The Insiders Guide to Employer Branding - 27 Best Practice Insights
Many of the old tools and strategies for building an authentic, globally relevant employer brand have been discarded, and new ones are taking over. Both the challenges and opportunities have grown almost in tandem, and it’s all happening at break-neck speed.
One thing is clear: employer branding has changed, dramatically.
Our Global Best Practice Xchange (BPX) Roundtable on the subject confirmed it. It was 90 minutes of rigorous discussion with eight seasoned professionals leading the way in employer branding innovation for their organizations. They shared their successes, mistakes and thoughts on their plans for the future.
So, if you are wondering if there’s a better, clearer way to lead your organization and practice through this change, this guide is for you.
Many of the old tools
and strategies for building an authentic, globally relevant employer brand have been discarded, and new ones are taking over. Both the challenges and opportunities have grown almost in tandem, and it’s all happening at break-neck speed. One thing is clear: employer branding has changed, dramatically. Our Global Best Practice Xchange (BPX) Roundtable on the subject confirmed it. It was 90 minutes of rigorous discussion with eight seasoned professionals leading the way in employer branding innovation for their organizations. They shared their successes, mistakes and thoughts on their plans for the future. So, if you are wondering if there’s a better, clearer way to lead your organization and practice through this change, this guide is for you.
to help you demonstrate a
global and best practice approach to your employer branding strategy and tactics. We’ve distilled key insights topics 27 7 over
CONNECTAND STAYCONNECTED BEYOND COMMAND AND
CONTROL BEST-LAID PLANS BE HONEST, IT’S NOT ALL ROSEY PUBLISHQUALITY,PUBLISHOFTENPUBLISHQUALITY,PUBLISHOFTEN Be Targeted in your Approach Your brand be what you thinkmay not
Our thought leaders Birger MeieR
Senior Manager of HR Communication and Global Employer Branding, Boehringer Ingelheim— Germany Janelle L. Hawes Manager of University Recruiting, Robert Bosch Linda Linzenbold Manager of Personnel Marketing, Robert Bosch Mary Fricke Talent Recruitment Leader, GE Capital Megan Raftery Marketing Director, Kelly Services, Inc. Michael Kirsten Director, Global Content Marketing, Kelly Services, Inc. Nate Butki Executive Vice President, Great Place To Work Shaunda Zilich Recruitment and Marketing Leader, GE
Your brand be what you
thinkmay not The conversation has changed Connected, networked and always ‘on’—this is now the norm rather than the exception for much of the professional workforce. Work is no longer what it used to be. And, employee loyalty? What’s that? The rising influence of social media has altered the way we seek, evaluate and engage in work and the employers that offer it. Naturally, this means the ways in which employer brands are promoted, shared and even deconstructed has evolved too. Finding new tools, strategies and ways to connect are now crucial to success.
A couple of years ago,
marketers were busy designing nice corporate videos, telling the world how great their company was and how fantastic it was to work there. This approach has had its time. People are starting to build their own picture to understand what companies are really about instead of just accepting who they say they are. Candidates come better prepared and knowing much more about your company than ever before. They’re not just looking at your website! You’re still the owner of the employer brand, but it is shifting towards what other people say about you—not only what you say about yourself. Authenticity Michael Kirsten, Kelly Services, Inc. “ ”
An employer brand must be
accessible. We have a video channel that delivers what we call ‘corporate insights’. We want to deliver a consistent employer brand experience through all major touch points like career websites, our YouTube channel and Instagram account. By posting historical pictures from Boehringer Ingelheim on Instagram we can show (rather than just talk about) our company’s history. Demonstrate “ ” Birger Meier, Boehringer Ingelheim
CONNECTAND STAYCONNECTED Build relationships by
being useful Candidates look around for employers. They do their research. To connect with them, businesses must be present in the right places. But, more than this, they must demonstrate why their employer brand is different, relevant and useful. Start by focusing on what candidates need and want from you— it’s not just about giving them a job. Be helpful in people’s job search and in the development of their careers. Be responsive and look to the bigger, longer-term picture when building connections with potential employees.
