• Transform magazine
  • October 23, 2017

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The employer brand in times of change

EBM conf16.jpg

Change was the order of the day at Transform magazine’s annual Employer Brand Management conference. Welcoming a range of speakers and delegates from a plethora of industries, the 2016 edition focused on how to ensure the employer brand is navigable through what is by all accounts a rapidly changing world. Popular dissent is amplified through rapidly changing political shifts on both sides of the spectrum; the voice of business is increasingly used as a barometer of reason.

Taking place on the scenic fifth floor of central London’s 30 Euston Square, the 2016 Employer Brand Management conference allowed industry leaders and employees alike to share best practice for future employer brand management strategies. Curated by publishing editor of Transform magazine, Andrew Thomas, the main theme was exactly how businesses attract and retain the talent necessary to guide them through potentially uncertain times. Given current situations this is a vital consideration for organisations, going forward.

The day began with a talk by Naomi Jones, head of communications at resource management company, Suez, whose case studies exemplified why aligning business purpose to employee expectations is paramount to future success. Whether the employer brand is perceived by the staff as it is by the employers, Jones says, is the first step in rolling out a strategy which covers potential dissent. Suez achieved its employee value proposition by asking itself, ‘How do we view ourselves?’

And self-awareness was a theme common across the following speakers. The notion that a brand must focus internally before effectively communicating externally, defining its common attributes which stretch across all facets of the business, allow it to develop a better strategy for coping with times of change. Rebecca Sinclair, vice president of brand at international education company Pearson, says, “Strong brands start from the inside out.”

Additionally, complications due to the emergence of ‘disruptive’ brands and continual changes in sectoral structure was an oft-explored theme of the conference. In times of turbulence, “We have to kill complexity,” says Jonny Briggs, head of talent acquisition at Aviva. Only then can an employer brand which truly embodies the needs of external stakeholders within its internal audience be developed.

For Kathryn Pritchard, group chief people officer at ODEON and UCI Cinemas, effective employer brand management comes back to, simply, treating employees how a guest would wish to be treated. Programmes such as ‘Brand heroes’ celebrate individual achievement across both the consumer- and corporate-facing brands. When employees leave, they are gifted free cinema tickets to ensure their next interaction with an ODEON cinema is a positives one. Later, James Rutter, director of brand and strategy at frozen ready meal service COOK, and Helen Aboagye, head of marketing at Currencycloud, both explained how newer businesses can sustain their employer brand in the face of the vast number of agile start-ups with potentially disruptive employee value propositions.

The 2016 conference culminated in a discussion on employer brand management in times of true crisis. This included a frank and emotive case study from Jean Imray, former deputy strategic director of children and young people’s services at Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. Tasked with perhaps the biggest challenge to face any organisation, Imray explained how, for the council to move forward, its internal and external brands had to maintain a careful balance. It couldn’t gloss over the past, Imray says, but the turbulent and challenging times experience by the council should be acknowledged without being dwelt upon.

Emerging above the noise of everyday life with a coherent and appealing employer brand is needed to ensure high levels of talent attraction and retention, even during periods of uncertainty. Given the chance, employees are the vision and the mission of an organisation. Managing this facet of employer brand well allows company culture to become the only recruitment tool needed.

Event transcript below: