Employer Branding & Company Branding
Interlocking Pieces of the Talent Acquisition Puzzle
Just as our lives are driven by various personal goals and filled with different individuals like family members, managers, colleagues and others whose expectations must be taken into account, companies have diverse strategic and operational objectives that they must meet and stakeholders such as customers, employees, and investors whose needs must be met.
To do all this successfully, companies need a good idea of who they are, where they want to go, and how they’re going to get there. What’s more, they must communicate such to each stakeholder group in a clear and consistent manner. This is the nexus where Employer Brand and Company Brand overlap and where alignment between the two is key to a company’s credibility with candidates, current employees, customers, vendors and strategic partners. The need for consistent, credible branding and messaging to these constituencies, along with their role in talent acquisition and retention, are among the reasons that Employer Branding is of increasing interest to top-level executive management.
Branches of the Same Tree or Horses of a Different Color?
While Employer Branding and Company Branding have different target audiences—job candidates and employees on the one hand and prospective and current customers on the other—their overarching goal is at its root the same: to promote positive impressions of the company, albeit for different reasons. Whereas Company Branding is focused on creating a good impression with customers and channel partners to help sell the company’s products and services, Employer Branding is geared toward presenting the company as a good workplace to attract first-rate talent. Unlike Product Branding and recruitment advertising, which are tactical, Company Branding does not promote particular product offerings and Employer Branding does not highlight specific job openings. Rather, their overriding purpose is usually to make a compelling case for the whole package: in the first case, the company as a credible, reliable, and respected source of offerings to its customer markets, and, in the second case, the company as “an employer of choice” in its industry or geography; in strategically important functions such as marketing, sales, product management, and operations; and in key roles such as senior executive and C-level management.
Why the Growing Emphasis on Employer Branding?
Cultural change spurred by economic events and technological innovation might be the most concise answer to this question. In the ten some years since the 2008 global financial crises, candidates for professional, senior management, and executive positions have given greater weight to a company’s reputation as an ethical and responsible corporate citizen and as a rewarding organization for which to work. What’s more, according to studies such as one recently cited in Fast Company, both active and passive job seekers have become more diligent about researching prospective employers, particularly online, where company transparency is not only expected but now also something of a given, to good or bad effect.
In contrast to the past, when companies could better control what was said about them through select and vetted feature stories in trade magazines, the business press, and the general media, now the Internet and Social Media platforms such as LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Facebook, and Twitter (to name only a few) have made it possible for current and past employees and customers to voice their views publicly, sometimes with undesirable consequences. Hence, the advent of the field of Reputation Management, which employs SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to compensate for negative online content and Influencer Marketing to mitigate its effects in both traditional media and Social Media. These factors—and others such as research indicating that a poor online reputation can cost employers as much as 10 percent more per hire—has led a number of companies to consider Employer Branding a requisite element of their Talent Acquisition strategy.
Employer Branding—It’s Ownership & Overlap
While Employer Branding falls within the purview of Human Resources (HR), much like the Company Brand it should also be considered the shared responsibility of the other functions— top-level executive management, Corporate Communications, and Marketing—who arguably have the greatest stake in it. Shared ownership and accountability is particularly important in the age of the Brand Culture, wherein, ideally, a company’s culture supports its Brand Values, and its employees consistently demonstrate these in both internal and external interactions and communications. Such broad-based workforce engagement and “buy in” is integral to a company’s ability to develop and sustain a compelling Brand Story, a narrative that conveys the company’s mission and illustrates its Brand Promise, i.e., its general Value Proposition to customers. Perhaps just as importantly, this cultural cohesion is integral to ensuring that a disconnect does not occur between an organization’s Company Brand and its Employer Brand and thereby inadvertently cause the latter to seem inauthentic.
