Employer Branding- What is it and how do we get it right?
To formally launch the Papirfly Brand Centre blog, where we will be discussing, exploring and hopefully providing some innovation to all things Employer Branding, Graduate Brand and Brand Activation, we thought it appropriate to start with resetting the employer brand agenda.
In order to do this effectively and fairly we have interviewed leading employer brand experts and we’ve allowed their thoughts to set a clear framework of understanding into which future blogs will be placed.
Originally coined in the late 1980s, Employer Branding is widely understood as establishing a certain reputation or status in association with a brand, company or product. Whilst most business owners and stakeholders know the importance of Employer Branding, often they don’t necessarily know where to begin when it comes to developing and implementing their own Employer Brand. Our experts will also help get you started.
Phil Owers, Managing Director at Papirfly, a web based technology which enables multi-national organisations to manage and communicate their brand globally believes there are several stages to building and deploying a compelling Employer Brand but for him, the first crucial step is to truly understand why your top talent was recruited and retained by your organisation.
He says, “These key reasons are known as Employer Value Propositions or EVPs and are mission critical to an effective Employer Brand so it is imperative that extensive research is carried out to identify both the internal and external differentiators for your organisation.”
This research should then be tested and developed by comparing the perception of working for your organisation with what’s it really like? Why is your company unique and attractive? This stage is normally carried out by specialist companies who use proven processes to develop your EVP to ensure that you build a great foundation.
The next stage is translating the EVPs into clear marketing and communication messages which work for the different groups and audiences you want to retain and attract. According to Phil, this will include “how your brand is applied visually and identifying the key messages that your audience need to see, feel and hear.”
In turn, techniques from Marketing (external) and Communications (internal) are applied to put those messages across in the most compelling way. Many multi-national companies have appointed or are appointing Global Employer Brand Managers to own, oversee and manage this process; ideally, individuals with the combined experience and skills of branding and marketing with some HR.
Steve McNally, Communications Director at Equality Law puts real emphasis on the importance of HR in the process. He has been building Employer Brands in all sectors for over 20 years and in his view, an Employment Brand must always be inclusive. According to Steve, building a compelling Employment Value Proposition is one thing but “does every EVP genuinely encapsulate the soul of an employer for all employees and potential employees? Is the research really focused on deep insights into the loves, fears and ambitions of all candidates and communities?
That is summed up in the usually-forgotten step: ‘Engagement & Validation of All Employees”. It can’t only be about the superstars of your organisation, (who frequently move on), but the core employee base who form the backbone of your organisation.”
For Steve, an authentically inclusive EVP can only be achieved if it is founded on an initial Employee Segmentation that digs deep to identify the primary motivations and experiences of every employee.
He says, “It’s not enough to rationalise away any contradictions or smooth down any unpalatable moments of truth, just to arrive at an EVP that rather conveniently ‘fits’ into a corporate agenda. People don’t really join companies for the corporate agenda (important though that is). They join - even if it’s just for the money - as part of their own personal journey.”
Once you have this “authentically inclusive EVP” in place, and crucially, full support of your leadership team, there one last vital task to complete - the consistent and successful deployment of the Employer Brand, with all of its EVP and Branding to every market, in every country.
This is Employer Brand Activation; it’s here that you are looking to protect and retain the investment in your competitive advantage from misuse of brand, lack of buy-in or haphazard application.
The term “haphazard application” could be applied to any component part of your Employer Brand but one piece of the puzzle to pay close attention to in recent times has been social media. As Vickie Collinge, head of HR & Talent Management Practice at Blue Sky PR says, “Whilst anyone who has had an unhappy or poor experience with your organisation may, historically, have shared their dissatisfaction with friends over a coffee, social media messages can now be amplified on an exponential level.”
A great example of how social media can destroy an Employer Brand is the Joey Quits video on YouTube. This shows Joey resigning his job live from a well-known hotel chain in the US because of poor working conditions. So far it has had over three million views, and has also led to a website joeyquits.com which campaigns for hotel workers’ rights. Vickie says, “While this video was going viral, the employer was nowhere to be seen and a quick look at their corporate recruitment website revealed some stock photography and general corporate jargon about what a great employer they were. There was no video content of employees, no authentic case studies, no-one saying anything positive with an employee voice – nothing at all that could counter Joey’s video.”
Had this particular organisation incorporated any of the above to their overall Employer Brand, would the video have had such a detrimental impact? It would be true to say that any organisation that has had their shortcomings highlighted in such a way would find their next recruitment campaign to be a more difficult process. The perception of their brand and the way in which they treat their employees has been tarnished - had a well-rounded Employer Brand been established in the first instance, this may have been avoided. Often, when organisations face such a predicament, plans are consequently put in place for a rebrand.
Paul MacKenzie Cummins, award winning careers writer and noted media spokesperson says, “Examples of large-scale organisations rebranding themselves in recent years are plentiful, and the reason for undertaking this process is simple: they need to remain competitive and create (or rescue) an identity with which their customers (internal and external) and other stakeholders can resonate with.”
Cancer Research UK is a prime example of a recent re-brand. Last Autumn, Cancer Research UK, one of the leading charitable organisations in the country, unveiled its new branding in a move which they described as “embodying our role and ambition” and one that was “braver, bolder and more confident” in a bid for the charity to be perceived as “warmer, transparent and appreciative”.
Paul adds, “While we may not all have £680,000 to spend on rebranding our organisations, as Cancer Research did, the importance of taking your existing brand and driving engagement with stakeholders cannot be underestimated.”
In summary, most organisations will have an understanding of the importance of their Employer Brand and its impact on competitive advantage, and as you read this article, it is worth reflecting on where you are in the cycle, and what key steps are required to move your Employer Brand from boardroom discussions through to commercial reality.
There is little doubt that organisations with well defined, accurately deployed Employer Brands have a commercial edge over their counterparts, but there is always room for improvement. The question to ask yourself is, “where could I make the most significant gains; simply, quickly and cost effectively”.