Employer Branding and Becoming a Desired Employer: HR Meets Marketing

HR & Leadership, Corporate

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Employer Branding is actually the art of becoming a company that people will think of first when talking about the best companies to work at or the best employers. (Of course this is not an official description, yet it is the clearest way of talking about it when considered from the point of view of the target group – possible employees.) The aim of this article is to give an idea about what has been done in becoming the “most hardworking company” since 2006, what has been done right and wrong; and interpret the People Make The Brand 2016* Employer Branding Summit.

Let’s get started.

  1. Is the issue of Employer Branding really important?

One of the hottest topics of HR today is “employer branding”. This looks like it is going to keep increasing in the following years. All in all, it’s the junction point of marketing and HR. many things come out of this merging of an area with as strong armour as marketing and one that has as an important topic as HR…

Before chasing after this because “Everybody is interested in it”, “Everyone goes to Employer Branding conferences these days” and “It’s the hottest topic today”; let’s stop and ask if this topic is really important.

If we see this only as a branding attempt, it’s actually not that important. It’s possible to see it as any marketing effort. Brands that constantly try to sell us something, for example, are trying to sell us something other than their products or services – which can be interpreted as “the desire to work in company X”.

But the real “brand representatives” of what we call Employer Branding are the employees themselves. If you do marketing-branding for a car, shoes or sweet drinks; these items don’t end up speaking. We can only say the quality of the item talks for itself. Even this is a metaphor. Yes, quality and durability are important; yet these are understood in the long term after the item is purchased. “Employer Branding”, on the other hand, is understood through the company’s impression as “the best place to work”. The most trustworthy source of information in this issue – both by university graduates and people ahead in their career – is the employees themselves.

This distinction is very important for us.

Its importance (I need to emphasize this despite the risk of being repetitive) lies in this: if you could create the company that people want to work at the most just by investing in the branding part of the issue, the employees wouldn’t need to think they are doing meaningful work and find other things they seek.

In the opening speech of  People Make The Brand 2016, its purpose of gathering and the answer as to why people were addressed to enable the work to  be more meaningful and the employees to have more positive experiences at work.

This can be the purpose because employees share, talk and write about their bad experiences. They then affect their environment, the brand and the perception in a negative way. This gives the employee with bad experiences a lot of power. Because of this power balance, the only long-term solution left for creating a positive Employer Branding for companies is to create positive experiences for the employees although it is more costly than simply branding.

The more powerful the employees, the higher their power of negotiation and in relation to this; the higher their working standards. It’s a simple calculation.

More leverage, more power = better standards.

The mediator in all these is “Employer Branding”.

If the companies can discover based on the Employer Branding notion a) what their promises are, b) how to put them into action, c) how to make the employees feel more belonging to the company, and d) how their employees will find their “ikigai”s – their purpose in leaving their beds in the morning; this can be the best thing that has ever happened to HR.

In other words, the Employer Branding issue can be an area of working that enables the “human” unit – that is the true producer and value-provider in a company – to be happier, stronger, better and more efficient.

  1. Observations, Numbers, Comments

Universum & Dinamo HR

  • The Scarcity of Global Talents has been talked about. World average has peaked ever since 2007.

If a country is having a hard time with this, I think it is because the skills the industry needs have changed much faster than before. The fact that the current education system raises people that will do manuel work at factories and will not need much cognitive work demonstrates this. Countries with economic power, an up-to-date education system and without worries like war, famine or a lack of freedom can fill this hole much faster while countries dealing with these problems seem to have an ever-growing hunger for skills.

  • The message that we should be co-active at the work place was given. It was mentioned that the producer and the consumer came together and we need to view things as “inventors”.

I think this is a very good emphasis as “Producing is happiness” can be the biggest truth I have discovered in life. We live in a structure in which our main societal identities are determined as consumers and out status and place in society is set by our belonging to brands. This is the situation, whether we like it or not. Corporate business environment is based upon “fulfilling duties” rather than enjoying productivity. We see that this is no longer enough. People want to produce, create an output (and earn money), not just do duties.

