Most of my life, I’ve worked in the travel and airline business. But as so many of my friends at that time, I started in … a bank. A bank was the best place to start your career… or so they said! The earnings where good, I had some more holidays and a stable position.

Now, I’m talking about 1987… This seems like a really …really long time ago. I knew little about the “bank”, only that it had serious working people with ties and suits on. Nevertheless, my parents where proud of My First Job.

During these times, professional life started as soon as I opened the doors of my office at 08.30 and, as quickly as I opened those doors, it stopped again at 17.00 when I closed them behind me. Putting my tie in my jacked as I am walking out to take a bus home. No way the “Bank” could reach me outside working hours since there were no mobile phones, no computers, nothing.

Since then, times have changed a lot. A career is not just ‘a job’ anymore. A career evolves more than ever. A company is not only a place to earn money… It slowly becomes part of everyone’s private life. These days, we take our job home with us, take it to bed, on holiday and even to our spinning classes.

And that’s the challenge… Nowadays companies need to become part of your life. Meaning, they need to have a story, a culture, a mood, a future. And most of all…values.

This is where the story of my current business, Social Seeder, started.

8 years ago, being a marketeer at an international travel company, I was invited to the Google headquarters in the US. At that time, I invested a lot of money into SEA (Search Engine Advertising) and other marketing channels. But the simple question “why do you still choose for our travel company” revealed that more than 90% of our customers came from recommendations of friends and family.

If ‘Word of Mouth’ is the most powerful “influencer” …why not create a software promoting that exact thing? And that is what happened.

Knowing that recommendations from people you know have significantly more impact than any other media/marketing channel, why not spread your unique company story, culture, and future vision through your employees? That’s where Employer Branding comes into play.

Before Covid, this was for a few companies often ahead of their time. But since then, more and more businesses started to understand the importance of such a program.

In addition, there have never been so many people working remotely, which in turn creates less of an attachment with the company. The alienization is higher than ever, so the need to share the companies’ values is crucial to retain your co-workers. A recent study (2021) of Gallup revealed that only 18% of co-workers are really “engaged.” This can easily lead to a disaster in continuity of any organization.

Recent findings from Social Seeder also show that in average only 1% (1%!) or less of co-workers spontaneously share stories from the company they’re working for from time to time.

Another trend is that more and more organizations are also looking at the (online) network of possible candidates and co-workers. That (online) network becomes part of your career. It opens doors and makes you a though leader.

Besides this, more and more companies worldwide are starting ‘Corporate Social Responsibly initiatives’, next to “green turnarounds”, efforts towards diversity, inclusion, mobility etc.

In my opinion, this is a great and positive movement. The efforts in, for example, sustainability is not only the responsibility of politics, they are everyone’s responsibility, including companies. But now, the real challenge is how to get all these initiatives stand out in your company and with your personnel. We often get this question from big international companies who are taking initiatives but are having problems getting the message through.

Why? These kinds of initiatives do not convince through the “normal’ top-down internal communication channels, they need to circulate from co-worker to co-worker. Otherwise, it very quickly seems fake.

Therefore, an engaged workforce is crucial. The authentic voice of people is needed to create belief not only within your organization, but also outside of it.

Spending money on promoting such initiatives is not the way to go. Firstly, your co-workers need to be fully convinced. They are goig to be your authentic voice to the outside world after all.

So, why isn’t every single organization worldwide working on authentic messages, why isn’t everybody strategically working on a real engaged workforce?

This is a question I’m asking myself every day, honestly. Let me repeat the basics. Engaged co-workers perform better, stay longer, attract new people and are your best authentic marketeers. Their network can create even more sales!

The main reason why it fails is management. Management must show the example. there are still too many companies where co-workers all drive the same branded car whereas the executive management drives big black SUV’s without any reference to their company. These days are over. Management needs to be the first to be proud of their company and openly show this.

Secondly, I strongly have the impression that in most of the companies nobody knows exactly who leads such an “employer branding” program. Is it marketing, HR or is this the responsibility of the internal or external communication department? The answer is, it’s everybody’s responsibility. Not just one department. The companies that succeed are those who integrate such programs transversal throughout the organization.

Thirdly, there is often a lack of authenticity. It seems easier to create commercial and hollow slogans than to create real authentic messages. If you want messages to hit, don’t use big slogans, don’t put your logo on all your social media posts and don’t use stock pictures. We see 10 times more impact when you post an authentic story compared to a commercial one. Reasons enough, don’t you think? But this also means that you must let go -a bit of control- since it’s spread through co-workers. Anyhow, you don’t control what people say in a pub about your brand either, so calm down.

I can assure you; real authentic content creates engagement. Engagement is the future of your company.

Patrick Depauw
Patrick Depauw

Member of the People Board