Determining, deploying and managing the employer brand
“When we think about employer brand, we’re actually talking about the personality of the business,” says eBay’s head of strategic communications Ben Matthews at December’s Employer Brand Management conference.
With speakers ranging from the HR manager of an Icelandic shipping company to the CEOs of Hiscox and Adnams, the half-day event thoroughly debated the impact the internal and recruitment audiences have on a business and its brand.
The first session, discussing the employer brand through the prism of the consumer audience, defined some of the terminologies and responsibilities for employer branding. Dan Panes, director of communications at First Group, says, “A business should have one brand,” adding that the way to get an executive team to understand an employer brand is to frame it within the language and architecture of the corporate brand, thus demonstrating its impact on the bottom line.
That sentiment was echoed by those who debated the value and use of metrics and measurement in regards to employer brand management. Nimai Swaroop who manages Army recruitment at Capita and James Tarbit, senior communications and insight manager at HSBC, point to the need to understand what people are perceiving an organisation’s brand as. External reputation has an impact on that of the recruitment audience and on employees. To get the best picture of that reputation, Tarbit argues, companies need to go beyond the employee survey. “An engagement survey is a snapshot of your organisation and it’s out of date one week after you have the results.”
From understanding an audience segmentation, many organisations are then turning to digital to enhance their employer brands. For TfL, which has an admittedly poor internal culture, Kevin McDougall, internal digital channels senior manager, says digital is one of the key ways the organisation is trying to change. Adam Proctor, digital media manager at RAF Recruitment, which has gone through an external rebrand recently, is now focusing on, as he says, getting people through the door. He points to ROI as a key focus of digital recruitment. The RAF’s new website has boosted awareness and interest, but now, the organisation is trying to get people to pre-select themselves by ensuring that content, resources and support online and offline are available to potential recruits, thus making the recruitment process more efficient overall.
From the case studies shared and the topics dissected, it’s clear that the temptation to enact some programme or policy to just give a business an employer brand is prevalent. Yet, those that take a more measured approach and seek to understand their organisation before defining a strategy are those that succeed in the long-term.
“A brand is only a communication of what it is that you’re like. Get to the source and the reputation, the brand, employer brand is easy.”
Charlotte Halligan, internal communications manager for Northern Rail, spoke candidly about the transport company’s situation. “Right now, Northern Rail is not in a good place,” she says. “No one’s engaged at all. No one’s even filling out the engagement survey. But, by taking steps to position the company as the custodian of the railway – a lifestyle of which most railroad employees are immensely proud – it is slowly making positive changes for the long-term sustainability of the business. But breaking out of sector-based preconceptions is difficult, particularly in terms of recruitment. Deloitte’s resourcing marketing manager Stephen Brand says, “It’s difficult for us to move away from who we are and what we are. [Our graduate programmes] are our opportunities to show to our audience that we are that and then some.”
Rounding out the busy morning was a lecture from Simon Barrow, the man who first coined the term ‘employer brand management,’ on the value of leadership followed by a panel of CEOs discussing their experience with the employer brand. Barrow challenged delegates to put themselves in the leaders’ shoes, “If this was your business, what would you do differently?”
The final discussion of the day featured Bronek Masojada, CEO of Hiscox, Andy Wood, CEO of Adnams and Sheila Parry, managing director and founder of theblueballroom. The trio discussed the challenges they face when leading a business, the positioning they strive to encourage and the ways in which employees can impact the bottom line.
“What really matters is what we do,” Masojada says. “That attitude clicked with people who wanted to do the right thing. The Hiscox employer brand is about doing the right thing and then communicating it to a broader world.” Wood adds that business has to struggle at times to gain the trust of potential recruits. “To compete in that market, we had to find where an opportunity where our niche was. What would our customer miss if our company didn’t exist?” That turned out to be the experience of Adnams – externally and internally. He adds, “We have to be courageous as leaders and say, ‘These things are important to us too.’”
Employer brand has many facets, but its importance goes right to the heart of what a business stands for and who that business serves. A company’s employees are its best advocates, but determining who they are as a group, knowing what that culture should be and then communicating it to the external audience is a daily challenge for business leaders. Masojada offers one final piece of advice, “A brand is only a communication of what it is that you’re like. Get to the source and the reputation, the brand, employer brand is easy.”