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Employer Branding Case Study – Barton Malow - A Question & Answer Session with HR Vice President, Jennifer Sulak-Brown

There are many companies who stand out when it comes to employer branding. Those who deliver a dynamic, consistent experience to employees are more likely to develop and benefit from a strong employer brand. Organizations with a well-established and respected employer brand will find it easier to both attract and retain top talent.

Representatives from EDSI had the pleasure of meeting an employer branding standout – Barton Malow – at the Metro Detroit 101 Best & Brightest awards ceremony. Barton Malow is well-known around the globe as one of the largest construction firms in the U.S. Their efforts in talent attraction, retention and culture have been successful in establishing an effective employer brand. So, what is the secret to their great success? A lot of it has to do with their carefully planned and executed employer brand strategy.

To learn more about Barton Malow’s story, I interviewed Jennifer Sulak-Brown, Q&A style, for a closer look at how the company built and refined their employer branding strategy, and how it continues to allow them to attract and retain some of the best talent in their industry.

Q1: What made you decide to focus on employer branding and update your corporate core values?

A1: We decided a few years ago that it was time to build a more comprehensive framework for the company’s ideology and update our corporate core values. We wanted to create a strategy that would illustrate who we were and where we wanted to go as a company. An important part of doing so was to define and share our employee value proposition (EVP), which is rooted in our core principles. (EVP is a set of offerings that an employer provides to its employees, and uses as a magnet for attracting new hires.)

Q2: How do you make sure employees are aware of your employer brand?

A2: It is engrained in everything we do. We constantly talk about it. I always joke that I want to be the first company accused of over-communicating. But seriously, the more you talk about your brand, the more it sticks.

Q3: How has employer branding improved your ability to recruit and retain quality employees?

A3: In an industry that is known to struggle with retention, we needed to find a way to stand out. The way we did that was by honing in on the spirit of our company, our leaders and employees, our goals and our community. Most candidates seek us out knowing that our company culture is something they want to be a part of. For example, we take care of employees and family on a personal level, not just a work level. We offer Care Partners (chaplains) who visit job sites on a regular basis to offer an ear to those in need. It’s like a living, walking Employee Assistance Program, and our employees are thankful to have it.

Q4: What are ways that Barton Malow communicates its brand?

A4: We provide regular updates on our long-term goals and communicate via multiple forums and methods. There are several visual and verbal ways we communicate our brand. For example:

  • There is a giant 2-story banner in our lobby that illustrates our company’s core purpose and core values, so employees see it on a daily basis.
  • It’s part of our pre-boarding and on-boarding process, and at orientation new employees learn more about it.
  • In our leadership and development class we dig deeper into the brand.
  • On our website, there are mission, values and culture tabs.
  • Digital and printed marketing and publicity materials showcase our brand.

As a result of Barton Malow’s intentional focus on creating and communicating our core purpose, our core values and our long-term goals, employees are fully aware and bought into the purpose and vision of the company.

Q5: Those are all great ways to make your brand stand out. What other best practices can you share?

A5: From my experience, there are three things that are most important when it comes to employer brand:

  1. Secure buy-in for your brand by making sure that company leaders fully support the employer brand. Culture starts at the top! They must be willing to put policies in place for things like working remotely, flexible hours, wellness programs, bonuses and any other aspects of the employer brand that are likely to appeal to top talent.

  2. Make clear and frequent communication to employees a priority. If employees are told specifically what type of workplace the company wants to be, and then that is backed up by actions, the employee is likely to approve and applaud the employer brand. Be sure to talk about the brand consistently and often!

  3. Educate employees about how their role relates to an overall business strategy to drive customer experience. Once they feel like they’re part of the bigger picture, they will reflect positivity and enthusiasm in their own comments about their workplace, helping to reinforce the employer brand.

Q6: Besides the Metro Detroit 101 Best & Brightest award, has your company won any other recent awards?

A6: Yes, we made the Orlando Sentinel’s Top 100 Companies list. We’re always thrilled and honored when our company is recognized for the great culture we have and appreciate the commitment of our employees.

Q7: Have you seen your retention rate improve since you updated your brand and core values a few years back?

A7: Yes, our culture is far more engaged. There is a sense of family and community throughout our organization. Team members are very proud of the company they work for and the work we do.

Q8: Tell me about your annual employee engagement survey. What is it and how do you use the results?

A8: We participate in an annual employee engagement survey. We’ve used the Denison Culture survey several times. Each year our results improve and the last time we participated, we were in upper quartile in every instance. In addition to the annual survey, we periodically pulse survey the organization. The results are studied, shared with managers, and included in our strategic planning for activities in the next fiscal year.

Q9: How have you measured and tracked success since you started being more intentional about branding and culture?

A9: We pride ourselves on our ability to cast a vision and have employees be excited to buy into it. In an independent survey, it was found that Barton Malow successfully implemented clear strategic intention to convey the organization’s purpose, making it clear how each team member can contribute and “make their mark” not only within our company but in the industry.

Specifically, the survey showed we had a 46 point increase in “Strategic Decision and Intent” from the time employees first took the engagement survey six years ago, meaning what was once the most significant area for improvement is now a strength of the company.

About Jennifer Sulak-Brown

As Vice President of Human Resources at Barton Malow, Jennifer leads a team focused on meeting the company’s workforce goals through the development and execution of leadership development, workforce planning, employee engagement, talent acquisition and flexible work experiences. She also integrates all 14 regional offices to ensure an aligned, consistent and dynamic career experience at Barton Malow. Jennifer holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Madonna University in Public Relations and Journalism as well as an MBA in Strategic Management from Davenport University. She is a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR). Jennifer is currently active in a research team for the Construction Industry Institute (CII) addressing labor, productivity, safety and project cost impacts of major demographic shifts of craft labor availability. She is involved in the Association of General Contractors scholarship fund and is an executive committee member of the Construction HR Leadership Group. To learn more about Barton Malow, visit: https://www.bartonmalow.com/