How building a culture-based brand will help you attract the right people

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Guest post by Sasha Reid, Twinlife Marketing

Candidates today want more than a job that fits their skills and a decent salary. They want a job that fits their goals, values and vision for their lives. Millennials, set to dominate the workforce by 2025, are particularly interested in the opportunity to make a difference and forge meaningful work relationships according to Forbes, while nearly 80% will look for “people and culture fit first, followed by career potential” according to Glassdoor.

Culture has become a competitive advantage and, similar to marketing a product, organisations (and their leaders) need to be able to market themselves effectively and authentically.

Most organisations grasp the importance of a brand strategy to promote products and services. Increasingly, however, there is an awareness of the role branding plays in successfully positioning oneself as an employer of choice. The term “employer brand” was first defined in the mid-1990s, denoting an organisation’s reputation as an employer as opposed to its more general corporate brand reputation. Times have changed, with the world more connected and transparent than ever before. As Harvard Business Review reports, employer branding is becoming strategically more important as we head towards 2020 and is now inextricably intertwined with consumer brand strategies.

So… what is a brand anyway?

More than just your name and logo! Your brand represents your identity – who you are, what you do, the values you stand for – and is the connection between who you are and who people think and feel you are.

Tangible aspects of your brand include how you speak, how you look, how you behave. Intangible aspects include perceptions and expectations, emotions and feelings evoked, recognition and credibility. Note that the tangible aspects of your brand are directly within your sphere of influence, while the intangible aspects are not. Brand custodians, therefore, need to be vigilant, ensuring alignment between the image and values they put to the market and the response it receives.

A strong brand is built over time, communicating your value consistently over and over again until repetition becomes recognition, and recognition becomes reputation. It is part of every single activity and customer touchpoint. It is your promise – and it must be believable. It will influence people’s decisions to work in your organisation, to buy from or to partner with you.

3 steps you can take today in developing your brand

     1. Know your purpose

Why does your organisation exist? What are your ambitions? What are you setting out to achieve? What and where are the goal posts? I.e. how will you know if or when you’ve “won”? Your purpose should motivate and inspire you, your team AND your customers.

     2. Define your organisation’s core values

Your values describe your desired culture and act as your north star when making decisions. Values are the glue that binds groups of people together, and defining them will help you attract as well as assess the right people for your organisations. In a recent interview with Startup Smart, Atlassian’s Head of Diversity Aubrey Blanche spoke of Atlassian as being governed by five corporate values which “truly lead the way we think”, crafting interviews that select for those qualities and hiring based on value alignment.

    3. Understand the value exchange

What are you promising? What makes you different? What benefits are you offering candidates? What do you expect from them in return?  In considering whether the value exchange is fair what matters here is how you are perceived, not what you think. What are job seekers saying about you on social media, or sites like Glassdoor?  Ask yourself: with employee advocacy becoming more and more important in the competition for talent, would current employees recommend working for your organisation to a friend?

The role of strong leaders in driving a strong brand

Once you have specified the key elements of your brand, the task at hand becomes how you manifest them in a real-world setting. For example, the colours you use, your tone of voice and language, the messages you put out, the actions you take. The best way to approach this is to consider how you want people to feel after dealing with you. Will you have had the impact you desired or left the impression you intended to make?

As the well-known proverb goes “a fish rots from the head”, typically laying all responsibility for an organisation’s ill fortune at the feet of its executive leadership. For example, if your culture is unhealthy or broken the argument is that only effective leadership can fix it. To keep the fish from rotting, the head has to be self-aware and savvy enough to look at what it’s doing (or not doing) and take remedial action. Your brand will offer powerful scaffolding, but to effectively drive it through your organisation, leaders need to step up and lead from the front. Your team, current and prospective, will be looking to you to model the values you claim your organisation espouses. This affords leaders a huge opportunity to mobilise and inspire their workforce, creating positive workplace cultures that power growth. For Robbert Rietbroek, former PepsiCo General Manager Australia, now GM of Quaker Foods in the US, this meant asking “leaders to leave loudly” in order to champion the company’s family-friendly flexible work policies – “because if it’s okay for the boss, then it’s okay for middle management and new hires.”

