Employer branding a no nonsense approach by cipd


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Employer branding a no nonsense approach by cipd

  1. 1. GuideEmployer brandingA no-nonsenseapproach
  2. 2. ContentsAcknowledgements 2Foreword 3Part 1: Introduction 4Part 2: Before we get started… 5Part 3: How did we get here? 6Part 4: What is a brand? 10Part 5: How to tell if you need an employer brand 13Part 6: Making the case, getting the cash 22Part 7: Overcoming objections 30Part 8: Choosing your partner 34Part 9: From plan to practice 45Part 10: Every picture tells a story 49Part 11: Building brand loyalty, creating brand equity 54Part 12: The brand and broader HR issues 59Thirty things you need to remember about employer brands 62Find out more... 64Employer branding
  3. 3. AcknowledgementsThank you to those individuals who have contributedsignificantly to the shaping of this guide:Helen Rosethorn, Bernard HodesSimon Barrow, People in BusinessGraeme Martin, University of GlasgowDavid Roberts, OrangeAlison Ballantyne, Scottish PowerRebecca Martin-Cortez, ArgosAnne Spearman, British LibraryGeorgina Whiteley and Katrina Fox, VodafoneLorraine Homer and Nicky Ivory, McDonaldsLorraine Taylor, RBS GroupHoward McMinn and Sophie Ling, Deloitte and ToucheTheresa Proctor, TescoMichelle Carr and Karen Scott, Tower HamletsSue Hossent, Kings College Hospital NHSFoundation TrustNeil Cox, Baker TillyMichelle Armitage, Andrews and Partners LtdTim Pointer, DieselNicola Wilton, PaperchaseDebbie Bullock, LakelandThis project required an enormous amount of researchand the CIPD is immensely grateful to all the otherorganisations and individuals who gave of their time ina variety of different ways to ensure this research wasrelevant and up to date. Employer branding
  4. 4. ForewordWhy is the CIPD interested in employerbranding… and what is the link to HR?Employer branding seems to be offering HR anintriguing model by which to link their people strategyand the company brand to achieve differentiation in thelabour market. Results from CIPD research show thatcompanies are struggling to attract, recruit, engage andretain talent for their organisations. These are reportedas top priorities for HR in many countries around theworld.Brand management is a well-established concept – whycan it not be directly transferable into companies tohelp drive internal value from a company’s mostvaluable asset – its people?A company brand is used to gain customer loyalty andtherefore increased profits/success through marketdifferentiation. An employer brand can be used forsimilar effect by HR and organisations, to competeeffectively in the labour market and drive employeeloyalty through effective recruitment, engagement andretention policies.Employer branding is how an organisation marketswhat it has to offer to both potential and existingemployees. A strong employer brand should connect anorganisation’s values, people strategy and HR policiesand be intrinsically linked to a company brand.The number of definitions and theories about employerbrands can make your head spin. But we suggest herethat the most sensible, workable definition goessomething like this:An employer brand is a set of attributes and qualities– often intangible – that makes an organisationdistinctive, promises a particular kind of employmentexperience, and appeals to those people who willthrive and perform to their best in its culture.What will this guide deliver?This guide starts at the beginning and shows the HRpractitioner how to develop and communicate anemployer brand.In support, case studies from a very wide selection ofemployers and organisations illustrate why and howthey have developed and communicated an employeebrand to attract, retain and/or engage both potentialand existing employees.This work is supported by an interactive practical toolwww.cipd.co.uk/toolsIf you would is comment on this research then pleaseemail research@cipd.co.ukFurther research and insights on employer brandingfrom the CIPD can be found at www.cipd.co.uk/research/_empbranding.htmThis guide has been written for the CIPD by PaulWalker, Head of Employer Branding, Barkers, andproject-managed by Andrew Platt Higgins,Planning Director, Barkers.Employer branding
  5. 5. Part 1: Introduction‘The power of the brand in all its forms is likely to become even more deeply embedded inour cultural landscape.’ Dr Shirley Jenner and Stephen Taylor, Manchester Metropolitan UniversityBusiness SchoolIf you’re bracing yourself for a long, challenging, jargon-laden read, arguments and counterarguments that zoomback and forth like tennis balls on Wimbledon’s CentreCourt, and theories that make your head spin, relax.At the risk of mixing metaphors, the best way to thinkof this guide – and to actually use it – is as one of those‘I can’t imagine life without it’ cookery books that youclutch thankfully in one hand while you stir thebéchamel sauce with the other. And the more its pagesbecome well-thumbed or metaphorically stained, themore it will have served its purpose.But what is its purpose? And why is it appearing now?After all, with Amazon able to show you at least onehardback treatise on the employer brand, when theCIPD itself has already published on the topic, whenvirtually every recruitment advertising agency listsemployer branding among the services it offers, isn’t yetanother guide, well… just a little late in the day?There’s no glossary of technical terms;something as logical and common sense asemployer brand development shouldn’tneed one.Employer brands and the whole discipline and practiceof developing and implementing them aren’t new. Andthat’s the reason why this guide is so timely. It’s basedon the collective experience of many differentorganisations – large and small, public sector,commercial sector, ‘third sector’ – who shared theirexperiences with the CIPD and with the author and hiscolleagues in an extensive programme of research that,not surprisingly, used some of the techniques thatfeature prominently in brand development projects. It’salso based on the author’s own practical, sharp-endexperience of actually doing employer branddevelopment for organisations ranging frommultinationals to individual NHS trusts over a period ofseven years.So this isn’t a prescriptive, ‘this is how you must do it’guide; it’s the accumulated experience, the knowledge,the learning points of dozens of people who have takenthe plunge, done the work, faced up to the challenges– and derived the benefits. They’re in the uniqueposition of being able to say: ‘This is how it worked forus, therefore this is how it can work for you.’But if we look at the employment market, the economyand how the fundamental relationship between peopleand work is changing, this guide hasn’t arrived amoment too soon. The ‘war for talent’ – that HRcatchphrase of the turn of the century – is turning hotagain. The HR profession is seeking new ways todemonstrate the true value it brings to an enterprise.The CIPD’s own recent survey shows that recruitmentand retention are big, big headaches for manyorganisations. It also says that, ‘Employer brands arevery much in fashion at the moment.’ That’s both agood thing and a bad thing. It’s good to see they’rereceiving the attention they deserve. But if people don’tfully understand what they are and what they can andcan’t do, there’s a danger they’ll go the way of powerbreakfasts, big hair and padded shoulders.So the time is right for a guide that lives on the sameplanet as every hard-pressed HR practitioner, that mixesthe authority of collective experience with a degree ofhumility, that seeks to teach, not preach.This is that guide. Read, react, learn, practise.And enjoy. Employer branding
  6. 6. Part 2: Before we get started...You might find it useful to see the format a typical in this guide. But in the meantime, the four stages of aemployer brand development and communication project project, and what happens in each one, are outlined infollows. You’ll learn more about the specific activities later Figure 1 below.Figure 1: Employer brand development and communicationWhat’s happening Project stagesAt this stage you’ll get a firm fix on how yourbrand is perceived by your top management,other employees and your external talentmarket(s). You’ll get a sense of how big a taskthe new brand faces. You need to developrelationships with other disciplines, and prepareDiscoveryyour business case. You’ll almost certainly havesome of the research data you need already.Don’t forget to measure the current perfomance.This is the critical stage between input andoutput. You – or, more probably, your externalpartner in the project – will be creating yourAnalysis,brand’s ‘stem cells’ or its unique ‘DNA’ andstarting to build it from there. You’ll start to get interpretationa clear picture of what your organisation standsandfor, offers and requires as an employer – itsdistinctive value proposition. creationBefore you rush to apply the brand to your nextbig recruitment push, make sure that you candeliver what the brand promises, that the valueproposition is one your current employees can Implementationrecognise and believe in, and that the candidatesandwill experience full alignment between what theyexpect and what they experience. communicationQualitative research, both external and internal,will reassure you that the new brand is perceivedthe way you’d intended. By now, the brand isstarting to make its presence felt in day-to-dayinternal communications, and in your ‘peoplepractices’. For the first time you’ll be able todemonstrate improvements on your originalbaseline measures, and it will be clear to all thatthe brand is delivering real value.Measurement,maintenanceandoptimisationTypical actions• senior management workshop• internal and external focus group• employee survey• candidate journey audit• building rapport withmarketing/PR/communicationsteams• ensuring top-level buy-in• select external partners• apply baseline metrics• define brand attributes• define overall employment valueproposition• associate specific behaviours witheach attribute• ‘flex’ attributes for each talentmarket segment• overall creative brief• initial creative expression of brand• apply brand to:• induction programme/material• applicant information• briefing for recruitmentconsultancies• interview/assessment process• launch brand internally• apply brand fully to talent-attracting programmes/materials,including website• probe internal response tonew brand• probe external perception• measure improvements inrecruitment and retention metrics• complete application of brand tocandidate journey• measure uptake of ‘living thebrand’Employer branding
  7. 7. Part 3: How did we get here?Background to the projectWe conducted two discovery days in which seniorHR people from respected, high-profile organisations inboth the commercial and public sectors shared theirexperiences of brands and brand development, andworked to give us an idea of what ‘best practice’ mightlook like. They also supplied two of the three full-lengthcase studies you’ll find later in this guide.We carried out an online survey on the CIPDwebsite, asking for responses to key questions aboutemployer brands and their development. 280 peopletook part in the survey.We conducted telephone interviews with senior HRpeople who had direct experience of developing andcommunicating employer brands, with particularemphasis on small and medium-sized enterprises.We searched through a wide range of papers andarticles about all aspects of employer brands, includingthe CIPD’s own published material.0 20 40 60 80% actively managing this factor n=274Leadership and management behavioursCareers websitePerformance managementPublic relationsPhysical working environmentIT, technology and communicationsCompensation and benefits strategyDiversity communicationsOtherEmployee communicationsRecruitment advertisingLearning and developmentCampus/schools recruitmentFigure 2: Aspects actively managed through employer branding programme Employer branding
