What is employer branding?
Your employer brand is the image of your organization as an employer and place to work as perceived internally and externally. Your Employer Value Proposition (EVP) communicates that image to your target audience(s) and reinforces why talented people would want to join (and stay with) your organization.
Employer branding is not a project or a program. Nor is it a rush to freshen up your recruitment advertising. It’s a way of business life. Understanding what engages people and being clear about what an organization offers and does not, means that you are more likely to recruit and therefore retain the right people. Candidates go through six to twelve interviews to become a Googler – something justified strongly by Google on the basis that they recruit for success and never have to lose people: at 3% turnover in the digital sector, they seem to be getting something very right.
Why is it so important?
Despite the uncertain economy the war for talent continues to intensify. Thus the need to attract and retain top performers remains a key to business success. By distinguishing oneself from the competition, by promoting strengths and confirming values ensures that a company stays ahead of the pack and becomes an employer of choice during both recession and boom times. Indeed, data from the corporate executive board quoted in The Economist suggest that effective EVP management can bring tangible benefits, including a 20% increase in the pool of potential workers, a four-fold increase in commitment among employees and a 10% decrease in payroll costs.
How employer branding consultants add value
Today, there are very few firms working in employee relationship management and employee engagement. Hence the research data in this field is very limited. This specialist employee research experience enables us to combine insight and context so that we ask the right questions to uncover and explain the key issues. Thus, the employer branding research can help you to identify:
• What employees are looking for from an employer;
• How potential employees feel about you and your key competitors;
• How your organization performs on the most important factors for your target market;
• How views differ by different types of staff, division, regions around the world; and
• what changes you need to make to your EVP overall and by each relevant audience.
How it works
A consultant’s aim is to understand how all of the different audiences see your company. They conduct in-depth evaluation and analysis of potential employees including both experienced personnel (hard-to-recruit groups and graduates) as well as current employees. They use qualitative and quantitative techniques, as well as their learnings from other research, including our key audience research programs, to help provide a full picture of the organization’s image. Reporting can be ad-hoc or automated online at different aggregate levels whilst results are interpreted in the context of our wider knowledge and experience. Their feedback is designed to be highly actionable, directing the findings to inform the design and development of your Employer Value Proposition and brand
What is known about employer branding practice in the India?
To anticipate future trajectories for employer branding, we should first ascertain if it has already become established. In spite of the high visibility of employer branding in much of the corporate identity, marketing and HR literature, there is little empirical data available in the country. Most surveys emanate from the corporate reputation and recruitment consultancy industry or other bodies with a vested interest in promoting brand markets. Survey samples are frequently based on North American or international sources of data. A 2007 survey by Robert Half suggests that globally only 20% of companies intend to adopt employer branding over the next two years, compared with 35% who have no such intention. Their findings also suggest the adoption of a formal branding strategy is more likely among larger-sized organizations. When it comes to understanding the nature of employer branding and the level of its adoption in the India, there are more questions than answers. More research is needed.
Employer branding: a slippery and elusive term?
Although the use of the term employer branding now has a familiar ring, what exactly is it? Employer branding has emerged from applying marketing principles to the field of people management. It represents organisations’ efforts to communicate to internal and external audiences what makes it both desirable and different as an employer. However, there are so many prescriptive models and formulations of employer branding to choose from. Even the most tentative glance towards the burgeoning literature suggests employer branding is a slippery concept. Can the relationships between the various strands of corporate identity and reputation, brand management, brand equity and employer branding be unraveled? Can ideas and concepts from the marketing of services and products really be transferred so easily to the realm of people management? Is employer branding a new language to express the meaning and significance of work, a fresh iteration of person–environment fit psychology, or just more hollow rhetoric?
Employer branding emerged as an influential approach to HRM in the USA and the UK in the years immediately before and after the turn of the century. But why is this a concept whose time has come? There are four main reasons: brand power, HR’s search for credibility, prevailing labour market conditions and employee engagement.
First, the past 20 years have seen the rise of the brand as a central concept in organisational and social life. Branding underpins a growing, influential and profitable reputation management, PR, consultancy and recruitment advertising industry. The past decade has seen unprecedented growth in the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) for investors, employees and other stakeholders.
Second, HR professionals continue in the search for credibility and strategic influence. Embracing the language and conceptual tools of brand power seems an obvious choice. This direction reflects continuity with earlier iterations of HR, for example with organisational development and culture change.
The third reason for the rise of employer branding is due to labour market conditions. Unemployment remains low and skills shortages continue. Tight labour market conditions are combined with a tough trading environment. Employers are thus obliged to compete more fiercely with one another to recruit and retain effective staff, while also being severely constrained in the extent to which they can pay higher salaries in order to do so. A strong employer brand is being promoted as the key to winning this ‘war for talent’ by establishing organisations’ unique selling point in employment terms. The branded employment product simplifies choice, reassures prospective employees about quality and reduces risk.
Fourth, recent years have seen an increased interest in promoting employee engagement. This includes attempts to recruit, socialise and retain a committed workforce. From a branding perspective, the recruitment proposition forms the basis for workplace satisfaction and identification with organisational goals and values. Interest in questions of identity, workplace roles and the management of human emotions and behaviour are taking centre stage, particularly in the service and retail sector where employees interface with customers and ‘live the brand’ through aesthetic or emotional labour. Under such an approach, HR policy and practice can influence who is employed, how they look, behave, speak, think and feel – particularly important in the realm of lifestyle brands.
So what of the future? As I said, the world is changing. Our insight predicts that the number of brands available in the future will reduce as the strongest brands get stronger. We are starting to see this everywhere. Football clubs, the high street and the forecourt are good examples. Employment brands will not be immune to this. People will choose to work for those brands that are the best at this.
Research also tells us that people are now much more interested in experiencing things than owning them. Think of the iPod and the demise of CDs, or of people now choosing to be part of a car club and rent a different super car each weekend rather than own their own. This will have implications for the world of work and we have to be alive to what this will mean. Again, I believe that thinking in the employer brand way will help, rather than tackling this in a traditional way. We have to quickly understand what this means to the world of work that we are called on to lead and manage. A new way of thinking is required and talking to our friends in marketing may help to develop and accelerate this area.
So there we are. The employment brand is much, much bigger than the physical manifestation of what your recruitment looks like. It is an end-to-end way of thinking about why people choose to work for you. Employing the most talented people has to be the most important thing that you are asked to do.
(This article has been written with references and inputs from a paper published by Helen Rosethorn, Job Mensink, Glyn House, Shirley Jenner and Stephen Taylor)