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Employer Branding and Employee Value Proposition

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The “war for talent” is raging fiercer than ever, with the U.S. seeing the lowest unemployment rate in decades, staffing shortages for many highly-coveted skills and an environment where top talent choose their employer – not the other way around, according to a recent Forbes article.

Organisations can’t execute their business strategies if they don’t have the right positions filled. How do you tackle the next great opportunity if you don’t have the people to do the tackling? This means companies need to be consistently attracting, empowering, inspiring and retaining talent.

Just as organisations compete for customers by differentiating product value, they must compete for talent by differentiating the employee experience. A critical piece of this differentiation is the employer brand – an organisation’s story, the message communicated about its reason for existing, its purpose and what it aspires to be. Employer branding helps bring a company’s purpose and culture to life.

Employer branding is in the limelight as companies realise the power it can have. Organisations which invest in their employer brands and take the time to define their Employee Value Proposition (EVP) can powerfully differentiate themselves from the competition.

Demand for employer brand and EVP development skills

The ChapmanCG team have seen an increase in senior HR leadership roles requiring employer branding and EVP development skills. In fact, a few organisations have started to build-out a separate specialist function and increase their demand for strategic heads of employer branding/EVP or ‘Talent Attraction and Engagement’.

This relationship between talent, marketing and communications, and employer brand identity is critical. Many employer branding professionals have matrix reporting across traditional HR and the business to ensure effective alignment. However, resource constraints can be particularly difficult, and some employer brand leaders have to work with lean budgets and resources.

Hiring someone with a marketing background can help bridge the gap between the functions, and often people from campus or broader talent acquisition backgrounds migrate into this space. However, the challenge is finding the right talent to understand that the EVP strategy needs to be holistic. It must encompass and be embedded throughout the employee lifecycle: attraction, experience, development and growth, culture and leadership.

The complexity of being global

Talent is more mobile than ever before. There is a need for organisations to ensure they are consistent in marketing themselves as employers, and many are struggling with this. The most effective employer brands have a consistent global, yet agile, framework that can be tweaked for certain markets. The fundamental messaging has to remain the same, but the tone and sentiment can ary based on market differentiators.

This fragmentation of the employer brand and employee experience also exists across business divisions and functions. Key elements such as company values and culture must have global consistency. However, the reality is each market and sometimes each division operates in a unique sub-culture, if you will, that must be considered and accounted for when developing a global/company employer brand strategy and EVP.

Leverage technology

If organisations aren’t using AI, most are actively looking for ways to leverage machine learning. The most progressive companies are using AI to help with talent acquisition efforts for specific targeting, programmatic advertising to and selection of candidates. And while many organisations are excited about leveraging these technologies (measuring the impact and defining success of the employer brand), EVP and employee experience is not always straightforward. Engagement on digital channels can be one obvious litmus test, but then how each organisation and division defines engagement is relative (likes vs comments vs shares vs views).

Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and other social channels can be insightful in understanding peoples’ opinions of and experiences at certain companies. Ideally, employees are the ambassadors rather than the detractors, so encouraging and actively creating employee brand ambassadors is a key strategy to building a robust EVP.

“More than one billion people check Facebook daily, Twitter users send 6,000 tweets every second and new LinkedIn users sign up at a rate of more than two new members per second, reports Hootsuite.” says Tracy Kelly from recruiting software company, Yello. “Social media has created new opportunities for talent teams to build a pipeline of interested followers, cultivate a unique employer brand, establish relationships with candidates and gain insight into the recruiting landscape. It’s clear, therefore that in today’s environment a smart and sophisticated employer branding and social media presence is essential.

According to HR Technologist, state-of-the-art tools, applications, and solutions can make an enormous difference, identifying new avenues for reputation management and employer brand revitalisation, like Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) solutions and Recruitment Marketing Platforms. Today this is seen as vital for any employer branding initiative.

Interestingly, digital distribution can help a lot with brand messaging consistency. “Brands (employer or consumer) need to be simple to understand and easy to remember (no one will remember your nine brand pillars!)”, says Thomas Delorme, VP, Digital Products at TMP Worldwide. Inconsistency was less perceptible twenty years ago. Today, all information in any market is within reach, at the mere cost of a few clicks. “Digital also helps companies move from telling their audience who they are and what they stand for to letting their targets experience the brand. Feelings are more memorable than information.”

