Jake Geller has been an employee at Balsam Brands for five years, or as he’d put it, five Christmases. Balsam Brands is a privately-held company based in Redwood City that designs and sells home décor products (including realistic artificial Christmas trees) directly to customers.
The company was founded in 2006, and since then has won numerous awards for its growth and culture from Forbes, Inc. 5000, Silicon Valley Business Journal and the San Francisco Business Times. With rapid growth came a need to attract and retain talent. To do that, Balsam Brands needed an updated website that reflected their company culture and employer brand.
Prioritizing a new culture first website
Geller, Balsam Brands’ Mobile & UX Design Strategist, and Jessica Palola, Balsam’s graphic designer, worked together to update Balsam’s website in 2014. The project was outside of their day-to-day roles, but they wanted to make it a priority. Geller says, “Even when I joined in 2012, it was odd for me to be applying to a Silicon Valley company and see an outdated website. I think everybody knew it, but we never had time to work on it.”
One main goal for the project was to update the design of the website while ensuring that it reflected the culture of Balsam Brands. Geller says, “The website was no longer an accurate reflection of our culture, office spaces, people and geographies.” People looking to join the company didn’t get an accurate view of Balsam Brands from the old website.
How to design a website that highlights your company culture
Here are Geller’s five top tips on taking an employer branded website project from ideation to publication.
Hammer out your company’s internal values. Talk to (or survey) everyone, top to bottom. We found that the two best words to represent our values were CARING and DRIVEN; we are a company who truly cares about one another, while also remaining extremely motivated towards common goals.
Use those values as driving forces in creative decision-making for the website UX & design.
The team that works on the website (project manager, UX, design, etc.) should truly buy- into and reflect these core values. They will organically reflect their own values in their work, and the more those are aligned with the company’s values, the more successful the output will be.
Understand the other driving forces including business/user goals of the website.
Get feedback along the way, both internally and externally. There are internal and external ‘users’ of the site; internal feedback helps to ensure the site resonates the defined values and business goals, while external feedback (also critical after launch) ensures functionality and success of meeting user goals.
A culture-first website for a culture-first company
We asked Geller why it’s important for a company’s website to put its people first. He says, “First, you need to know, is the company people first? If so, how so? The website is an opportunity to present an authentic reflection of who the company is, and who it strives to be.” The benefit of making your company’s website an authentic reflection of your employer brand is that it attracts the right people. As Geller says, “If a candidate is looking at our website wondering ‘Is this a place I’d like to work?’ and the answer is a resounding yes, they likely share our values.”
In the few years since Balsam Brands has launched their new website, they have heard feedback from new hires that the website accurately reflects the company. Geller says, “I think it was very successful in that regard. We aren’t a typical Silicon Valley company that seeks to provide over-the-top office perks, and all too often the corporate sites we looked at in the ideation phase really highlighted those (who doesn’t love free meals, fancy office toys, etc.?). By shifting the focus to showcasing our people and our values, it casts a more accurate net in our recruiting efforts.”
Balsam Brands’ new website isn’t just a technical improvement over their original version. Infusing their employer brand into their company website has contributed to bringing the right people onto their team.