  8. 8. What CIPD members told usThe brand playing an active part in managingrecruitment advertising and employee communications?Yes, you’d expect those two bars to protrude waybeyond others in Figure 2. But look closer; notice howrespondents believe that the brand has a relationshipto, and an impact on, other issues like leadership andmanagement behaviours, and performancemeasurement. This suggests that more organisationsthan one might expect recognise the importance of‘living the brand’. One surprise – and a disappointment– is that campus/schools recruitment seems to berelatively low on the agenda; a brand gives you themeans to engage with both of these key audiences.From the online survey results it’s encouraging to seethat responsibility clearly rests with the leadershipteam for most respondents. More worrying is theapparent imbalance between corporate/brandcommunications and the HR director, suggesting thathe or she may not yet be quite ‘up there’ where thebig decisions are made. More concerning still is that‘no real or definitive point of ownership’.Employer branding
  9. 9. 0 20 40 60 80 100% objective is important or very important for respondents n=274Compete for labour (locally)Increase employee satisfactionImprove productivity/deliveryCompete for labour(national/international)Reduce attritionReduce costs of HRAlignment to vision/valuesImprove recruitment performanceFigure 3: Employer branding objectives ranked by importanceRespondents were very clear about their objectives indeveloping, communicating and maintaining anemployer brand. What’s particularly encouraging is thatso many clearly recognise the impact the brand can andshould have on productivity and service delivery. Employer branding
  10. 10. Figure 4: Characteristics of employer brandingYou can’t try to create a singleemployer brand in an organisation thatemploys a diverse range of peoplePublic sector employers should notbother with employer brand developmentIn my organisation, we could neverget HR, communications, linemanagement, learning and developmentEmployer brand programmes areoften a waste of moneyOnly big employers can find theresources to develop and maintain astrong employer brandThere’s no clear model or templatefor employer branding work inan organisation like mineIt’s clear how employer brandingactivity can be measuredAn employer brand is inextricablylinked to an organisation’s reputationfor its products and servicesEmployer branding should bethought an investment, not a cost0 10 20Good news all round in Figure 4 – particularly the beliefthat brand performance can be measured and cantherefore be shown to be an investment, not a cost.But some organisations clearly need to challenge theirassumption of an automatic linkage between theemployer brand and the reputation of their goods andservices. For some organisations the two need to be,and can be, effectively de-coupled.30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100% agree or strongly agree n=267The challenges and problems respondentsexperienced included:• fragmentation of ownership, with poorcommunication between departments involved inthe process• lack of recognition of employer branding as a vitalelement of corporate strategy• size of organisation: paradoxically, biggerorganisations reported more problems than smallerones, even though there’s a presumption thatemployer branding is only relevant to corporategiants• HR not perceived having the ‘clout’ to get involvedin strategic functions• fragmentation of workforce militating againstconsistency of message.Employer branding
  11. 11. Part 4: What is a brand?‘I’m part of the HR community, but I sit with my colleagues in brand. My job is trying tospeak marketing to HR people and HR to marketing people.’ David Roberts, Orange EmployerBrand Manager‘The branded employment product simplifies choice, reassures prospective employees aboutquality and reduces risk.’ Dr Shirley Jenner and Stephen Taylor, Manchester Metropolitan UniversityBusiness School‘We can all have those performance conversations… but by trying to communicate thebrand values, it’s useful to have another way of saying, “This is what we expect of you.” It’sa more positive way.’ Senior HR practitioner at first discovery dayAlongside the war for talent, there seems to be anotherfierce little conflict going on – for the ownership of theemployer brand and its development andimplementation.There’s no shortage of protagonists. The main forcestake the form of an alliance between HR departmentsand their recruitment advertising agencies. And whynot? After all, most organisations see the employerbrand, initially at least, as a tool to help them recruit.But within those organisations there may well be aseparate tussle going on between HR and marketing,particularly in organisations with prominent, valuableconsumer brands. But then there’s a school of thoughtthat says that employer brands are not really abouttalent attraction, but about that pot of gold at the endof the rainbow: employee engagement. At that point,another army steps in to claim ownership – themanagement consultants (and even the actuarialpractices), who have little interest in or knowledge ofmarketing and marketing communications, but whofeel that such strategic issues are their natural fiefdoms.It’s all very confusing. And while the debate rages, HRpractitioners agonise, time runs on, problems pile up andgreat opportunities are missed. What often gets lost inthe mêlée is the fact that brands – any kind of brand,What often gets lost in the mêlée is the factthat brands – any kind of brand, includingemployer brands – are marketing conceptsand marketing constructs.including employer brands – are marketing concepts andmarketing constructs. It’s significant that Orange, thatsupremely brand-savvy organisation that supplied theexcellent case study you’ll find later in this guide, say oftheir approach: ‘We took the best approaches from themarketing community around brand-building andsegmentation and applied them to the HR world.’ Brandsmake people want to buy something and feel goodthey’ve bought it for a long time afterwards. And feelinggood makes you want to tell other people about it; itturns you into an unsuspecting brand advocate. They’realso about differentiation. Don’t forget that was the mainpurpose of the original, physical brand burnt onto therumps of several thousand head of cattle – to distinguishthem from all those other critters from that ranch on thefar side of the hill. And today, when technology makesproducts (and jobs) increasingly similar, the brand comesinto play to give people a basis for choice, irrationalthough that process may often be. Finally, brands areabout reputation, which probably explains why Oracle’s0 Employer branding
  12. 12. legendary founder and CEO, Larry Ellison, is on record assaying, ‘Your brand is what people say about you whenyou’ve left the room.’ And think of the way reputationhas seen many great brands safely through a rockypatch. When Marks Spencer seemed to have lost theplot a few years ago, their reputation, built up over longdecades in the British psyche, saw them through. Theengine may have stalled, but the flywheel of that massivereputation kept on turning.Employer brands are more like consumer or corporatebrands than many people realise or acknowledge. Allbrands function and deliver value in the same way,like this:They achieve differentiationOne of the questions that people raised in our researchand that clients have often asked me in the past goeslike this:‛What are we offering that’s different orspecial? How can I claim that our call centre/NHS trust/retail operation/civil service department/local authority isreally any different to any other?It’s a good, valid question and it deserves a full answer.Let’s take the imaginary case of two apparently similar(in practice, nearly identical) call centres. Both offerexcellent training, flexible shift patterns, and plenty ofother good things that people look for in their next job.But one has taken the trouble to communicate theseclearly and consistently over a period of time. It hastaken steps to build its reputation among the localcommunity. It has made sure that what it promisespotential employees – how it actually feels to workthere – is pretty much how it really does feel, and thatexternal promise aligns with internal reality. Itsrecruitment advertising and all the material an applicantsees contain the same messages and share a commonlook and feel.At the end of the day, the two call centres still remainas they always were, nearly identical to each other. Anydifferences may be of style rather than substance, butthat’s not the point. The point is that one call centre haspre-empted and outsmarted the other by painting arealistic picture of what it will feel like to work there.The real differentiation lies in the fact that theperception one has created is clearly delineated; theother is still vague and fuzzy.They support premium pricingHow often have you shelled out a few extra pence (ormaybe many extra pounds) on a product whose brandyou recognise, trust and admire? In consumermarketing, you can simply charge more on the basis ofthe strength of your brand.In the world of employment marketing, the samebenefit of a well-developed brand applies, but isexpressed rather differently. With no brand, no profile,no reputation, you’re forced to compete on money. Likemany organisations, you may find yourself simplythrowing money at a recruitment problem, and gettingembroiled in some crazy kind of auction in which youand your closest competitors try to outbid each otheron salaries. (Anyone who’s ever recruited in thegraduate market will know just how this feels.)With a fully formed brand, you’ll have plenty of otherareas in which you can compete – successfully – fortalent. You’ll be joining the ranks of those fortunateorganisations who can say: ‘Of course, we don’t paythe highest salaries, but people are queuing to join us.They like working for us and they know our name willlook good on their CV.’They inspire loyaltyAny marketer knows that the greatest value of theirbrand doesn’t come with the customer’s initial purchasebut with the way that customer will stay loyal to thebrand for many years to come. If you feel good aboutthe car, mobile phone company, bank or holidaycompany you’ve chosen, if you feel that it’s done whatit said on the tin and actually delivered on the kind ofpromises that attracted you in the first place, you’llwant to tell people about it. And when you do, yourspontaneous advocacy will cut much, much more icethan any amount of that company’s advertising, nomatter how skilful and creative it may be.An employer brand will stimulate that ‘initial purchase’by attracting enough of the right kind of applicant. Butthe real value comes later, when that individual looksround after their first few months, feels that things arepretty much how they’d hoped and been promised, andstarts to feel that affinity, that bond – often irrationalbut always powerful – that characterises therelationship people have with all the really importantbrands in their lives. They’ll be more engaged in theirEmployer branding
