Employer branding is no longer in its infancy. For some organisations, especially those that put a premium on innovation, it is a critical element to remaining competitive. It is used strategically and operationally to influence potential, current and ex-employees. For others, employer branding is still seen as outside of the normal realm of HR operations.
Forces at work
This imbalance stems from the way in which employer branding has been dumped upon the HR profession. Globalization has brought with it problems and opportunities, especially in relation to talent. Just as talent has become a critical asset, talent shortages have hit not just the West but also the developing markets of China and India, which Western corporations relied upon.
It’s a basic economic principle that scarcity puts power into the hands of the supplier, and in these days that is the empowered worker. Employees have long since said goodbye to the idea of a job for life (or even a decade) and are increasingly acting as consumers in a crowded market.
We are witnessing the rise of a new generation, the ‘Millennials’ or ‘Generation Y’, with 30 million entering the workforce in the US and 51 million in Europe. They are young, ambitious people whom rapid career advancement and work–life balance are requested in the same breath, along with financial strength and high ethical standards. Is HR ready to embrace the challenges of attracting and retaining this new demographic?
Sharing the responsibility
Employer branding is the result of seismic changes in the world, which until recently HR had been left to wrestle with. It has been forged in a period of rapid globalization. In the same way that the speed of technological growth means that IT students are learning things that will be obsolete within three years, traditional HR skills are not capable of tackling the new environment. HR requires a reorientation.
So far, HR in many organisations has had a somewhat ad hoc or piecemeal approach to employer branding. However, through the chaos and confusion, order is emerging. Innovative organisations have started to take the first steps towards the kinds of strategies that will be required to gain mastery over the current environment.
Employer branding and reputation management have the power to give organisations the competitive edge in attracting and retaining its talent. As jobs for life disappear, job security declines and traditional differentiators such as salary and compensation package lose their pulling power – the employer brand has emerged as the true differentiator. Learning its lessons from consumer branding, employer branding seeks to induce affinities and loyalty through identity.
Increasingly, therefore, the aims, messages and methods of consumer branding and employer branding are overlapping. Both departments – marketing and HR – are now sharing on a more equal level the responsibility for fulfilling corporate goals. As a result, there is a co-dependency at play and it makes sense to share knowledge, expertise and strategic vision across the organisation. The outcome of these efforts in employer branding should be a daring and ruthless pursuit of an honest, unique and clear Employee Value Proposition (EVP).
As employer branding moves into maturity, the time and planning involved will increase, but so will the returns in the long term. Data from the corporate executive board quoted in The Economist suggests that effective EVP management can bring tangible benefits. Savings include a 20% increase in the pool of potential workers, a four-fold increase in commitment among employees and a 10% decrease in payroll costs.
Employer branding leaders are matching their global corporate credentials with a global employer brand, creating a consistency of message and experience wherever talent comes into contact with them. In the age of blogging, companies can no longer communicate disparate or contradictory messages in different locations.
Furthermore, the importance of the internal to the external brand is exploding. As employer branding rises up the list of corporate priorities, more power is being given to align the internal truth with the desired employer branding message.
Finally, strategic employer branding also includes usage of benchmarking and metrics to measure success compared with the competition. Every company has an employer brand, but do you know what yours is doing for your company? What are the metrics for success? It’s not how many awards you win for your campaign posters or online application. It’s not how many hits you get to your career website. It is about how the people your efforts brought in, which affects the bottom line. It is knowing how many people in your company want to move on as soon as they get a chance. It is knowing what your staff say to the people they meet about their job and company.
To top that off, if you have addressed your EVP successfully, what they say will be true, it will be in line with everything else they expect of the company and it will appeal to the groups of people you want to work for you.
The future is mastering your environment. Are you ready to embrace your future?