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Banking and Finance

Crafting Company Culture: Design Thinking and Communicative Training in Employer Branding

Dear friends, it is with great pleasure that I read your messages, in which you mention that my articles help you to manage practical problems that you face every day. I take into account your preferences, as you have found, and for this reason today I chose to write about Employer Branding, a very important parameter for the success of businesses in the new landscape that is constantly being shaped. It is certain that the request to become an “Employer of Choice” does not simply depend on his will or expectation but on a series of factors and changes that must occur in business activity and life, for the differences to be visible, permanent, and of course, such as to inspire prospective employees to desire and claim to be in this professional space.

Employer Branding refers to the process companies use to promote their culture and values to attract top talent. An employer brand conveys a company’s identity and what makes it distinctive in the eyes of current and prospective employees. It encompasses elements like leadership style, work environment, growth opportunities, and company mission that employees can identify with.

Company culture plays a huge role in developing a strong employer brand. A positive, values-aligned culture is incredibly appealing to job seekers and helps retain existing staff. When cultural norms are clearly defined and authentically practiced, employees feel higher job satisfaction, motivation, and dedication to company success. Conversely, undesirable cultural traits like lack of purpose, unclear expectations, or interpersonal conflict severely undermine employer branding.

Establishing a culture with ideals that inspire pride of affiliation is especially important amid intense talent competition. By investing in deliberate culture-building strategies, companies can engineer an environment where people choose to contribute their greatest work. A clearly defined, appealing culture strengthens brand reputation and allows a company’s employer value proposition to spread organically via word-of-mouth, increasing talent pipelines and keeping the best people on board.

Design Thinking follows human-centered strategies to gain deep insight into users’ needs. In employer branding, companies can apply these principles to understand employees at a granular level. Through observation techniques like workplace shadowing, interviews, and surveys, they gather qualitative data on employee experiences, pain points, values, and visions. Iterative idea generation then allows proposed cultural and brand initiatives to directly address themes that emerged.

Companies test brand concepts through rapid prototyping before execution. Mock employer brand webpages, recruitment materials, or cultural pilots to obtain early feedback. Refinement leads to employer brand and culture solutions truly meeting the realities of different employee groups. The promotion of transparency, psychological safety, and continuous feedback keeps brands consistently reflecting the evolving needs of the workforce.

The hands-on, empathetic nature of Design Thinking gives employees agency in determining their work environment and company presentation to candidates. When involved collaboratively from information gathering through iteration, staff feel invested in the refined employer brand as an authentic reflection of their goals and priorities. This level of understanding and participation translates to higher workforce buy-in and advocacy for the brand internally and externally.

For a better understanding of the above, let’s present some examples of how companies have used Design Thinking methods like ethnography, ideation, and prototyping to develop their employer brand (for understandable reasons, we will not mention the names of the companies):

  • A COMPANY used extensive ethnographic research methods to craft its early employer brand. Founders visited other companies to immerse themselves in various workplace cultures before ideating their own. They prototyped unusual perks like on-site gyms and launched a brand centered on mission and innovation that resonated deeply with employees.
  • B COMPANY conducted stakeholder interviews to understand what qualities attracted and retained tech talent. Employees co-created a prototype intranet to crowdsource ideas on improving support for collaborative work and flexibility. Refined based on prototyping, these initiatives strengthened B’s brand proposition of empowering innovation from within.
  • C COMPANY leveraged ideation sessions to involve remote staff geographically in defining their employer value. Employees proposed and tested communications tools, wellness initiatives, and recognition programs at a smaller scale before a global rollout. These design thinking efforts helped transform C’s culture into one empowering work from anywhere – strengthening its leading employer brand in the process.

Effective communication is paramount for establishing and reinforcing a healthy culture within an organization. Internally, regular forums that promote transparency and information sharing help employees feel connected to leadership and their broader purpose. External communication also shapes how outsiders perceive the culture and determines if the company can attract like-minded talent.

Consistent messaging across all communication channels ensures everyone within and outside the company is on the same page regarding cultural values, priorities, and ways of working. This builds understanding and buy-in. A lack of clear communication can confuse employees and make the culture seem ambiguous or disjointed over time.

Regular pulses on communication preferences and understandings help maximize impact. Leaders must be adept communicators who champion cultural ideals authentically. Training workers to be brand ambassadors expand outreach. Communication also facilitates vital feedback for continuously refining and improving culture to reflect the evolving needs of all stakeholders. Its role is integral to nurturing an aligned workforce.

Workshop series are valuable for directly teaching communication skills. Companies implement training on active listening, emotional intelligence, giving constructive feedback, and respectful conflict resolution. Participants practice via role plays and receive coaching to improve. Such foundational skills strengthen relationships and cultural alignment across levels.

Mentorship programs pair junior/senior employees to encourage knowledge transfer. Regular check-ins allow mentees to develop confidence and cultural literacy through role modeling. Mentors strengthen cultural bonds while advancing their leadership and coaching abilities. Some companies formally recognize mentorship roles to incentivize contribution.