  13. 13. work, showing more of that ‘discretionary time andeffort’ that’s one of the basic measures of employeeengagement. They’ll feel proud of their organisationand what it does. They won’t feel forced into the kindof defensive response that some of the participants inour discovery days described, in which in a social settingthey dreaded the question, ‘so who do you work for?’and felt furtive or evasive in their replies.The notion of affinity is central to the concept of theemployer brand – arguably to a greater degree thanconsumer brands. It’s a sign of psychologicalengagement – that all-important aspect of overallengagement that, as the CIPD’s own publicationWorking Life: Employee attitudes and engagement2006 points out, is one of the key drivers of superiorindividual and collective performance. Where loyalty isat least in part logical and often publicly expressed,affinity is something quieter, more intuitive and harderto articulate, more private and personal – but every bitas strong and as valuable to the organisation. It’s simplyThe brand creates an opportunity to identifyand create a bond with the ‘right’ people –those who will feel an affinity with theorganisation and who will thrive and performto their fullest potential in its culture.the feeling that the organisation I work for is somehow‘for me’. And the corollary of that is that, if it’s right forthe kind of person I am, it’s wrong for a different kindof person. So, in the context of employer brands,affinity is another dimension of differentiation. Andeven at the earliest stages of talent attraction, in thefirst ad or webpage that initiates an individual’srelationship with an employing organisation, the brandcreates an opportunity to identify and create a bondwith the ‘right’ people – those who will feel an affinitywith the organisation and who will thrive and performto their fullest potential in its culture. And at the sameearly stage, the opportunity also exists to gentlydissuade and deter the ‘wrong’ people.When I developed the employer brand for HM PrisonService, one of the outputs was naturally an articulationof ‘the sort of organisation we are’ and ‘the sort ofpeople we need to attract and retain’. On that basis,the Service’s senior management team saw the brand asa much-needed opportunity to identify the type ofperson it didn’t need and whose presence they felt wasinhibiting progress and blocking change. Asorganisational or cultural change become increasinglyfrequent and radical, the constituency of people whowon’t or can’t adapt becomes bigger. An employerbrand can articulate to them what ‘the new way’ meansin terms of beliefs, attitudes and behaviours: it can helpthem change and catch up. And if all else fails, it canindicate to them that the time might be right to startlooking around. An employer brand has as much valuein deterring the wrong kind of people from anorganisation as in attracting the right kind – ‘right’meaning not just natural members of a cabal ofcorporate clones, but people who understand andespouse its distinctive vision and values. Employer branding
  14. 14. Part 5: How to tell if you need anemployer brand‘Our new chief exec opened the local paper and spotted five of our recruitment adson the same spread – all different, some with just little captions managers had donefor themselves. That created the platform to try and fix this thing.’ Senior HR manager, aparticipant in our first discovery day‘If people apply for a job or when they come for an interview, and they have a badexperience, they’ll slag us off. And that impacts on our consumer brand as well.’ Senior HRpractitioner at first discovery dayThe first point to realise here is that you alreadyhave oneThat doesn’t mean that one of your HR predecessorswent out and developed one. It simply means that yourorganisation has a reputation as a place to work. It maynot be the reputation you would want, or that accuratelyreflects the internal reality of what working for yourorganisation actually feels like. It may be stronger orweaker than you suppose. It will, in all probability, bemore vague and fuzzy, more devoid of clear, distinctivefeatures than you would wish – it may fail to do the jobof differentiating you from your competitors in yourtalent market or markets.But while you ponder the state of your brand andcogitate about what you should do with and about it,there are some classic symptoms that suggest somethingneeds to be done. And for many organisations, these arethe triggers, the catalysts that start the process ofdeveloping their employer brands and ensuring theyderive full benefit from them.Your chief financial officer asks to ‘have a word’about escalating recruitment costsMany organisations fail to establish their true costs ofrecruitment because the figures such an exercise wouldreveal would be pretty scary. The traditional cost-per-hiremeasure is useful – but only up a point. It may help tosee how your costs compare with the usually acceptedaverage for your industry or for a particular recruitmentcategory, such as graduates.But the figures that really shed light on the state of youremployer brand are more specific. One of the most tellingmetrics of all is how much you spend on recruitmentconsultants. There are many reasons why organisationsuse recruitment consultants and, at least in terms ofyielding a shortlist of good candidates, they do anexcellent job. But, in my own experience, many recruitersconfess to using consultants because their ownorganisations lack the reputation, the presence, and thebrand profile that would make their recruitmentadvertising fully effective. Their advertising would simplyhave too much to do – answer the basic question, ‘Whatwould this outfit be like to work for?’ as well asgenerating response from enough candidates who fit thecandidate specification.Recruitment consultancies deliver the goods – but at aprice. Where brand profile is concerned, remember it’stheir logo on the ad, not yours.Another key metric is the proportion of candidates whosimply fade away during the application process –particularly those who, after several interviews and havingshown bags of enthusiasm, then decline your kind offerof a job. The actual costs of such a failure need somework if they are to be fully quantified, but the effort willEmployer branding
  15. 15. be worth it since it shows the true cost of failing to exciteand engage (there’s that word again) the right candidatesas you and they go through the courtship rituals of theapplication/candidate-management process. But considerthe cost of having to re-advertise. Put a measure on thevalue of management time that must be devoted toreinterviewing. Depending on the nature of the role inquestion, you may even be able to point to the cost oflost business or delayed projects.Your managing director wonders why yourorganisation doesn’t feature in the Sunday Times‘Best 00 places to work’A fixation with league tables has almost become anational disease. Nevertheless, there’s real value inappearing in this and any other tables that identify andrecognise good employers and good employmentpractices, to say nothing of how good it feels as youmake your first entry into the charts.The Sunday Times survey is, for my money, one of themost valuable, not just because of its high profile, butbecause it’s based on how real people genuinely feel andwhat they actually say about working for theirorganisation. What still surprises me is how many smaller,almost niche organisations regularly appear in therankings, and often towards the upper end. They won’thave spent a fortune on high-profile, brand-based talentattraction advertising, because their relatively small sizemeans they don’t need to. Instead, they’ve focused ondefining what they want their distinctive employmentexperience to be, and ensuring that it becomes aneveryday reality for their employees.And in so doing, they’ve given themselves three of thegreatest benefits of an employer brand – loyalty,engagement and advocacy.Some of your best people are leaving after lessthan monthsYou’ve got serious problems. Because what’s happeningis that newcomers experience a disconnect betweenwhat they assumed (or were led to believe) working foryour organisation would feel like, and what they actuallydiscover. This lack of alignment is one of the cardinalbrand sins: any brand that doesn’t deliver – from theairline that leaves you stranded to the credit cardcompany that leaves you fuming – is shooting itself inthe foot. And the bigger the purchase decision, the morecomplex and important the ‘product’ (like a new job), thegreater the sense of disillusion and let-down. And thegreater the likelihood that you’ll tell people about yourbad experiences. And that they’ll tell someone else and…In that way, people who should be brand advocatesbecome brand saboteurs.You feel uncomfortable telling people who youwork for‘I’ve given up telling people I work for the local council. Ijust tell them I work in HR and leave it at that.’ That wasthe comment of a participant in one of the discoverydays that provided so many insights for this guide. Okay,local authorities are always going to be the butt ofcarping criticism, but so are many other organisations.And the saddest thing of all is the sense that manypeople, in many different organisations, have simplythrown in the towel and opted for the soft option,instead of fighting their corner and saying, ‘Yes, I dowork for so-and-so organisation. And do you knowwhat? I really love it.’In a recent CIPD-sponsored survey, less thanhalf of the respondents said they wouldencourage friends and family to dobusiness with their organisation: just overhalf would recommend it as a place towork, but with barely 19% prepared to doso without being asked.Working Life: Employee attitudes andengagement 2006Many people instinctively feel good about theorganisations they work for, but they struggle toarticulate why. What the process of developing anemployer brand does is to identify the reasons why: itgives shape and coherence to what would otherwiseremain a powerful but unfocused feeling. People wholike the job they do and the place they work want tobecome advocates for it. An employer brand arms themwith the arguments they need.You admire your competitors’ recruitmentadvertising more than your ownI suppose it’s only natural that the one community thathas done more than any other to claim ownership ofemployer brands and their development is recruitmentadvertising – or ‘employment marketing’, to use a term Employer branding
