You’ve done it. You have a stellar consumer brand. Your career website tells the story you need to—about your culture, the talent you are seeking and the opportunities you have for those that are more than a culture fit, and are a “culture add.” You’re getting resumes from the right candidates for the right jobs. Things couldn’t be better. But aren’t you forgetting something?
Once your exciting new candidates are new employees, is your talent brand holding up internally? And just as importantly, do your existing employees feel like they are a part of the story?
Now’s the time to take the principles of your talent brand and make sure it applies internally across all your communications touch points from your intranet to your training programs. Here are some tips on where to begin.
Create Internal Awareness of Your Talent Brand
As you developed the brand architecture for your talent brand, you likely shared it with and sought input from your senior leaders, key HR stakeholders, your communications teams, and hopefully some influential hiring managers. Now it is time to go further. Consider creating an eye-catching, one-page overview of your talent brand and what it is trying to achieve related to your culture and working at the company. Share it with all your people managers and give them key points to share with their employees—an appropriate time to launch might be in conjunction with a milestone of your performance management cycle, merit increases or bonus payouts, or when the company releases its yearly goals or strategy.
Once you have communicated your talent to employees, get them involved. And I don’t mean just in your employee referral program. Consider tactics such as employees creating personal statements (with photos) like “I’m proud to work for my company because…” or “I enjoy coming to work every day because…” and having them share on your intranet or internal social media channels, such as Yammer. Consider partnering with your external communications teams to share the best ones on your corporate social media channels to furthering our your corporate reputation and employment brand.
Take Stock of Internal Touch Points
Are various touch points across the employee life cycle telling the same story as your talent brand? Is your talent brand coming through in your internal communications?
Take the time to look at some of your internal processes to ensure that they are reinforcing your talent brand and that your new hires and existing employees hear the story that is being told externally living up on the inside.
Some key areas to look at that may need updating or refreshing to match your talent brand include:
• New hiring onboarding and orientation
• Learning and development programs/training (especially training for new people managers, inclusion and diversity seminars, rollouts of the code of conduct, etc.)
• Performance management process (Did you promise ongoing feedback during the hiring process and are you living up to it? Are your people managers equipped to do it?)
• Talent management and succession planning (Are you honoring the tenants of your talent brand as you evaluate the future talent plans of the organization?)
Review all your internal materials from top to bottom—from new hire paperwork to benefits brochures, to your intranet platform, to signage around the office. Does everything support the talent you want to keep today and the talent you want to inspire tomorrow? Each piece of your internal communications should support the story you want to tell about who you are as an employer—from attracting new talent to keep your best talent. Now may be the time to embark on that communications audit you’ve been avoiding.
Need help reinforcing your talent brand internally? Let us help.
Critically important. Here’s why.
Every company has a brand. Every brand has value. Millions of marketing dollars are spent each year on establishing brand awareness in the minds of consumers. But it’s employees who have the greatest power to make or break a brand. Employees shift the message from a concept to a positive or negative customer experience. Employees generate the energy and ideas that produce business outcomes. The service profit chain from the Harvard Business review demonstrates that employee satisfaction are directly correlated to business growth. https://hbr.org/2008/07/putting-the-service-profit-chain-to-work .. Employer Branding is the process of hiring and engaging the right talent that’s aligned with and delivers to the business strategies.
Savvy CMOs/marketing leaders are starting to pay attention to this. The campaign dollars they spend are setting up the Brand Promise- an expectation that the consumer has of the type of experience they will receive. This is called the customer experience. Think Disney, Think SouthWest Airlines. In some cases, it’s woven into their marketing campaign. “Shop here because our knowledgable team of professionals will simplify the process of buying your car, your vitamins, or appliances for your new home.” Companies like Zappos have a harder task of trying to create an exceptional experience virtually. But in each of these examples, the success or failure lies in the hands of how well employees perform. And it begins with HR/Talent Acquisition hiring the right people.
What roles/s can the head of HR play in furthering marketing goals?
The first step is in HR understanding how the marketing efforts are furthering the business goals of the company. The next step is in understanding the brand drivers and how they it intersect with employee actions, either customer facing employees, or internal teams that are supporting the business. (Think customer service, billing etc.) The next step is making sure that employees know what is expected of them in terms of on-brand behavior and making sure they know they can personally make a difference.
