Kirstie Kelly talked recently at the Talent Puzzle conference; see what she had to say about driving ahead with your Employer Branding. "I aim to drill down to the brass tacks of employer branding, and help you to understand how best you can move forward and deliver value to your own business whether you are a multi- million pound turnover international corporate, or a dual site coffee concession."
She explained, "I don’t intend to unveil any great revelations – but I do aim to create a clear picture of how you can move forward successfully with your own business EVP. And if you just don’t know where to start… give you some simple foundations. Take a moment to Google the term 'Employer Branding' and you can find a myriad of information and case studies in the public domain, and you can probably find a conference every month that will bestow the importance of EB. But sometimes this can feel like a mystical being. A little like social media!"
In order to explore this topic, let’s start with the basics of a definition:
"Employer Branding is fundamentally a Marketing Strategy applied to Human Resources. Just as companies realize marketing and communication activities to attract and retain high value clients, at the same time communication and marketing strategies can be realized in order to attract and retain high value people for own business performances."
EB is defined as “the sum of a company’s efforts to communicate to existing and prospective staff that it is a desirable place to work.” So – why is it so important right now? After all, the competition for jobs is high – with the media regularly reporting many 100’s of candidates applying to each vacancy. Yet, as recruiters, you know that often the talent you are most interested in attracting, are those in-post and passive candidates who need some convincing to move.
But it’s not just about a business having An Employer Brand proposition in order to change their hiring luck… It’s about making it work!
Let me tell you a story – whilst I can’t name the particular business, they are a multi- million pound media organisation who employ many 1000’s of employees. They are employer value proposition award winners. Their brand is a public name and had significant media attention. They regularly speak about their EB strategy and their approach. However – they have certain technical roles which remain hard to fulfill throughout their worldwide operation.
NOW COULD THIS BE THE PROBLEM…
They outsource the majority of their Recruitment Process to an RPO. The RPO team had been embedded for the past 5 years. They have never met the Head of Employer Branding. They were unaware of the strategy and had not seen the presentation…..
NOW – IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT HAVING AN EB STRATEGY, IT’S ALL ABOUT ENGAGEMENT…
So let’s get back to basics.
Why is it important?
The demand for skilled, specialist, value-adding employees is likely to increase dramatically in the short to medium term. Consequently, the need for strategies to attract and retain staff has never been more pressing.
And many big companies are moving ahead at speed –
Cultivating an employer brand is one approach that firms such as Siemens, Coca-Cola, Amatil, Deloitte, Yahoo, Starbucks, for example have chosen to secure and retain the most sought after employees; those who will enable them to perpetuate their brand success and secure ongoing profitability.
But you don’t need to leave these brands to take the monopoly…
The world of recruitment can already be a minefield. With much said about the social side of recruiting and the need to engage and maintain contact with pools of candidates - making the logistics surrounding the recruitment process a process nightmare.
Often you find that the desire to create a great candidate experience, is conflicted versus the need to manage high volumes of candidate application data - in order to drill down to the right candidates who could have actually been repelled by the process along the way! A real disconnect…
A perfect example of this while on the train last week – the Recruitment Team from a well known High Street brand, were talking about the methods they used to de-select potential candidates at interview stage (border line discrimination) yet as a business, their brand identity is of top priority to their senior executives. This sort of disconnect can be more damaging than you would imagine…
So – how can you get it right..
How can you build an employer brand strategy which actually matches the reality of your hiring approach?
Identify what great talent looks like…
Make sure the Employer Brand engages and resonates through your business before you begin…
I am still amazed by the number of leaders I meet on my travels from companies I know have a global employer brand strategy and, when I mention it to them, they have no idea it even exists. The traditional head-office, top-down strategy requires a different approach if companies are to engage leaders and employees
Involve marketers in your employer brand strategy from the outset. Don’t assume you need to employ an expensive brand agency.
Marketers need to realise that it is time to take more of an interest in employer branding and its role in building brand strength that will then boost shareholder value.
Develop a communication framework incorporating your career website, advertising campaigns and discussion forums which reinforce your EB messages.
Focus on the experience and engagement will follow
Train leaders to deliver positive work experiences for staff every day. Then shout about it! Your internal and external communication strategy is the top priority here – don’t do things in isolation.
Encourage employees to grow their global network and online profile
If built strategically, this market reach will provide you with an opportunity to connect globally with others in a manner that will benefit you, your connections and your company.
Don't become obsessed with metrics
Identify the metrics that have most effect on the company's productivity and performance, and make employees accountable to these.
Identify and empower your brand ambassadors
Appoint employees to act as ambassadors to represent your brand and provide them with the time and flexibility to fulfil their responsibilities.
But what are the underpinning principles which should be followed here…
Be Known and noticeable:
“Employer branding is very similar to advertising in the supermarket. Yes, you could sit there quietly and have your value proposition, have your people talking about what it is that you do as a business, internally…If you don’t have an external marketing plan then it’s only half the job done”.
And what should you avoid…
1) Having a negative site experience – Ensure there are no glitches in the application process. The journey is part of the experience so you don’t want to create a negative impression even before the first phone call or interview!
2) Advertising Campaigns – a few advertisements with a catchy jingle are not going to do the trick. Offer information about the company, its culture, as well as information on how applicants can have any questions, queries or concerns addressed and answered. Hold information sessions and allow candidates to network with current employees.
3) Wishlists – You cannot promise roses before they bloom. Sure, we would all like to say what we would like our ideal company to be like in the future, however if there is something that has not been implemented or introduced to the company, do not promote it.
Therefore, for a positive and sustainable brand image, always practice the 3 C’s: Culture, Connection and Community.