You have to know what
people are really looking for besides basic company information. What is the audience interested in? Employer branding is not only about communicating how great we are and how great it is working for us, but also about providing the candidate market with information they really need. Social media is a tool to have a conversation, to talk with candidates, to understand how they think and to provide information. With this information you can start to build a conversation, build engagement and a relationship. Content & conversation Michael Kirsten, Kelly Services, Inc. “ ”
There are a lot of
the ways to get information out there about your company, but it really depends on talking to people about things that interest them. It can go as far as to include customers and clients talking about how our company helped them with their business— that’s of interest to candidates who are thinking about a career with us. Engagement Mary Fricke, GE Capital “ ”
Do your best to understand
what kind of information candidates really need. What are their pain points? What is the buying process for candidates? First, understand what you can do for them. Then, be mindful that there’s a lead-nurturing process to consider, just as there is in any buying decision. Candidate perspective Megan Raftery, Kelly Services, Inc. “ ”
Know whom you’re talking with
and why Employee loyalty isn’t what it used to be. As a result, employers and their brands need to speak directly to passive candidates—those that are not actively seeking new roles, but would move for the right opportunity if it caught their eye. We know that tenure is now hovering at around the two-year mark, and that it’s likely to be lower for Generation Y (and Z) workers, so the need to build ongoing relationships with passive talent is now non-negotiable. Be Targeted in your Approach
The first thing to do
is to segment your audience. Then you can set priorities. This means, understanding what kind of candidates you really need, where they are, and how you can find them. You need to talk within your organization about what really has changed and how your candidates are behaving. You need to build a pool of passive candidates that you may need in the years to come. So, it’s important to continually connect with these candidates and be there over the medium to long term. Know your audience Michael Kirsten, Kelly Services, Inc. “ ”
In our employer branding efforts
we have eight focus universities that we target. When we’re on campus we do quite a few activities that are focused on promoting our rotational training program. What we do is to actually show who Bosch is, what our values are and how this works across each of our product lines. Audience focusLinda Linzenbold, Robert Bosch “ ”
The big difference that makes
your employer brand successful is how you communicate it. Do you have a unique selling proposition? When we started, we looked at our history—where did we come from? What are our values? What is our big asset that we can communicate? We’re a family-owned company with over 125 years of history and this is one major aspect we use in our employer brand communication. We have stability. We value partnership and we’re here today and tomorrow; and we underpin this with the stories of our employees, which give the company a real face. I think this makes a big difference to being authentic. Communicate with clarity Birger Meier, Boehringer Ingelheim “ ”
When companies are operating in
many different environments we make sure they are differentiating the global corporate brand from the local or even regional brands, and that they are doing it in a meaningful way. What are the aspects of their culture that are consistent with being a part of a bigger family, and what are those things that are specific regionally? When organizations have a clear view of what that means to them and how that matters, it makes a big difference to attracting the right candidates. Targeted messaging Nate Butki, Great Place to Work Institute “ ”
Empower employees to evangelize from
inside No one knows your organization better than those who work there. This is your employment brand. Empowering employees to speak on your behalf and be the voice of your brand is no longer the risk it once was seen to be. And, it can often be the authentic, on-the-ground view that prospective employees are really seeking. Finding ways to balance the risk and reward of employees using social media to discuss their work is now central to the employer branding challenge. BEYOND COMMAND AND CONTROL
People often get tripped up
on the need for a water- tight social media policy, and they’ll run into internal concerns that question how much the company should embrace social media because what happens if people misuse it? People really get stuck on having a strict or a rigorous policy when it’s actually the best companies that do (almost) the opposite. Having a high level of trust on this shows you trust your employees more generally, and that speaks to your culture. If your company has a need for say IT developers, why not use your current IT developers to start a blog for an outside audience about the stuff that IT developers are interested in? It’s about really using your internal sources as ambassadors to your brand. Employee trust Michael Kirsten, Kelly Services, Inc. “ ”
Sometimes we lose sight that
the employer brand really is owned by the entire organization. Even though that partnership between HR and marketing is so critical, it needs to be integrated throughout the entire organization. Holistic approach Megan Raftery, Kelly Services, Inc. “ ”
We find that the absolute
best way to show who Bosch is, is to have our associates really speak for us. We invite current graduates to our alumni and ask them to join us on campus at recruiting fairs, as well as to classrooms to explain our products and our culture. We mentor and coach students, provide case studies and invite them here to learn. Socializing experience Janelle L. Hawes, Robert Bosch “ ”
You have to be transparent.
