Client Branding

 16 Sep 2013

A very interesting article that we would like to share with all of our clients and potential clients in the world of commerce.
The importance of 'Employer Branding'
Dr Sandeep K Krishnan,
Vital Signal: Research has shown that the right brand for an employer can help in attracting and retaining good talent
Employer branding has been a very popular concept with HR professionals, branding consultants, and market researchers in the recent past. While attracting the right talent and retaining them becomes a critical aspect for business success, research has shown that right brand for an employer can really help in this regard.
A brand symbolises a few messages. Just like a popular brand of customer product expresses certain qualities and images, an employer brand represents the corporate identity to its current and prospective employees, headhunters, and other stakeholders who get associated with the people side of the corporate.

A brand of a product expresses two aspects — first would be the real benefits like skin care, dressing, safety. The second aspect would be the image which it carries — for example youthfulness, futuristic, newness, stardom, respect which gets transferred to its users. An example would be driving an up-market car.

While the real benefit is transportation, a user having an up-market car represents a certain image in the society. An employer brand has a similar effect on its current and future employees. Research speaks about a corporate brand in terms of its awareness, culture, personality, and image. Awareness is signified by responsiveness among stakeholders about the employer. Examples would be companies like IBM or Ford which are known for their corporate brand. What is critical is how the brand is identified.
Brand definition

This is through the culture, personality, and image. Culture broadly represents how it is to work in a company. Personality and image represent the mental image that people have about any organisation. For example, Google might represent a youthful, technology driven individual. It may also symbolises freedom, enterprise, and innovation for current or prospective employees.

Employer branding has external and internal aspects. The internal factors are the culture, HR practices, and the overall employment experience that a current employee has. The external factors are what a prospective employee feels about the organisation.

Accordingly to Richard Mosley, who is an employer branding guru, the critical aspect is to have consistency between your internal employer brand and external employer brand.

If what the organisation promises to the external world is inconsistent with what is happening in the organisation, it can create conflict with the new joinees who expects what was promised through branding. While the current employees on the other hand might feel cheated by the practices followed. Instead of supporting the organisation in retaining and attracting talent, it will leave both the current and future employees unhappy.

In developing and managing an employer brand, the critical aspect would be the development of “Employer Value Proposition”. Employer Value Proposition speaks about the direct and indirect benefits of working with the brand. It also speaks about the core aspects of the association.

RPG Group which is a conglomerate with interest in more than seven sectors defined its employer value proposition in the year 2006. Having companies like CEAT, SaReGaMa, Spencers Retail, KEC International, Zensar Technologies, CESC, PCBL, and Harrisons Malayalam which has varied interest from tyres to music, the key was to understand what the brand really symbolised for current and future employees. Extensive research was conducted with media, current and ex-employees, new and highly experienced employees, headhunters, and campuses to understand what RPG Group as a whole represented. Research found that the key value propositions are “Respect for people,” “Diverse opportunities for growth”, “Empowering performance”, and “Forward looking”. This meant respect, growth, freedom, and futuristic development for both current and future employees. The second stage of branding was to reflect this in all the messages to the external world and have HR practices aligned to the value proposition.

For example in an interview process it is expected that candidate is treated fairly and with respect. Similarly, in a performance management process, the key is to show employees their potential and provide them with  more avenues to showcase their potential which reflects the proposition of empowering performance. These propositions need to be reflected at all levels in the organisation.  

Managers should embody these values in the way they treat their employees.  Employer branding is a holistic process once the core value propositions are clear. Myriad of possibilities exist for spreading the employer brand. Current employees are clearly the  first brand ambassadors. Your website and the career section should convey the brand. Advertisements related to jobs or careers should reflect the brand. Web 2.0 media including social networking tools like Facebook or Linkedin are an important face of employer branding. 

The physical infrastructure should also reflect the employer brand. Imagine an organisation which talks about treating people equally and about its free communication culture, having their executives sitting in closed cabins!

The first step to creating a positive difference in the employer brand is leadership mindset change. For example if an organisation is planning to project a youthful outlook to its employer brand, the very first step might be leaders accepting that young people are required for progress and their inputs are valued. The second step would be tweaking processes to have more young people and creating a work environment for them.

For example instead of age as a factor for hiring for senior management positions, competency should be given precedence.

The average age of people working might have to be reduced and also instead of years of experience based promotions, performance based promotions can take over. Any change like this would be constant process and required focused long term efforts and hence strategic in nature.

The benefits of having a right employer brand and conveying them effectively are many fold. First we will get the right talent to join the organisation and the right talent to stay.

The clear measure of a better employer brand would be the ratio of number of offers given to people to the number of people who finally joined. The recruitment costs and time will come down as the organisation becomes more lucrative to join and lesser effort is needed to recruit people. In the long term the right brand will definitely help people stay and the reasons will be more than monetary considerations.

The employee engagement measures will also have higher scores as the organisation itself embodies  the image they want to convey resulting in a better psychological contact with the employer. The other outcome could even be that your organisation is featured as one of the best places to work! 

The key aspect of employer branding is to understand that it is not just about advertisements or communication collaterals — it is the reflection of what is the reality — present or future — that the employees experience in the organisation.

The writer is currently the Vice President - HR and Corporate Development at Acropetal Technologies Ltd. He is also a Fellow of Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad.


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