Delivering happiness

Congratulations! You’ve successfully attracted the right talent, but the game is still afoot. Your brand must align with your organisational culture but also with employee experience. There will be an expectation to deliver on it beyond the recruitment stage, and a golden opportunity to turn new recruits into delighted and engaged contributors who ultimately become advocates and referrers.

Sonja van den Bosch, Founder and Managing Director of Twinlife Marketing, says “marketing can create energy and focus to lead your business and team in the direction you want to head. Don’t underestimate the value of your staff, they can be your best brand advocates. If they’re enthusiastic about working for your organisation, this will come through in their productivity and engagement, but also through all the incidental interactions with people outside of the workplace, championing your cause far and wide.”

Revere your employees as you would a VIP customer:

  • Sell the benefits
  • Engage on the basis of values-alignment not just skills and expertise
  • Understand what’s important to them, then craft messages that will resonate
  • Nail your onboarding program to welcome them
  • Create effective internal communication that reflect your culture and values
  • Recognise, reward and appreciate
  • Survey for satisfaction
  • Develop and invest in them

In conclusion

ThinkChangeGrow co-founders, Hiam and Monika are adamant about people first, saying “We strongly believe that people are every organisation’s most valuable asset and the key to success for every business, big or small. No matter how great your product, or how innovative your idea, without an inclusive culture, collaborative teams and highly self-aware leaders and managers, your business is unlikely to succeed in the long run.”

If long-term growth and prosperity is your destination, then building a strong brand and employing effective marketing techniques to attract – and retain – the right people is the express train that will get you there.




Article with thanks to our guest contributor Sasha Reid, Head of Marketing Consulting at Twinlife Marketing.

Founded upon core values of truthful, practical and inspirational marketing, Twinlife Marketing is a unique marketing consulting business that helps set clients on a path towards sustainable growth through stronger marketing and by embedding a culture where marketing is set up to succeed – from strategy through to implementation. They are passionate about sharing their knowledge and expertise to elevate the marketing capability of their clients and build positive, collaborative relationships that stand the test of time.

Find out more at

7 mistakes people make when thinking about people and culture

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Culture, Employee Experience

A company cannot thrive without its people and culture. It is as simple as that. With technological anxieties and fears of automation, it has become unwittingly easier to lose focus on developing people and culture.

If this type of thinking becomes normalised, you will lose what made your company, your business, your brand so great in the first place. The people and culture behind it. So how do we keep our people engaged? To keep bringing innovation, agility and collaboration to their companies? The “tried and true” ways of the past are not always relevant. In order to expertly adapt to rapid change whether it be new technologies and shifting cultural norms, tradition has to be shaken up. We need to embrace fluidity, systems thinking and a coaching and feedback culture.

I have seen the mistake of shifting aside developing people and culture in favour of other areas made over and over again.

Here are 7 mistakes people make when thinking about people and culture:

1. Hire for subject expertise rather than adaptability

The truth is, the job which we are hiring candidates for today won’t be here tomorrow.

According to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), 40% of current Australians’ jobs will be replaced by automation by 2030. Leadership in a fluid environment requires emotional intelligence, self-awareness and adaptability.

Subject expertise is good as long as that subject stays stable.

Leaders need to identify what the individuals in their teams bring to the company. People’s talents extend beyond their subject matter expertise. Your people need to be adaptable, capable of thriving in an environment of rapid change and open to continuous learning.

2. Think and (re)act in linear, rational, predictable and controllable terms rather than in system terms

Think of your company as a complex adaptive system. How is it working? How do you ensure that it continues to do so?

Every cog, every employee will have their own distinct and unique agenda, interacting interdependently in various manners. These recurrent interactions are naturally unpredictable and non-linear. Employees adapt to this complex system in accordance with their own needs, goals and priorities.

This means that if we are to understand the cultures of our organisations – we have to examine the behaviours that emerge from these interactions rather than solely through the action of individuals. It is a mistake that I have seen many organisations and leaders make.

They continually operate on the assumption that linearity or command and control limit their ability to view the company from a holistic perspective. For example, if a team is not performing, the common approach is to focus on the lowest performing team member (that is, find the scapegoat).

In an agile environment, the more effective approach is to look what is going on in the whole team or in the whole organisation. Analyse the significance of the embedding context, the culture, in the role it plays in conditioning both success and failure.

