interwoven stick people making a circle blue and black

Recently, Fortune Magazine published its annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. It’s impossible to ignore the fact that the majority of companies that land a spot on the list are big corporations with very deep pockets. For example, Google was named the best company to work for this year, and it seems the company has quite a knack for making the list time and again. Founder and CEO, Larry Page was one of the executives who shed some light on how the tech giant has created such a strong corporate culture. “It’s important that the company be a family, that people feel that they’re part of the company, and that the company is like a family to them.” Salesforce also landed a spot on Fortune’s list. Fortune writes of Salesforce in their profile of the company, “The best salespeople-who, unlike at engineer-centric companies such as Google, rule the roost- can earn millions in commissions…get to go on a $5,000 ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ shopping spree in Hawaii…”

Clearly, there are plenty of perks associated with working for companies like Google and Salesforce: free food, childcare and doctors on site, places to take naps during the work day, and lavish holiday parties with acrobats serving champagne. It’s easy to assume that these companies are successful because extravagant perks motivate their employees. However, it’s important to remember that the companies on this list not only have deep pockets, but also boast brands that employees and customers alike are proud to be associated with. Their names hold a certain caché. When you say “I work for Google” or “I work for Salesforce,” you’re revealing a lot more than who writes your paycheck. You’re saying “I’m cutting edge, I’m tech savvy, I’m in the know, I’m innovative.” It’s not the incentives alone—it’s the brand being built around these companies, and their associations, that make them the “best companies to work for.”

How can a company build a strong brand from the inside-out in an effort to galvanize employees? Companies must invest the time and effort in communicating with their employees, converting them into brand ambassadors. By developing a deep understanding of the brand, what it stands for, and how it impacts their behavior, employees can live the brand at every internal and external touch point.  As a result, this communication will further their perception of the brand and enable them to advocate for it. After all, a brand is not what you say about yourself; it’s what your most important audiences say about you. This includes customers, investors, prospects, and shareholders; but equally essential are the employees.

Perks are great, but a strong brand that employees are proud to be associated with is even more important to creating an environment that inspires and motivates employees. Most companies will never be able to compete with Google and Salesforce and other giants when it comes to incentives, but they can compete by creating a strong brand that instills pride in their employees and promotes a happier and more unified workforce.