Your employer brand is essential for business growth, now more than ever. So, as far as that’s concerned, are you staying ahead of the game? Well, to answer that allow me first to take a look at how the concept of the employer brand has evolved.
A brief history of the employer brand
Talent is fundamental to business growth; it is of course the people that work hard, work together and push the business forward that make a difference between a successful and an averagely performing organisation. But with huge competition in the jobs market, finding people who are genuinely invested in making that extra discretionary effort, performing to their very best and committing to the brand long term is not as easy as you think. Additionally, losing talent has enormous financial implications on any business big or small and not surprisingly, according to McKinsey: “Companies across the globe consistently cite talent as their top constraint to growth.”
So in order to meet the financial targets of the future, organisations need to start thinking bigger and longer term about how they keep hold of their talent and acquire more of the best talent in the job market.
It’s a shift in power towards the consumer and towards the employee and it’s a good thing
The concept of the employer brand began over 25 years ago, when brand reputation was something to be protected and nurtured. Brands that had been established for decades were particularly popular in the 90s, it had taken years to build a strong brand and keeping it that way was paramount. Consumers were far more brand loyal, and subsequently were quick to react to bad news and scandal that affected their perception and, ultimately, emotional attachment to brands. Controversial stories featuring global brands were recurring and in the spotlight. Negative events leaked into the press would see a direct and negative reaction from their consumers causing potentially long term damage. Think back to the kind of sweatshop stories that hit some parts of the fashion industry, for example.
In the same decade PR became the new fad for big companies. Every smart brand sought either an in-house team or PR agency to help combat bad press and support crisis management. As we know from the world of social media, when disaster strikes, how a company handles it can make a huge difference to their image.
Thing is, negative press and damage to brand reputation don’t just affect consumers, they also impact your population of positive employees. Scepticism in the work place doesn’t promote an engaged or committed workforce.
Between 2004 and 2008 two of the biggest brands in the world, Unilever and Southerly client Shell, led the way in fusing external reputation and employer brand, applying the same focus and consistency to employer branding as they did to their corporate and consumer branding. This shift in emphasis reinvented organisational focus from external reputation to internal reputation. It’s all about communicating brand values and brand promises to employees as you would your customer base.
Show their interest in social responsibility and sustainability weaved intricately into their brand values
This all naturally led to HR teams across the board extolling their organisation’s employee value proposition, which defined the key benefits offered by the company as an employer. It’s not only reputation as an employer that shapes the way global organisations are structured today, the internal brand experience is also paramount. Employees expect to see and feel a sense of the values and behaviours that the external brand promotes. People are far more likely to trust a company based on what its employees have to say than on recruitment advertising. Hence why talent attraction relies far more heavily on employee advocacy, on social media and on growing platforms like Glassdoor.
Who’s responsible for the employer brand?
So, who’s responsible for the employer brand? Is it the branding department, marketing, internal comms, corporate relations, HR? The fact is all departments are responsible and need to become better aligned; it’s really what every large organisation strives for.
CEOs are getting transparent and creative
Crucial to this is someone who can help make this alignment a reality, and organisations are beginning to realise that employer brand accountability falls to the CEO. The CEO, as the face of the organisation must be strategic in their communications and live the values they preach, leading by example. Through excellent leadership and compelling communication CEOs are able to build trust and engage existing employees, align teams and inspire employees of the future. With so many channels to utilise and so many social and digital mediums to try, CEOs are getting transparent and creative.
The rise of social media forces companies to be more transparent. With employee advocacy growing in importance, employer reputations will ultimately depend on the consistent values and vitality of their organisational cultures. It’s a shift in power towards the consumer and towards the employee and it’s a good thing, it preserves a better world, from treating your employees well, to bringing clean water and power to under developed countries to supporting charities and individuals. Multi-billion dollar companies need to, and many indeed do, show their interest in social responsibility and sustainability weaved intricately into their brand values.
How do I get my employer brand ready?
- INTERNAL REPUTATION: Have you asked your employees what they really think? How do they perceive your employer brand, what’s their experience and awareness of the internal brand? Through surveys, focus groups and pulse surveys you can start to create an accurate picture of the internal point of view.
- EXTERNAL REPUTATION: Have you evaluated the external view of your brand as a potential employer? What are people saying on Glassdoor?
- DEFINE: Define how you’d like to be seen as an employer, what are your strengths in the job market? This will form the basis of your employee value proposition.
- ALIGNMENT: Have you ensured that every function within the organisation understands the value of a strong employer brand and the role they need to play in sustaining it? Importantly, is your CEO bought in?
- TRANSPARENCY: Have you started to use social media to share inside stories that highlight your strengths and build a more authentic and engaging employer brand reputation? There really doesn’t need to be any differentiation between internal or external communications at all! The Royal Mail is a great example of this with their external facing intranet.