3. Manage people rather than coach them

Remember when I said that tradition needed to be shaken up? Managing people in the traditional way of focussing on tasks and bottom-line results won’t get you there. You need to actively foster and support autonomy, competence and relatedness to enhance performance, persistence and creativity. The best way to do this is by regular and skillful coaching and real-time feedback. The traditional model of annual performance reviews lacks the agility to respond to the current environment.

4. Talk about the need for innovation but don’t establish a safe-to-fail environment

An “Eureka!” moment doesn’t happen overnight.

Innovation is a word that many like to utilise but as they say, actions speak louder than words. Innovation is not a switch that can be turned on at one’s convenience. It can only happen if people feel safe to take risks and voice “crazy ideas.” To do this, they need to know their team and leader will have their back and will allow them to trial and fail. How many “crazy ideas” that initially failed have changed the world?

Companies that are hierarchical and bureaucratic prevent grassroot innovation from occurring, stifling genuine innovation. We can see that with James Dyson whose products dominate the world where he took 5 years and 5, 126 prototypes for James Dyson to develop the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner.

5. Confuse inclusion with diversity

A diverse team does not equal an inclusive team.

You may have members that represent a range of ages, cultures and experience. That’s great. However if these members aren’t contributing equally, it is not an inclusive team. More and more, people work in teams to solve complex problems and for these teams to function optimally, psychological safety is essential. Individuals feel included when they have confidence that the team will not immediately reject their ideas or embarrass them as individuals.

Inclusive practice means allowing each member to contribute equally and in an environment that is safe, supportive and encouraging.

6. Reward best performing people with management positions without developing them

Are leaders are born or made?

It’s a question that has stirred controversy over the years but I believe the answer is not supposed to be as clear-cut as one of the two options. Rather, leaders are developed. To stop developing best performing people is a grave mistake. An effective team member requires continuous development, mentoring and coaching from their first day within the company. With this approach, when they are promoted to manage others, they have some of the necessary tools in their tool bag.

New leaders will, as people managers, continue to learn through trial and error.

This experiential learning, along with their early leadership development and with the consistent coaching and mentorship from their manager or other experienced colleague, will reap ongoing benefits, not only to the new manager, but to their direct reports and to the overall company.

7. Fail to invest in people and culture

Despite all the talk of leadership development and positive organisational culture, many companies still make the mistake of treating the investment in people and culture as an afterthought. Often, in tight times, the first budget cuts hits staff development.

Organisations with thriving cultures, such as Atlassian and The Physio Co. which are recognised as a great places to work by Forbes and others, don’t make this mistake. They emphasise on the significance on their people and culture as the unit that allows them to smoothly function throughout the years. Their success demonstrates that by genuinely and authentically investing in their workforce and culture reaps benefits, including to the bottom line.

As published in Business Insider January 2018

Reducing stress in the moment

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Employee Experience




A simple tool to reduce stress in the moment is to STOP-CALM-PIVOT, a 60 second technique proposed by Dr Evian Gordon who has had more than 30 years of experience in the field of human brain research.

The approach is to reduce stress by increasing calm.

Once you recognize you are in a stressful situation or have a negative thought you need to circuit break the stress. A strategy to do so is to:


Step 1: STOP



The best way to stop is to distract yourself and one of the fastest method is to think of a symbol that bears positivity, carries meaning for you (e.g. could be a tree, a geometric shape, a cloud- anything that has a positive association). Visualize the symbol.


Step 2: CALM



Calming is critical as it puts a brake on your stress system. The good thing is that you can calm yourself anywhere, anytime. All you need to do is diaphragmatic breathing. Take in a few deep breaths (approximately six breaths a minute). Breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Often three breaths are enough to calm. You can use the app MycalmBeat to guide your breath and the visualisation of your lungs breathing in and out helps you stay focused on your breath.


Step 3: PIVOT



Pivot to positive body language cues (e.g. genuine smiles, crossed arms, standing tall etc.) completes the stress circuit. Train your perception of these cues and become efficient in recognising them as it can enhance social interactions when you are more sensitive to such cues.

3 ways to incentivise Millennials

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We see endless rhetoric about how Millennials are different – from the way they work, the way they have fun and they way they use technology to do both at a faster rate than most senior staff members.

