How can your organization use employer brand management to attract, recruit and retain the best talent? What social media channels work best for employer branding?
Richard Mosley, VP of Strategy at Universum, provided us with some insights.
What’s the difference between brand management and employer branding?
Yes, these terms are often used interchangeably, but I think if I start with the employer branding piece first, I think if you are using employer branding in the way that branding is used within consumer marketing, it’s largely about the way you create the image through creative expression, communication and so on. And of course, this is a very important thing to be doing, and it’s an important part of employer brand management.
And one way of looking at brand management is simply, as in the corporate brand sense, making sure that you’re policing that identity and that branding to make sure it’s consistent, and you’re getting your message across in a consistent way.
But I think in the more advanced companies, those that are beginning to push beyond that, it’s also about managing the brand experience itself. So I guess you could describe employer brand management at its best, in terms of coordinating all of the parts that make up a positive brand experience. So that’s communication, but it’s also those elements of people management, where you’re designing processes and you’re designing experiences that are going to reinforce that brand.
The 7 point plan to employer brand management:
1) Strategy: I think if you’re building it from the bottom up, you’ve really got to start with the strategy of the organisation. And I’m assuming, in this case, that you really are taking a more integrated approach. But you’ve got to understand the kind of talent you need. And when you think about talent, you also think about skills and capabilities, and so on.
2) Take the external view: You need to understand how you’re currently seen. I mean, your employer brand is how you’re seen essentially. What kind of associations people have with you – awareness, consideration, etc. – and how that stacks up against your competitors.
3) Have a really honest look at yourselves: Where are your strengths, where, partly because of organisational needs and performance needs and also partly because of the need to strengthen some areas to attract the right talent, you also need to think about where your stretch is, where your realistic aspirations are in terms of improvement.
4) Building your employer brand platform: That’s partly your EVP, the priority areas, the three or four things you’re really going to focus your attention on. Plus your identity, your look, feel.
5) Plan and execute your communication: Ideally internally as well as externally because you want to be building engagement and advocacy, so you can fully leverage the social media, employee-generated content and so on.
6) Build the experience: It’s a bit like any kind of marketing. One side of it is, of course, building equity externally with your communication. But you’ve got to keep improving the product. In this respect there’s no difference between an employer brand and a consumer brand. So internally, you’ve got to be mindful of how you continue to improve the employment experience – how you improve your learning development, various processes, orientation, and maybe performance management.
7) Measure it: So, we all know that HR analytics are particularly sexy at the moment and I think continuously will be. So the final part of the cycle is really just checking out where you’re making progress, and where perhaps you’re slacking behind and need to improve or adjust.
Who owns the employer brand? HR or marketing?
Everybody should own the brand, or at least feel ownership for it. So that’s one way of thinking about it, but of course, it’s also the responsibility and accountability for getting things done.
I would say, if you’re in an organisation where employer branding is essentially still just communication, then I think marketing should own it. Because it’s a marketing activity. If it’s just communication, then the experts are the marketers and you should really let them take a degree of control over it.
If, however, it extends into experiences as well, and of course, as I say, we say it should be, then I think it should be HR, because HR are the people who really understand the people management side of the business, better than anyone else. So they are experts, they are the consultants, they should understand all of the ins and outs of people management.
How to measure your employer brand:
You’ve got to understand what your ratings are in terms of things that you want to be associated with. So if you want to be innovative for example, or you want to be seen as progressive, or you want to be seen as a good development company, then you’ve got to measure those things. And of course, that’s Universum’s bread and butter. We help measure employer brands from that perspective.
And once you’ve got that right, you need to have the flipside of that because you’ll make your call on what you want to be associated with based on its effect on consideration and preference, etc. So you also need to measure the extent these brand associations are driving the kind of behaviours you want. Is it driving people to consider you as an employer and to prefer you versus the companies you’re competing with? So that’s one side, your external employer brand. But what’s often missing, of course, is the inside perspective.
And likewise, just as your external image may be driving consideration and preference, internally you’re measuring what the strength of association with those particular qualities is internally. For example is this is a place where we can innovate, or this is a place we get great development? And ultimately you should be checking the degree to which these associations are translating into engagement and advocacy.
How does employer branding work together with content marketing?
You want to make sure that the content that you get out to people is well-branded so they recognise that it’s about your company. And if they go from one site to another, from your career site to your Facebook Page, to LinkedIn, to Instagram, and other places, that it’s recognisably the same company because you’ve got good branding, and you may have some anchor taglines and so on. Okay, they’re consistent overall.
But within this brand frame, you have your content marketing, and your content marketing is where you have a much richer and continuous flow of personal, story-driven content. It’s not always personal because you can have infographics about the company, and you can have all kinds of other games and quizzes and interactive things, but largely speaking it’s personal and story-driven.
We found that the content marketing that’s really working at the moment is primarily focused on people and culture. But interestingly, if you look at the full range of content, this doesn’t necessarily account for the biggest chunk. There are lots of other things that people communicate about, but we found that the most engaging content is story-driven, it’s personal, it’s about the culture of the organisation, and it really appears to be giving an authentic inside view.
The best social channels for employer branding:
There are slightly different roles. LinkedIn is more serious, more professional, and a way of targeting individual people. It doesn’t appear to be quite as effective engagement-wise, in terms of telling the personal story or the inside story of the organisation. For some reason, it’s not. It doesn’t seem to be playing quite that role in the same way that Facebook is.
I think Facebook is really emerging now as that prime vehicle for getting across the personal side of your organisation. And it’s still a bit experimental at the moment. I mean, people are posting all kinds of stuff, but I think those organisations who are putting together a good content calendar on Facebook, and really thinking through the various themes that they want to communicate are doing really well on Facebook.
In some markets, Instagram is doing extremely well. I’ve been doing a fair bit of work in the Middle East, where Instagram is really big, and in some respects, bigger than Facebook, and I think that’s because it is card-based content. I mean, you get it in Facebook, but card and visually-based content is very attractive to people when they’re trying to get the feel of a company.
And of course, Twitter. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, and a lot of companies, probably wrongly, just to tweet out jobs. But I think Twitter is increasingly being used to connect people to the right content, depending on where they’re looking for.
I think you’ve got to look at the full picture. Because it’s like in your own network, it’s not like you can necessarily just manage the things individually and think that way, or miss some of them out.
What does the future hold for employer brand management?
I think things, from an employer brand communication point of view, are likely to become richer in terms of the format. So, if you were to compare how much text is written in terms of getting your message across, to how many images we use, to how many videos used, I think we’re moving from left to right, towards video.
While it’s going to take a little bit longer, I think we’re also going to see more animation and gamification. I don’t mean gamification as in matching games. I mean using a lot of the technology that’s been used for many of the 3-D, immersive environments that are now commonplace in gaming.
I think over the next five years we’ll see a lot more employer brand managers having a role sitting between recruitment marketing and people management. Because in many cases, I think people calling themselves employer brand marketing people, or employer branding people, and really still playing a recruitment role, rather than a coordination role across all forms of communication and experience that shape the employer brand.
[Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock]