One Weapon in the War for Talent May be Your Brand

brand identitiy
Brand is the company and the company lives the brand.


What is the return on investment of branding your workplace? To answer this, it is first important to recognize that most companies and subsequently their brands are facing herculean challenges today. They have to deliver consistent experiences across myriad social media, traditional media and sales channels. To capitalize on these new multifaceted investments, they also have to engage with consumers across a broad cultural, social and political spectrum. These challenges are compounded by the threat of industry disruption as a result of technological innovation, automation, block-chain and the list goes on. Companies look to real estate optimization to foster collaboration and innovation not to mention reduce costs in the face of a seemingly online world. It is no wonder that the return-on-investment conversation has arrived at the doorstep of workplace branding.

harry spetnagel

Harry Spetnagel
Brand Design Director and Senior Associate, Gensler

At its essence a brand is about communication, impression and connection with its audience. It is a vehicle through which to clearly articulate preference and value. Marty Neumier, in his seminal book the Brand Gap, states that, “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company. It’s not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.” To me, herein lies a brand’s real value in the workplace.

effective branding

With effective branding, a workplace can craft experiences that foster an emotional connection to a company’s true ethos.

Introducing branding into the workplace facilitates communication of a company’s mission and values, and can powerfully demonstrate its purpose for being to its audience. While much has been written lately on the power of brand in the workplace, I believe one important aspect missing from the conversation is designing for “real” time. In this instance, I am not defining real time as a hyperconnected Instagram- and Snapchat-infused interpretation of what is happening this very second, but rather the interstitial moments and interactions that carry true cache in creating a workplace culture. Real time.

To explain on a basic level, the war for talent is driven largely by changing demographics and education shortfalls. This has created multigenerational workforces with recognized gaps in knowledge transfer and woefully few qualified candidates to fill increasingly technology-driven positions. “The average American spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime,” 1 and according to Deloitte’s Shift Index Survey, “87 percent of Americans have no passion for their jobs.” 2 In summary, most typical workplaces are hamstrung by a disengaged multigenerational population that is either underutilized or in over their heads. Disengaged employees are toxic to an organization. In the United States alone, Gallup estimates that the cost of disengaged employees could be between $450 billion and $550 billion per year. Now we are talking about real money.

A 2016 Gallup study drew the connection between consistently low engagement and team performance and suggested that when an employee’s engagement needs are not met, there is a higher likelihood of turnover, turnovers that can cost an employer 1.5 times the employee’s original salary. The study also found that engaged teams have lower turnover, 21 percent greater profitability, 17 percent higher productivity and 10 percent higher customer ratings than disengaged teams.

With effective branding, a workplace can craft experiences that foster an emotional connection to a company’s true ethos – it can inspire and align staff around the true value of their work within the organization. Companies that take advantage of workplace branding can begin to move the needle on employee engagement, create an environment where all generations can thrive, and where new talent wants to be. They can win the war for talent.

Our firm’s brand design experts work intimately with our clients to utilize branded elements throughout their space. Whether it’s expressing subtle aspects of the brand, telling stories or enlivening spaces, each workplace is uniquely branded to bring people together for collaboration and social interaction. There is real money and a truly beneficial ROI to be had if you do it right. It’s not just art or funky graphics on the walls – it’s a true representation of the company and the engagement tools that are a best fit for their employees. So the next time you see that Ping-Pong table, yoga studio or bar lounge space in the workplace, remember there is likely deeper, thoughtful meaning behind it. Brand is the company and the company lives the brand. It’s an honest attempt to bring the best people together for real time.

Published in the March 2019 issue of Building Dialogue.

Edited by Building Dialogue