We understand millennials have different drivers. So why do so many companies universally apply rewards, incentives and learning programs the same way to all employees?

Most managers are caught in the middle of balancing employee rewards that are commensurate with contribution and budget allowances… never mind they are time poor to consider unique ways of rewarding at the individual level.

With Millennials tipping the balance in the workforce and with 2 in every 3 considering near-term exits from their current employers (Deloitte 2016 Millennials Survey), it’s high time managers got creative with ways to incentivise Millennials more meaningfully.

3 simple ways managers can incentivise Millennials more meaningfully:



1. Link their day-to-day work to the big picture

Millennials have a strong sense of personal values and will make choices about everything from what they buy, where they eat and who they work for based on whether that organisation reflects their values.

Beyond choosing a company based on values reflecting their own they will also choose a boss based on a few specific criteria. They’ll want you to be a mentor, a leader and a friend. The qualities they’ll be looking for from you are support, motivation, expertise and fairness according to a 2013 Hays survey of 1000 Australians aged 18 to 30.

Once they start working for you it is crucial to continually link daily activity to a higher purpose, not just making more money. If you miss this crucial step you can expect a swift exit of millennials within 1-2 years.



2. Create career adventure

This generation love to explore and​ ​they will all suffer from Career A​.​D​.​D. after 2 years. They’ll want opportunities to travel and try new roles within the same organisation, make it happen.

They’ll want to be involved in high profile projects that have big impact from the get-go. Let them. You’ll find they’re adept at team work and relish a challenge. 70% of Millennials see themselves working independently one day rather than for an organisational structure. Capture and harness that entrepreneurial spirit early and it will pay dividends.



3. ​Hand over the keys to ​learning

Millennials want choice, you will need world class learning opportunities in-house. Without that you will not attract them to your organisation in the first place.

Once they’re in, empower individuals to decide their own learning destiny by making it easy for them to also pursue learning opportunities outside your organisation. Anyone who is continuously learning feels more loyal to their organisation​.

Interestingly, the recent Deloitte Millennials Survey showed that 71% of those who were likely to leave within the next 1-2 years were unhappy with how their leadership skills are being developed, “50 percent believe their organizations could do more to develop future leaders”. Jim Moffatt, Chairman and CEO of Deloitte Consulting – This is a great place to put some focus on, what do you offer internally and what do you recommend externally? How are you helping to guide Millennials in crafting their career path?

In short empower Millennials to have the cognitive space to follow what they are interested in and good at. They will develop mastery where they see purpose. They will see purpose if you link the how to the why.

What self-limiting beliefs are holding you back?

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A self-limiting belief is an irrational belief. It distorts reality, is illogical, it can prevent you from reaching your goals, leading to unhealthy emotions and to self-defeating behaviour. -Dr Albert Ellis


As a learning and development professional, I work with people every day helping them to identify their self-limiting beliefs, which hold them back from realising their full potential. Recently I was asked to run a workshop on this very topic for a high profile tech company.

As I began the process of creating a journey for the participants it didn’t take me long to ponder my own journey. I needed to use an example and what better example to use than a self-limiting belief I had owned for some time. Armed with a cup of coffee I took time out of the program design and within minutes my mind was flooded with the realisation that I had designed my life around this particular belief.

I had waited almost 13 years between pregnancies. Not because I was having trouble conceiving or because there were relationship issues. I was in perfect working order, had a husband who adored me and a little boy who was constantly asking when he was getting a little brother or sister.

My self-limiting belief was that I couldn’t excel or progress quickly enough in my career if I had another child. I can’t remember who said the words “If you have two you might as well have ten” to me but the words stuck and grew into that self-limiting belief that has now resulted in a generation separating my children.

OK, now I had a good example for my for my upcoming workshop. Only I needed some serious therapy to get me over this realisation!



This really started me thinking about how hidden these beliefs are and how we build powerful stories that reinforce them. Self-limiting beliefs can be as simple as…”I am not good enough”… to a more complicated belief that can sabotage performance.

This also started me thinking about how careers could change for the better if we could help people (men and women), uncover what their self-limiting beliefs are and gently move into a new direction.

Some simple tips that have helped me through the journey:

  • Talk to someone objective, a career or life coach
  • Find the root of your self-limiting belief and meet it head on
  • Re-frame it – find a way to turn the negative into a positive