Measuring the employer brand

Nimai Swaroop, Global Director- Employer & Talent Engagement at Philip Morris International, an employer branding expert who has also worked with Diageo, Shell, RBS and The British Army, agreed that a constant review and realignment to the market is essential: “Technology is a great enabler in helping organisations activate their employer brand and also measure impact. There are existing platforms that can help organisations provide local capability for teams to access relevant materials and ensure consistency. Measuring your employer brand is actually not that hard. There are both qualitative and quantitative measures that can be put in place to measure the relevance and resonance of messages. The quality of hires and application-to-hire ratios are also a direct result of effectively targeting candidates, and therefore, you can draw conclusions on the impact of employer brand on your cost of hiring and retention of talent. Further, there are a number of external indices that measure your employer brand.”

While others agree with Mr. Swaroop that it’s essential to recalibrate, they don’t necessarily find it so easy because organisations are now actively targeting passive talent, and passive talent is the hardest to convert. Therefore, using the same metrics to determine success for passive and active talent doesn’t make sense.

Regardless of whether one finds it easy or a challenge, employee advocacy is crucial to building an authentic employee brand. “Hearing from a brand is nice, hearing from employees is real,” says Marije van der Togt, Employer Brand lead EMEA at Philips. “The actual opportunity to live the brand as an employee (and share it) and as a candidate is powerful.”

In Summary: Creating Your Employee Value Proposition

Keep it simple and start small:

  1. Build a consistent brand and a solid EVP.
  2. Expose that brand to relevant social channels.
  3. Prioritise a stellar candidate experience.

Bring it to life with these six steps:

  1. Leverage the EVP attributes of the aspirational companies you would like to hire from (where your most successful employees come from). And validate them with Glassdoor or Kununu if possible, so you can look into the employee experience as well.
  2. Use insights, let the data do the talking, and build an EVP that is driven out of your research both internally and externally. Keep it honest, differentiated and relevant.
  3. Balance the differentiating EVP attributes you distinguish with a number of high-performing employees in your organisation.
  4. Validate the attributes with business leaders and HR to make sure they are consistent with the employee experience. They must be aligned with what the senior leadership wants the company to be in addition to the actual employee experience.
  5. Make sure you validate this every few years, and importantly, keep it simple and focused on answering the ‘why’ from a candidate perspective first, not just the organisation’s.
  6. Deliver a high-level EVP that can be used to develop proof points per market or priority segment so they can be designed to meet the needs of specific audiences.

Mr. Swaroop says, “This social landscape has led to more transparency, pushing organisations to keep on top of their game and build out their employer brand and ensure their promise meets the ‘lived experience’ internally. There is a growing need for organisations to understand how they are perceived by candidates, what motivates them and helps retain them. Investing in your employer brand can help you dig in and surface those insights.”

Mr Delorme believes there are two key factors that organisations must focus on today regarding employer branding:

  1. Differentiation: How many EVPs are articulated around “a great place to learn and grow” + “chance to make an impact”? If that’s all you have, it’s the same as having “innovation” in your values. EVPs need to go beyond the simple hygiene factor.
  2. Authenticity: If your employees’ voices do not reinforce and augment your message, you are wasting your time. Embrace your strengths and your weaknesses to leverage your employee ambassadors’ voices.

Hiring good talent remains a key challenge for most CEOs and senior leaders. Therefore many companies are investing in building and enhancing their employer brands to allow them to recruit and retain good people.

Click here for the full Forbes article, ‘Marketing And HR Should Work Together To Take The Employer Brand To The Next Level’, quoted on this page.

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Key Contributors:

Jen Balfour

Associate Director

Consulting Team
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Consulting Team

Jen Balfour

Associate Director

Jen is an Associate Director with Chapman CG based in London. She works with the EMEA team to identify high-potential HR talent and lead HR leadership searches across the region with particular experience in the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Jen is originally from Auckland, New Zealand. Prior to joining ChapmanCG, Jen held marketing roles for IT businesses. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Marketing and Tourism from the University of Otago.

In Jen’s spare time she enjoys socialising with friends, playing and watching sport and travelling. She also has a guilty pleasure for pop music.