Very often employer branding is thought to live in the silo of recruitment communications and only be concerned with the attraction of employees. In reality however, this is not the case. An employer brand explains how the organisation has been communicating and engaging with all of its stake holders - be it current, prospective or past employees.
Another critical thing to be noticed is that unlike other branding initiatives, an employer brand is not a true brand in its own right. It is not something envisioned and executed by recruitment and advertising agencies that stands alone and separate. An employer brand will be successful only if it operates in conjunction with the organisation's corporate and consumer brands.
It therefore becomes pertinent to find a connect between employer brand and the existing brands and reflect the behaviours exhibited throughout the organisation, to investors and consumers. It should be able to manifest the real and the aspirational truth about working in an organisation and mirror the values that are exhibited through the external corporate and consumer brands. If there is a disconnect between the two, the ‘brand promise' that is given to new employees will quickly fade as the reality bites of working in a very different organisation to the one promised.
The roots of the concept of employer branding stretch back to the 1990s. However, due to uncomfortable market conditions and a grim recession, the concept could not flourish completely and it has only been in the last five years that employer branding has become a major force.
In 1996, Simon Barrow and Tim Ambler gave this definition: We define the Employer Brand as the package of functional, economic and psychological benefits provided by employment and identified with the employing company. The most significant role of employer branding is to provide a coherent framework for management to Simplify and focus priorities, increase productivity and improve recruitment, retention and commitment.
Employer branding may seem superficial to some, since it is not directly helping in increasing the sales figures and thus impacting bottom lines but it is definitely here to stay. Organisations have realised that its people provide one of the few competitive differentiators in today's world. Good talent management makes sense and employer branding is an intrinsic part of an organisation's armoury from now on.
In order to be able to create a successful employer brand, there are three fundamental stakeholders who must be involved.
- Senior management: to give insight into the vision, strategic intent, core objectives, competition landscape and understanding of consumer's attitudes towards the organisation.
- Key employee groups: to give opinions on the activities that take place on the work floor, benefits, prospects, management and communication within the organisation.
- Relevant external labour pools: to highlight their understanding of an organisation, any roadblocks to success and perception of the organisation in the market.
Like all other kinds of branding exercises, employer branding does - and will - pay off. Following are some benefits to a good employer branding exercise:
- True differentiation in campuses from where recruitment is done
- Enthusiastic and aspirational set of messages to be sent out to potential as well as existing employees
- Mainting a brand consistency through the candidate/new starter journey
- A better understanding of how the organization is perceived externally
- Higher engagement levels for the existing employees
Financial returns can also be observed in the long run through efficient employer branding practices. If the right kind of employer branding exercise is done, it will lead to a reduction in the amount of money needed to invest to bring good people into the business.
The Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is an important outcome of employer brand. It essentially comprises of the promise that the organization makes to current, future and potential employees. In the process of defining an employer brand, the organization's EVP is automatically created. For example, on a recent employer branding project for HSBC, it was found that the central tenet of the organisation was the investment in, and development of, their employees. The organisation invests hugely in its people, there are opportunities to work locally, nationally and internationally. Because of these reasons the EVP that was developed for HSBC was ‘Here you can'. As mentioned earlier, Employer branding is not just about reaching potential employees but also about the existing ones. It is about an employer promise which is consistently carried through all stages of employees' experiences of that organisation - through recruitment processes, into employment and then even after having left the organization.
There is a strong correlation between the engagement and commitment levels and the different stages in the lifecyle of the tenure in an organization. An employee who joins an organisation with an exemplary EVP will exhibit high levels of commitment compared to if he were joining the organization with a poor EVP. After a year, if the EVP is correctly managed, commitment will fall but not as low as the commitment level in organisations with a poor EVP.