  16. 16. Within the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and in the accountancy profession generally, Defence InternalAudit (DIA) was seen as those nasty people whose job it is to point accusing fingers, rap overspendingknuckles and find scapegoats. A modest employer brand project based on some simple focus groups andresulting in a bold, innovative (and highly successful) creative approach to recruitment advertisingrevealed a very different picture and effectively repositioned DIA as the team that helps managersmanage financial risk.When the brand was launched at the DIA’s national management conference, two delegates claimedthat the new representation of their organisation had initially surprised and even shocked them. ‘Ourfirst reaction was, “that’s just not us”. But a few minutes later we realised the new brand was exactlyus – it’s just that we’d never seen it that way before. It made us feel better about the organisation andour own jobs.’Defence Internal Audit: from villains to heroesthat more accurately describes what this corner of themarketing communications industry does these days.But this has created problems. For a start, it’s createdthe widespread impression that employer brands aremainly, or even exclusively, about the look and feel ofyour recruitment ads. You still hear clients asking for ‘areally well-branded campaign’, when what they reallymean is little more than a new house style. And withsome honourable exceptions, even some of the entrantsin the ‘best employer brand’ category of the variousaward schemes that lighten up the HR calendar areYou still hear clients asking for ‘a really well-branded campaign’, when what they reallymean is little more than a new house style.really better defined as campaigns – sophisticated,creative campaigns, but campaigns nonetheless.The other problem is that too many organisations haverushed to express their shiny new employer brandexternally without having made sure that it accuratelyand honestly reflects the internal reality of what it feelslike to work for that organisation.But having said all that, recruitment advertising (orrather, employment marketing communications) is oneof the most powerful and important manifestations ofan employer brand. Remember, we said at the start thatan employer brand is a marketing concept or construct.But why do so many organisations feel that theirrecruitment advertising, in whatever medium, isdisappointing and lacking a certain something? Arethey right, or is it just the same human instinct that saysone’s next door neighbour’s picnic or barbecue is alwaysbetter than one’s own?I suspect they are right, and the root of theirdisappointment is the fact that, for all its impact andoriginality, for all the display of consummate creativecraft skills, there’s little clarity in what the advertising isactually saying – there’s no clear proposition. And that’sbecause they haven’t identified the essence of whattheir organisation is and offers as an employer. Nobrand, therefore no distinctive identity for theorganisation. And no consistency, either. Your instinctivedisappointment will almost certainly lead you to trysomething different next time and ask your agency foryet another set of creative proposals. And so you’ll missthe steady build-up of your brand – its distinctivefeatures, values and personality – in the minds of yourtarget audience. People relate to the brands in theirlives almost as they relate to other people. They seekand enjoy a long-term relationship that may spring afew pleasant surprises as the brand develops and growsin clarity and confidence. But they don’t want shocks –the feeling that the person they thought they knew andliked has somehow changed.Employer branding
  17. 17. For your last big recruitment drive, you sent out application packs… and got backWhat’s almost certainly happened here is that yourrecruitment advertising, in whatever form or medium,has created certain expectations – which subsequentmaterial and the candidate’s experience have failed tomeet.For the candidate, the whole application process (which,even in the days of online application forms andapplicant tracking systems, can still be long and complex)should be one of growing familiarity and engagement(see Figure 5). It should be a smooth, incrementalprocess, culminating, ideally, in the candidate feeling theyhave psychologically joined the organisation even beforethey turn up in the flesh on their first Monday. In reality,the candidate will undergo an emotional roller-coasterride in which the initial high is quickly followed by asense of disappointment and uncertainty.What’s needed is absolute consistency of message, styleand tone at every contact between the organisationand the candidate. And it’s the brand that makes thatpossible, by identifying not just the messages thecandidate needs to receive, but the style and tone inwhich it receives them.Your workforce lacks the balance and diversityyou want and need, with too many applicationscoming from the same communities they’vealways come fromAmazingly, even in the days of fragmentingcommunities and high personal mobility (although not,apparently, social mobility), you still come acrossorganisations that can boast employees from threegenerations of the same family. There’s somethingquaint, cosy and faintly reassuring about such aphenomenon – something rather traditional and British.And let’s face it, it suggests the organisation must bedoing something right if mums and dads are happy tosee their kids following in their footsteps – and maybeeven joining their own parents who are thoroughlyenjoying part-time work as they head towardsretirement. The organisation’s PR machine will love it;the local paper will print it.Managed diligently,using the brand at everytouchpoint, the candidatejourney will be onesteadily, smoothlygrowing engagementand affinity.Should bring thebrand andits attributesdramaticallyto life.Remember rejectionletter is equallyimportant – leavethem feeling goodabout the brand.Ideally new starterswill feel they’vepsychologicallyjoined before theirphysical start date.Make it soon!Use it to embedon-brand attitudesand behaviour,stimulateengagement.FIRSTMONDAYIs interviewing/hiring managerbriefed on the brand?An impressivebrand exemplar.StartDoes your assessmentapproach measure‘brand fit’?The candidate journey:the brand has a role to playevery inch of the way.This gap could beseveral weeks – evenmonths. Keep intouch, use everyopportunity togrow emotionalengagement, brandaffinity. This is wheretoo many goodcandidates dropoff the radar.Does it relatecompetencies toon-brand behaviours?WebsiteApplicationform–printoronlineInterviewAssessment(ifapplicable)OfferletterInduction‘Keepwarm’activityBrand-basedwelcomepack–howwedothingsroundhere.Personalmessagefrommanager/buddyFigure 5: The candidate journey Employer branding
  18. 18. But all is not as well as it seems – not nearly as well.And in the seeds of such apparent comfort, futurediscomfort lies. A situation in which successive waves ofapplicants arrive, almost by a process of osmosis, fromthe same communities means the organisation will lackany profile outside those communities. Because thesupply has always been there, the organisation hasnever felt the need to spread the net wider, to explorealternative pools of talent. And because we’re talkingabout a generational phenomenon here, one that goesback several decades, those communities will bepredominantly white.But diversity – or lack of it – isn’t the only issue here.What’s happened is that the organisation’s employerbrand – the articulation of the distinctive employmentexperience it offers – will have been created andcommunicated not by the organisation itself, but by thecommunities from which it draws its talent. Itsreputation will have been made not by any concerted,brand-based communications initiatives, but bycountless conversations over the garden fence. And theaspects of the employment experience that become thestuff of local folklore may not be those that theorganisation needs to emphasise and promote. Andlocal perception may lag well behind the changingreality, with the result that subsequent starters mayexperience a sense of shock that ‘it’s not a bit like whatmy dad said it would be’.And a situation in which organisations have allowedtheir employer brands to be determined andcommunicated not by themselves but by the marketsthey seek to recruit from isn’t an exclusively localphenomenon. For years, the BBC allowed itself to beseen as the natural destination for liberal arts graduateswho didn’t want to dirty their hands with anything tooovertly and squalidly commercial. Right across London,the London Fire Brigade had to fight long and hard toreduce its dependence on applicants from white malesfrom families where joining the brigade was almost atradition, like driving a black cab or getting a job in ‘ThePrint’.In this context, the function – and the value – of anemployer brand is as much to say ‘this is how it won’tbe if you work here’ as to paint the picture of how itwill be.You sense that your workforce has more cynicsthan optimistsCynicism is the corporate equivalent of Japaneseknotweed – insidious, pernicious, and hard to get rid ofonce it’s established.Its seeds can be sown early in an individual’semployment with an organisation, with themisalignment between what they anticipated and whatthey actually experienced. For some, the sense oflet-down will be so strong that they’ll simply vote withtheir feet. But others may not be so lucky in findingtheir next job. Their sense of disillusion may stop justshort of the point at which they write their resignationletter, and in some ways this is even more damaging.‘Oh well,’ they say. ‘It’s a job, isn’t it? I guess I’ll stick itout for a bit.’ And as they do stick it out, they start toinfect those around them, including new arrivals.The employer brand can address this issue in two ways.First, it can create that all-important alignment betweenthe anticipated and the actual experience. Throughcarefully planned, consistent messages, style andtonality right the way through the application process,joining, induction and beyond, it can set detailed,realistic expectations of what it means to work for thatparticular organisation, what it offers and demands,what it will actually feel like on a day-to-day basis.(The brand) can create that all-importantalignment between the anticipated and theactual experience.In addition, the research that distinguishes thedevelopment of an employer brand from any other kindof employment marketing initiative will reveal any gapsbetween how the senior management team sees theorganisation, the values it espouses and theemployment experience it offers and how things appearto those working closer to the coalface. The bigger thegap, the harder the brand has to work, and the morecaution needs to be exercised over any claims orpromises the brand may make.And at the very least, the brand development process,particularly with a proper creative input, will expressEmployer branding
  19. 19. that organisation’s vision and values in ways that peoplecan relate and sign up to, and that’s far removed fromthe stilted, limiting and frankly naff vocabulary withwhich such key issues are all too often expressed.Your recent merger has resulted in mutuallysuspicious tribes, not one focused, homogeneousteamMultinationals and big PLCs aren’t the onlyorganisations who regularly undergo the shocks ofmergers or acquisitions. It’s happening everywhere – tocentral government departments, not-for-profitorganisations and NHS trusts.Each party will have its own distinctive way of doingthings, its own ethos and culture, even if it never wentdown the route of formally developing its employerbrand. And perhaps it’s because the issues of its visionand values – the precise nature of the employmentexperience it offers – have never been fully resolved orproperly articulated, that the organisation’s people willfeel threatened by the impact of what they mayinstinctively feel is an alien culture.There’s a bizarre paradox at work here: the closer thetwo organisations get to each other in structural andoperational terms, the more their employees will startto notice differences rather than similarities – and themore they will feel separate from ‘the other lot’.Any merger situation represents a golden opportunityto develop and communicate an employer brand;there’s simply no excuse for not doing it. Technical,structural and operational issues will still take time toresolve. What the brand does is to give all employees asense of what the new organisation adds up to as anemployer, probably with greater clarity and certaintythan they’d experienced under the old, separateregimes. They’ll feel more confident and less suspicious.And they’ll feel more engaged not just with theenterprise per se, but with their new colleagues, whoare now ‘us’ and not ‘them’.What prompted you to develop an employer brand?ScottishPower is actually made up of four businesses that have evolved quite separately for a variety ofregulatory and other reasons. While taking account of the required separation, there has been anincreasing desire from our executive to enable us to exploit the ScottishPower brand in terms of marketpositioning and opportunities that present themselves through economies of scale. In terms of ourpeople brand, a catalyst was five ScottishPower adverts appearing in one local newspaper, all with avery different look, feel and tone.War for talent was already hurting in some roles requiring key skills, such as engineering. Anddemographic trends tell us that in some of our businesses we need to recruit fresh talent. Our contactcentres face typical industry challenges of recruitment and retention.All of this led us to question our employment proposition and people branding. Do we reallyunderstand perceptions both internally and externally? Is the employment proposition as compelling aswe want it to be? Are there any negative perceptions we might be able to manage out?We decided we wanted to create a consistent and safe employment proposition that clearly articulateswhat ScottishPower stands for as an employer of choice. That – together with the management ofexisting perceptions – would inform the employment brand design.How did you measure your organisation’s status before taking action?Having secured Executive Team buy-in in March 2006, with our chief executive as overt leader of theScottishPower employment experience work, he invited 350 people from across all four businesses toScottishPower: securing buy-in to get results Employer branding
