Senior leaders at many companies think the term “brand” is a term and concept that belongs to the Marketing department. These companies spend a lot of time and money to better understand their customers but have no idea who their employees are. Understanding who your employees are, what strengths they exhibit, and the attributes of top performers is critical. This is the first step to developing a brand as an employer in the market place. Building a positive employer brand in the market place is just as important as building a sound product brand.
What is an employer brand? An employer brand addresses the reality of the employment experience. It encompasses what employees are saying on Twitter and other social media outlets about their experiences in a Company’s workplace. Human resources uses the marketing disciplines, associated with branding and brand management, to attract, engage and retain talented candidates and employees, in the same way, that marketing applies such tools to attract and retain clients, customers and consumers.
Recently one of my clients, frustrated because the company was experiencing lower employee engagement and difficulty in hiring the right talent ask for assistance. As part of the due diligence process, I asked the CEO and his senior management team the following questions:
“Why do people stay with your company? Why do people want to work for your company? How do they identify with your company?
This senior team did not know the answers to these questions. They did not realize that one of the company’s strongest brand assets are their employees. The product brand and employer brand are linked together. Employees needed to feel connected to the company brand and understand their role as ambassadors in articulating the Company brand as an employer to prospective hires.
According to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, “Employees rank higher in public trust than a firm’s PR department, CEO, or Founder. 41% of us believe that employees are the most credible source of information regarding their business.” When a customer interacts with frontline employees, or with the work produced by behind-the-scenes employees, everything the public relations and marketing departments have done is put to the test. After much deliberation, the senior team launched a campaign to improve employee engagement and to recruit/train employees to be brand ambassadors.
Managing the employer brand encompasses all aspects of the employment experience that form the perceptions of current and prospective employees. Quite often companies will set a goal to be “a best place to work or an employer of choice”. Achieving this goal does not happen overnight. An organization needs employees who are thoroughly engaged, connected and committed to acting as ambassadors for the employer brand. In addition, if an organization wants to encourage employees to publicly promote the Company as a good place to work or top employer, senior leaders have to provide a culture that elicits trust and a sense of worth. The Company must educate and train employees on the employer brand and how to function as a brand ambassador. It is a good long-term investment to make.