Collaborative projects are interactive learning opportunities. Teams comprising diverse backgrounds work towards shared objectives, strengthening communication and teamwork muscles along the way. Companies provide training and oversight during projects to solve challenges, reflecting on lessons around inclusivity, delegation, and cultural nuances of collaboration. Participants become strong cultural carriers upon project completion.

Design Thinking employs human-centered methods to understand employees, gather diverse perspectives, and ensure their needs inform solutions. Communication acts as the conduit for these iterative processes – enabling transparent information sharing, idea generation, and outcome feedback across all worker groups. Together, they guarantee employees have true influence over decisions shaping their workplace culture and external employer brand.

Regular communicative check-ins using techniques like surveys and focus groups fuel the rapid cycles of observation, ideation, and prototyping at the core of design thinking. This two-way dialogue keeps talent continually involved in defining the evolving brand vision. Employees remain actively engaged in authentically representing their experiences and needs rather than being passive subjects.

The synergistic learning between Design Thinking’s empathy and experimentation with communication’s information dissemination strengthens employees’ sense of belonging and buy-in. Workers grasp how their individual and collective inputs directly influence agreed-upon solutions, building advocacy and pride in fostering a culture and brand they helped shape firsthand in partnership with leadership.

Companies can run collaborative Design Thinking workshops where cross-functional teams ideate ways to strengthen inclusiveness for varied groups. Workshops are recorded and shared firm-wide via the intranet to gain feedback before prototyping inclusive initiatives. This symbiosis of DT methods and inclusive communication helps optimize culture.

Firms appoint “culture change agents” to undergo mentorship in facilitation, active listening, and surveying skills. These agents then support leadership in running ideation forums, gathering worker perspectives, and socializing prototypes – integrating communicative training with each phase of the DT process.

Project teams are formed with representatives from different levels who undergo training in giving constructive feedback. As teams use DT to solve challenges, lessons in respectful communication and embracing diverse viewpoints help foster a psychologically safe, innovative culture. Outcomes are presented company-wide, embedding communication best practices.

Below we will present some real-world examples of companies that successfully blended Design Thinking and Communication training into their culture development (the names of the companies and their programs are omitted for convenient reasons):

  • D COMPANY famously uses bi-weekly all-hands meetings, and online forums for employees to provide weekly input that shapes their design-led culture. Leadership communicates progress transparently, retaining their legendary levels of worker autonomy and innovation.
  • E COMPANY taps facilitators to gather ideas via collaborative internal hackathons. Ideas are socialized, refined through rapid prototyping, and rolled out globally once vetted. Workshops to enhance the diversity of thoughts are core to its culture of equality and belonging.
  • F COMPANY conducts semi-annual tours where leadership visits all offices to understand challenges through active listening. Insights directly inform DT-led solutions prototyped and reviewed via online Q & As, embedding an adaptive culture of continuous learning across remote teams.

One of the major takeaways is that Design Thinking and Communication are synergistic frameworks that should be used together to ensure employer brand and culture initiatives authentically reflect employee needs and realities. Together they foster transparency, psychological safety, participation, and buy-in.

Another takeaway is that collaborative approaches keep talent constantly involved in informing, testing, and providing feedback on solutions. This iterative process builds advocacy for refined solutions and pride in influencing outcomes. It also future-proofs brands and culture to remain aligned as workforce priorities evolve.

A final key point is that meshing these tools cultivates communication best practices like active listening, empathy, and constructive dialog throughout the organization. It strengthens relationships, aligns stakeholders, and nurtures an agile, high-performance culture primed for innovation. Companies that fully integrate these frameworks reap mutual rewards around talent, mission, and business growth.

As remote and flexible work becomes more common, company culture will depend heavily on strong digital communication. Employer brands must convey a sense of culture, purpose, and community virtually. Data privacy and security will also influence talent decisions. Culture-building may integrate additional Design Thinking methods like scenario planning to future-proof for changing workstyles.

Demographics and social shifts are prioritizing diverse, equitable cultures where all groups feel psychologically safe and included. Brands emphasizing DEI and belonging through action versus words will attract top diverse talent. Methods like culture audits and aggregating employee feedback data can help track progress and accountability.

Younger generations place a high value on companies making positive social/environmental impacts. Employer brands highlighting specific, measurable ways they address issues like sustainability may enthuse mission-driven workers. Design Thinking can ensure volunteering/donation efforts authentically support community needs. Communicating measurable impacts strengthens reputation and engagement.

Overall, continued integration of human-centered tools will be critical for constantly refining employer values to resonate in the future landscape and changing talent expectations.


Written by Fotis Pantopoulos.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Banking and Finance - Crafting Company Culture: Design Thinking and Communicative Training in Employer Branding
Fotis Pantopoulos
Fotis Pantopoulos is a Teacher, Communications Specialist, Strategic Communication & Organizational Behavior Researcher, and Business Communication & Public Relations Consultant. He is the creator of the projects My name is Teacher in Greece, Innovatebiz in the Netherlands, and Co-Owner at INVESTIMA LLC in the USA, where he is active in fields related to Communication. For any questions or comments, you can contact him at fpantopoulos@investima.us, follow him on Facebook or connect on LinkedIn.


Fotis Pantopoulos is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through Facebook and LinkedIn.