As a big company it is easy to look like a big corporate machine and I think one of the things that we’ve really tried to do is make things more personal and human. Our GE Works campaign is basically testimonials from our employees about what GE means to them. It’s more than just a day in the life of. I think it’s really what GE means to them. This is one of the ways we can set ourselves apart and tell a true and honest story about GE and not give false expectations. Recruiting people to be your brand ambassadors can be one way to manage this proactively and have structure. Transparency & authenticity “ ” Shaunda Zilich, GE
The best companies are very
clear about who they are and what they represent. They’re authentic and true, and they use their people to help represent what that is. From day one they’re building trust with their employees. Clear vision Nate Butki, Great Place to Work Institute “ ”
HR and marketing must align
A good strategy, backed up by an actionable tactical plan that’s implemented with discipline is what great employer branding is made of. Yet, too often, companies hold all their cards until they formally employ a candidate. This is when they reveal the true workings of their organization—and this is precisely the opposite of what candidates now want, need and expect. So, how do you get off on the right foot with the talent you’re seeking? Developing strong links between HR and Marketing so that the organization speaks with one voice, and as one, clearly differentiated brand across the entire globe, is the aim. BEST-LAID PLANS
You really need to look
at your internal resources. You need to understand the capabilities of your recruiters—are they really social media savvy? Do they understand how to work within social media, how to talk to candidates using these tools, how to be in constant, ongoing conversation with them? I’d encourage HR and marketing to work much closer together on employer branding. HR can understand what marketing does and marketing can advise HR on how to attract the right candidates using social media and help them produce compelling content. Engaging conversation Michael Kirsten, Kelly Services, Inc. “ ”
There are two prongs to
brand messaging and talent acquisition. There is the internal communications plan—you need that foundation where everyone’s on the same page. This is how all of HR is aligned, and it’s how you reach out to candidates. The second prong is the 50-thousand-foot view of brand messaging, which is your external marketing plan; the ‘one’ global brand that works to get your name out there. Messaging approach Shaunda Zilich, GE “ ”
We have a global employer
branding team, which works closely together. Our colleagues from corporate communications developed a corporate brand and we took that and enriched it with employer and HR- specific elements. So, our employer brand is based on our corporate brand, and we try to speak with one voice. We developed different key messages on a high level and then we adjusted to the local needs. This is crucial because we compete on the global talent market, but local markets can still have differences. Global message with local flavor Birger Meier, Boehringer Ingelheim “ ”
A lot of companies cut
right to the tactics without first really understanding how to be true and authentic. Getting this right is a huge differentiator; it’s what makes companies either ‘good’ or ‘great’. When you think of the marketing tactics, know what the brand attributes are that you’re marketing first. This is your employee culture. The ones who get this right are really clear on what their culture is and what it isn’t. Every brand has amazing things to say to their market, but the story you’re telling to help people understand who you are must be believable. Understand to be understood Nate Butki, Great Place to Work Institute “ ”
One of the beautiful benefits
of marketing partnering with HR is using the marketing strategy template to think of things (like content) and to pinpoint what and where the target audiences are. Strategy Megan Raftery, Kelly Services, Inc. “ ”
Employees in high-trust environments are
three times more likely to talk about their company on social media; in working for their organization.” and twice as likely to express pride Nate Butki, 2013 “
Don’t try to be everything
to everybody People want to be a part of a great workplace. They want to know how to get a foot in the door, and what it takes to be successful and achieve their goals once they’re inside. However, high-performing workplaces aren’t for everyone, nor should they pretend to be. Sometimes, they’re tough places to be because of high expectations and demands from customers, leadership and from shareholders. Great workplaces do great things, and great things don’t come easily. Tell this story too so candidates know what’s required of them. BE HONEST, IT’S NOT ALL ROSEY
Great workplaces are not country
clubs. Sure they offer great perks and work environments but they also do amazing work and have people who work really hard and want to share in creating success. Companies attract employees who want to contribute on this level because those companies are very clear on who they are and what the value is in working there. Not every great workplace or great culture is great for everybody. But the best know how to attract those who will fit. Articulate who you are Nate Butki, Great Place to Work Institute “ ”
Show and tell candidates how
they need you. In recruiting, sometimes we get in the habit of saying we are X company and this is who we are. Instead, we need to mold job descriptions to say “Hey, are you looking for a job where you can innovate all day long? Are you looking for challenges?” Ask those questions. Help candidates put themselves inside the role and the company so they know if it is the right fit for them. Ask questions Shaunda Zilich, GE “ ”
One of our main things
in our messaging is career development as a value proposition; SO we have employees talking about their career paths and how they got to where they are, and what interesting things they have worked on. This helps identify similar candidates who value career development and who might be committed to us for those outcomes. Talk career development Mary Fricke, GE Capital “ ”
Why good content matters Establishing
