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Ep 6: How to Build an Employer Brand That Attracts and Retains a Representative Team with Desiree Booker

Key Points:

  • What an employer brand is, and why you need one (no matter what the makeup of your team looks like)
  • The root of what makes high quality talent want to work with your company
  • The core components of communicating your employer brand
  • What diversity, equity, and inclusion social proof is, and how to authentically present it
  • How focusing on the employee experience will help you attract top talent
  • Practical ways to communicate your brand is inclusive
  • How to get started building an inclusive employer brand




I was talking to a potential client recently, and she mentioned that her company doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to paying well.

I have another client who is part of my programs who spends a ton of time working to create a value proposition that attracts a certain kind of team member to her growing business.

Both of these companies are taking two different approaches to their employer brand, and are getting very different outcomes as a result, as you might imagine.

This whole concept of an employer brand is a newer to many – but it has a big impact on your ability to attract the talent you need to build a representative team of the people you want to serve.

So I brought in an expert on the topic – Desiree Booker, founder of Color Vizion Labs.

So without further ado, let’s get to it.

Sonia: Hey, Desiree. Thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?

Desiree: Hey, Sonia. Thanks so much for having me. I am doing great. Very excited for our conversation today.

Sonia: All right, well, let’s go ahead and dive right into it. Just tell the people, who are you and what do you do?

Desiree: Of course. My name is Desiree Booker. I am the founder, CEO, and principal consultant of ColorVizion Lab. We serve both the employer and the employee at ColorVizion Lab. So on the B2B side, we work with companies to help them reshape and develop their employer brands to be more inclusive so that they are attracting the right talent to their organization. And then on the B2C side, we provide career and leadership coaching to professional Black women.

Sonia: All right, sounds good. Well, let’s dive in right [inaudible 00:00:57] topic that I wanted to cover with you today. And it’s all about employer brand. What is an employer brand? I keep hearing this term over and over again. So I figured I’m probably not the only one who the term was new to. So tell us, what is an employer brand?

Desiree: Yes, absolutely. So we’re going to be hearing that term thrown around quite a bit in 2022, especially as we talk about the war for talent, but an employer brand is essentially a company’s reputation as an employer and how you’re perceived in the marketplace by job seekers. So when we think about all the things about your company that would attract a potential talent, that essentially encompasses your employer brand in a nutshell.

Sonia: All right. So what is it that has changed? Why is this all of a sudden, I don’t know, it feels like it’s all of a sudden a term that people are starting to talk about. And like you said, it’s going to increase drastically. Has there been something that just sort of clicked, that made people say that we need to start focusing on this?

Desiree: Yes, the great resignation happened. That’s what happened. Whatever you want to call it, the great reshuffle, the great resignation, the great re-imagination, there’s so many different names for it, but we saw millions and millions of people, I think it was about four million people left the workplace in 2021. And that’s expected to continue, in terms of people moving around to different types of employment. We’re seeing employees look at freelance opportunities, pursue entrepreneurship, and it’s really because they’re wanting to take back their power. This is the year of the job seeker, and a great year for talent to find their dream job, quote unquote.

And so I think the trends that we’ve been seeing is that employees are tired of being underpaid, unappreciated. They want more flexibility in their schedules. They really want to be more in control of how they work and what their careers look like. And so these have been trends that we’ve seen many, many years prior to COVID even happening, but I think this is one of the first times in history that we’ve actually gotten the attention of companies because employees are actually, they’re taking action against the things that they say that they want. And so now CEOs across companies in various industries are all concerned about the issue of how do we attract, recruit, and also retain talent, when there’s this massive talent shortage right now.

Sonia: Right, right. No, it’s a big issue. Now I’m wondering, is this, I [inaudible 00:03:49] it focusing on your employer brand, whenever you have employees. Is this applicable for smaller businesses who have contractors that they’re working with, and they don’t actually have any full time staff?

Desiree: Absolutely. So some of our clients actually have business models where they solely rely on contractor talent to actually deliver services. And then they might have FTE employees on their leadership team. And I mean, even for a company of my size, we’re very small, and we have a large contractor base for our talent. And I think every company at any size has to think about their employer brand because a company cannot run without talent, whether it’s part-time, full-time, contractors, and that talent, regardless of how they work, they have choices. And we have to keep that in mind.

So you have to be competitive when it comes to compensation, be competitive in terms of the benefits and the work environment that you could provide, the culture. And these things matter even if they’re contractors. People still want to be engaged in the work, they want to be engaged in a team, and they want to enjoy what they’re doing. So at all levels, this is something that we should be thinking about because if we are not thinking about it, then you will end up spending a lot more money in recruitment costs, and also in turnover costs, if you have to keep rehiring talent. Think of all the onboarding fees and resources, and things like that, you have to put out to acquire and retain talent. So companies of all size really have to think about this and prioritize it as a C-suite priority.

Sonia: So you bring up a great point. This is something where it’s talent, they’re the hot thing that everybody needs, right? Because of this talent shortage, people need to make sure that they are offering something that makes people want to stick around. So here we focus a lot about belonging, and I know that it’s not just about making your customers feel like they belong. It’s also making sure that your team feels like they belong.