  20. 20. participate in ‘What Matters to You?’ workshops. Delivered by people with gravitas in the business – notsenior managers or HR – we took them through a series of questions: Why work? Why work atScottishPower? How would you rate us against these? The outputs gave us the first detailed employeefeedback plus the rationale behind the creation of our first, all-company, externally managed andbenchmarked engagement survey that went to all 9,000 employees. At the same time, we commissioned apiece of market research among people looking for work in the geographies and sectors we operate in. Wetook them through a similar exercise to our ‘What Matters to You?’ workshops, with the addition of gatheringdata on who they saw as great employers as well as their perceptions of ScottishPower. All this data helped usidentify key messages based on positive perceptions and action, and management of weaker perception in thedevelopment of the creative brief that formed the basis of the ScottishPower employment brand.What did you hope that employer brand development would deliver for your organisation?Energy around the opportunity of working with a major energy company! An opportunity to presentthe company as exciting, varied in terms of opportunity and forward-looking – future-proofed! In turnthis would improve attraction to the many varied roles at ScottishPower – some of which lack visibility.The knowledge the research gave us about employee issues stimulated more leadership ‘listening’ toinform employee-led change. This would improve engagement and so lead to better performancetogether with better retention and reduced sickness absence rates in our high-churn businesses.Was the employer brand developed as part of an overall HR or leadership strategy? Pleasedescribe.Absolutely. The ScottishPower HR strategy was articulated in 2005 and, while it has been fine-tunedsince, remains fundamentally the same now as described then. Given our recent acquisition byIberdrola, it remains to be seen whether this strategy will take us forward into next year.What risks were involved in embarking on the project?• Executive buy-in might have been lip-service only. Tried to develop a brand before with externalconsultants but did not gain business support.• Ability to convince all key stakeholders of risks of doing nothing and opportunities to the businesses ifwe were to do this well.• Potential takeover – appetite to deliver this might be different.• Some of the businesses were familiar with engagement and branding principles and had action underway – to which they were attached. Others did not. Trying to find a common approach across fourdiverse businesses would therefore be difficult.• Stakeholder management – so many stakeholders with competing priorities and different views.• Ability to convince employees that there was value in their participation – action would occur.• Lack of marketing awareness in the team.• Lack of brand management or focus outside of the retail business.How did you develop your employer brand? Were any formal models or processes used?We developed the approach based on work we knew Severn Trent Water had carried out in terms ofemployee engagement and used our own approach to market research and creative briefing on theback of that.(continued)ScottishPower (continued)Employer branding
  21. 21. Who had ownership over the project?Genesis from the HR Director who tasked the Head of Employee Engagement and Resourcing (me) tolead activity but signed off by the Executive Team and Chief Executive, and the directors frontedcommunications to the business – as a business-led initiative.What other functions (if any) were involved from your organisation? HR? Marketing? Otherfunctions/disciplines?Group Communications; Marketing; HR Consulting Teams and the business; Procurement.Outline the basic stages of the project• research and competitor benchmarking• proposition definition and executive sign-off• employee workshops• employee surveys• market research• creative agency brand development• stakeholder sessions throughout design• communication and trainingDoes your solution encompass changes to management behaviours, competency frameworks,assessment and development processes?Not yet. We had developed a series of employment commitments – through ‘diagonal slice’ in terms oflevel, pan-business focus groups and planned to present them to the board. These articulated anemployment ‘deal’ – the two-way nature of what the company commits to with its employees and also thecommitment employees give in return. These would have informed behaviours, competencies,communication… At the same time, our board had recommended the takeover by Iberdrola and we knewour CEO would be leaving when the transaction took place in April – his commitment to this was crucial tocredibility that we would do something about this. We took the decision to hold the commitments until/ifwe could secure the commitment of our new CEO. This has not yet been proposed, as the focus right nowis on integration and ensuring the transaction delivers its numbers. We will make a decision on whether totake this work forward once there is more clarity around how the business will look going forward.What do you regard as the most successful aspects of the project?• buy-in from the Executive Team• presenting the entire programme of activity as a major piece of business – not exclusively HR-led – andusing business leaders to communicate and managers with gravitas and influence to run the focusgroups• willing participation and honest feedback from people at ScottishPower• external benchmarks and survey response toolkit to inform actions by using a third party – BestCompanies• single look and feel to advertising recruitment is a fantastic achievement – in pilot now• the modular design of the adverts and the advert builder that allows managers to choose their ownphotography (if they want to), strap-line and energy line, together with size and shape of advert– designed but launch planned for July post-pilot so lots of interest in this from managers who haveseen it but no actual feedback on use of this yetScottishPower (continued)0 Employer branding
  22. 22. And the least successful? What problems did you encounter?• less scope for quick wins to respond to both the focus groups and survey than I would have liked• should have kept the community who delivered the focus groups more informed after the events andtried to keep that community together as a way to manage information into the business• resistance from the businesses who had their own survey• some survey distribution challenges cost us some credibility• too long between running the survey – November/December – to announcing the results – March• takeover!What were the key learning points from the project?The importance of stakeholder buy-in and management across the levels.What budget did you have?• approximately £30,000 to run the focus groups and survey last year• approximately £45,000 to deliver the market research and creative advertising this yearWhat were the project timescales?One year from focus groups to single look and feel to advertising recruitment delivery.In what ways did the project differ from your original expectations?Began as an engagement programme and widened to incorporate the brand.How are you measuring the effectiveness of the brand – the return it yields on its originalinvestment?Major deliverables are the action plans around the survey and the brand. Both of these have deliveredin the last two months, so it’s too early to measure results. We have developed an engagement modelthat we plan to use to look at feedback – from joiners, leavers and existing employees – goingforward. We will also track attraction and retention as well as absence management data. Ours willnot be the only initiatives informing movement in these numbers, but they will help us to understandthe effectiveness of what we have done. We’re hoping this will work post-integration with Iberdrola.Looking back on the project, what would you have done differently?• more stakeholder management – never seem to be able to get enough• used different communication channels and involved all managers in delivering information/instruction rather than landing on them at the same time as their teams• might be easier in an organisation that had more of a brand focusInformation supplied by Alison BalantyneScottishPower (continued)Case study learning pointsTwo points occur to me after reading this excellentcase study. The first is the absolute necessity ofgetting wholehearted support (note the phrase:‘executive buy-in might have been lip-service only’.)from as high a level as early as possible – an issuethat surfaced time and time again in the research weconducted for this guide.The other is the way this HR team made it abundantlyclear from day one that they were the people in thedriving seat – no ownership issues here!Employer branding
  23. 23. Part 6: Making the case, gettingthe cash‘We estimate that we are saving £2.5 million per annum as a result of these changes.’Peter Absolom, King’s College NHS TrustPeople’s estimates of what it actually costs to develop,implement and communicate an employer brand varywildly. A few years ago, we tacked some questionsabout employer branding onto The Economist’s regularsurvey of the movers and shakers of British business.One of the questions we asked was how much theysupposed a full-scale employer brand developmentproject would cost. The average figure, I seem to recall,was £250,000 – a figure, you’ll be glad to learn, that’smiles wide of the mark (even though it left mycolleagues and I muttering ‘if only…’).Admittedly, a brand development project for awell-known, global IT company that I managed someyears back came out at around that figure – due largelyto an exceptionally intensive programme of researchconducted in a dozen different countries. More typical,in my experience, would be an £18,000–£30,000project for an NHS trust or a local authority. A projectfor a major UK automotive brand (one of the very few,sadly) cost the client £47,000, including full-scalecreative development. But it delivered, in hisunprompted estimate, a value of £250,000 in terms ofits ability to attract better-quality engineering graduates,and, for the first time in the company’s history, womenand graduates from black and minority ethnic (BME)communities. By my somewhat shaky maths, thatrepresents a return on investment (ROI) of 290%.The fundamental difference between any talent attractionor internal communications initiative that’s based on abrand and one that’s based on the traditional platformsof instinct and rule of thumb is research. So it’s hardlysurprising that research is the major cost element indeveloping an employer brand. And the good news isthat research costs are readily quantifiable.It’s one thing to hear someone’s comments on abrand-related issue; it’s something else toactually see their body language as they makethose comments, and to observe the dynamicsbetween them and the other group participants.Only a few years ago quantitative and qualitativeresearch lived in two distinct worlds. Qualitativeresearch, incidentally, asks relatively deep questions,explores more complex brand-related issues withrelatively small numbers of people: think focus groups.Quantitative research does the opposite: think street or,increasingly, online surveys. But today, technologymakes it possible to factor qualitative questions intoquantitative research – for example, promptingparticipants to respond to a brand proposition or even abrand-based design in their own words, as well asticking boxes and agreeing or disagreeing with certainstatements. For anyone contemplating developing anemployer brand and wondering what the bill will cometo, this is good news because, as in so many otherbusiness activities, smart technology means lower costs.Having said that, there’s still no substitute for focusgroups. It’s one thing to hear someone’s comments on abrand-related issue; it’s something else to actually seetheir body language as they make those comments, andto observe the dynamics between them and the othergroup participants.If you’re thinking of running focus groups (and there’snothing to stop you doing this yourself, using outsidespecialists simply to recruit relevant participants), thecost variables will be the time it takes to locate suitableparticipants and the size of the incentive you have tooffer to persuade them to turn up. A word of warning – Employer branding