a proactive branding position for attracting passive talent now requires organizations to have a publishing strategy. It’s no longer just about posting jobs and working networks to get referrals. All organizations must bring the right candidate attention their way. Content—the fuel to the social media fire—is still a differentiating feature of the best employer brands. It can help organizations to influence, if not entirely control, their employer brand position. PUBLISHQUALITY,PUBLISHOFTENPUBLISHQUALITY,PUBLISHOFTEN
You have to have a
plan. You really can’t let the public drive their perception of you entirely because perception is reality. If they’re the only ones out there talking about your company then that’s what people are going to believe. So your ‘fans’ own your brand but you can’t give it over to them. You have to really drive it with some of your own content. And, you have to walk the talk. If you’re saying externally what your company is like, what it’s all about, why it’s so great, you have to make sure that your own employees believe that and experience that. Perception is reality “ ” Mary Fricke, GE Capital
Social media is the fire
but content is the gas. Social media does not work without content because people use social media to get information. Around 70% of buying decisions today are already done without speaking to a sales person because people inform themselves on the Internet and on social media. It’s the same for candidates and for the candidate market. Content driven decisions Michael Kirsten, Kelly Services, Inc. “ ”
We see that the foundation
of great content is really understanding what your culture is. What makes you different and how do you evolve and communicate that over time? People who are working in high-trust environments have something to talk about. When the organization is really clear about what their culture is, what those differentiators are, and they demonstrate trust with those employees on social media, it has a dividend. Employees can be out there as representatives, sharing their stories. Content pays dividends Nate Butki, Great Place to Work Institute “ ”
There are different levels of
the buying process for job candidates; and they’re not ready to buy right away in most cases. So, we look at it like a typical B2B lead-nurturing process on our candidate side. We also want to make sure the content we develop gets seen, so you have to pay attention to SEO and make a concerted effort to make sure that content gets to the places where the target candidates hang out. They don’t always hang out on career pages or in company social channels; but they will spend time in those channels from their professional organizations. So, we get sound bites on search engines, but we also make sure that content gets shared through channels where candidates are already hanging out. Take a strategic approach “ ” Megan Raftery, Kelly Services, Inc.
The reality is that organizations
have to hunt and fish at the same time. We talk a lot today about the social channels, but we have to combine it with personal contact and personal connections. We can’t just throw the information out on that site or at social media and expect results. We have to take the initiative to talk to those people and build the relationship beyond just providing content or links. A diversified approach Linda Linzenbold, Robert Bosch “ ”
Employer Branding has moved from
a focused concept to something that encompasses the entire organization. It is no longer the hierarchy, the leadership team, nor even the HR or Marketing teams that can claim to own or control the brand going forward. Branding is now crowd- sourced and often on a global scale with local influence. Employer brands are no longer only about the present embodiment of any one particular business, they are a continuum of voices from past, present and future employees who have seen things from the inside. CONCLUSION: A holistic going forwardapproach
If evolution is the only
successful strategy, employer branding will continue to evolve, and it’s only just beginning. The employer brand has become fluid, responsive and an ever changing conversation between organizations, employees, candidates and the media. The new age of employer branding has created additional challenges and opportunities for HR and Marketing staff, as well as for leadership teams that want and need the best talent for their businesses. By understanding the current environment and trends in employer branding, HR, Marketing and leadership teams can learn to adapt their strategies to influence rather than control, and to guide rather than dictate.
About the authors Scott Eilbes
is a Talent Strategist with the Kelly Outsourcing and Consulting Group (KellyOCG) where he consults with clients on labor market trends, talent acquisition strategy, thought leadership, workforce analysis, strategic workforce planning and talent acquisition benchmarking and best practices. Scott holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Marian University in Marketing & Management, earned his M.B.A. in Management from The University of Wisconsin – Whitewater and is certified by the Human Capital Institute in Human Capital Strategy and Strategic Workforce Planning. Klaus Toepfer is Director Talent Sourcing EMEA, access KellyOCG. Klaus leads the KellyOCG Talent Sourcing Practice, which designs and delivers project-related support of bespoke recruiting and employer branding activities to attract, hire and retain academic talent through a toolset of innovative products, services and solutions. He is based in Cologne, Germany. Klaus has been working for more than 12 years in the employer branding and HR-marketing business. Before joining KellyOCG, he led the graduate recruitment for Germany, Switzerland and Austria at Booz & Company. Klaus holds a degree in psychology and completed the Young Managers Program at INSEAD. For more thought leadership go to talentproject.com About KellyOCG KellyOCG® is the Outsourcing and Consulting Group of workforce solutions provider Kelly Services, Inc. KellyOCG is a global leader in innovative talent management solutions in the areas of Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO), Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Contingent Workforce Outsourcing (CWO), including Independent Contractor Solutions, Human Resources Consulting, Career Transition and Executive Coaching, and Executive Search. KellyOCG was named in the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals® 2014 Global Outsourcing 100® list, an annual ranking of the world’s best outsourcing service providers and advisors. Further information about KellyOCG may be found at kellyocg.com.