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The courageous leader’s guide to creating a powerful internal brand

A successful internal or ‘employer’ brand needs a strong leader to make it work. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. IIP Practitioner Gwen Carter-Powell takes a look at the challenges that can arise and shares her insights on how to face them head on.


Challenge:  The people in my team don't understand what employer brand means

“Before you even begin to develop an internal or employer brand for your business, it’s essential for your people to understand what it’s all about so they can all get on board. In short, an employer brand is an alignment of credible and unique internal values that describes what your organisation has to offer to potential and existing employees, as well as guiding the direction and overall aspirations of your business.”

This helps your employees see the benefit of being part of a business with attractive attributes and helps similar people gravitate towards you, so that you acquire a team that thrives.”

“The majority of employers are aware of their external brand, but they’ll overlook what that means on the inside of their business. If as a leader you can help employees unpick this so they can see how it’ll improve their daily working lives, as well as what’s expected of them, it’ll ensure that your teams relate more to what you’re trying to accomplish with your internal brand.”


Challenge:  My organisation has been through a lot of change

“Whether you’ve recently grown, reshuffled, acquired a new business, or been battling with organisational upheaval; now more than ever is the time to make sure your employer brand is addressed, so that your people feel valued and involved.”

“A great example of this is construction group Kier Environmental. They’ve recently acquired May Gurney, which means a huge uptake of staff and a merging of cultures. To address this, they now have a really clear vision of where they want to be.”

“Their leaders are focusing on people performance, deploying strategies at senior level and every level of the business. They’re doing this through two approaches –  one is Visible Felt Leadership, which is related to a more people-focused approach; and the other is around responsibility, through a cascade of briefings using the chain of command or line managers to make sure that everyone is clearly responsible for their teams.”

“They now have regular appraisals that concentrate on how employees are relating to the shared vision. They follow through with actions to lead change, so all employees are actively involved in development plans.”


Challenge:  Some of our employees refuse to adapt their behaviour to reflect our internal values

“Great leaders take the lay of the land, do some recceing and then spend a couple of weeks listening to what people are saying from the ground up. Once they’ve taken stock they start putting a plan in place.”

“But it’s not easy. And the brilliant new managing director of Lovell Partners Ltd., Simon Medler can vouch for that. He was bought in to save a business on the brink. He’s shaken things up and ruffled a few feathers, particularly in the senior management team.”

“He gave the people he eventually exited an opportunity to adopt the shared values and vision of the company; and when their behaviour didn’t change, it just highlighted that ultimately they were making it their own decision to go. It always needs to be about personal choice. That’s when you really get people on board with the brand.”


Challenge:  Getting everyone to feed into our employer brand is a struggle

“As a leader, you need to think ‘How am I touching base with people? What mechanisms are in place for them to participate? What is there that enables them to challenge the way things work?”

“A common mistake is thinking that purely transactional communications are enough. They’re not. An example of this would be some kind of cascade or briefing from the leader through management teams, which eventually trickles down to every level. This is disengaging and doesn’t send the right message. It might contain your company’s key messages, but it remains on the paper or screen and doesn't grab anybody's heart. In short, it's telling rather than including or involving.”

A strong employer brand is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to better people management practice. Why not take our free benchmarking test to see how your organisation is doing now, where you could improve and the difference it could make to your business?


  • Communicate: Develop a two-way dialogue with your people. Always invite them to participate in discussions.
  • Listen: Make sure your Employer Brand isn’t at odds with your people.  Spend time listening to what they’re saying – it’ll make everyone feel more invested.
  • Give opportunities: Getting buy-in with your employer brand is essential, so give everyone the opportunity to get on board with your brand before making any drastic decisions.
  • Assume: Make sure everyone is on the same page by communicating the benefits of Employer Brand and what it means in real terms.
  • Rely on rules: Didactic lists telling employees what they can and can’t do are really reductive. If you want your employees to do something differently, put the power in their hands with group discussions surrounding the topic.
  • Try to be someone else: Your employer brand is unique because it’s made of your businesses’ individual qualities. Use these to carve out an internal brand that all of your employees can run with.


Gwen Carter-Powell is a practitioner with Investors in People Central England. She specialises in organisational development, dynamics and behaviour/culture mapping.