What are the components that you would say are important for people to be thinking about from an employer branding standpoint that will help make the people that they want to serve, the people that they want to have on their team, feel like they belong? I think you mentioned a couple in terms of compensation and some of the benefits. Are there other things that they should be taking into consideration as well?

Desiree: Yes. Culture is at the root of it all, because the culture that you’re building for your company, it will precede your reputation as an organization across the board. So when we think about how we’re treating the employees that decided to stay, how do they feel? What motivates them? Do they feel like they’re being productive? Do they feel like they’re being recognized and given the resources that they need to succeed in their roles? I think that it does vary depending on the company and the industry, and also the specific type of talent that you’re targeting, but you really need to get to the root of what does your ideal talent look like? And how can we build an environment that supports their growth? So for some employees, it depends on, I mean, people with disabilities have different needs than people who come from underrepresented racial backgrounds.

And so I know specifically for women of color, pay equity is a big thing, promotions, and visibility, exposure. Getting sponsorship that you need to advance your career is a huge thing. But also, the specific management that you’re reporting to. So we have the tip top of the organization, we have the C-suite, but then we have these middle managers who are really governing the talent, and these leaders who sometimes aren’t the most capable or competent, have the best EQ, and they’re creating this toxic culture that’s driving people out. And so that’s why, when we think about employer brand, we have to think, well, what type of culture do we want to build here? How can we help our people to deliver their best work and be their fullest selves? And that does vary depending on what type of organization you have.

Sonia: Absolutely, absolutely. So much to think about. Now, you did mention thinking about the type of workforce that you want to have. As more people and brands are starting to put more focus on building a team that is representative of customers that they want to serve, naturally, they’re going to have a more diverse workforce. So it’s important to have an employer brand that also is inclusive. So what are the types of things that you would say that leaders need to be thinking about to build an employer brand so that people of all different types of backgrounds feel like they belong?

Desiree: Yes. So representation is going to be key. And when we think about how we display that representation, so the core parts of the employer brand, especially for 2022, are going to be your digital presence. So when we think about a careers page that shows diverse imagery, has inclusive language, is accessible to everyone that you want to attract. When we think about DEI social proof, that is a trend that we saw really spark up in 2020, with the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. And that’s continuing well into 2022. So are we holding our company accountable to do the things that we say we’re going to do?

And so I think a lot of organizations make the mistake of they do the work so quietly, if they’re doing it at all, and as a potential employee, as a job seeker, I have no idea what’s going on. I don’t know if you actually implemented the programs that you said you would when this was a huge national talking point. So the DEI social proof is huge, as well. We also have to really, really invest in the candidate and employee experience. So we want to think about when we’re bringing a prospect through our candidate process, are our recruiters trained to engage the talent, especially diverse talent, properly? Is the language proper? Is the communication cadence inclusive? Are we making them feel comfortable enough to even be able to articulate the value that they can contribute to the organization?

Or are we creating an environment where it’s like this attitude of you should just feel grateful to be interviewing for this role, and the company doesn’t have to do anything to court them? But at this point, in this labor market, the courting goes both ways. A company, you need to put in the effort to make these candidates feel welcome, feel comfortable, and feel like they can really see themselves being successful at your organization. It begins at the very early stages of exposure to your brand.

Desiree: And then also thinking about onboarding, how does that 30, 60, 90 day process look? Are we being inclusive of this new, you know, we have this hybrid world of work where some people are fully remote still, some people are back in the office, some people are having a hybrid thing going on. And so we have to be very attentive to what that process looks like at every stage, because it can really make or break the employee experience.

Desiree: And when we have positive experiences as candidates and employees, then we go tell our friends, who are also people who probably are people of color, people with disabilities, and things of that nature. And then we’re creating kind of this domino effect of referrals into your organization. But on the flip side, if we are having a bad experience, then we’re going to Glassdoor. We’re going to all these review sites and we’re telling people about it, right? So we have to think about that.

Sonia: So you said something, a term that I hadn’t heard before, but I really like it. I think you said DEI social proof. And I understand why that’s important, especially as you’re trying to attract diverse talent. They want to know that the company that they’re going to work for is a place where they can feel like they belong. How does a company balance that social proof from a D&I perspective without [inaudible 00:12:56] in a way that feels performative?

Desiree: Oh, wow. That is a great question. So it definitely is a fine line because you don’t want to have your DEI commitments reduced to a paragraph at the bottom of your careers page. That definitely sends a signal. It sends a message. But I think that it’s a standard practice to have a diversity, equity, inclusion page, or at least have a healthy amount of content at the top third of your careers page around DEI, have it kind of forward facing and the first thing that I see when I go to your website, so it communicates to me that this is a priority. It’s a standard practice to have your DEI statement, your official statement or stance around diversity, equity, and inclusion. You can include a brief synopsis of any employee resource groups or any specific initiatives around DEI.

