Employer Branding: from theory to practice
The article below is from Carlos Sezões, Managing Partner of Darefy – Leadership & Change Builders, our Country Partner for Portugal. The original article can be found here
The world of work, the models of professional collaboration and the very essence of the “organization” are in a time of rapid change. What are the enablers for this change? Essentially, the ongoing digital revolution, the cultural pressure of the new generations (the millennials and the emerging generation Z) and the consolidation of an era of exposure and transparency (inherent to people with organizations) which are unprecedented in human history. These three “spirals of change” accelerate and reinforce each other.
In fact, a company’s ability to build a value proposition that makes it more appealing to work with is a critical success factor. Therefore, a marketing strategy and a brand will be relevant to communicate the policies, principles and values of an organization’s human capital management. This requires a refined and insightful effort in several dimensions – substantial or symbolic, from benefits, management processes, models of compensation – that attract current and potential talents. Thus, it is essential that, as an employer, the organization views its people as “customers”, who must be attracted, motivated and emotionally committed. In essence, this is about changing the mindset of an employer, oriented to operating processes and efficiency, in which professionals “need to be” and remain for life with an organization in which they really “want to be”. And, if satisfied and motivated, they will remain for a certain time, while investing their time, energy and skills.
The function of attracting talent is, therefore, increasingly aligned with the marketing workflow: it defines the organization’s positioning, invests heavily in reinforcing the positive attributes of its “brand”, segments the market with a view to define the most relevant targets and choose communication channels to address key messages. Just as products and services have to position themselves before their customers, organizations should do so with their professionals.
The employer brand image is a fundamental asset for companies that, due to it, will have more or less difficulty in attracting the talent they need. This specific process, increasingly promoted at a global level, is called employer branding. A concept that materializes in the creation of a ‘brand image’, assumed and shared by the organization, which encompasses the attributes that the company wants to value in its role as an employer and promoter of excellence policies in terms of human capital management – with an impact on internal and external stakeholders. It is intended to impact on the perceptions of employees, potential employees and other interested audiences, regarding the organization’s reputation.
The big question for leaders is how to execute an employer branding strategy, moving from theory to practice. Based on my experience, I recommend a roadmap that includes these five stages:
1. Organizational audit
Firstly, it is necessary to diagnose the status (as is) of the organization (in terms of mission, vision, values, strategy and, essentially, culture) and the level of engagement of its human capital; only knowing the reality, one can act on it, building a branding project that will have an effective impact.
2. Define strategy and value proposition (EVP)
As a second step, it will be necessary to define the purpose and strategy of the brand. The essential core will be the employer value proposition (EVP) – which consists of a set of benefits that a professional receives in exchange for the skills, knowledge, experience and engagement that he/she brings to a company – the essence of the employer, which must be unique and inimitable. The EVP can have several “ingredients”, and the organization must define where it can / wants to be, differentiating and assuming its competitive advantage.
3. Brand activation and communication
An employer branding strategy must be “activated” and based on an integrated vision of communication – because it is essential to take into account all emotional and sensory interactions with the audience. This communication encompasses the internal and external spheres, both tangible and visible (eg, office layouts, workspace look and feel, career website, social media, university roadshows), as well as intangible (eg, leadership styles, informality level, collaboration and decision making styles). In fact, everything is a “touchpoint”, a sum of perceptions in order to produce a strong (and hopefully consistent) idea of the employer. Dimensions such as “Work-Life Balance” and Social Responsibility will also be relevant at this point.
4. Align HR processes with the Employer Brand
People management processes are “contact points” through which the brand and its attributes are put to the test. These contact points are contexts that involve people, places (physical or virtual), processes and respective perceptions that promote the connection between the brand and its target audience – providing conditions to create a “impression” of the brand. These questions can be included in the so-called “employee experience”, that is, everything that interacts with the employee, providing him with positive experiences in the way he works, what he works, how he is rewarded or how he develops his career. We are talking about key processes such as Recruitment and Selection, Onboarding and Integration, Skills and Career Development, Leadership Model, Performance Management, Compensation and benefits or Celebration rituals. To be more specific, if I promote my company as a reference of in terms of collaboration and innovation, these attributes must be present (and visible) in all people processes.
5. Manage and monitor the brand
Once the brand is activated and the processes are aligned, it is necessary to guarantee its longevity and future sustainability. It is important to define metrics (of awareness, reputation, engagement and others), to carry out a regular analysis of results and trends and, not least, to ensure the training of all those directly and indirectly responsible (namely, the company’s leaders), with in order to ensure its sponsorship and direct action, increasing the value and impact of the employer brand.
This is, in sum, a roadmap that ensures consistency and sustainability in the challenging task of building an Employer Branding strategy.
Final notes to be taken into account by all business decision makers include: whether we like it or not, everything we do in the organizational context communicates something, and everything we communicate, influences. We are at a time when, as mentioned above, the level of exposure is high, making it virtually impossible to guarantee opacity about what is going on inside organizations, unlike what happened two or three decades ago. As we all know, there are already platforms (e.g. Glassdoor, Indeed) with the rating of each company in the multiple dimensions of its attractiveness (working conditions, compensation, work-life balance, among others), as the outcome of the experience of those who are working/ have worked there (a kind of “Tripadvisor of employers”). This, once again, shapes the perceptions and preferences of professionals in their crucial act of go/ no go decision.
If we don’t act in a structured way on our company’s image, the perceptions of those who observe us will naturally emerge without our influence or control – which can generate dysfunctional images. Building an employer brand with personality, differentiation and consistency is in fact, today, a mandatory challenge in the business ecosystem, to be faced and overcome with success.