So the key – is to demonstrate your culture – create connections – and build a relevant community…
Be sure your EB is relevant…
To your prospective and current employees:
“The company which really knows what employees value, carry it through and communicate it effectively”
Unsuccessful employer brands are completely soulless and tell you nothing about the identity or character of the organization. There’s no differentiation”
Your Employer Brand must communicate what’s UNIQUE about your business beyond all others…
Keep the experience consistent throughout their life as an employee
Successful employer brands are seen as being accurately portrayed though marketing communications and as consistently delivering on the inherent promise of the brand:
“It’s got to be honest - not just at the beginning, but for the whole employment lifecycle”
But many businesses get it wrong…
“ A classic example from a company who ‘needed to get graduates and we felt the need to offer work life balance’. So the HR department recruited graduates. No one told the managers or the senior managers that this was the new way of working…The graduates started there and realised that ‘Their culture is still late working. This isn’t what was promised to me’. Within 12 months, they had all gone...[Company] were selling a promise they could never deliver”
So – whilst you can INSTIGATE the communication of your Employer Brand strategy in a systematic way, the fundamental difference is that your ACTUAL approach must match the reality of your communication to a wider audience. You must be genuine.
So start your strategy by identifying the reality.
By conducting executive interviews and facilitating an employer brand workshop to learn about leadership aspirations; deploying a company-wide employee survey and employee focus groups to learn about the importance and delivery of employment attributes; be sure you are mapping this against your target employee audience. If you ask those ‘dispirited stayers’ then you’re likely to get a dispirited response.
The tone and mood of your communication must match that of the overall brand. There is no benefit to be gained if you develop a recruitment career website which looks like you’re offering a social club style of environment, when the reality is more formal and traditional.
For example – a recruiter recently advertised a role as being non-billing without financial targets for an introductory level resource and has consistently talked about the implications of that individual not meeting their KPI’s. Whilst the premise is fair, the execution is confused.
Employer Branding emerged when we understood that it could actually be beneficial to embed marketing tactics into our recruitment processes to attract first of all more and ideally better candidates.
In the last few years social media has challenged all those basic marketing principles, about communication style and tone.
Most importantly, it’s about being genuine and honest, both to the wider community and with your internal team.
Just to give you one example – A Company talked throughout a presentation about authenticity in the contexts of culture branding, but in the end told a story that showed that they still have a long journey ahead of them to truly understand what culture branding is about and how to actually benefit from it. Someone from the audience wanted to know if they have had any problems after letting their employees tweet freely about their work under the company’s Twitter account and she told about the case where the person tweeted around 9PM from the office that actually caused some potential candidate to reconsider joining the company as working long hours was not what that candidate was after. Because of this “accident” the company advised not to post after working hours that actually is totally opposite from the idea of culture branding where you should be authentic about your work conditions and let people know if they need to work long hours
Most of all, an inclusive and engaging approach as opposed to the ‘hands-off’ processes often implemented where high volume recruitment necessitates is the point in your recruitment process which requires most interrogation.
A great example of a business who have broken down walls is Accenture who now have recruiters on hand to take direct calls from candidates wishing to engage.
So make sure your recruitment process, technology and experience for candidates throughout their engagement with your business, projects the brand message.
An onerous and multi layered process, can leave your business appearing to open the door and then shut it firmly in a potential employees face…
Leaving the perception of your brand as…
But you’ve still got to put in place the measures to ensure candidates are selected who will best fit your business – in terms of experience, skills, as well as attributes and motivations… But if you don’t get it right…
Your competitors will..
Vote with their feet!
So, instead of creating a brand as such, it is more about creating transparency and empowering your employees to speak about and show publicly their work life and maybe even their actual life. In every company there are millions of stories, and those stories need to be told and shared. That is the content that is interesting for people you want to hire and work with.
You will have to agree that the point is not to attract the biggest possible amount of candidates/applicants, but to make sure that those that love (or at least like) your company culture will opt-in.
So how do you truly demonstrate the value gained from your employer brand…
Well obviously the true cost of employee turnover can be a powerful metric to support your case to exercise buget release.
Although there are a number of Indications for successful employer brands
Percentage of job offers accepted -Higher percentage than industry average indicates attractive
Number of applicants per role - Higher number of applicants than industry average
Average length of service - Higher than industry average indicates attractive^
Average staff turnover - Lower than industry average indicates accurate
Level of staff engagement - Higher than industry average indicates accurate
So – the best way to ensure your employer branding doesn’t simply become a marketing exercise which doesn’t deliver the results YOU THE RECRUITER needs is beautifully summed up in my opinion by an American EB expert.
Employer branding is essentially about being flawsom – awesome with the flaws. Essentially it is about being honest so really back to the basics of being a good company.
So why is this important? Well, if you want to hire people that stick around and contribute towards the same goals and share the same values, it should be visible in your hiring process. Actually, it should be visible everywhere as your hiring activities should only reflect the reality inside your organisation.
When you focus on creating a truthful picture about who you are as a company and how it is to work in your organisation it resonates with the right people. Those that actually could imagine to work in your company and most of all like it. That may not lead to be happily ever after, but at least it can evolve to be really good long-term and profitable relationship".
Kirstie Kelly Batt is Director for LaunchPad Recruits and Brand Expert, working to transform businesses and people....
LaunchPad Recruits is an online video interviewing platform that helps employers make better and faster shortlisting decisions in their candidate screening process whilst offering the very best candidate experience.
Using short video interviews LaunchPad Recruits moves employers beyond CV screening and reveals the person behind the paper, helping recruiters assess prospective candidates’ true fit to their organisation and role, transforming the selection process to one which is convenient, faster and more effective. LaunchPad Recruits eliminates hours wasted interviewing the wrong candidates and delivers a streamlined shortlist.