  • A distinction between the Future Barrier and Companies Compatible with Future has been made. If we look at what distinguishes companies from one another, we can see:

Those defining companies with the future barrier
  • Employee mind
  • Harmony culture
  • Performance-centred
  • Top-bottom power (hierarchal)
Those defining companies with future adaptability
  • Entrepreneur mind
  • Innovation culture
  • Valuable information
  • Dispersed power

I think these observations are correct, but it’s not possible for corporate structures to undergo these changes without making big sacrifices. Change always comes with pain. It’s really difficult for giant corporate structures that have loyally worked with their truths for a long time to change performance culture into that of information, harmony culture to innovation, and employee mind to entrepreneur mind.

This change will somehow happen. But as the living beings in an ecosystem are forced to either adapt or extinct when nature conditions radically change, the same will happen in this situation as well. I foresee only 10-20% of today’s companies truly surviving this change, and others either getting smaller or disappearing. (I had mentioned this in my article The Start-up Ecosystem before.) While those stubborn ones shut to change and has sacrificed a lot to come to their position in the hierarchy won’t be convinced by this change, entrepreneurs living small with the new truth will grow little by little.

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Nurdan Taş; Garanti Bank (Turkey) Employer Branding Project

Considering the bank’s 70th anniversary, its actions in Employer Branding has been told. I listened carefully in amazement. As far as I can see, there is nothing happening other than giving the employees pens with a 70th year logo and ties; and cutting birthday cakes across the company.

The characteristic of the most inefficient HR activities is creating a cut between the employees and the management world, or making this cut apparent. For some reason, all I have seen made me think of this. I got the image of employees cutting those cakes with a sense of mission, not with sincerity and excitement.

Those that were told beyond this could be useful in “good HR activities, or employee loyalty” but a strong connection hasn’t been built with “Employer Branding”. At least I couldn’t see it.

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Richard Mosley; Employer Brand & Brand Strategy, Universum

According to HBR, Data Scientist has been chosen the “sexiest” of the 21st century.

Other emphases that caught my attention:

Organizations don’t think they can measure well the quality of the people they hire.

  • “Funnel” of Employer Brand Talent

1) Awareness

2) Consideration

3) Desire

4) Application

Know your EVP (check this detailed article on EVP), share it on right social media channels, whatever field of business you are in, talk to its members through it and in the correct language.

Candidate Experience / On-Boarding Experience / Employee Experience. Richard Mosley advises measuring these before progressing.

If you ask me, Richard Mosley knows what he’s doing. There’s nothing wrong in what he says. But it wasn’t a talk that reached expectations. Because we haven’t yet understood and accepted the essence of the matter, built the correct relationships with the employees. He talked about techniques and tactics, measurement means etc. of companies who learned the correct language. But what we need more is 1) understanding the essence of this, and 2) discover what kind of a change this will create within current corporal and hierarchical structures. We know, and have understood, what to do on paper. It’s not a theoretically complicated topic anyway. But the big difficulties in some sectors should have been addressed.

I don’t want to say it was a talk “beyond its time” because it didn’t include things that were difficult to understand due to the vision they included. It just didn’t give me the impression that it was a narration that matched the problems, needs and questions of the audience it addressed. Another note; it made me feel he himself was bored of talking about and repeating these issues. (With the introduction including some references to last year’s presentation, he hinted that he will talk about similar things.)

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Alfonso Aunon Garcia; Global Employer Brand Lead at Heineken

Creativity that matters – Creativity that enables an emotional connection with the brand.

Truly value and belive in the role of “people” in an organization.

He says, they are not the most efficient, not the best in their logistics etc. but the best in employer branding.

