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Thought for employer brand

Posted on by from Lancaster University Management School

Employer brands need management – maintaining communication and relationships, says Lancaster University’s Paul Sparrow. How can you put more thought into yours?

Consider the challenges that Volkswagen will face over the next few years given the recent scandals. Years of careful work on its employer brand – indeed even the German engineering brand – might be threatened by the organisation’s behaviour. Ultimately it will be an HR problem, because HRM functions have adopted the marketing concept of brand management and applied it to their HR strategies, believing that the attractiveness of their organisation to an employee is an important predictor of the ability to recruit and subsequently retain them, and also ensures that talent actively engages with the culture and strategy of the company. There needs to be a more thoughtful approach to employer branding. Consider the following:

Consistency

You can promote your employer brand now across multiple media, creating challenges of maintaining a consistent experience across the various touchpoints. Design the brand for change. Brands have to remain consistent through change, particularly leadership changes, with the DNA of the organisation remaining consistent.

Ownership

Who owns your organisation’s values? It’s no longer just HR. Every employee, manager, function, makes or destroys the values.

Social media is having an explosive impact on employer branding/reputation. It creates a challenge of control across other people’s media. You need to answer the following:

1. Would you ever try to contractually require employees not to use the organisation in their personal blogs?

2. How will you cope with sites such as Glassdoor, with anonymous employee posts, and blogs/videoblogs?

3. How will you deal with TV on-demand, which extends the time period over which reputational challenges remain current in the minds of the public?

Relevance

Different talent segments show different patterns of ‘buying behaviour’, seeking different things from a brand. Changes in loyalty and commitment also shift the behaviour of target audiences. The employer brand has to meet the needs of both active but also passive ‘buyers’.

Power

Top talent is not just seeking a job, but also an employer who meets their needs. Many have more power during the relationship development process. Tools have to be designed to accommodate the power of the candidate.

Organisation

As organisations give their employer branding more importance, they must use it to integrate many core HR processes as they apply them across the employee lifecycle. Values, behaviours and attitudes models must be incorporated beyond the attraction process into realistic job previews, interview probes, competency frameworks, induction, teamwork areas, employee voice and recognition activities and forums, performance appraisal, training and development programmes.

Risk

Empowering brand ambassadors to communicate and manage relationships creates challenges for the level of control versus the level of trust that policies allow or exert. The shortening tenure of employees also means more attention must be paid to creating early enablement. Is your talent brand better than other organisations and can you measure whether a hire becomes more effective or better performing as a result? Check how the general level of outsourcing in recruitment activity impacts your ability to demonstrate a direct ROI on employer branding expenditure and budgets.

 

Authentic

The internal and external labour force may choose to seek information, evaluate and then engage with an organisation’s actions. You must analyse the channels that are most effective in presenting an impression of what you are about. Think how you get external people to buy into the brand values, and understand what you’re saying is a reality.

Transparency

The rules by which people judge authenticity seem to require much higher levels of transparency, applied to a broader set of organisational and social behaviours, than has historically been the case.

Expertise

HR needs to avoid creating silos and ensure more joined-up thinking between line managers, supporting HR functions and brand ambassadors. The need to be more authentic and closer to the reality of the organisation brings its own strategic challenges. Employer brand managers find themselves having to build brands across more boundaries now – from global and corporate to local and country brand, for example.

Paul Sparrow

By Paul Sparrow

Professor Paul, international HRM at Lancaster University Management School

Lancaster University Management School

Lancaster University Management School

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