In high performing companies there is a partnership between HR and the CMO. When we work with these types of clients, representatives of both functions attend the meetings. But in other companies, they view the CMO or marketing team as a group that’s typically too busy to assist with their needs, and is only called in to approve logos/colors/and fonts.
CMOs of large retail organizations understand that employees represent their largest customer population (think employee discounts) and they are instrumental in bringing the brand to life. Often, there’s a great desire to ask HR for input on the effort in advance of a new campaign launch through organizing focus groups to understand the customer through the lens of the employees. But I don’t think that it’s a 2-way street. Marketing budgets are far greater than Recruiting budgets and if there was more unity, there would be a tremendous opportunity to assist in the efforts to find and keep talent aligned with the core brand. The new GE commercials are proof that great companies recognize that a pipeline of talent is critical to their future.
The processes between HR and Marketing are more similar than either group might imagine. The steps in building consumer loyalty – awareness, preference, consideration, commitment, engagement are the same as the building employee loyalty. As unemployment percentages drop, recruiting employees is becoming much more like marketing. It would be great if marketing would assist in sharing some of their expertise and dollars into forming a relationship and truly building a brand fortress.
I’ve frequently written about the importance of employer branding, especially as the economy improves and top talent has more power in deciding where to work. Employer branding also impacts employee engagement, which drives productivity and profits. But some people still aren’t clear on what exactly employer branding is. Here are the basics to get you started.
Employer branding is not just a tagline. It’s not a single sentence, or a series of vague qualities like Success or Innovation. It’s not bullet points. It’s not something as simple as an image or a color palette.
Instead, employer branding is a philosophy. It’s a framework built around the relationship between your organization and its employees. It’s the promise you make to your workers. It speaks to your entire staff, from the CEO to the newest hire, as well as to job-seekers who are approaching your company for the first time.
Much like a consumer brand, that sentiment can often be expressed in one sentence that serves as a point of entry for the larger promise within. At Southwest, it’s “Welcome on board the flight of your life.” At IBM, it’s an enticing question: “What will you make at IBM?” At Pepsi, the employer brand is boiled down to one word: “Possibilities,” which returns throughout the employer value proposition.
Employer branding is not generic. I’ve written about the overused, underwhelming phrase “Our employees are our most important asset.” A sentence like that doesn’t set any organization apart, since it has been used so often and doesn’t really convey anything. Even the term asset likens workers to computers or factories, which don’t have kids or hobbies or career goals. You company can’t just steal a cool employer brand from another company (or worse, a competitor) and apply it to your entire corporate culture. The dissonance will confuse employees and scare candidates away.
Employer branding is unique to your organization. Your employer brand is specific to your company. It can’t be applied anywhere else, since nowhere else has your company’s exact history, direction, values, and goals. It reflects your unique culture and represents all your employees have contributed over the years. It’s also specific to this moment in time. Employer brands can change as the company’s mission or goals change. That’s probably why many firms update their employer brands about once a year.
Employer branding is not put together in a day. It’s not something the CEO can write, send to recruiters, and put it into effect immediately. It can’t be assumed, or conjectured, or copied from the “About Us” section of an annual report. An employer brand can’t simply be “good enough” or a placeholder, or something that can be put off until the budget allows. That strategy won’t engage employees or attract the right candidates.
Employer branding is created by a proven process. Often, an employer brand isn’t created by the organization itself. A third party with experience in the field, such as Brandemix, comes in with a plan and a process. Brandemix polls a sample from the entire organization, from interns to veterans to the C-suite, to thoughtfully examine the company’s culture, from vision to value proposition. We use surveys, group sessions, and one-on-one interviews to determine why workers came to the company, what they like and dislike about, and why they stay. The result is a brand architecture that emotional connects with employees and tells recruiters what type of candidate to look for. It details the most significant relationships between the corporate brand and its various parts — people, products, and services.
Employer branding is not just a reinforcement of the status quo. Creating an employer brand isn’t always easy. It usually can’t be done by recruiters or HR staff, who have little experience in constructing employer branding architecture and an employer value proposition. It’s not something that can be handed down from the C-suite as fait accompli, with no input from the staff. It’s not simply art and copy that just “feels right” or seems to match the company’s eventual goals.
Employer branding is honest. Often, the process takes unexpected detours that lead to honest engagement and genuine discoveries. Brand research asks questions about an organization’s culture and the employee experience. Sometimes the responses reveal internal feuds, poor communication, or general discontent. But one of the goals of employer branding is to simply get to the truth: How do people really feel about your brand? The result is honest and accurate, and can help steer the right employees to your organization — and steer the organization in the right direction.
