Value-led Employer Branding with James Ellis

Firstly, what exactly do we mean by values?

Those who think that companies are only defined by their products and services need to think again. Products and services can only tell you so much about a company. Your values set the tone. They set the path for everyone to follow, removing ambiguity and provide your team with common behavioural traits to follow. Think of company values as foundational beliefs that a company stands for. They underpin a company’s story, actions, behaviours, and decision-making process. 

While external talent might be engaged by the solutions that you offer, it’s your values that they’ll likely place under closest scrutiny. This will tell them everything they need to know about you, your business and whether they will feel they can be a part of your organisation. 

In a competitive job market, a strong set of brand values can help you attract top talent. According to Glassdoor, 73% of job seekers don’t consider roles at organisations that don’t share the same values they do. That’s why identifying and building unique values is so important. 

But more than this, how do growth companies harness these values to shape and improve their own employer brand? In other words, how do companies harness their intrinsic values to outwardly ensure they are attracting the people you need to drive your business forward?

More than words… it takes actions!

We spoke to employer brand expert James Ellis, the Employer Brand Nerd, on the subject of brand values and what it takes to go from a statement to having talent believe in you. James Ellis has 8 years of experience in the subject and has quickly risen as a top figure when it comes to Employer Branding. For Ellis, the power of EV is part of what allows smaller companies to compete for talent against huge enterprises and win!

After years in the business, working as a consultant for companies big and small, Ellis believes that taking your values and transforming them into actions is the way to go to be effective and have a lasting impact. As he puts it:

Values are merely aspirational words until they change behavior. Saying you care about teamwork or work-life balance or diversity means nothing if those values aren’t put into practice. Putting your values onto posters and signs that you hanging around the office is probably the best way to ignore them. Stating your values to a candidate means nothing. Showing how those values impacted the decisions made by individuals and leadership gives those values meaning and weight.

James Ellis, Employer Brand Labs

This means that talent is looking for more than just pretty words and upstanding statements, they are looking for facts and realities they can count on. Putting what you say to use creates trust in your values, and ends up speaking lauder than any mission statement you can publish.

How to define your own brand values in scale-up?

Before you decide on the values that make your company tick, it’s always good to see how the established players do this. Examples might include the following: 


  • Believe our Innovations should be a force for good. 
  • We thrive on diverse voices. 
  • Trustworthy Computing – We work to sound business practices. 


  • We trust and care about each other 
  • We are open, honest and constructive 
  • We embody diversity, inclusion and belonging 
  • We dream big, get things done and know how to have fun  

The above examples demonstrate how to think about brand values; pillars that shape a company’s outlook, products and their team attitude. It’s not just about employees, but the impact that their services will have (or should have) on all external stakeholders. 

How to include your team in identifying your existing brand values?

Getting your team involved in the process is one of the best ways to identify your existing brand values. Why? Because they’ll tell you what your company and brand mean to them. Acquiring these personal insights not only helps you take the right path but can also shed light on areas that need to change or evolve before implementation. 

While a one-to-one conversation can have its advantages, gathering your team together is the best way to ascertain the values that matter to them individually and as a group. They can bat a few ideas around the room and build. Not only does this show a level of trust in your team to contribute to fundamental pillars of your organisation, but it also demonstrates a key value that’s already there: collaboration and teamwork. 

To get the ideas sparking from one end of the table to the other, asking questions like the ones below can help:

  1. What attracted you to your organisation in the first place?  
  2. What people stay?  
  3. What, about the company culture do they like best?  
  4. How do they describe the company to friends and family?  
  5. Where do they see the company going in the future? 

Once you have a variety of answers and exchanges, you can compile the best ones that you and the senior team believe illustrate the core principles of the company. Then, you can put them to the entire team for final approval.  

From there you can also build a brand values pyramid with your team, where you decide the importance of each type of brand value and ideal.  

Remember, brand values only work if the whole team believes in them. 

Best practices for brand values 

Make your values credible and solidify your identity with our employer branding. James Ellis points out a the most surefire way to create a standout corporate values culture.

The most effective way to make your corporate values credible is to illustrate the cost of those values. Anyone can say they care about the environment. But showing how caring for the environment increased packaging costs that you absorbed is useful. 

James Ellis, Employer Brand Labs

When crafting your brand values, you should also consider the following: 

  • Keep them short and simple – External talent want values that are easily understood, not an essay. 
  • Stay on topic – Don’t choose values that stray too far from your products and services, and the needs of your team.
  • Be unique – Using the same values as your competitor won’t make you stand out. Your values must be your own. 

But how can we use this to evolve our Employer Brand? 

Consider what brand values talent are also looking for and how you can start to showcase these to the external talent market.

  • Diversity and openness – These are important to every candidate. They want an environment where they can all feel welcome regardless of who they are. 
  • Corporate social responsibility – Organisations that care about more than themselves is a big attraction for prospective employees.
  • Contributing to social causes like the environment, homelessness, cancer research and more makes everyone feel like they make a difference. 
  • Innovation – In an ever-changing world, innovation is how you stay ahead of the competition and influence change. Candidates want an environment that challenges them and where they can influence change. 
  • Well-being – Mental health and work/life balance are prominent in building a suitable workplace culture. Having them embedded into your values is a win for potential employees. 

You have the values, now cement this into your Employer Brand to scale. 

It’s clear that creating company values is just the beginning of your value-led employer branding journey. Using these in evolving your Employer Brand is a great opportunity to showcase these values in a clear and consistent way to top talent.

Consistency is key, but when done authentically, it will help you create a genuine magnet for helping top talent place your values and brand as top of funnel in terms of their career priorities.      

The corporate values that can be ignored aren’t real.

James Ellis, Employer Brand Labs