How Purpose and Culture Work Together to Drive a Compelling Employer Brand

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The employer brand space has transformed a lot over the years. I think it’s really important to understand that company purpose and company culture are not one and the same, but rather elements that should work together to create the employee experience. You need to make sure your purpose feeds into your culture because no matter what your purpose is, if it doesn’t feed into a culture that fosters belonging and people first, it's just not going to fly in the 2020s.

Above all, candidates are looking for a culture they can belong to.

I look after the Employer Brand team at Commonwealth Bank, one of Australia’s biggest companies and the biggest bank in the country. My team is primarily responsible for attracting external talent.

In the last few years, it’s become really clear to us that while our company purpose is definitely relevant to candidates, what’s more important is how that purpose plays out to create a culture that's desirable for both our current employees and future employees.

Candidates need to know what we stand for, but more importantly, they need to see themselves fitting in here. They need to see a company that aligns with their personal needs, desires and expectations.

So, in practice, our purpose feeds into our workplace and management ethos, which feeds into our culture. And how this plays out for us is in the five pillars of our EVP, which allow us to amplify those elements of culture that are really meaningful and desirable to our candidates.

We've just finished a huge group-wide project around purpose – launching our new purpose, our new values, and our People Value Proposition (PVP). We’ve also introduced a ‘people promise’.

Our PVP is closely aligned to our Employee Value Proposition (EVP) – we call it the ‘PVP Plus’. It’s everything that our internal employees get, plus a few more things that we need to be more specific about with the candidate audience. The reason for this is that we believe the pre-employment drivers are slightly different to the post-employment ones. Once you join, the elements that keep you at the company aren't necessarily the elements that attracted you to the company in the first place.

Our purpose is just one part of a big picture

The purpose of CommBank is to build a brighter future for all, including our employees. For us, this is the driving force behind everything we do. For want of a less cheesy term, it’s our ‘true north’. But, even though it’s extremely important for our business, it’s never our go-to-market strategy for EB.

We know from plenty of data that there is a hierarchy of candidates’ needs: salary and benefits, flexibility in all forms and career growth. If there is a perception that these things aren’t part of your culture, a candidate will not consider your company, no matter how great your purpose is.

A tangible example at CommBank can be seen in one of our pillars: work in a way that works for you. This talks of flexibility in all forms, not just remote work. It's about truly trusting your employees to deliver outcomes, not face or screen time. By walking the talk around flexibility, we’ve got a proof point that we can take to market. Yes, our purpose is the high level message out there, but the proof points is what we're focused on in our EB – how our culture comes to life. 

Purpose and culture are working together to make us a workplace of choice

That’s the bottom line. It’s not a matter of one or the other being the foundation of your employer brand – it’s purpose and culture and how they work together to make you a workplace of choice.

I think CommBank is a truly great place to work. We’ve developed a culture that genuinely enables a ‘brighter future’ for the people here by offering everything employees are searching for from companies these days. Our purpose underpins how we actually work, and that’s what creates the kind of culture that people want to be a part of.

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