The Employee Value Proposition—A Key Component of the Employer Brand
Just as a company’s Customer Value Proposition—which explains how its offerings are uniquely valuable to prospects and customers—is a core element of its Company Brand, the linchpin of the Employer Brand should be the Employee Value Proposition, which explains to potential and current employees why the company’s culture, core values, and work environment make it a better employer than competing organizations. Although the Employee Value Proposition might include baseline considerations such as compensation and benefits, it more typically highlights value-added company characteristics such as a commitment to employee growth, professional development, employee empowerment and recognition, and community service. It’s important to note, however, that the Employee Value Proposition’s effectiveness most depends on its accuracy, i.e., alignment with a company’s culture, driven by their core values, and Brand Values, since, in this era of digital communications and social media, discrepancies among these can rapidly become public knowledge.
Responsibility for Developing Employer Branding
The HR function is responsible for the development of the Employer Brand strategy, as much as it responsible for characterizing an organization’s culture, identifying its guiding values, and articulating its mission statement. However, just as none of these tasks can be accomplished without input from a company’s other key functional areas, the Employer Brand cannot be developed in a silo. Indeed, since the Employer Brand needs to reflect the Company Brand, its development should incorporate input from customer-facing functions such as Marketing, Corporate Communications, and Sales. Moreover, because the Employer Brand figures in a company’s ability to attract and retain engaged, high-quality talent, which, in turn, affects its potential for ongoing success, its development should also involve top level-management, as they are ultimately responsible for the company’s operational readiness.
A Tisket, a “Tactic”
Once a company’s Employer Brand strategy has been defined, it must be executed via a range of tactics. This is another task for which HR is responsible but that is often developed with the help of functions such as Marketing or Corporate Communications, including Internal Communications. The reasons are twofold. First, because the Employer Brand is intended to support and complement the Company Brand, the functions responsible for the latter must vet the former to ensure that it is consistent with the company’s public image. Secondly, functions such as Marketing and Corporate Communications possess the requisite expertise in external communications and usually have relationships with outside resources such as digital marketing agencies, SEO (search engine optimization) companies, and Social Media consultancies who can help with the Employer Brand’s deployment.
Evaluating the Success of Employer Branding
Like nearly all business activities that entail discretionary budget allocations, Employer Branding should be appraised to determine its success or failure. Employer Branding efforts can be subjected to “soft” communications program metrics, such as career web page visits and favorable social media postings, as well as evaluated through the use of awareness and perception studies, which can provide insight into the talent pool’s view of the company and its desirability as an employer. However, the effectiveness of the Employer Brand should likely also be judged by “hard” business metrics, such as talent acquisition and retention rates, since these outcomes will be of greatest interest to HR leadership and to a company’s top management.
Sustaining the Employer Brand
As with any communications or marketing initiative, many factors—ranging from the strategic to the tactical, from the budgetary to the operational—can affect the viability and sustainability of the Employer Brand. However, since the most effective Employer Brands are both an extension of the organization’s culture and values as well as a reflection of its Company Brand, a good means of ensuring a robust and authentic Employer Brand is to acquire and retain leadership and professional talent that shares your company’s values and subscribes to its vision.
By communicating key values and core cultural touchstones to prospective candidates, a carefully developed, well-crafted Employer Brand will itself contribute toward this end. Still, perhaps one of the best ways to sustain the Employer Brand and perpetuate your company’s culture is to make certain your talent acquisition professionals and the search firms assisting them are skilled at assessing candidates’ potential to contribute positively to your company’s culture and performance. After all, an Employer Brand is only as strong as the company behind it, and the company itself is strongest when its people are a perfect fit.
For comments or for more information, please contact:
Client and prospect contact: Ronald S. Torch, Founder, Chief Executive Officer, and President, Torch Group, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.torchgroup.com, 440.519.1822 x101.
Media contact: Ronald-Stéphane Gilbért, Global Managing Director, Gilbért, Flossmann & Zhang Worldwide, email@example.com, www.globalmarcomm.com, 216.816.4947.
- Posted by Ilana Katz
- On March 28, 2018
- 0 Comments