• Transform magazine
  • August 15, 2018

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Opinion: What's on the inside matters too

Helen Rosethorn.jpg

Brands may engage with target consumers, but just how relevant are they to their employees? The employer brand strategy must demand the same attention as the consumer brand, says Helen Rosethorn, partner at Prophet

It would be nice to think we had reached a point in time where organisations were taking a holistic view of the way they build and manage their brand. Where brands don’t just want to deliver great brands for customers, but also want to ensure their brand has the required currency with all stakeholders. One particular stakeholder group of course is internal – employees. So often the lynch pins in the customer experience, but also typically at the heart of the communities a brand is operating within.

The latest findings in the Prophet Brand Relevance Index, however, suggest that a holistic approach is not yet happening. And the brands that consumers see as most relevant are not always great employer brands.

Tech brands sit comfortably in the top spots of the index, sought-after by consumers and more able to deliver on their ever-rising expectations. They’re winning in the relevance stakes. Both in the UK – and globally – Apple, Amazon, Netflix and more are an integral part of our everyday and something we couldn’t now imagine a world without.

And Google, ranked 4th in the world as a great place to work by Glassdoor in 2017, continues to stand apart. It has always focused hard on what it takes to attract and retain top talent. It defined early on what it offers a ‘Googler’ and what it expects in return. But not all of these tech organisations enjoy great employer reputations and in the past year have attracted a lot of damning publicity, from lack of diversity to workplace bullying, particularly within Silicon Valley. It’s fascinating to see how the dominance of the tech brands gets infiltrated when you start to explore the ‘distinctively inspired’ dimension of how Prophet scores brands in the index.

However, the brands that rise into the top 20 have enjoyed great employer reputations over the years including retailers with strong consumer loyalty in the UK such as John Lewis, Waitrose, M&S and Boots (No. 7). Interestingly not all of these organisations are being judged as ‘modern and in touch’ by consumers, yet they continue to be real magnets for talent. Many leaders within these organisations are undoubtedly looking over their shoulders at brands like Amazon as their serious competition, yet when it comes to employer brands theirs are arguably far stronger.

Trust is clearly a huge factor, especially at a time where we are searching for reassurance that brands, and the organisations behind them, are on our side. This comes of course through the matching of reality with expectations. A study recently undertaken by KRC Research on behalf of Weber Shandwick showed that across the world only 53% of employees believe that their organisations are living up to ‘the deal’ they talk about publicly. In other words, for 47% of employees, there is a mismatch between the employer brand story and their workplace experience.

If you add in purpose as another manifestation of trust, you start to see tech brands rising back up to the top. Skype and WhatsApp, for example, inspire consumers with a purpose they believe in and they do exactly the same for their employees. Software engineers at both organisations are attracted by what they see as the unique and positive impact their platforms have on people’s lives around the world every day.

It would appear that consumers are prepared to prioritise product and/or service relevance over trust issues in a way employees would be unlikely to do. Who would have thought Volkswagen could bounce back from the emissions scandal in the way that it has? Our data shows that belief in their product is at the heart of their recovery. Despite the on-going stories of the challenge of changing a culture where ‘wilful blindness’ allowed the fraudulent fixing of carbon emissions data to happen in the first place, and with two employees to date in prison for their part in it, their latest financial results are impressive.

Ultimately, for too long the value of the employer brand has been under-appreciated. What brands are slowly realising is that it demands the same attention and strategy as any consumer brand.

Helen Rosethorn is partner at Prophet

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