Public sector engagement: personality and employer branding

Personality at work
RichVintage/iStock
Fatima Elmi
Research and Development Analyst
Martin Reddington Associates
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Based on an innovative and forward-thinking whitepaper, this blog series highlights several key parts of how a new empoyment deal for public sector staff could revitalise the sector and tackle disengagement.

Employer branding has been described as an attempt by employers to better define the psychological contract in terms of the value employees derive from their employment in an organisation, linking this to a corporate personality or identity that both employees and customers will identify with (Barrow and Moseley, 2005; Rosethorn, 2009; CIPD 2016).

The brand experience can, therefore, be equated to the perception of the employment deal-in-action. 

TEDD® reveals this experience by using a number of lenses to uncover a myriad of factors shaping workplace social dynamics. One of the most attractive features which always draws out provocative responses from organisations is the ‘test’ of personality.

To probe the perception of corporate personality, TEDD® invites employees to imagine the organisation as a human being by asking the question, ‘If your organisation came to life as a person what word would you use to describe it?’

Personality questions are extremely valuable because they give insight into an organisation’s culture and values – the essence of the employer brand.

Do people feel it is courageous and visionary? Or lost, deaf and dismissive? It is a chance for employees to reflect on their global impressions of their employer and condense all their complex feelings into one word.

Employer branding has implications for retaining and attracting employees as well as sustaining engagement levels. Experts in this field emphasise the importance of consistency.

If external brand imaging is not aligned with the internal employee experience then tensions will inevitably develop.

In the whitepaper, we revealed the one word responses in the form of sentiment weighted word clouds. The word clouds colourfully encapsulated the overwhelming feeling employees had regarding their organisation.

Supportive, reliable, good, fair, and ambitious were the most frequently cited positive words.

We know from our past research that positive words tend to belong to highly engaged employees.

The more engaged an employee is, the more positive their perceptions of the organisation. Other prominent words that featured regularly were caring, friendly, driven, evolving, hard-working, resilient, flexible, inspiring and approachable.

Council employees over the last five years have used negative words such as confused, bureaucratic, disorganised, inconsistent, incompetent, challenging, struggling, bi-polar and authoritarian.

To an extent, these words reflect the organisational turbulence many councils are experiencing as they seek to find innovative new ways of delivering services with ever-shrinking financial resources.

The austerity agenda has seeped deeply into organisational life and negatively impacts employees’ perceptions of their organisation.

Further evidence of this could be inferred from the amount of negative sentiment being expressed outweighing the positive sentiment.

Words that did not slot so easily into either the positive or negative categories were classified as neutral.

It wasn’t always clear with what intention a person used these terms - for example, the names of politicians such as Margaret Thatcher and Donald Trump divide opinion.

Other frequently used words such complex, corporate, busy, traditional and large may imply reassurance to some and confusion or blandness to others.  

As mentioned previously, employer branding cannot be understood without first enquiring into the overall state of the employment relationship. TEDD® is constructed in a way to probe the obligations, promises and expectations that make an employer’s brand.

The personality lens adds richness to TEDD® by exploring the parallels between human dispositions and organisational life, by shining a spotlight on their imperfections, foibles, and their good points.

These findings sum up general feelings about an organisation helping to give a broad picture as to whether an organisation is seen as predominantly open, supportive and conversational or dogmatic, repressive and aversive to critique.

The numerous lenses employed by TEDD® combine to give a nuanced perspective into how well employer branding is working on the ground.

More often than not, the personality data accentuates the gap between how employers project themselves to the outside world and the actual lived experiences of their employees.

References

Barrow, S. and Mosley, R. (2005) The Employer Brand: Bringing the best of brand management to people at work. London: Wiley.
Employer Brand CIPD fact sheet [2016] cipd.co.uk
Rosethorn, H. (2009) The Employer Brand: Keeping faith with the deal. Aldershot: Gower.

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