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  • Brett Minchington

Employer branding is a business function

For the past 14 years I have been exploring various approaches to aligning the practice of employer branding with organisational strategy. During this time I have seen an increasing focus from leaders to develop a strategic approach towards employer branding, moreso in markets such as the UK, USA, and parts of Western Europe and increasingly everywhere else. The impact of change in the world of work including polarization of labor-market opportunities between high and low skilled jobs, a mismatch of talent to jobs, income inequality, stagnating incomes for a large number of workers and the uncertainty around the impact of digitalization and automation of work are driving leaders to find new models to reorganize the supply of the resources required to deliver business success.

Whichever way you look at it, the structure of the workplace, how it functions and how it uses resources to drive innovation, growth and profitability beyond 2020, is changing.

Our research at Employer Brand International informs us that employer branding is often left to an already over stretch human resource department in many companies around the world. However this is changing and an excellent opportunity exists for leaders, especially those in emerging markets, who now have the access to knowledge and best practice in employer branding that didn’t exist ten years ago.

Companies seeking to recruit employer brand leaders are targeting leaders with a cross section of skills across the traditional HR, marketing, communication and PR functions to successfully lead the strategy across the full employment lifecycle from pre-hire to retire. The challenge for many of these companies has been the low supply of leaders with competency in all of these skillsets.

In 2011 we launched the Employer Branding College to improve this situation by training senior-executive leaders and business owners in how to develop, implement and manage an employer brand strategy. The outcomes have been outstanding and leaders from 36 countries have graduated from our courses, The Alumni have now become the front line in driving a new era in employer brand leadership. Whilst the pool of competent leaders is growing, our research and feedback from leaders shows two major challenges remain:

  • Engaging leaders in the value of employer branding to drive business success, and

  • The allocation of appropriate resources to ensure employer brand leaders can implement the type of strategy required to make transformational or significant business impact.

In exploring solutions to these challenges, leaders have been writing the business case for employer branding as part of their assignment work to achieve their Certification. They have also been developing employer brand and EVP architecture models to align employer branding with their company’s organisational strategy. This has been an extensive exercise and challenging for those undertaking the project.

One of the many positive outcomes of the process to develop the architecture model and to position employer branding as a business function is that executive and senior leaders are showing deeper engagement in exploring how employer branding can deliver increased ROI and business impact. Senior management are starting to ask the right questions and leaders promoting employer branding as a business function, are now equipped with the knowledge and confidence to engage leaders at all levels of the benefits of activating employer branding efforts beyond talent acquisition activities.

Vendors also play an important role here by not over promising what can be delivered and by avoiding focusing on only one element of the employer brand ecosystem. I am often reminded by leaders I coach that they have a great recruitment strategy, however when new hires begin at their company, the systems and processes to support the promises promoted during the recruitment process, are not aligned. Be aware, this can quickly lead to dissonance amongst new hires which can subsequently lead to disengagement or regrettable turnover.

For many years now, I have promoted that, “Employer branding is not a HR, marketing or communications function, employer branding is a business function.” Recently, I developed an Employer Brand Business Model to support this vision to assist leaders to have conversations with executive and senior leaders and to provide them with a roadmap for detailing how to align employer branding as a business function (see figure 1).

What is pleasing to see is just how much progress is being made by companies to evolve their organisational design and practices to align employer branding as a business function over the past few years. Some are doing it by choice and many others are forced to by external market pressures. It is not an overnight process, it can take many years to restructure an organisation to fully align employer branding as a business function. Its progress may also be slowed by a poor culture, lack of employer brand leadership expertise and/or an outdated mindset amongst key influencers in the senior leadership team.

Figure 1: The Minchington Employer Brand Business Model

click on image to download A4 pdf

Companies such as Adidas, UnitedHealth Group, Salesforce and SAP have experienced significant success with a more strategic focus on employer branding over the past 3-5 years. We will have the opportunity to learn from the leaders driving this change when they present at World Employer Branding Day from 25-27 April 2018 in Prague.

In 2006, I was scratching the surface to find quality employer branding case studies and the reality is, there were very few in the market. Fast forward to 2017 and we now have 50 case studies which have been compiled through collaboration between agencies and their clients across two volumes of, “Employer Brand Excellence-A Case Study Approach.” The third volume will be launched at the event and the series will be completed in 2019 when leaders from around the world will have the opportunity to learn from the diversity of approaches to employer branding from 100 best practice case studies.

As markets around the world are experiencing the most favourable economic conditions since the GFC, the next phase of employer branding towards 2020 is set to be the most exciting yet!

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