  24. 24. if you’re planning on running focus groups in mainland main cost elements of research – and remember, theseEurope or other parts of the world, the cost of will almost certainly be the major cost elements of theincentives rises dramatically. Having said that it’s whole brand development project.possible to give a reasonably detailed breakdown of theGuide to research costsThe following guide is based on 2007 prices and is intended to illustrate the average costs you can expectto incur when commissioning a reputable research or communications business to deliver the researchcomponent of an employer brand programme.External focus groupsA programme of focus groups made up of the kind of people that you want your employer brand toreach and influence will be made up of a number of components:Recruitment costs reflect how difficult it will be to find people who match your target profile and howmuch persuading and project management will be involved in getting a group of them together to discussyour issues. A relatively easy target profile, say people working in customer service jobs in the Leeds area,might cost as little as £250 per group to recruit. A more complex profile, such as senior female managerswithin major technology businesses, would present a much harder job for a recruiter and could takeseveral days’ work to populate even a single session. So recruitment fees in this case could be £750 ormore per group. It’s often the costs and practicality of group recruitment that dictate whether focus groupwork is the right approach for your project.Incentives are the rewards paid to the respondents themselves for turning up to your focus group. Theyrange from around £10 per session for students, through to perhaps £25–£40 for contact centre andgeneral staff, to £100 or more for professionals, managers and specialists. In some cases, respondents canbe motivated by a non-cash incentive such as a box of wine, store vouchers or a donation to charity.Venue hire costs will depend on whether you use a community centre, a hotel conference room or apurpose-built viewing suite. A neutral venue is often essential if people are to feel comfortable talkingabout working for employers other than their own, so it’s worth the investment. Allow £150 for amid-range hotel venue and perhaps another £30–£50 per group for refreshments.Moderation fees will usually be based on the day rate of the person who’s running the groups for you.An experienced moderator will be able to run up to four groups in a single working day (but remember toallow for travelling time, preparation, and so on), which can bring costs down, but in practice you shouldallow for up to a half-day per group. Day rates might range from £400 to £1,000 and more, dependingon the moderator’s experience and speciality. Some groups (including those among people withdisabilities, or longer workshop sessions) may require more than one person to run them properly.Analysis and reporting will often be done by the same person who moderated your focus groups andwill probably be based on the same day rates outlined above. You can expect to receive a report of whatrespondents said at the groups (suitably anonymous to protect individual confidentiality), together withsome conclusions and recommendations. This takes time and thought to put together, and for aprogramme of groups will usually take a few days to complete.Employer branding
  25. 25. Project management will involve discussing your objectives with you, developing your respondentprofile, writing discussion guides, booking venues and so on. It might range from £100 to set up a smallproject to several thousand pounds over a large sampling programme.Internal focus groupsGroups made up from among your current employees will obviously be cheaper to run, since you don’thave to recruit or incentivise your own people – or pay for a venue. If you’re using external help, though,you can expect moderation, analysis and project management charges to be calculated in the same way,although they can be minimised if you can provide administrative support.Other sampling methodsIf focus groups aren’t the way forward, there are a few other ways in which you can build insight intoemployee and potential candidate attitudes:Telephone interviews can allow you to reach a larger number of people than focus groups and canoften be conducted more quickly, since people don’t have to be brought together. While a telephonesample is quicker and sometimes cheaper to conduct, researchers agree that it will provide less depth thanfocus groups – not a problem if you’re looking to get a snapshot of awareness and perception of yourstatus as an employer, but less useful if you want to explore attitudes in more depth. One hundredstraightforward interviews with fairly easy-to-reach people might cost around £4,000, including projectmanagement and a report.Online surveys are increasingly used to build insight within an organisation and are very quick andcomparatively inexpensive to use. They can also be used among people outside the organisation, althoughthe challenge then is to identify the right people and persuade them to complete the questionnaire. This isone of the easiest techniques for employers to use without external help. There are a number ofproprietary online survey tools to choose from and some of these allow users a limited version of theirpackage free of charge. If you’re using an agency, allow £1,500 for survey design and deployment plusany costs for finding a suitable external sample.Street surveys have become harder in the age of the mobile phone and iPod, but can still offer real insightinto employer perception among local people. You’ll need to use qualified researchers and they’ll needpermission to conduct the survey if it’s around a school, college, in a shopping centre or other private land. Agood survey, conducted over a couple of days in a number of sampling locations might cost £3,000–£5,000.Omnibus research offers a way in which a number of different organisations can conduct marketresearch at the same time, each asking a few questions of the same sample. Some omnibuses are doneonline, others by telephone and others in-home or on-street. Essentially, you buy space on the surveyquestion by question, so if you only want a simple answer to a straightforward question, an omnibuscould be the most cost-effective way in which to do it. Single questions on an omnibus reaching 2,000people can cost from £300, while more complex question combinations could reach £5,000 or more.That covers the inputs to your employer brand As for outputs, many of these will be activities that aredevelopment (we’ll discuss the relationship between ongoing, or initiatives you’re contemplating or thatinput and output and the whole structure of a brand you may even have scheduled for action. And on thatdevelopment project later in this guide). basis, any additional cost could well be minimal oreven non-existent. Employer branding
  26. 26. For example, you will still need to recruit, and thereforeto attract, applicants through one form of employmentmarketing communications or another. Your newlydeveloped employer brand will obviously have a big andimmediate impact on this. It’s not just a question ofnew messages, a new look and feel. The brand willprobably change the whole relationship between theoffline and online elements of your employmentmarketing. The other thing it will do – should do, mustdo – is to reduce your costs by reducing yourdependence on traditional, reactive, ‘distress purchase’recruitment advertising.The new brand will have to be applied to a broad rangeof other employment marketing or internalcommunications initiatives and materials – applicantinformation literature, campus marketing programmes,induction materials and programmes, the organisation’sintranet or staff magazine, and so on. It may be thatyour initial research, particularly a communicationsaudit, reveals that there are glaring gaps in yourcommunications armoury, or that the messaging andtone of certain items is in conflict with the new brand.If that’s the case, action needs to be taken, and thefunding needs to be found to fix an urgent problem.But otherwise, you don’t need to scrap and replaceYou need enough to enable you to comparehow your organisation is perceived as anemployer externally, and internally. That’s thebottom line.your existing materials – just wait until Stationery tellsyou that existing stocks are running low.All this may still leave you wondering, ‘Yes, but howmuch money will I actually have to find? What’s theminimum I can get away with?’ Only you candetermine the budget you need to set for the exactcircumstances of your own organisation. But there’s asimple answer, a pretty accurate rule of thumb –enough to enable you to compare how yourorganisation is perceived as an employer externally,and internally. That’s the bottom line.Only you can decide how much money you’ll need, andwhere it will come from. In essence, developing anemployer brand is a business investment like any other,and as such will show a return on the original suminvested. But that still leaves the question of who willstump up the initial cash to pay for the research. Maybeyou have adequate funding and sufficient budgetarycontrol to allow you to do this unaided. It’s more likelythat, like most of your colleagues in any businessfunction, you’ll need to make a robust business case ifthe cash is to be forthcoming. In many organisations,likely sources of supplementary funding can includemarketing, PR or internal communications.But irrespective of financial considerations, it’s essentialto forge alliances with these and other businessfunctions if your project is to succeed. It’s not aquestion of going to them cap in hand; money aside,you can do as much for them and help them meet theirbusiness goals as they can for you, and you need tomake them understand that. Here are some of thearguments you could use:To corporate finance‘I can save you serious money on recruitment,reduce the hidden but considerable costs ofpremature departures and demonstrate anattractive and measurable ROI.’Of course, if you make that kind of claim, you’d bettermake sure that ROI really is measurable in ways thatwould impress the most sceptical accountant. Anypromised improvement begs the question,‘improvement against what?’ – which is why thebaseline metrics of your current performance inrecruitment and retention is so important. We cover thisissue later in this guide.Employer branding