Desiree: I don’t think that, I mean, some companies are putting out their diversity reports to show exactly how they’ve been able to move the needle. I think that [inaudible 00:14:06], but I don’t think that it’s necessarily a requirement. But from the job seeker’s standpoint, think about what they want to know. Like as a person of color here, or a person from an underrepresented group, how exactly will I be supported? And so that’s when we think about the ERGs and any type of leadership development programs, career advancement programs. And put your benefits, your perks that really amplify your culture.

Desiree: But I don’t think that we need to have, I mean, it really is on a case by case basis, and this is why you have dedicated DEI people to vet this stuff. I think that those are kind of the standard areas. I mean, also a video is so powerful when it comes to showing DEI commitments as well. There’s nothing better than hearing testimonials and stories from people who are working for you.

Desiree: But I think that another way to kind of round it out is just through content as well, like organic content marketing. So if you have some content that your LinkedIn page is putting out from a company standpoint, just to provide regular updates on what you’re doing, it doesn’t seem performative to me, it just kind of seems like you’re keeping me abreast on what’s going on. So I would say those are my two cents on that [inaudible 00:15:35]. I would have to take a look at-

Sonia: No, I love the responses. I love your advice. And the way that I’ve been advising people as well, because you’re right, it is a fine line. It’s helpful if you talk about diversity and inclusion, belonging related topics, on a regular basis so that it doesn’t feel like when something happens or if you’re trying to make a big recruitment push, that you’re making all these comments, putting out all this content or making these statements in a way that feels like you’re just doing it so that you can seem like you are inclusive.

Sonia: But if it’s part of your ongoing conversation, if it’s a part of the way you operate, it’s a part of the way you communicate, it makes it a whole lot easier because it’s normal for you to talk about these things. And it just makes it the expectation that people have of you. It doesn’t feel odd or out of place.

Desiree: Exactly. I cannot agree more. Exactly. It really has to become embedded in the culture. And I mean, the way that we send that message is through consistency. It’s very simple. Just keep talking about it and keep reinforcing that DEI is an integral piece of your culture.

Sonia: Okay. All right. Well, what would you recommend that people do if they want to get started building an inclusive employer brand? What is their first step?

Desiree: So I always recommend doing, I mean, there’s a series of activities that you can do around building employer brand identity, but we have to figure out what your identity is, just the same activities that you would do for your overall company brand. You do the same things for the employer brand. So this involves some competitive market research to understand how your competitors are showing up in the marketplace, in comparison to how you’re showing up. Really getting clear about what your employee value proposition is, that is super, super important. Because you’re going to have to communicate through various channels what you can offer to a talent to have them work at your company and be happy there.

Desiree: And so auditing is really the best way to get started, doing an audit of your existing brand to really diagnose where the issues are and where the gaps are. And typically, we would have to build out candidate personas and things like that. But there’s a diagnostic process that any consulting company would walk you through, or you can do it internally if you have the resources to do so.

Sonia: Got it. All right. Well, I’m going to put in the show notes information, your information, so if people want to learn more and get assistance on building an employer brand, they can check out your website and [inaudible 00:18:35] on social so they can connect with you easily to get more information on that. Desiree, we could talk a lot more on this, but I know we’ve got to wrap up. Any parting words for business leaders who want to create an employer brand, and particularly want to create an inclusive brand so they can attract and retain diverse talent, high quality diverse talent?

Desiree: Yes, and I kind of touched on this already, but I do want to emphasize, when in a time where we have a talent really kind of playing the field and going where the best opportunities are, really, really reward and show appreciation to your employees who decided to stick it out with you and maintain a commitment to your organization. I would hate for companies to go out and really try to bring new talent into a culture that is broken, a culture that is not working for the talent that you hope to attract.

And so really, really seek to build this thing from the inside out, and really just take care of your people. And when you do that, you’ll find that it’s a lot easier for you to tell that story and bring more high quality talent into the company, if your existing employees are happy and thriving. So those would be my parting words, but I’m very curious to see how this thing unfolds as we move through 2022. It’s going to be a wild ride this year.

Sonia: It absolutely is. Desiree, this has been fantastic. Thank you again. And we look forward to following along and learning more from you.

Desiree: Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much, Sonia. Always a great time.

Sonia: All right.

Desiree had so many great things to share. There is one thing in particular I want you to spend some time thinking about from what we discussed, and that is the concept of your diversity social proof.

What is your social proof in that regard, and how do you talk about it in your communications?

It’s becoming more and more important – and goes a long way with helping talent (and even consumers) identify whether or not they belong with you.

That’s it for this episode. 

If you’d like more information on how to get started building your inclusive brand that wins the attention, adoration, and loyalty of more consumers — grab my Inclusive Marketing Starter Kit. Head on over to to get it.

And if you liked this episode, I would so appreciate it if you would share it with a friend, and even rate and review it in your podcast app of choice. It’ll help get the word out so others can get going delivering inclusive experiences.

Until next time, remember: everyone deserves to have a place where they belong. Let’s use our individual and collective power to make sure more people feel like they do.

Somebody’s waiting on you.

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