Raison d’être and employer brand, by Florence Scalia

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A forum by Florence Scalia – Senior Partner, Business and Institutions division.

“Why do you do this for a living?”

“What do you do for a living?” We all know the answer to this question. Like a catchphrase, repeated over and again, it is ready to leap out of your mouth, perfectly mastered. But beware: soon you may have to follow it up with “And why do you do this for a living”?

Whether you are a Gen Z on the verge of quitting your job, an executive in the midst of a midlife crisis, or a Quincado at the height of self-awareness, those working in France are asking themselves a lot of questions.

And if you want to pass the buck to the employer, ask them: “What are we working for?”. It’s a tricky one, and the answer is less obvious than it was 10 years ago. We are no longer “just there”. Helping grow the business while saving the planet along the way would be nice. We don’t just want to collect a check at the end of the month. If we can thrive and make friends along the way, that would be great. In a nutshell, on paper, the planet, the company and the individual become one.

Companies are organizing themselves to respond to this quest for meaning. The CSR, HR, and Com functions are beginning to harmonize around a “raison d’être”. But according to the latest Ifop survey for Philonomist, there is still a lot of work to be done: if 82% of French citizens consider that the company is responsible for their happiness, only 13% cite societal impact as an element of personal motivation at work. Other studies indicate that this newfound company awareness is often perceived by employees as a marketing ploy, intended to elude its real internal concerns. This fundamental opposition reminds us that the first of a company’s social responsibilities lies with its employees. There will be no green revolution without a human revolution in the company.

This is where the employer brand comes into play. Its role within the company has never been more crucial and complicated. Its symbolism must be powerful enough to align universal commitment, corporate vision and individual vocation. Its voice must reconcile economic performance and societal impact, bind employees to a cause they did not necessarily choose, and bring individual initiatives together in a collective drive.

But beware of cynicism and over-promises in a world where the border between internal and external is blurring, where employees become the front-line ambassadors of the company but also sometimes its greatest adversaries. And remember, talk is only valid if it is accompanied by concrete evidence.

To tackle and celebrate this delightful unified purpose, the employer brand must not hesitate to address current employees and future recruits alike, on both a personal and employee level. At a time when soft skills are just as valued as credentials, the employer brand must aim to reconcile one’s personal self with one’s professional self. In its internal coaching program, “Hospitality Heroes”, Southwest Airlines invites its employees to explore and reveal their different personalities. The result: well-rounded flight personnel, crews with complementary profiles, and a welcoming experience that differs from the “robotic” codes of other airlines.

The companies that will be most successful in engaging their employees will be those that effectively reconcile the disconnect between “who I am at work” and “who I am in life”. By putting its symbolic capital at the service of its employees, the brand can be the link between “my talent”, “the success of my company”, and “my impact on the world”. With its platform of calls for projects “Booking Cares”, Booking.com allows its teams to help a place of their choice to promote its image and conserve its diversity. This key, but sometimes disputed player in the global tourism world, thus intends to give a societal meaning to its intermediation role. For them, “selling” a destination is participating in its development while respecting its integrity. Employees are responsible for ensuring – and henceforth contributing – tothis definition of what they do.