Brett Minchington MBA shares with Alan Hosking how top organisations are attracting and retaining talent by building a strong employer brand
Over the past year there has been growing interest in employer branding. First and foremost what is an employer brand and how do you know it is working for you?
Your employer brand is “the image of your organization as a ‘great place to work’ in the minds of current employees and key stakeholders in the external market (active and passive candidates, clients, customers and other key stakeholders).”
Employer branding is therefore concerned with the attraction, engagement and retention initiatives targeted at enhancing a company's employer brand.
Strong employer brands have employer value propositions ("EVPs") which are communicated in company actions and behaviours and evoke both emotive (e.g. I feel good about working here, my friends want to work here, the company has a great reputation) and tangible benefits (this organisation cares about my career development, I am paid well and I have a clearly define career path) for current and prospective employees. These EVPs reflect the image that the organisations want to portray to its target audience.
Some of the signs of a company with a strong employer brand include:
- survey results show your employees are engaged,
- unregretable turnover is low,
- quality of candidate ratings are high,
- your company ranks high in “best place to work’ surveys
- The company is financially sound
Leaders must have an employer brand mindset which means they must understand what a brand is, how it is impacted, how to manage it and how intangible assets (people) deliver value to the bottom-line. This is where I find most organisations fail by leaving the management of the employer brand to only the human resources or marketing department. Your employer brand is reflected through the behaviours and actions of your employees and if the behaviours don’t reflect the brand image no amount of employer marketing will save you as authenticity is the key to building your employer brand that competitors will be envious off. When I visited the Google offices in Zurich last year you could feel the brand at work as soon as you walked in the front door. The place has a sensational working environment, it’s colourful, fun and optimised for maximum productivity. Look a little deeper and you’ll discover this doesn’t happen by chance. It’s a great example of how a company defines and delivers on the employment experience and manages it carefully. However the manner in which is done is seamlessly. Great products, great people – it’s a winning formula!
Why is employer branding vital for South African companies?
Employer branding is vital for South African companies for a number of reasons. The increasing global shortage of talent driven by the ageing population, increased mobility of workers (especially generation Y’s, those born between 1980 and 2000), migration, declining fertility rates, technological advances and an increase in culture diversity in organisations are some of the reasons when employer branding is now high on the leadership agenda.
Employer Branding is about ensuring that your people brand aligns with your consumer brand. In terms of brand management an aspirational goal for an organisation should be that the marketing messages are reflected by the actions of all of the people at all levels of the business at all times in order to deliver the employer brand promise.
In an increasingly competitive economic and business climate companies must focus their collective efforts on developing their employer brand if they are to attract, engage and retain talent better than their competitors. No longer should the firm’s employer brand strategy be the sole responsibility of the HR department – it requires the strategic input of the marketing and communications department. A successful employer brand program must be sponsored by the CEO or Managing Director and should demand a high level of visibility in the company’s strategic plan. Employer branding should be viewed from the top as a ‘whole of business strategy’ for the management of people and managers at all levels must be engaged in the process.
In 2008 you delivered workshops in 12 countries and provided strategic advice to corporations building global brands. What trends do you see emerging that are relevant to South African companies?
Companies need to break down traditional business models. This may involve engaging the virtual economy and having people in India work on problems why your employees are asleep in South Africa. Talent doesn’t have to be employed inside the company. There are pockets of excellence in all corners of the world which can be tapped effectively (e.g. India) at a fraction of the cost to source the expertise locally. I was recently involved in a global employer brand project where the lead agency was based in the USA and I was able to conduct and report on research from my office in Australia using VOIP and Skype to connect with my global team of associates and to conduct the focus groups via teleconference in 5 global regions.
Companies should increase their internal referral hire rate which will not only save on recruitment cost if will result in a new hire that is more aligned with the company’s culture. Undertake research to discover how your brand is perceived by employees and by potential hires. These may be sitting in Universities or in your competitor’s offices.
Companies should invest in building their online employer brand by reviewing their career website and building profiles on networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. With millions of members these networks are becoming a valuable means of engagement with current employees and potential hires for companies. One of the first companies to build a company profile of Facebook, Ernst and Young now has over 23,000 members in the Facebook community.
The Employer Brand Institute recently published the world’s largest independent study on employer branding. What did you find?
The survey was conducted across all industry sectors and included over 2000 respondents. Some of the major findings included:
- 45% of respondents were from companies of more than 1000 employees
- 43% of employer brand projects are being managed by HR departments and surprisingly 34% of projects are being managed by teams of HR, marketing and communications. Two years ago over 75% of projects were being managed by HR.
- South African companies favour graduate programs (9% of respondents) compared to total world respondents (2%) in communicating their employer brand and employer referral programs are less utilized in South African companies (2%) compared to total world respondents (8%)
- 45% plan to the increase in the amount invested in employer branding initiatives in 2009
- Building an effective leadership development program to equip our leaders with the capabilities to manage the employment experience more effectively (14.8% of respondents)
- Having a clearly defined strategy, CEO and senior management engagement were the most important to achieve employer branding objectives
- A company’s Corporate reputation and culture and work environment are the top 2 most important employer brand attributes are in attracting new talent to a company
- Retention rate and quality of hire are the top 2 metrics companies are using to measure return on investment (ROI) for their employer brand strategy