on partners in different areas of the company to bring this work to life. If you can put yourself in their shoes and learn their lingo, processes, and pain points, you can learn to be a better partner. Do you know what “copy” is when working with your Creative team? Do you know what “impressions” measure when using digital advertising? Do you know what a “native” post is on social media? Do you know how your video team likes to receive feedback on storyboards? If so, great. If not, go learn!

  • What to do when you have champagne taste on a beer budget – You may be doing employer branding as a side hustle to your “regular” job or you may have a team of 10. Either way, do what you can with what you have. We all dream of having more people, more tools, and more resources. But until that day comes, think creatively about how you can use the tools you have. There may even be other teams that have tools you can leverage. For instance, we work with the social media team to schedule our culture content, and they have seats available in their system that we can use to schedule posts. That way we all win – we’re able to use a tool we need, and we help supply additional content.

WHAT’S UP NEXT:

Next on deck we plan to measure and optimize our work and continue to peak the curiosity of our candidates. To keep up with what we’re doing and our EB journey – you can follow us on social and check out #SASlife.

BEHIND THE CASE:

We are Allison Bogart and Shannon Allen – the Employer Brand Team at SAS, an analytics company headquartered in Cary, North Carolina.

By day, you can find us running between buildings with our backpacks while mapping out new ways to amplify #SASlife. On the weekends Allison is a brunch enthusiast and loves to recharge by the Pamlico River. Shannon, on the other hand, is a half-marathon runner and a creative cook for an allergy-crazed family of six!

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About Talent Brand Alliance:

We believe that employer branding and talent attraction professionals have a passion for creating a sense of community for employees at their respective companies. We take this passion and apply it to the growing ecosystem of talent branding professionals to empower learning, sharing and networking within recruiting. Join us!

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