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  • Charu Malhotra

The ABC’s of building your employer brand

With more than twelve years’ of global in-house experience, Charu Malhotra certainly knows what she’s talking about when it comes to employer branding, employer value propositions (EVP’s), career sites and social media strategies for talent attraction.

In her current position, Charu heads up the global digital channels and employer brand development at Ferrero and is creating a new (EVP) and social media eco system for resourcing. Charu has also worked around the world for companies including Unilever, BP, Primark and Vodafone.

Working in a variety of industries has allowed Charu to see first-hand how organisations approach employer branding and implement an effective attraction strategy. In this article, she shares insights into best practice when it comes to companies building an authentic employer brand and how this must tie in with the EVP to attract and retain the best candidates.

Charu describes employer branding as, “A mirror of what you stand for as a business. Culture, purpose, values and environment are all reflected. It’s what individuals, partners, candidates, customers say about you when they’re out socialising with friends or posting on social media.”

So where should a company start when building the foundation of their employer brand? The answers lie in a deep analysis of the current lay of the land.

A: Analysis

Recruiters and senior leaders should begin by digging deep and asking questions to current employees, candidates, agency partners , alumni, and customers; not forgetting to also gather research insights from employee engagement surveys and feedback forms. Charu insists, “During this EVP process, the senior leadership team should be involved. They are the ones who need to hear a ‘warts and all’ analysis of the company, what the experience has been like for new starters and how attitudes differ for employees across the company.”

Charu adds, “Particular attention should be paid to those who have been employed in the past twelve months. These are the recruits who are most likely to remember what attracted them to the job in the first place and how they heard about it. Were they looking for a role specifically in your company or were they were just desperate for a role anywhere? It’s true that the mirror Charu talks about might not reflect what you would like it to. “That’s when you create a glossy generic employer brand, but it won’t be true. That is why research is so important in the creation of a genuine EVP.”

B: Be Real

Charu believes honesty really is the best policy. "There is no point having a strong employer brand i.e. saying you're an organisation that's great to work for from a career perspective, values perspective or rewards perspective, if, when someone joins your company, their experience and their impression is completely the opposite.

“Ten years ago I would have gone down to a bar and told five people. Now via social media, my messaging is amplified, I can reach 50,000 quickly, so that mind-set and change needs to happen. It's not about controlling the message. It’s this potential reach, made possible by social media channels, that underlines the need for an authentic employer brand,” Charu adds.

“It’s no surprise that over the past five years, studies have shown that trust in CEOs is on a downward slope. However trust in peers, is in fact, increasing. Despite ‘lots of CEOs’ out there defending their employer brand, unless it’s backed up by the data, and actual employee advocacy, it doesn’t feel real or authentic,” Charu says.

C: Celebrate

According to Charu, “nothing should be dismissed. Sometimes the little things can make the difference to a candidate. If you've got flexible working, free parking or a gym then that's fabulous. Don't keep it hidden. Amplify what is good. Every company has good things about it that make it stand out. Start using those ingredients before the person is hired because that will be part of the attraction."

D: Digital

Charu says, “Looking back, employers could shut the door on the outside world and keep the reality of their organisation hidden. Today, the smokescreen has been lifted, thanks to company rating websites that allow the world to see into your organisation, hear what your people are saying and evaluate the authenticity of your employer brand. Charu thinks these developments in digital platforms should be embraced rather than feared.

“People are more likely to vocalise poor experiences than when they are positive. If you have an engaged workforce, if you have great values, it's satisfying to have your employees saying good things about you. Nothing is more powerful than the employees saying that. That is how things have changed if you're looking back where we were ten years ago."

Charu believes, “Employers lack the confidence to trust their staff with digital technologies. We are digital beings and companies will have to adopt that philosophy. The ones that don’t will be obsolete.”

It’s a hard pill to swallow for companies that are reluctant in moving with the changes and embracing the ongoing digital evolution. Mobile technology has helped facilitate a digital and ‘always on’ workforce, enabling employees to be connected to their employer 24/7.

E: Expectations

Charu explains you should never make assumptions about which social media platforms to use, unless you have the research science to back it up noting that she often hears recruiters say, “All Millennials are on Snapchat,” so let’s do something there.

“Ask candidates and recent hires where they spend their time and learn from testing. It is also beneficial to pilot different approaches.

”It’s important to think about the messages. Ask yourself, “What is going to attract and keep a marketing manager, a HR director?” It’s based on lots of different factors; if you go generic, you end up talking to everyone and talking to no-one. It’s not (about) being a sheep and following everybody else.”

F: Fishing

According to Charu, “Your employer brand is never finished. It’s a ‘living and breathing organism.’ It's imperative that when you create an employer brand and have content to communicate the reality about working for your company, that it becomes a constant iteration .You are looking at it from an intricate perspective, you're looking at it from what your business is like today, so your employer brand will need to change as your business evolves.

“It's very much going back to the personalisation and research. When you've established that, go fishing where the fish are. How do you get that message out there? It's really about understanding what and where people are and where they spend their time. It's not about being obsessed with social. Social media is powerful and wonderful to humanise your brand, but if your target audience is attending conferences or in a community discussing technical challenges instead of spending time on the platforms you are investing in, you need to consider your approach.”

G: Google

Charu touches on Google as the often-touted golden child of employer branding. Charu says, “Not a week goes by without seeing an article about how many steps it takes to be hired by Google. It has a mythology behind it. I think they use their technology and consumer brand really well but are they the best example? Probably not, but they are an interesting example.”

She reinforces the need for organisations to focus on what makes them unique. “There is no point saying you have a Google culture, if you don’t. Focus on what differentiates your company. The majority of job ads are simply job descriptions which, without a corporate logo, would fade into generic blandness.

“Strong employer brands are built effectively at unknown companies, all over the world. The trick isn’t to start with the all-singing, all-dancing social platforms, but from the inside instead.

“You start with EVP, you start from the inside first, talking to your employees and understanding what makes them stay, what makes them want to come in every day, what the culture is, what the values are and what the DNA is. You have to work from the inside out; research to find out what makes your culture great.”

Final Takeaway For companies that are finding it difficult to build an authentic employer brand, or embarking on building an employer brand from scratch, Charu offers the following advice. “It’s not about glossing it up and attracting everybody. It’s not about a numbers game. It’s not about wanting to attract thousands of people to our jobs. We want to attract the right people; we want the people who visit our careers site to see a true reflection of what it’s like to be in that job. It helps candidates to avoid wasting their time. That’s what an authentic employer brand does.”

Charu Malhotra is the Head of Global Employer Marketing & Talent Attraction at Ferrero and will be presenting at World Employer Branding Day 27-28 April 2017 | Budapest along with Sara Naveda from Papirfly on the topic, "'Flexibility within a Framework: How to deliver a consistent, agile Employer Brand.”​ They will talk through Ferrero's transformation journey over the last few years and demonstrate how they are moving towards a cost and time effective employer brand that will be customized .and consistent.

Charu enjoys speaking about digital challenge and employer branding, connect on Twitter and LinkedIn

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