  27. 27. What prompted you to develop an employer brand?The trust’s recruitment advertising was bitty and fragmented, and there was no consistency betweenadvertising and the material that applicants subsequently received. Bringing together all of this material andrelating it to cultural and communication changes was key to improving both recruitment and retention.How did you measure your organisation’s status before taking action?We took measurements on a wide range of factors including our vacancy/turnover/applications for postrates together with staff surveys/exit questionnaires and focus groups at the point of induction.What did you hope that employer brand development would deliver for your organisation?The aim was to improve the quality and quantity of applications, to be recognised immediately wheneverwe placed advertisements but also to retain staff on the basis that we delivered the expectations theyhad of working for the trust.Was the employer brand developed as part of an overall HR or leadership strategy? Pleasedescribe.The employer brand was not just applied to recruitment, but was also applied by formalising thestandards of behaviour, creating our vision and mission and, through our training and developmentstrategy, bringing about organisational cultural change.What risks were involved in embarking on the project?There were clearly financial risks, as developing a brand with our partners was expensive. The aim wasfor this to play an important part in reducing staff vacancies and aiding retention, thus lowering thoseassociated costs.How did you develop your employer brand? Were any formal models or processes used?There were a couple of things we did. We had to work within some national guidelines as an NHS trustusing the NHS brand. We built this into our brand in a partnership approach with our recruitmentadvertising agency and our corporate communications department. While we did not follow a specificmodel, we had a strategy to evolve our brand over time so it also looked fresh but was clearly still ‘us’.We continue this today.Who had ownership over the project?The ownership was within HR through my lead as staff resourcing manager. However, as with all of ourprojects, we greatly involve staff groups to gain broader input and buy-in.What other functions (if any) were involved from your organisation? HR? Marketing? Otherfunctions/disciplines?We had focus groups covering most staff groups in addition to working closely with our corporatecommunications department and our recruitment advertising partner.Outline the basic stages of the project.The basic stages of the project were to look at where we currently were, take professional advice uponsome possible styles, consider the restraints, accept feedback from a wide range of staff, havemanagement information as a baseline and then, as the brand developed, have a strategy and plan forfuture development.King’s College NHS Trust: clear demonstration of a return on investment Employer branding
  28. 28. Does your solution encompass changes to management behaviours, competency frameworks,assessment and development processes?Yes. The cultural change stage was part of a wider trust project (called First Choice) but built behaviourstandards into every job and assessed through our competency framework tools. Staff appraisals and personaldevelopment plans were also used.What do you regard as the most successful aspects of the project?Our success has been evident from the dramatic improvements we have seen in our vacancy and turnoverrates. Also, our staff surveys give positive feedback that our brand works well. We were also highlycommended at an awards ceremony. The most successful aspect, though, is the bottom line. The brand hasplayed its part in reducing our expenditure and improving our staff performance, both of which are reflectedin our front-line delivery.And the least successful? What problems did you encounter?One of the problems we faced while evolving our brand was that some of our staff preferred our previousstyle. However, as each new style emerged they always said the one before was best. This kept the projectteam one step ahead, albeit we learned that within a short time people would value the change. You have tohave faith in what you’re doing to keep moving forward.What were the key learning points from the project?Leadership, partnership working, consultation and using management information to measure success.What budget did you have?In one sense there was no budget, although a five-figure sum was used in developing material and leadingthe work – this had to be reflected in reductions to recruitment advertising spend, lower vacancy rates andreduced turnover. We estimate that we are saving some £2.5 million per annum as a result of these changes.What were the project timescales?While there was a lot of concentrated work within the first 12 months, this has been an ongoing project forthe past six years and it continues to develop.In what ways did the project differ from your original expectations?As recruitment advertising was a key part of this project, the significant and quick changes to onlinerecruitment were not in our original expectation. Today we’re more overwhelmed than ‘underwhelmed’ withpeople who wish to join us, and that brings a whole new set of problems.How are you measuring the effectiveness of the brand – the return it yields on its originalinvestment?We can clearly see from our key measurements that developing our brand has been a significant factor inreturning a far greater yield than the original investment.Looking back on the project, what would you have done differently?We’re quite satisfied with what we have achieved so far. Perhaps anticipating and developing our websitequicker would have helped.Information supplied by Peter AbsolomKing’s College NHS Trust (continued)Employer branding
  29. 29. Case study learning points‘We estimate that we are saving some £2.5 million perannum as a result of these changes’ – says it all, really.To the top management team‘An employer brand will enhance our overallreputation. It will show the world that we manageour human capital as efficiently and to as muchgood effect as we manage any other class ofasset or any other part of our business. It will alsohave a positive, measurable impact on employeeengagement and customer-facing performance. Itwill impact the bottom line.’Your top management cadre – right up to board level– are unlikely to be neutral about your desire todevelop an employer brand. They’ll either welcome theidea or oppose it, probably on cost grounds or, to beblunt, on the assumption that disciplines other thanHR are best equipped to handle the task.No matter which way you suspect they’ll jump, youneed to involve them as deeply as possible and as earlyas possible. Later in this guide we outline a very specificand effective way to secure that involvement and itsnatural end-product – powerful advocacy throughoutthe organisation for what you’re trying to achieve. Butjust remember that the view from the top is one ofthree layers of perception you need to capture andmeasure, along with the view from less exalted tiers ofthe organisation, and the view from the external talentmarket. In my experience, very senior managers anddirectors absolutely love being involved in developingthe employer brand for an organisation over which theynot only exercise strategic control, but emotional as wellas literal ownership. It helps them see the organisation –their organisation – with greater clarity and deeperinsight. And it ensures that any closed doors you mayencounter as the project progresses won’t stay closedfor long.Your HR colleagues‘This project will establish our team as the drivingforce behind a project of strategic business value.It will prove that we’re making a big contributionto overall HR strategy, and enhance our reputationin the eyes of colleagues in other disciplines.’A few years ago, there seemed to be a debate or evenan unseemly struggle over the ownership of true, deepHR strategy – and even, at times, over the status andfuture of the HR profession itself. Some people,probably management consultants, seemed to suggestthat dealing with the big, sexy, strategic HR issues was atask best left to management consultancy. HRpractitioners themselves would, by implication, bereduced to administrative functionaries.The profession seems to have been pretty successful infending off this attack. But one still encounters a greatmany organisations where HR is simply not representedat the same level as, say, marketing or finance. I’m notsuggesting that developing an employer brand will winyou a seat on the board. But it is a great way to provethat big, complex issues are safe in your hands, and todemonstrate the value of what you and your colleaguesbring to the party.Line managers and front-line recruiters‘The new brand will make your lives easier anddeliver better candidates for less.’For a line manager, it can be a hard, lonely businessrecruiting for your own team. You wish you didn’t haveto spend so much time rewriting that recruitmentagency’s copy. If only those consultants didn’t keepsending you candidates who look great on paper butwho you know, from the first two minutes of theinterview, just aren’t going to be right for theorganisation. And that last ad you had to repeat costhow much?One of the earliest and most valuable outputs of thebrand development process will be a brand toolkit.Available online or in physical form, it introduces thebrand attributes and associate messages; gives therationale behind the new brand; provides hard-pressedmanagers with templates, headlines, style guides andeven a library of images – all the tools needed to ensurethat every ad, in whatever medium, will generateresponse from the right kind of candidate (it’s that‘affinity’ thing again) and build the profile of the brandamong key target audiences.Even simpler but equally effective is a brand briefingdocument that can be sent to all the recruitment Employer branding
  30. 30. consultants on the organisation’s supplier list. It will helpthem decide which candidates with seemingly identicalCVs will be right – will have that elusive but essentialcultural ‘fit’ with the organisation – and which won’t.Your marketing or PR team‘I can create thousands of additional OTS(opportunities to see – a measure of the numberof chances an average member of key targetaudiences have of being exposed to your story)and help build the organisation’s profile andreputation among many different audiences.Remember, potential employees are also potentialcustomers.’Classic PR is arguably the most underused weapon inthe employer brand armoury. Good messages about anorganisation as an employer send out good messagesabout the organisation per se: wouldn’t you feelbetter buying an airline ticket, a skinny latte or even aburger from an organisation that has a reputation forlooking after its people?And an organisation that gets its employer brand and itsPR people working together is one smart organisation,for whom both activities support each other, and add upto a communications and brand positioning whole that’sgreater than the sum of its parts.I don’t believe in using jargon for its own sake, butthat OTS acronym is something you might like tocasually drop into any conversation with your PRcolleagues. ‘Talking the talk’ can be an importantway to enhance your credibility with a differentbusiness ‘tribe’.Recruiting for the company, not the local chieftainResearch that fed into employer brand development for a major UK and European retailer includedtelephone interviews with a lengthy list of suppliers, particularly recruitment consultants. As the interviewsprogressed, it became clear that many consultants were frustrated by presenting candidates who lookedgreat on paper, but were ultimately rejected on the grounds that ‘they just wouldn’t fit in’. As oneconsultant ruefully put it: ‘I always feel I’m recruiting to the culture of a particular manager’s own team,not the business as a whole.’The research revealed the dangerously fragmented, tribal nature of the organisation – and therefore oneof the biggest problems the brand would have to fix. But a simple briefing document for consultantsoutlined the core qualities, values and even personality traits that the new brand had established, andprompted consultants to look for those same qualities – that brand affinity – in future candidates.Employer branding
