Compassion, Innovation and Ambition.


How you craft the employee experience will determine what sort of business you are and in turn determine a level of success.

If you’ve read my previous blogs, you’ll be aware that for a time Wave was involved in employer branding. I’ve read a lot over the years around the importance of the employer brand and, fundamentally, I believe in it. How you craft the employee experience will determine what sort of business you are and in turn determine a level of success. It’s not all linear of course but that’s the crux of it. The challenge often came in teasing out the characteristics of the business and being true to the organisation, finding that balance of what you want to be versus what you are today.  

Employer brand down the drain

We’re not involved in it any more as, for me, while the theory is sound and practical, the politics of working on employer branding projects for clients became too much. I grew disillusioned with it all to tell you the truth. Many companies simply pay employer branding lip service, they’ll say their people are their biggest asset and then treat them like rubbish. For me, I’m a bit all or nothing so when I was coming across this I found it hard to take clients’ requests seriously, and in turn I ended up thinking what we were talking about was all nonsense.  I’ll never forget the moment that I was working on a huge employer branding project in conjunction with other agencies for a blue chip company. We’d presented reams and reams of research identifying the employer brand as it was and showing the journey of where it needed to go, all backed up with the most comprehensive research I’d ever seen.

It cost them hundreds of thousands of pounds. And I have to say it was awesome. Everyone, including the client, agreed and the 9-12 months’ worth of work looked like it would pay off. That was until it went to the CEO. He didn’t like the ‘words’ so it was binned. All of it. Down the drain.

It was then I realised that for me the employer brand sits squarely with the CEO, the founder or the owner. It starts from the top and only from the top, and if they’re an advocate, great, if they’re not it’s a waste of time. After that I just couldn’t get excited about anything we did. If I was still involved in employer branding, I think I would make it a prerequisite that we meet the CEO/Founder/Owner before even starting any work on developing an employer brand. 

Good enough for F.C Barcelona

However, being a firm advocate of employer branding which still influences our work with WaveTrackR and RecWebs, I still take great interest in it as a CEO and Founder myself. Defining and understanding your employer brand often starts with values.

The values of a company have been a bit overkill over the years but they are still useful if used right. Last year I read a book which has become one of my favourites – The Barcelona Way by Damian Hughes, recommended to me by our Strategic Advisor Kevin Green.  It’s fascinating and, especially if you like football, it’s an addictive read. One of the standout points is the discussion around priority values/characteristics. This is interesting when you think of the various vague values that many companies have – dynamic, professional, service etc. The book highlights the confusion if they conflict. What if being dynamic means not being professional and vice versa? Makes a lot of sense, right?

Off the back of this I re-looked at our people values – what we look for and what behaviours we want to demonstrate. I also defined what I want to achieve with the people of Wave. There’s also a brand here to consider. I didn’t want to change who we were so I thought about all the people of Wave – what made them, motivated them, and directly contributed to their success.

Help people grow

It took a while, but in the end I realised all the most successful people at Wave had 3 characteristics – Compassion, Innovation and Ambition. I put them in that order. These became the three characteristics which we would recruit, manage and develop. These are the areas in which we’d train our people, in which we’d help them to grow. My Wave people strategy became simple. When they leave our employment (finally accepting that everyone will at some point move on), I would consider that employment successful if they had developed greater compassion, innovation and ambition. If they had they would in my opinion, go on to achieve great things post-Wave. During the time they’re here, focusing on these three priorities would stand us in good stead. Compassion – because being empathetic, humble, grounded and caring is everything. Innovation – meaning you have to change, think, be creative, embrace new things. Ambition – aim high, work hard, light the fire in your belly. If you have these three Wave People Values in abundance, there’s nothing you can’t achieve.  

Having these values help guide us in how to treat people, how to engage clients and candidates and how we carry ourselves. Understanding who you want to be and how you want to do that extends beyond employer branding and I’m glad to have this as our guiding light in how we make decisions today, tomorrow and beyond.