Thursday, January 28, 2010

A quick guide in Employer Branding for beginners

This short article summarizes my previous five articles about employer branding: step 1) conducting research, step 2) finding your EVP, step 3) making a communication plan, step 4) making communication material and finally step 5) bringing it all to live.

All five steps must be followed
Employer branding is an ongoing process and the chain will not be stronger than its weakest link. Lack of investment or commitment in a single stage of the process can spoil all your other employer branding efforts. Make sure that you carefully consider how the different stages of your work relate to each other in order to maximize the efficiency of your work.

Co-operation of functions crucial for success
HR and Communications/Marketing have to work in an integrated way for successful employer branding. Commitment and involvement of top executives are crucial for the success of your efforts. There are several reasons for this. First, all communications from your company affects your employer brand. Second, employer branding is a subset of corporate branding, and needs to be consistent with it. Finally, employer branding campaigns need to support the strategic objectives of the business.

Internal and external perception interdependent
You attract talent with your employer value proposition, your brand promise. If you do not deliver on your promise, it will result in frustration, low commitment and high employee turnover. Furthermore, it is important to remember that current employees are the most trusted sources of information among potential employees. They are very important ambassadors and use social media to spread the word, both bad and good. Therefore you need to ensure that you pay equal attention to your internal attractiveness as to external image perceptions.

Employer branding is strategic and long term
Do not confuse employer branding with recruitment. A strong and attractive brand is a prerequisite for successful recruitment. It takes time to create the brand and it needs to be upheld, even during economic down turns. It will be too late to start thinking about branding when you need to recruit again. Therefore you need to work with employer branding continuously, even during bad times.

A strong brand leads to profitability and ROI
An attractive internal and external employer brand is a base for successful operations. It diminishes costs of your ‘regretted losses,’ i.e. your unwanted turnover. It diminishes cost of
recruitment. Most important though, it ensures your supply of strategic talent for growing your business, for efficiency and for productivity. Working with the brand is therefore an investment.
Done professionally, it should lead to high returns on investment (ROI). Therefore you need to allocate sufficient resources to employer branding. Go and tell your boss!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Employer Branding, Step 5: Action, evaluation and adjustments

Now it’s time to make it all happen. This is the part that finally brings it all together and delivers the results (see step 1), step 2), step 3) and step 4) earlier in this blog). Thereafter you need to evaluate and adjust your activities – continuously.

Many companies have experienced great plans that have collapsed because of lack of implementation efforts or organization of internal work. The leader group is not with you. The seniors are not with you. Your employees are not with you. To avoid this, you need to put the same effort and resources into this stage as into all previous steps in the chain. Commitment and engagement and from the rest of the company is vital.

Set your targets, evaluate and adjust
As for any other business activities, employer branding needs specific targets in order to be successful. Targets can include:
· Attractiveness among a specific target group
· Number of applications with right profile you receive per position
· Percentage of satisfied employees
· Perception of your employer brand externally and internally and the gap between these two
· Employee turnover
· Time to fill vacancies with appropriate staff

Set the targets on a realistic level and attach a time scale to each of them. As with all employer branding work, involvement of senior management in setting the targets is important. Reaching the targets will require investments and therefore commitment from people controlling the spending is vital.

My experience is that the percentage of companies using research to evaluate their employer branding efforts is unfortunately still rather low. All companies should measure their employer brand based on research not less than once a year. That will give you enough information to conduct the necessary adjustments to communication material, communications plans and other Employer Branding activities.

Involve relevant departments and benchmark investments
A common feedback from my clients is that HR needs more involvement from both managers and from other departments in the employer branding work. Also, there has been an increase in desire to have cross-functional teams work with employer branding. Since employer branding is very much about communications, the least you need to ensure is information flow between all departments.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Employer Branding, Step 4: Communication Material

Do your employer branding ads show a good looking, welldressed person smiling at the camera, placed just above some text that is ended by your logo down on the right side of the page? This is the old way of doing ads. Today, in order to become an ideal employer, companies have to build consistent materials and differentiate not only their brand promise, but also the way they communicate it.

The aim of this step is to dress the chosen employer branding proposition in the correct words and pictures. The entire employer branding effort could falter if the communication materials are not created in a way that will achieve the desired effect among the targeted groups. A large portion of the employer branding budget is usually spent on this step. Spreading your communication material through diverse channels involves heavy investments, and is a crucial step in the process. The same way that you need to invest in advertising your products or services, you need to invest in the communication of your brand.

