Taking a Strategic approach to your Employer brand effort

Emmanuelle Loye, Head of Solutions Asia, LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD)

Emmanuelle Loye, Head of Solutions Asia, LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD)

Who still does not understand the importance of employer branding and talent marketing? In the past decade employer branding (EB), employee or employer value proposition, (EVP) candidate experience, employee experience, recruitment marketing are terms that have been heavily used, commented, documented and debated.

True enough, in LinkedIn’s 2018 Global Trends report, 59 percent of HR executives surveyed were investing more in EB. And, for good reasons. “Building brand resonance” was deemed by Mercer, as one of the key trends to follow in 2019 to overcome critical human capital risks such as long time-to-fill, inadequate diversity or ineffective hiring decisions. A recent survey from the CEB Corporate Leadership Council demonstrated a strong link between strong Employer Brand and company performances, when people understand what they came here to do, are fully aligned with the company’s vision and are in sync with the values and culture, they will deliver better service and greater productivity.

"With more sophisticated data capabilities, EB project owners can come up with a whole set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to report to their stakeholders"

But once we have agreed on the importance of managing the employer brand, the big question remains: How to go about it? Numerous literatures suggest a fairly simple three-step process that goes: A- Define your message as an employer, B- encapsulate it in a creative design commonly called Employer Brand campaign, and C- activate through a variety of channels in order to spread the word out. In my 15-year-long career, I have seen a broad range of EB projects–done in house by HR or marketing, done with the agency that marketing uses for product, done by a boutique creative house, done as an add on to the annual employer ranking report the company purchases religiously, done by the CEO’s cousin (true story!). Needless to say, not all were perfect–neither were their outputs. And, while I have been advising my clients often against the risks of “overdoing it,” organizations must understand that quality EB management requires time, effort and resources.

It starts with the quality of the input. Having a clear understanding of the business case is imperative. What are the business goals and priorities? What will be the challenges? What kind of talent do we need today and tomorrow to overcome these challenges? These three questions should help define the greater business impact to seek, beyond the immediate talent acquisition and retention objectives. It is important to hear from the business, from the CEO, on these questions. Only when everyone is aligned on the WHY, resources and attention are unlocked. Of course, we do want to dig deeper into the Talent agenda too, with the CHRO and hiring managers: Do we get the Talent we need? If not, what are the issues?

Once the business case established, the performance measurement framework becomes easier to define. This needs to be done at the start, to guide decisions further down the line. With more sophisticated data capabilities and ever-increasing impetus to deliver data-driven strategies, EB project owners may feel compelled to come up with a whole set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track and report to their stakeholders. Here, to paraphrase Bill Schaninger from McKinsey, I strongly believe that “you do not need a data lake, you need an ecosystem of data.” You do want to solidify your True North, the business impact you seek to achieve, with 1-2 metrics (i.e. productivity, growth, employee engagement). And add maybe another 2-3 that will help monitor the contributing factors (Number of applications? Offer/accept rates? Time to fill? Hiring manager satisfaction?). Once the framework is set, stick to it and report consistently. Log #1 can serve as historical benchmark.

Are we ready for A-B-C now? YES. But getting it right does require the help of professionals. Be it in-house or through an agency, I cannot stress enough the importance of understanding the nuances of talent branding and marketing. The few areas to not compromise on will revolve around:

Authenticity: Being truthful to the employment experience, being clear on what can be promised (and what cannot); yet being able to put the organization in the best light and be compelling to the core audience.

Distinctiveness: Different from product marketing, copying best-in-class does not get you anywhere near best-in-class. Understanding what competition and the market in general are doing has to be leveraged primarily to carve out your own territory. From the messages, to the look and feel of the campaign or the platforms chosen to engage with Talent, there must be a sense of identity, a signature that should only be yours.

Performance Management: There are unfortunately no hard and fast rules to talent marketing success. It will not be about getting it right, right away. But about the ability to deliver incremental and growing value over time. Tracking the performance of every dime invested becomes critical. And, being able to course-correct at low-to-no costs in a timely manner, a sign of qualitative support.

In conclusion: Do not rush into your A-B-C. Time invested at the beginning of your employer brand journey to clarify the why and the how will be highly profitable. And, will also get you an exclusive voice at the leadership table.

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