In the previous chapter, we focused on how organizational identity and actions shape image. We also indicated, in turn, how the identification process can influence the individual identities (or self-concepts) of employees. Using two examples, we illustrated how this apparently academic distinction between organizational and individual identities has important practical consequences, since the latter is rooted in how employees
perceive themselves, and not how they see their organizations. That said, there are processes at work in which individuals may, under certain circumstances, come to incorporate elements of their organization’s identity into their self-perceptions, drawing on what academics describe as social identity and self-categorization theories (Hatch and Schultz, 2004). So, the core message for practitioners is that changing employees’ identities – their self-concepts of who they are – is a more difficult and uncertain task than many of the more basic culture management and communications-driven, customer relationship texts would have you believe, leaving aside the ethical issues associated with ‘brandwashing’. We will deal with this issue when we discuss the effectiveness of employee branding in Chapter 8, which is an attempt to use communications techniques to achieve greater levels of identification with existing employees, as well as recruiting new ones in the so-called ‘war for talent’ (Barrow and Mosley, 2005). Just how effective employer branding and HR communications can be is open to question, and will depend on their understanding of this identification process, psychological contracts and other key individual-organizational linkages.