Coherence to previous steps crucial
It is essential that the communication material is in line with the communication channels and communication aims designed in previous stages. If you have information that print advertisement is not an effective way of communicating with certain target groups, it is obviously unnecessary to spend time and resources thinking about such a campaign. If you decide to use social media as a way of brand building rather than brochures it will have an obvious effect on the way you develop your website and the material used for other web channels, e.g. movies (

Moreover, coherence of previous steps can save companies from the trap of thinking employer branding is all about producing communication material. Not seldom, when asking companies why they decided to produce a certain brochure, I often get an answers like ‘all competitors are also doing brochures,’ or ‘we had nothing else to take with us to this career fair.’ So, think for a minute before you decide to produce your communication material. If it is not thought through properly, the result can be a confusing picture of the company.

Dare to be different
I know that it is increasingly challenging for companies to differentiate their message to current and potential employees. This is one of the drivers behind the reality of focus on employer branding. The need for differentiation among hundreds of detergent products that all do the "same thing" was the reason why marketing became a profession. I have already spoken about the need for differentiation in step 2) - the chapter on employer value proposition. However, it is far from enough to have a differentiating employer value proposition if you are not communicating correctly. Your communication material needs to reflect the feeling that you want to convey about you as an employer, not only the facts and not only the general statements. I suggest a simple test. Compare the advertising material used for employer branding by you and your closest competitors. Does it look different or similar? Take out the names of the companies and show it to a random group of current employees – if they can single your material out, you have done well. Conduct the same test on external population – if you get the same results, congratulations.

It is possible to differentiate. If people can differentiate between 20 different mobile phones or jeans brands, then something as complex as an employer value proposition must be possible to differentiate. Remember though that not only the tangible aspects of your offer should be used to differentiate. Use emotions to convince your target groups that you are the right choice for them.

The ‘global’ vs. ‘national’ challenge
One of the considerations growing in importance for many companies these days in the work with communication material is the balance between one centralized message – with a same proposition independent of location – and the local cultural differences that affect all communication. Universum’s ( strong recommendation is that your choice should follow the choice you have made for your corporate branding and strategies. If they are global, you should aim at getting your employer branding to be global and vice versa.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Employer Branding, Step 3: Communication Plan

Now, after having conducted the research in step 1) and finding your EVP in step 2) we are finally ready to choose the right channels to communicate internally and externally, and to coordinate the employer branding communication with other types of existing communication.

The selected employer value proposition from “step 2” needs to be communicated in a planned fashion in order to affect your target group. Choice of communication channels should be guided by what you want to achieve with the communication. Many employers I have been in contact with use a wide variety of channels - some are traditional, such as using ads and brochures, others are more unusual, such as using social media, online games and movies.

Different channels for different aims
Print should be used to create a feeling for you as an employer, focusing on the intangible values that characterize you as an employer. My experience is that there are too much information on the world wide web, so print is the channel that will increase awareness for your Employer Brand, and trig students to read more about you on the internet and visit you at company presentations. Social media, blogs and home pages can then be used to provide more factual information and information on tangible benefits. Finally, visits at company presentations should help potential employees to identify with the company. The candidates should be given the opportunity to meet current employees and get a feel for the atmosphere in the workplace. They should walk away from the visit feeling like they could be a part of the team at the company.

You should carefully consider the position of your employer brand before choosing the channels. If you are well-known but ‘misunderstood,’ some channels will do better than others. If you are unknown, mass marketing channels should be in your portfolio. If you are part of an industry where differentiation is tough, maybe you should go for other channels than your peers. The same care should be used when selecting internal communication channels. I often see that management spends more time on external communications and events than on revitalizing the current staff ’s commitment to the company’s branding.

Invest in the right channels
Today, the website is one of the main channel companies use to communicate their employer brand, and it is a channel that candidates find very useful. However, there is not always a match between where companies communicate and where their target groups get the information. Research that Universum Communications AB conducts annually with more than 300,000 students worldwide shows significant difference between desired and actual ways of communicating in different countries.

Make use of ambassadors
An efficient and inexpensive communication channel is your own personnel. No matter the number of employees in your corporation, every person can communicate how good (or bad) your company is. According to Universums annual surveys, a very popular source of information for graduates and professionals is ‘acquaintances employed by the company’.

Integrate communication, be coherent
Ref “Employer Branding is not easy”, the same survey shows that about 90 percent of the companies stated that their HR departments are involved in employer branding activities (which is reasonable). The good news is that 50 percent of all respondents mentioned involvement from the marketing department and 60% said that top management is involved. In this phase of the process it is crucial that HR has the support and synchronizes its activities with the communications, marketing and information departments. In order to be effective, the employer branding campaign must be consistent with other marketing campaigns that your company has created. I have seen examples where employer branding campaigns have been called off or made useless by ill-timed or contradictory campaigns from other parts of the company. To avoid throwing your money out of the window you should coordinate messaging.