Opinion / 31.01.23 / 4 min read

Power up your people with employee experience.

If the last two years taught businesses anything at all it’s that in times of crisis having a culture of super-engaged people really mattered.

The period between March 2020 and June 2021 showed the power of culture within organisations. Faced with the most serious global health emergency in over 100 years and the most onerous restrictions ever placed on populations at scale, people and teams rallied, innovated, survived and in some cases, even thrived.

Power up your people with employee experience.

But this is nothing that hasn’t already been said since the onset of the Covid pandemic – the subject will be taught and debated in schools and universities around the world in years to come. So rather than concentrate on the theory of creating an organisational culture of motivated, connected and engaged people, I’m going to outline the practice that we preach as an expert consultancy who supports clients with brand and employee experience strategy and creative services. 

Culture as a platform

Before I dive into the detail, it’s worthwhile creating context around the term ‘organisational culture’. It’s a term that’s thrown around more and more frequently (and rightly so) as it’s slowly made its way up the C-Suite conversation chain1.

What is culture? How do you define it? What are its component parts?

Ask those in the Boardroom about a Balance Sheet or a Go-to-market brand strategy and the answers will be definitive and robust. Ask those same people to define culture and you’ll often get vague, conceptual responses. But given how vital culture really is to an organisation’s success, a starting point (at a minimum) should be a solid definition.


We define organisational culture in three component parts:

01. Organisational thinking:

This is the mindset of an organisation and includes vision and purpose, values, beliefs, and intentions.

02. Organisational doing:

This is how the organisation acts and includes leadership, language, teamwork, innovation, incentive, and employee experience.

03. Organisational bonding:

These are the rituals within the organisation that bring people together through celebrations, events, and stories. 


Refining and curating this model with your version of culture does many things; it’s the perfect foundation for positive change. 

Firstly, it creates internal alignment – everyone thinking and talking about culture in the same way. Secondly, it creates identity – everyone understanding what matters most to the organisation and how it wants to be perceived and felt. And thirdly, and possibly most importantly, it provides the perfect platform to deliver an outstanding employee experience.

An employee experience that will power up your people.

Making EX extraordinary

Without doubt, the most progressive organisations look at employee experience in the round. EX is not an internal comms campaign, it’s an ethos. It’s not an HR event, it’s an end-to-end journey. Yet the energy and commitment required to create an outstanding EX will be repaid in spades2. 

From a cultural perspective, great employers generate significantly higher levels of positive sentiment and improved mental health leading to loyalty and retention. From a business perspective, great employers foster an environment of high performance, consistency and high quality leading to great profitability3.

And it all starts with brand. 

If your brand is simply a business identity that has a logo, strapline, and some cool looking graphics, then it will always remain an aesthetic veneer for your organisation. 

But, if your brand is a business platform driven by a powerful Organising Thought that pivots as comfortably from a customer value proposition to an employee value proposition, then you’re operating in a truly distinctive brand-led environment. The perfect environment for employee experience to thrive. 

This roadmap demonstrates the true extent of a brand-led employee experience. Powerful and important touchpoints across the entire journey from talent attraction, to onboarding, to L&D, to environments and the overall employee value proposition. And much more in between. 

Focus your efforts here and you can be in the company of organisations that outperform the S&P 500 by 122%4. Amazing ROI, operational savings and enhanced enterprise value can be achieved.

If your brand is simply a business identity that has a logo, strapline, and some cool looking graphics, then it will always remain an aesthetic veneer for your organisation.

Anything but ordinary

I’ve shared our thoughts on culture as a foundation, and brand-led end-to-end EX as competitive advantage for your business, but what’s our secret sauce? 

Since we opened our doors in June 2006, we have been single-mindedly helping our clients to create extraordinary brand and employee experiences. Over 16 years, we’ve worked with funded startups that we have developed their brand from the ground up, to aspiring SME’s as they seek to carve out high growth and sustainable businesses, to global PLCs who seek to raise the bar in the categories they operate in.

A truly eclectic mix, but all sharing our philosophy around brand and employee experience.

This philosophy puts deep strategic thinking around brand positioning and proposition at the heart of everything we do, and our approach is focused upon identifying a powerful, unifying Organising Thought that becomes the centre of gravity for our clients’ brands.

We’re all familiar with OT’s even if you’re not familiar with the term:

Just do it.

Every little helps. 

Believe in better. 

Think different. 

These might sound like advertising straplines, but if you believe that, you’re really selling these progressive brands short. Each statement is designed to orchestrate the total brand experience and to anchor the brand with a unique way of doing things. 

