Employer Branding

Why Human Insights Matter for Employer Brands

How can we go about getting true human insights to uncover the authentic employer brand of a company?

Jonas Fischer is the founder of PeerCulture, a new kind of employee content & research company based in New York. I recently spoke to him about interviewing employees to gain vital information that will help with culture and talent attraction strategy.

Have a listen to the episode below, keep reading for a transcript of our conversation and make sure you subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.

Tell us about PeerCulture and the story behind it.

PeerCulture is a new employee content and research opportunity and is the best way I can describe it. The idea is new, but it’s very simple. We basically find or identify great employee talent in some of the most competitive industries like tech or finance and media, and we give them a platform to share their personal ideas, experiences, and opinions about working life. So that’s it. We really think that employees that are in the trenches of everyday work have important stories to tell and we don’t really see anyone telling those stories.

So unfortunately, there’s no sexy algorithms or artificial intelligence involved, at least not yet. But I like the idea because it’s simple. So by giving these high-performing employees an opportunity to share their stories, we achieve 3 things.

  1. The first is for the employee. They get to be featured in an interview from a third-party. It’s a great personal branding opportunity for them, that they then share with their network. So for PeerCulture we produce the interview and the content, but it’s really up to the employee to market it for us, which I like because you tap into everyone else’s network.
  2. The second benefit is really for the employer. They get a positive brand exposure opportunity from their employee that’s outside of their own media assets, outside of their own channels. So if they’re savvy and if they’re in tune with their employees, it’s an opportunity for them to share an interview of one of their employees that got recognized for their work.
  3. And then the last thing, and the most important thing and really what we base our business on, is we’ve designed all these interview questions based on qualitative research principles. So really the result of conducting all of these one-on-one employee interviews is that we’re creating a continuous qualitative research project for employer brands to get to the attitudes and the values and the behaviors of what the young workforce is really thinking. So the great thing is, as an employer brand, you can go to and read the interviews for free and start to uncover insights of your own based on what your brand is about.

How do the projects work?

What we do is its continuous, so we’re always finding people and our model is interesting in that we ask the people that we interview to nominate their peers, which is the idea behind PeerCulture. So they nominate people from other companies, so we’re always interviewing people. How it works is the questions we post on our website are maybe 40% of the interview, and the other 60% of the interview are questions that some of our partners want to know, so we can get more specific and really custom or tailor a qualitative research project based on those objectives.

We have this free version where we post more of the value-driven questions that are relevant to all brands, but then behind the scenes we’re also asking these employees more specific things to help our partners.

When we interview people they’re not in a research mindset. We’re actually interviewing them for a personal branding opportunity. They’re being featured in an interview. So what we get from that is a more honest response and the stories get a little more personal because they’re not sitting in a focus group and they’re not under this shadow of, “I’m doing research and I’m eating a bologna sandwich and getting paid 100 bucks” kind of thing.

Why do human insights matter?

I think the goal for any employer brand, and consumer brand for that matter, is to connect with their audience in a way that goes beyond the rational offering of your product or service or employer brand, and to achieve this meaningful connection I think you need to understand your audience at a deeper level. You have to go from what motivates them to why it motivates them. And I see a lot of brands and a lot of companies, especially companies I’ve worked for in the past, who just didn’t have access to these qualitative in-depth audience insights. They rely on survey data or market research and they have to make the leap themselves.

So what I wanted to do is, I wanted to be able to tap into the belief systems of employees, and their behaviors. So when we talk about human insights, we’re trying to go deeper than that quantitative data to understand the context and the experiences below the surface that most of us already know about.

Which employer is getting this right?

Well, I think there are several companies that have amazing corporate cultures based on human insights, but there are the usual suspects like Google and Facebook and Netflix, etc. and I don’t like using them in examples too much because I think those kinds of companies were founded during a time when the whole philosophy of corporate cultures was shifting, and they were able to build their cultures from the ground up with an employee-centric model. So I like talking about the older companies that now have to compete with them, because that’s where it’s interesting. That’s where employer branding gets really interesting for me. Companies like Generic Electric and IBM and Cisco.

In the UK I like what Virgin does. That might be cheating because they have such a big brand that’s been so popular. But I’ve observed what they’re doing and I like it and I actually went to their site to see how they talk about it. And their grand purpose is changing business for good, which essentially means they put people and the planet alongside profit, which is basically what we’ve been talking about. So I think they get it and I think as far as a company going all-in, I think that they walk the walk and talk the talk from the top down. So yeah, I think the Virgin Group does a really good job.

You could have the best brand strategy and the best implementation plan, and I’m sure you’ve experienced this many times, but if you don’t get buy-in from the leadership and the core influencers at the company, then it’s almost impossible to really execute an employer brand.

Follow Jonas on Twitter @Peer_Culture and subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.