Employer branding is not extraneous. It’s not a luxury for brands that already enjoy a good reputation with the public. It’s not only for corporate giants or global brands. It’s not an extra feature that can be dismissed as unnecessary by local businesses or non-profits.
Employer branding is crucial to the bottom line. Strong employer attracts the candidates that fit an organization’s culture. This reduces the chance of a hiring mistake, which lowers time to hire. It also focuses the search on a certain type of candidate and increases word of mouth and referrals, which in turn lessens the need for large-scale campaigns and lowers recruitment marketing costs. A recent LinkedIn study found that companies with strong employer brands had half the cost per hire of companies with poor or no employer brands, and one quarter less turnover. An Aon Hewitt study found that companies with engaged employees (buoyed by a good employer brand) outperformed by 22% the stock market in 2010, while companies with low employee engagement performed 28% worse than the annual average.
So we see that employer branding isn’t simple and it isn’t superfluous. It’s necessary, educational, and valuable. If you’re ready to create or refresh an employer brand, my agency offers special Rapid Cycle Talent Branding at a price point within reach of many organizations. Contact us and we’ll find a way to engage your employees, attract the right talent, and improve your bottom line.
You can also download our free Employer Branding Strategy Guide to learn more and get started.
If you’ve recently gone through this exercise, please share your experiences.
When two top neuroscientists left UCLA for nearby USC, they said how impressed they were that the dean of the USC medical school greeted the janitors during their tour, even referring to employees’ personal details. Luring top talent away from brands as strong as the Los Angeles Lakers and UCLA is difficult, but Houston and USC show that it can be done.
|Image courtesy of MobileFoodNews.com|
As you can see, tech companies both large and small are using innovative techniques for recruiting IT professionals in an increasingly competitive landscape. From math puzzles to personalized tweets to free lunch, companies are reaching out to passive candidates in exciting ways.
The Brand Plan.
The first step in any successful branding or rebranding effort is the creation of the brand plan. The brand plan provides a roadmap for creating, marketing, launching and promoting your brand, and is relevant for both your internal and external activations.
|It’s all right to have your head in the clouds when writing your vision and mission.|
SWOT it Out
A brand plan includes an analysis of your company’s place in the market, broken down into four parts: Strengths – including your expertise, uniqueness, resources, or anything else that gives your company an advantage. Weaknesses – issues that may be holding you back from your potential; what knowledge or capabilities are you missing? Opportunities – such as an emerging customer need that you can meet, a new technology that will change your market, or a reduction in regulations or costs. Threats – problems on the horizon such as a customer need, technology, or law that make the market worse for your company.
You now know where you want to go, how you’ll get there, and your current and future advantages and disadvantages. Now you can create a strategy that will help you get from here to there, using your strengths to take advantage of the opportunities and avoid the obstacles. This means creating a strategy, the large-scale plan for success. Within this are tactics, the individual programs, products, and initiatives that contribute to the strategy. In war, strategy involves which battles you’re going to fight; the tactics are how you fight them. Don’t get them mixed up or you can find yourself wasting resources on a tactic or overlooking the importance of a strategy.
Bring in the Numbers
Visions and missions can be “touchy-feely,” but a brand plan should include numbers. If you’re launching a new product, how many will be in your first shipment? What are your metrics for success – sales, hires, press mentions, social media responses? What’s the minimum ROI that will allow you to move on to the next step? And what’s the budget for each of your tactics? Don’t let your enthusiasm make you neglect the most important numbers – time and money!
|Some brand plans are measured in months; others in hours|
3, 2, 1, Launch!
The plan is in place. Now it’s time to execute. Put that new budget to use and start designing, writing, creating, and activating. After so much discussion and preparation, everyone will be eager for results. Help them out with a quick win, an easily achieved goal that boosts your employees’ confidence and builds momentum for the next round. Quick wins silence doubters and give you something to point to at the first few status meetings and say, “This worked.”
Your brand plan is finished. Guided by your mission statement, you’re implementing your strategy and tactics, making your vision a reality. You’ve made some quick wins, you’re analyzing the metrics, and you’re aware of both the perils and the promise of the future. You’ve put in place a solid foundation for success.
At Brandemix, we specialize in brand planning, brand architecture, brand positioning, and branding initiatives. If you’d like to learn more, contact me. I’d love to share our knowledge with you.