According to him, these four are the essence of the “magic” of Heineken:
  • Passion for Quality
  • Enjoyment of Life
  • Brands that people love
  • Respect for people & planet

I think they are able to make business through having bold and authentic main values because they believe in the fun, value and pleasure of the brand they have. Most of their value comes from their ability to locate themselves as “anti-business” and “anti-corporate”. The competitive advantage of a brand whose business relies on “drinking beer” is undoubtedly high. The fiction in people’s collective consciousness is this: let’s drink beer (liked activity) to rest and have fun after work (disliked activity). Yes, this kind of a competition has advantages, but they give Employer Branding its due as well.

I think the strongest and clearest message Alfonso gave was this: If the things you do (regarding employer branding) don’t arouse emotions on the opposite side, they are in vain. Look at the least successful employer brands and the banks that are seen to be the most boring; this is because they don’t arouse emotions in people. He summarises this by saying “Focus on making people believe your message rather than making them understand.”

“Don’t mould me, stretch me” has settles as the essence of Heineken’s EVP as a result of research. They moved in all their research by putting this in the centre. It has been effective, too.

This must be the most creative “business interview” model I’ve ever seen. I’d suggest you check it out on http://goplaces.theheinekencompany.com. The fact that this kind of work is being done shows us how much HR and marketing intertwined. This work can be awarded both in HR and marketing.

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Cem Canikoğlu; Europe Talent Acquisition Leader, P&G Turkey

The most basic qualities of P&G were found to be Careerist, Internationalist, and Idealist. They have made good progress on how to create and continue the correct employer brand, especially in discovering the company’s own values. There are some useful findings. They are still making an effort especially in discovering what they call “Prime Prospect” which is the unifying elements, and the target audience.

I think, despite all their effort, the FMCG (Fast-moving consumer goods – retail) sector is losing altitude. AT the opening speeches, Evrim Kuran emphasized that the places of banking, fast consumption and telecom are falling down in the rankings of places people want to work at the most. We see once more that this is true. In a world where people say they want to have more meaning, more useful jobs, more influence; what the company sells and how it is known as a consumer brand is very important, no matter how good their Employer Branding strategies are planned and implemented. It seems that, especially for the generation that is newly entering the business world, doing things that affect how people live as a part of a difference-creating enterprise is much more valuable than selling shampoo.

It’s also possible to see this in the relatively more mature market of Europe where job insecurities are lower. Because in such a market, working at a start-up, doing volunteer work, making efforts in social entrepreneurship have a higher social status and higher employer/sector attraction than doing traditional FMCG work.

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Claudia Tattanelli; Head of the Strategic Consultative Committee, Universum

Issues she talks about;

Global workforce. Big movement from local to global

The cut between talent supply and demand

Competition in corporate structures that comes from enterprises

Workforce including many generations

Sharing Economy and the growth of those doing their own business

Claudia highlighted the most important issues of today through wonderful data. In my opinion, these are the most important of them and need to be re-read:

  • Within 5 years, three out of four of the 500 companies in the world will be companies we don’t know today!

In 1982, 60% of the corporate values was tangible, while 40% was intangible. Of course, human labour and innovation capacity are in the second category. Today, it is 15% tangible and 85% intangible!

Compared to 2015, the rate of those investing more in Employer Branding is 59%. Also, the rate of companies seeing Employer Branding as a priority is 62%. This wasn’t the situation a couple of years ago, this is very important information.

Conclusion

Even though it sprung from the need to deal with talented people, Employer Branding eventually has advantageous prospects. It can be a mediator in creating more collaborative and efficient work environments. Additionally, the coming together of HR and Marketing seems to bring about fun fusions. Of course, this is not true for those who do marketing rotely and who deal mainly with operational HR. But let’s hope the bright minds of both sides keep on collaborating and end it there.

 

  • People Make The Brand has been held for four years now (2016). It’s improving every time. It seems to have overcome the risk of repeating itself this year. But we will see what the following years bring. I hereby thank them for their kind invitation.

 

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