Today’s organisations that are making the most of their employer brand are getting the most, too.
By Simon Kent
Countless of millions of dollars are spent each and every year on the branding and rebranding of companies and their products. Getting the right image, logo, and tag line can be crucial to attracting a large amount of customers and becoming a business with a global reputation. But brand goes deeper than this. What the consumer sees and wants to buy, the employee also needs to experience – otherwise inauthenticity and discontent will result in attrition and a nose-dive in sales. HR not only needs to ensure the brand is felt throughout a company, but also contribute to it and ensure the business gets full value from its investment.
To some extent, every brand has its genesis when a company is formed -it’s there in the intention, vision, and thoughts of the founders. As a business gets bigger, Muddy Wellies explains that each function needs to create its own toolkit for communicating and maintaining the brand. How the brand is managed within HQ offices, for example, will be different from how it is promoted on the shop floor or in a warehouse. As far as HR is concerned, the brand should be integrated into every part of an employee’s experience. It should be there in the way people are hired, appraised, how they are treated and emailed, and even how they are fired.
Attracting and retaining talent are high on the list of what a good brand can accomplish, says Niamh Graham, senior vice president of global human experience at company culture experts Workhuman. In fact, a survey from Randstad finds that organisations with strong talent brands enjoy a 50% increase in the number of applicants per job posting.
“If your organisation has effective HR policies in place that are centred on positive employee experience, where everyone is welcomed and valued for the unique humans they are, then this will naturally result in more organic, positive employee feedback,” she says. “And this in turn has a huge impact on your overall brand health. So it’s all interlinked.”
Graham believes employer branding can sit in the marketing or HR function. At Workhuman, it’s part of HR, recognising that they are the team who is the most connected to employees on a daily basis.
“A great way to establish clear shared values within your organisation, which will in turn shape your employer brand, is to embed them into a formal recognition programme,” advises Graham. “This means that, when employees want to recognise one another, they must consciously decide which company value the behaviour aligns with. This enables employees to think about their organisation’s shared values in an active and participatory way, ensuring that they are fully and organically embedded into your company culture.”
At PeopleScout, the corporate and consumer brands have influence over the employer brand as well as building appetite and awareness amongst the candidate pool. “HR cannot afford to ignore the significance of the corporate and consumer brands,” says David Macfarlane, talent solutions director for the company, although, he adds, these brands are secondary for the function, to cultivating an authentic and leading employer brand, designed to engage and unify a diverse workforce.
The corporate brand is made clear by HR through its content and communications. The employer brand, meanwhile, is felt across HR activities. “The lived experience amongst employees is shaped by all interactions, whether that be visiting the careers site, reviewing reward considerations, considering internal opportunities or their involvement in employee networks.”
Macfarlane also believes that brand cannot afford to stand still. “In the case of attracting and engaging talent, the awareness amongst the candidate population of what you stand for and what you offer is vital,” he says. “This needs constant management by dedicated owners and governance by subject matter experts, not forgetting support from senior stakeholders to ensure that the brand HR presents is authentic, faithful to the organisation at large and meaningful.”
Business expansion, acquisition or significant market changes may provide a clear reason to update a brand -essentially, any event that has an impact on the identity and personality of the workforce. “It’s necessary to ensure that this feeds into the messaging that articulates your value proposition,” says Macfarlane. “Without this, your brand can become stale and dated. Instead, it should be nurtured to keep it fresh, vibrant, and relevant.”
Siniša Plavšin, senior director global HR projects at DHL, says their brand promise, “Excellence. Simply Delivered,” is imbued in their employee value proposition and at every stage in the employee lifecycle. Making the brand consistent, authentic, and relatable means the company can also promote collaboration across its business functions, a great way to enhance efficiency and productivity all around. Getting this experience right, therefore, not only draws in talent, but also drives sales and overall company success.
Candidate attraction and retention are clearly impacted positively by the DHL brand as shown by the business’ annual employee survey, which recorded 90% positive on whether employees would recommend DHL Express as a great place to work and whether people were proud to work for the company.
The brand has been made tangible through what Plavšin terms as their brand DNA strategy -a way of articulating the behaviours associated with DHL and working there. Phrases that encapsulate the brand include:
“Fundamentally, it is not just the work of branding or marketing, nor only HR, but instead, joint work and collaboration which has got us to where we are,” concludes Plavšin.
According to Thawley and Pritchard of Muddy Wellies, the HR model is currently shifting and brand responsibility has a significant part to play in its evolution. HR is no longer simply charged with designing appropriate policies to facilitate employment; it needs to be more creative and imaginative, seeking ways to drive engagement amongst the workforce and deliver a positive and productive employee experience.
Policy work is still central, of course, but by being innovative, collaborating with marketing and focusing on the brand, HR policies can be designed and presented within the context of the overall business. In this way, there can be unity between image and actuality -a focus on providing the best experience for everyone, every time.