Signaling your company message on several levels can resonate with job candidates.
By Leif Kolflat
Cabela’s, a leading outdoor related specialty retailer with more $2.5 billion in sales, knows a thing or two about having passionate consumer brand champions. After all, the multi-channel retailer prints more than 25 billion catalog pages annually and captures more than 135 million daily unique visitors between its online and retail store locations. As they embarked on an impressive employer branding initiative, the real question for Sara Kaiser, director of HR centers of excellence, was: How do we get even more people that are passionate about what we believe in to want to work here? As you might imagine, she is not alone in her quest to figure that out.
Many organizations are realizing that an effective brand strategy can enhance their talent acquisition efforts. Just as marketing executives leverage a wide variety of tactics and initiatives to drive awareness for product portfolios, many successful HR leaders are taking advantage of various branding elements traditionally found in a marketer’s toolbox. One of the keys to effective employer branding is to align it with the corporate or product brand. Linking salient corporate/product brand elements with your employer branding strategy with allow your organization the ability to communicate your employer brand to various talent segments—candidate prospects, and current and former employees—across the business. Plus, don’t assume that just because a candidate easily identifies with what your great product brand that they will assume it’s also a great organization to be employed with. That is why strong brands still require employer branding that links with their product or corporate brand.
Where to Start? Compare & Understand
One of the first steps toward aligning your employer brand with your product or corporate brand is to have an open and honest assessment of what your brand really stands for and means. One method that marketers use—in order to achieve a deeper understanding of essence—is to perform a brand alignment analysis.
As the alignment process progresses, make sure that not only your HR team, but the entire organization understands and embraces your employer brand positioning. This is one area that can sometimes be overlooked, but can be especially important for new or revitalized programs.
As Kaiser explains, “One of the worst things we thought could happen is that if we put out this wonderful employer branding on the website for new hires, existing employees would have no idea what it was about. You have got to tell existing employees about it and get them excited as well.”
This is why being strategic with your employer branding along the employment continuum is a best practice that leading organizations incorporate. Ensuring that talent channels (candidates, current/former employees) are engaged with touch points of your employer brand throughout the three main stages of the talent continuum or life-cycle, is important.
Source and Attract
As you source and attract candidates in the early stages, one of the goals is to make sure that the different vehicles you utilize, such as job postings, employment advertisements, career portals, recruitment videos, social media, word-of-mouth and other tactics, reinforce your employer brand positioning and messaging.
An example of a company that does a great job of aligning their product brand with their employer brand is Apple. When you look at Apple’s career portal, candidates are immediately linked to their immutable product brand leadership position by strong tie-ins of their products—imagery, snippets about development—while simultaneously challenging job seekers to “Imagine what you could do here.”
Additionally, Apple’s product branding is seamlessly interwoven with their employer branding through various videos and images of their main career areas (retail, corporate, students). Messaging also really ties in to what their brand is all about, such as “Amaze yourself. Amaze the world.” Apple does this so well that it appears almost effortless to the user, which means it took a lot of planning, deliberation, and work behind the scenes to get it right.
Apply and Qualify
As prospective talent moves across the threshold of being aware to being interested to eventually buying into an employer’s value proposition, candidates need to register and apply to see if the opportunity will lead both parties toward a potential employment relationship.
Integrating employer branding tactics through different technology platforms, such as applicant tracking systems (ATS) can be challenging but achievable. For example, Casual Male Retail Group, a specialty retailer of men’s big and tall apparel, embeds their realistic job preview video for store management positions right into the ATS’s job posting page as candidates review the job description and prepare to apply. This is a great user experience from the standpoint of a prospective store manager candidate.
Consumer products empire P&G take it a step further during the application process. Candidates, while in P&G’s ATS framework, are able to see what working at the organization entails through their microsite ExperiencePG.com, which has various videos and social media channels. There’s even a video of a candidate being interviewed by a bottle of Tide detergent. Talk about integrating the product and employer brand!
Hire and Onboard
The hiring and onboarding stage will typically incorporate brand engagement in the beginning, transitioning to brand advocacy as the employment relationship evolves. At this particular phase, employer branding initiatives can take on various forms, including messaging from colleagues. According to Stacy Van Meter, executive director of talent acquisition, check and SMB marketing solutions Deluxe, the check and SMB marketing solutions provider, selects certain employees as “employer branding ambassadors” who proactively influence brand and cultural engagement. This formalized program also includes training to help them spread the word.
Yahoo has been known to provide new employees with their employment offer letter a purple box that includes Yahoo branded elements—such as chotskies and materials to reinforce their employee value proposition.
Alignment Can Be Rewarding
A comprehensive employer branding strategy can be overwhelming in certain situations, especially considering the numerous elements involved. Taking the effort to develop, produce, deploy and manage a winning program takes work, but the results can be worth it.
Cabela’s talent acquisition performance has benefited in several ways from its robust employer branding. Their program not only aligns with their corporate brand but also connects with people at different stages in the talent lifecycle. As Kaiser explains, their year-over-year employee engagement is up while turnover is down, with employer branding helping them attract, engage, and hire the right people. What this really means, is that a well-thought employer branding strategy is something organizations can leverage as they seek to improve talent acquisition and employee engagement results.
Leif Kolflat is head of marketing and communications for Headway Workforce Solutions. He authors the employer branding blog HireBranding.net and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Employer Branding Alignment Tips
• Collaboration between HR and marketing is critical. Learn what aspects of your corporate or product brand will translate well to your employer brand strategy. Many organizations are tasking marketing professionals to head their employer branding efforts and bridge the gap between the two functional areas.
• Focus more on brand engagement over brand communications. This is especially true when designing an employer branding program during your onboarding and employment stages. Think about the influencing and net promoter type brand attributes you can harness from an engaged group of employees. Dialogue and engagement are more powerful and relevant during this stage compared to monologue messaging.
• Assess all candidate touch points. Your employer brand reaches prospective candidates at many intersections. Make sure you’ve identified all of them and that your employer brand messaging is clear and relevant at each juncture.