Nancy Anderson, RN, MA, Senior Vice President of Engagement Solutions


Having lived in Seattle for several years, I had a daily routine of visiting Starbucks for my daily dose of caffeine. Given that Seattle is home base for the company, you could find a Starbucks on pretty much every corner! I became very familiar with the smiling mermaid logo that greeted me every morning as I entered the store and enjoyed watching the baristas do their magic! I loved their coffee (Grande skinny vanilla latte for me!), and learned a lot about the company and their employer brand.  

Starbucks is very clear on what it stands for. Its mission clearly goes way beyond just selling coffee:

“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”

And the way they convey their value proposition to employees (Starbucks refers to their employees as partners) is pretty powerful as well.

“Gigantic possibilities lie ahead—to grow as a person, in your career and in your community. To live the Starbucks mission and to be a leader. It’s the opportunity to become your personal best. To be connected to something bigger. To be meaningful to the world. And to be recognized for all of it. It’s all here for you.”

Now you may be thinking, “Sure, that’s easy to say, but do employees actually have that experience?”

Here are some comments from a friend of mine who recently started working at Starbucks.

“I love working here! From my first interview and throughout my hiring and onboarding experience, I’ve been treated with kindness and respect. On a daily basis, I am reminded of our mission and the importance of connecting with our customers. Our leaders walk their talk. I feel valued and appreciated for my contributions, even though I’ve only worked here for a short time!”

Is your organization known as a great place to work? Do you have an employer brand that conveys to current and potential employees the unique aspects of your workplace?

What is an employer brand and why is it important?

An employer brand communicates your organization’s values, culture and a promise of what an employee can expect when working in your organization. A clear employer brand makes explicit those aspects of your workplace that stand out. It conveys the personality of your organization.

A compelling employer brand can serve as a magnet to job seekers, broadening the pool of talent that is drawn to you. In addition, a brand that is consistently conveyed to your current employees can be a powerful loyalty producer, reducing the risk of losing your best people to competitors.

To begin shaping your employer brand, start by surfacing core themes through the eyes of your employees. Ask a sampling of employees the following questions:

  • What originally attracted you to join our organization?
  • What is unique about our facility? What are our greatest strengths?
  • Why would someone want to work here?
  • With this information, work with your management team to begin shaping your employer brand promise.
  • What is our organizational mission and values? How do we embed and convey our values through our workforce practices (e.g., hiring, on-boarding, recognition, performance management, etc.)?
  • What do we want to be able to promise our employees? Respond to the statement, “When you come to work at our facility, we promise…”
  • For each promise, indicate if: 1) you can definitely deliver on the promise now 2) the promise is true in some circumstances and 3) the promise is something you’d like to say but can’t just yet.

The goal of this exercise is to ensure that your espoused employer brand accurately reflects your culture and values. Remember, your brand and reputation are nothing more than a promise, so you need to ensure that you are able to keep it. Your espoused value proposition for employees must be consistent with the actual experience of your employees. 

If it’s not? You lose credibility and word quickly spreads that you’re all talk and no walk!

Keep in mind that your website is a primary broadcaster of your employer brand. What does your website career page say to potential employees? You may want to visit websites of top companies (any industry) and assess the company’s messaging to potential employees. What is their brand promise? What are they telling potential employees to expect when they are employed at their company? How do they differentiate themselves in order to create their employer brand?

As an example, Starbucks career page powerfully conveys the sense that working at Starbuck isn’t just a job…

“Connecting with each other, with our customers and the communities we are a part of fosters a deep sense of purpose at Starbucks. We believe we can all become a part of something bigger and inspire positive change in the world around us.”

A strong employer brand can be a powerful recruiting tool as well as way to retain talent.

Now I’ve got coffee on my mind. Anyone want to go for a cup o’ joe?

Nancy Anderson, RN, MA, is the SVP of Engagement Solutions for Align. In her role, she provides strategic leadership and supports development of solutions to help providers successfully build and sustain a culture of engagement.