  31. 31. Part 7: Overcoming objections‘The employment brand is much, much bigger than the physical manifestation of what yourrecruitment looks like. It’s an end-to-end way of thinking about why people choose to workfor you.’ Glyn House, Operations Director, wagamamaThat title presupposes you’ll actually receive some: withcareful preparation, a robust business case and investingthe time and effort to make your case and forgealliances with interested parties, launching and runningyour brand development project should be plain sailing,and any objections are minor irritations rather thanserious roadblocks.Nevertheless, as you confront the real challenges thatare present in any brand development project,irritations are things you can well do without. Theobjections you’re likely to encounter – and thearguments with which you can effectively demolishthem – look like this:‘Never mind about your precious brand – I’ve gotvacancies to fill.’There’s no denying that developing, implementing andcommunicating an employer brand takes time. In myexperience, the shortest time from switching on thetape recorder for the first focus group to rolling out thenew creative work was six weeks, and that was pushingit. You could argue that, while the start of the project isobvious, there’s really no end-point, since a brand willgo on evolving, adapting to change, and delivering itsvalue for years.But that doesn’t mean you have to put all theactivities the brand will affect – particularlyday-to-day recruitment – on hold. The initial researchmay yield some insights that can be fed directly intoat least the messaging of your ongoing recruitmentactivity, if not its style and tone. It may modify it,improve it slightly – but it won’t stop it happening.And it won’t stop hard-pressed recruiters or linemanagers recruiting.‘I’ve been handling my own recruitment foryears. I know what works for me.’That’s a reaction anyone trying to launch a new brandinternally is likely to hear. It needs paraphrasing: whatthe objector really means is, ‘No one’s consulted meabout the new brand. It’s been presented as a faitaccompli, with a load of rules and regulations that I’mquite sure I’ll unwittingly break.’The objector would actually love someone to comealong and give them a brand-based toolkit that makesgood sense, that’s easy to use and that will work in thetalent market. It’s all a question of managingexpectations – if you consult extensively during thebrand development process, and if any new recruitmenttoolkit is presented with a robust, common-senserationale, that objection (which is largely a knee-jerk,defensive response) will melt away.‘That looks like an awful lot of money for arecruitment advertising campaign.’Largely because so much of the debate surroundingemployer brands and its actual practice has focusedexclusively on talent attraction, there’s an assumptionin some slightly sceptical quarters that it’s just a newway of approaching recruitment advertising. Whensceptics become cynics, there may well be theassumption that employer brands are also a new wayof enabling ad agencies to charge more and tocompensate for the long-term downward trend intraditional advertising revenue.You need to defuse this situation by making it clear thata brand is a long-term investment, that it applies tomuch, much more than just recruitment advertising, andthat its value can be – and, if you have anything to dowith it, will be – substantial and measurable.0 Employer branding
  32. 32. ‘We’re not Mars or Nestlé – we’re an NHS trust.’The techniques and methodologies by which employerbrands are developed are the same as those thatcreate and sustain great consumer and corporatebrands. The terminology is much the same (althoughanyone involved in developing employer brands shouldstrive to keep that discipline a jargon-free zone). Theonly real difference is the number of noughts on theprice tag.Mars or Nestlé work hard to develop, nurture andprotect their brands (in the case of Nestlé, to wrestlewith some serious and deep-seated image problems,particularly in the eyes of the student audience) and togive themselves competitive advantage. It’s no differentfor a typical NHS trust, particularly when the advent ofpatient choice makes marketing an increasinglyimportant corporate function. Big organisationsrecognise that there’s a relationship, a congruence,between their brands as suppliers of goods or servicesand as employers: the more forward-looking NHS trusts(and indeed a great many public sector and third-sectororganisations) are waking up to the same connection,and are determined to make it work for them.‘Shouldn’t we be giving this to some strategic HRconsultancy?’From well-known management consultancies tostrategically focused actuarial practices, there’s noshortage of them waiting for the plum projects to fallinto their laps. And they do have plenty to offer,particularly in fixing, defining or managing theemployment product itself – the issues such ascompensation, benefits, the whole basis of assessment,reward and recognition. To use an automotive analogy,they’re the engineers making sure that the suspension,the braking system, the sequential gearbox all workperfectly and meet the market’s expectations. But theproduct isn’t the brand, and those talented engineerswouldn’t for one second claim their ability to articulateand communicate a brand proposition like ‘Vorsprungdurch Technik’, let alone use it as the basis for someamazing marketing communications and the creation ofa powerful brand identity and personality.The whole issue of the relationship between employerbrand and employment product, and the impact thebrand can have on broader, more strategic HR issues issomething we cover in greater detail later in this guide.‘We’re simply too small.’When we were putting together the online survey thatprovided such valuable insight into this guide, one of thequestions asked respondents to select from a lengthy listthe most appropriate descriptor for their type oforganisation. One of the categories we seriously thoughtof including was ‘domestic households’.It’s not as crazy or fanciful as it seems: if you’re a Russianoligarch seeking to employ a full-time butler on a salary inexcess of £100,000 (and, apparently, this is yet anotheremployment category where demand far outstripssupply), you’d need a good reputation as an employer toattract and retain the services of your latter-day Jeeves.On a slightly more realistic level, reputation will beall-important if you’re a new, ambitious small ormedium-sized enterprise or start-up operation that’sgrown out of some cutting-edge scientific research. Youneed to attract good people – disproportionately goodpeople bearing in mind the modest scale of yourenterprise – on the basis of what working with yourteam and its distinctive, passionately held vision for theenterprise will actually feel like.Defining that experience – fixing and communicatingthat vision so it becomes one of the reasons yourpeople come to work and that will help them over theinevitable choppy waters that all small enterprisesexperience – couldn’t be easier. A simple seniormanagement workshop (one of the classic brand researchtechniques we describe more fully in a later section) willhelp you resolve your distinctive vision in colour anddepth, and ensure that everyone in your top team sharesit totally. Simple, brand-based communications will ensurethat everyone joining you will share that vision fromday one, and know just what it demands of them andoffers them in return.Employer branding
  33. 33. The British Library is the national library of the UK and 16,000 people use its services every day from astunning marble and brick building in St Pancras, London, with a second site at Boston Spa in Yorkshire andover the web. It employs over 2,000 people and receives a copy of every item of printed material published inthe UK as well as much digital material. If you viewed five items a day it would take you 80,000 years to seethe whole collection.Recruitment Strategy Consultant Anne Spearman joined in an interim role and admits she would not haveconsidered this as an intuitive career choice, since she was not aware of the library as an employer. While insome academic roles, recruitment and retention are trouble-free, attracting other staff in customer-facing andcommercial operational infrastructure roles is a real difficulty. The library traditionally attracted potentialemployees at the point of need to specific advertised roles in the press or professional journals; this reactiveapproach did not always achieve results and there was a heavy reliance on using agencies to fill vacancies.Last year the library restructured its HR team and moved its recruitment online with an integrated candidatemanagement system to streamline the recruitment process. A website was developed as part of the front-endaccess.Anne says, ‘In reviewing the recruitment strategy we decided it was important to undertake some internal andexternal research. This commenced in early 2007 to help us better understand how the potential employmentmarket in our “difficult to fill” areas perceived us.’Early in 2007 participants were invited to comment on media adverts and the website and share theirthoughts about the library as an employer. The feedback confirmed both positive and negative perceptions,which were either a challenge to or advantageous to attraction.‘Our aim,’ says Anne, ‘was to build on the positive and address negative perceptions of a bureaucratic, boringand static organisation which only employed librarians, so having little to offer by the way of wider careers.This was a real wake-up call.’‘The library is at the cutting edge, leading the way in providing information in the digital era, ensuring moreand more people have access to the 3,000 years’ worth of knowledge we hold,’ says Anne. ‘Clearly we havea journey to make to challenge these perceptions as an employer.’‘We needed to understand that some people are aware of the library and others are not and their firstimpressions of the library as an employer are informed by what they see in the media adverts and on ourwebsite.’‘It was recognised that a key “window on the library” for potential employees was the recruitment websiteand our adverts. From the feedback it was clear that this was letting the library down and reinforcing anegative image of what it would be like to work there.’‘This was not a case of sitting back contemplating what to do and getting all the boxes ticked: it was abouttaking the necessary steps for immediate action,’ said Anne.‘Therefore attraction was where we started and the new site will be launched in September 2007 togetherwith refreshed advertising templates.’British Library: step by step, gets results Employer branding