Think about Apple’s ‘Think different’. 

Now think about their products, their packaging, their retail experience, their amazing digital estate, their staff, and the customer experience.

There’s nothing samey about it. Everything about Apple is distinctly different. A brand-led organisation using its OT to orchestrate the total brand experience. The Organising Thought captures a distinctive positioning, proposition, and culture for the brand in a short and powerful statement, but where we add tremendous value is in its internal and external interpretation.

This statement when deployed fully across internal audience is where extraordinary employee experience can manifest. It’s also the starting point for five powerful beliefs that helps us to deliver extraordinary EX strategies and solutions for our clients:

01. Brand is people

When change is the only constant, it’s your brand that can give you competitive advantage. But even global heavyweights are empty shells without engaged people. 

Your brand has the most muscle when your teams can see the part they play in bringing your story to life. Engaged employees become mighty brand advocates, living and breathing your vision and purpose. So, your customers feel the impact too. 

02. Be brand-led

Employee experience shouldn’t sit in a silo. It’s the heart of your bigger brand picture. Unite your brand story and your employee experience with a single Organising Thought and you create a compelling movement everyone can get behind. Infusing one clear and powerful idea into everything you – from your external brand narrative, to your EVP, to your cultural initiatives – keeps everyone on the same page.

03. Challenge the ordinary

It’s all about engagement. This builds brand loyalty from the inside out and should be a business priority.

That doesn’t mean going through the motions, with dull and boring comms. It means wowing your teams with the same energy you’d devote to wooing customers. It’s the secret ingredient to landing your messages, keeping everyone informed, inspired and motivated.

04. Live in their shoes

We all know the most effective brands understand their audiences. And there’s no more important audience than the people bringing your brand to life.

We take time to understand what truly matters to your colleagues. And as we seek greater equality and diversity in our workplaces, that means everyone, not just the easy-to-reach groups. By bringing imagination to your communication, we find the right message, medium and moment to engage effectively.

05. Employee value = brand value

When you care about something, you look after it. The bottom line is that organisations with great EX outperform the S&P 500 by 122%.

A great EX improves talent attraction, maxes retention and generates excellent ROI. You can keep the remote connected. The quietest voices heard. And your brand champions leading from the front. Put simply, investing in extraordinary employee experience pays off. There’s no doubt in our minds that investing in your EX will be a great thing for your organisation. But linking it with your brand will accelerate its impact and give power to your people in a way that’s enjoyed by the world’s most progressive and dynamic companies.

I’m a believer. Are you?

Reflecting on our own experience over the last two years, it’s undeniable, it was the outstanding Mr B culture that pulled us through. Times were tough, but we steered the ship through the Covid storm, and we emerged stronger, fitter and more together than ever before. 

To recognise that, and to stave off the predicted ‘Great Resignation’ we decided to put our money where our mouth is and to develop a new employee value proposition for ourselves. The premise of our EVP was to reward the loyalty and hard work of our existing staff, attract new talent into the agency and support our positioning as a progressive and outstanding place to work in the creative industry. 

The Friends Pact was born and launched in June 2021. Using the Great People Index as our EVP model, we developed a range of benefits and initiatives across four pillars of employee delight: Pay, Play, Performance and Purpose. Each pillar had impressive offers and incentives that were either financial, well-being, developmental or societally oriented in their form. Edition one had a whopping 29 benefits, over and above basic pay and annual leave entitlement.

Knowing that we wouldn’t get our EVP right first time, we committed to a Now/Next/Future roll out, releasing a new EVP in 21, 22 and 23. We have just recently released Edition two, adding nine fantastic new benefits and de-listing three poorly accessed offers. 

We are already thinking about the final Edition three for 2023, and what is clear is that The Friends Pact has been hugely beneficial for our agency. Sentiment towards the agency is off the charts, performance is at its highest levels in our history, and it has marked us out as one of the industry’s most progressive employers. 

Ever since I joined the creative industry in the ‘90s, I’ve been fascinated by the intelligence, diversity, opinions, insights, weirdness, and sheer creativity of the people I worked with. I’ve always believed in people.

Power up your people.
It’s literally amazing what can happen.

1 Accenture strategy HR/ Employee Experience survey: 950 C-Level execs
2 Good company culture increases revenue by 4 times (Forbes long term study of 200 companies)
3 Engaged employees deliver 21% greater profitability (Gallup Employee Engagement survey 2021)
4 Accenture strategy HR/ Employee Experience survey: 950 C-Level execs

Simon Barbato