Modern competitive market environment, Brand recognition


1. Introduction

In the modern competitive market environment, Brand recognition has been a widely discussed topic. Employer brand is particularly important given the fact that prospective employees have always preferred to seek employment in a recognized firm as compared to finding a mere work place. Therefore, it is important for an organization to understand to which extent their employer brand is known, perceived and recognized compared to the competitors in the market. This knowledge gives the management (especially, HR) the opportunity to enhance their employer brand and use the same to improve the selection and recruitment process.

Among the parameters sought by modern candidate, the employer values are evaluated by a number of aspects (Barrow, S.,1990) and it denotes that firm's reputation as an employer. Also, the perception of the employer brand is an indicator as to how great place the company is for work ( Minchington B,2010) This is an outcome of employee value preposition and employer value proposition (EVP) which help the firm to manage every aspect of employment experience . This help a company for internal marketing and make an 'inside out' approach for building up the reputation of the company.

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As a popular company in UK and a widespread retail chain in clothing, food and accessories, it is important to carry out a research in Marks and Spencer ( M & S) to evaluate its position where employer brand is concerned and to identify the areas where it can use those findings to improve selection and recruitment processes.

Therefore, this research project deals with investigating the perception of employer brand in Marks and Spencer and the extent to which it could be used to enhance recruitment and selection processes in Marks and Spencer which is the most profitable clothing retailer in UK. The researcher is the recruitment consultant who shall be working for this company to evaluate and analyze the employer brand.

2. Research Problem

In today's competitive world, the employers need to provide the employees with competitive favourable working environment. It includes not only a good remuneration package, but also employee training, development, communication, team work and employability etc in order to improve employer brand. Similar issues lies with Marks and Spencer as a retail chain in UK and overseas. Since it has grown from being a single shop in 1940's into a large scale business across boarders, it is important that the company hire, develop and retain high calibre employees in its workforce. In order to achieve this end M & S need to understand what employer brand perception they have achieve so far, how people compare M&S employer brand against their competitors such as Tesco, Sainsbury, Gap, Next, Boots and others who are in similar business. Therefore, it is worthwhile that a research is conducted in order to find out how M&S employer brand is perceived by individuals. Also, the outcome of such research help it enhance its employer brand perception and attract more high calibre candidate for recruitment, and retain them within the organization. This help them reduce labour- turnover and save cost thus strengthening its position ahead of the competitors.

3. Research Aim & Objectives

The aim of this research is to investigating the perception of employer brand in Marks and Spencer and the extent to which it could be used to enhance recruitment and selection processes in Marks and Spencer

(a) To investigate the components of employer brand

(b) To identify the employer brand expectations on employee perspective.

(c) To evaluate recruitment and selection

4. Literature Review

It is accepted that what an organization could provide for the employees in the long run is 'employability'. This covers areas such as training, development, remuneration among the other things. What an organization's employment offer is defined as employer value proposition (EVP) or employer Brand proposition.

In marketing, product branding is used to attract customers and retain existing clients. The same way, Employer brand is used to attract better candidates, train and develop them and retain them.

The use of term 'employer brand' was first came into use in 1990, and was defined as 'employer brand is the package of functional, economic and psychological benefits received by employment, and that can be identified with the employing company'(Simon B, 1996) In 2003, a famous employer brand survey with a an international group of readers revealed that among them, 61 percent of HR professionals had the awareness of the term 'employer brand' and also 41 percent of non-HR professionals ( the Economist,2003)

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Fig-1: Key components of Employer Branding

As seen in the above figure, Business development practice Ltd. of UK tried to establish the components of employer branding ( corporate eye, 2008) .

Also, another survey conducted by The Economist and TMP, it was found that the expected benefits can be estimated as follows (, 2010):

53 percent anticipated a reduction in recruitment cost

73 percent expected higher employee retention

70 percent anticipated employees to recommend their organisation as a good place to work to others

59 percent expected increased commitment by employees to achieve the organizational goals

33 percent expected benefits through enhanced marketing communications

30percent expected increased profitability

A study conducted by the Bernard Hodes Group found that (Modis, 2010):

53 percent candidates surveyed felt a strong employer brand resulted in shorter time to fill a vacancy

82 percent felt it helped develop their company reputation as an employer of choice

46 percent recognised its value in helping increase their job acceptance rate within the organization

Employer brand management is a topic used in modern management which expands the scope of employer Brand beyond communication to cover all the aspects of the employment work experience, thus the employee management processes and practices through 'touch-points'. This help it re shape the perceptions of existing employees and prospective candidates (Barrow, S. and Mosley, R., 2009) This methodology is known as Employer Brand management , which deals with the real experience of employment and not simply its functional or managerial presentation. This process supports not only the external recruitment of the right kind of talented individuals sought by a company to achieve its goals and objectives. It also results in the natural desire for effective engagement of employees and the retention of employees (Barrow S., Et el, 2009) Further research has expanded the subject to discuss leadership capabilities of employer brand management, where a framework has been developed to look into the leadership capabilities necessary for managing the Employer brand (Brett M, 2010)

The below aspects of Employer brand managements are discussed in this model:

(1) Life cycle management of Employee- Employee life cycle is a new concept which deals with how the company develop policies, practices and systems to incorporate the changing personal needs of the employees with their age. As an example, when a female employee joins a company, company has a plan to help her through her life specially in the events of pregnancy, child upbringing etc.

(2) Management of Brand portfolio- This is to allocate the brand portfolios within the company for careful management. While the marketing division is traditionally responsible for product brand portfolios, Human resources department is responsible for managing the employer brand . This segmentation is to ensure each segment has a strategy focussed on its development.

(3) Community management- With the advancement of media and global communication channels, community management is a new dimension the employers have to look into in order to enhance the perception of the firm. The connection with the society serves very positively for the companies in order to connect the employees with the customers to build up a two way feedback channels. These channels help the community to understand the direction of the business and gain knowledge about their new products and services. At the same time the company gains the advantage of better understand the needs of the customers and make strategies to deliver the best and increase the profitability. Among the companies who have been very much focussed on this end Dell and Procter & Gamble are noteworthy on account of harnessing the wisdom of the crowds in order to be innovate better products and services at a lower cost than what was previously possible. ( BRETT M, 2010)

(3) Change management- This is an important aspect in the Brand management as most ' unhappiness ' of the employees come from human's natural resistance to change. Therefore, it is important that any change required within the organization is managed carefully in order to keep the level of Employer brand from deteriorating with the conflicts or shocks in the work environment.

(4) Leadership - Leadership is a critical factor in driving the Employer brand. When there is stong leadership in the company, the employees have more confidence and they are aware of tha fact that someone is there for them at difficult times. Leadership theories may suggest that leaders are born and not made, however, a strong leader makes a strong employer brand such as Google, Starbucks, EMS and so on. ( Robert J. ,1996)

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(5) Communication- At present, the companies are more focussed on their communication channels and methods in improving their image. These include media advertisements, the way employees and customers are treated and greeted. Management make themselves available for the employees to communicate in a pleasant working environment.

(6) Training - Training is important in order to influence the different levels of employees in the organizational hierarchy on the importance of Employer branding and help them develop Employer Branding capabilities across the organization.

(7) Performance towards goals- The employer Brand development must always align with the goals of the organization. Performance objectives, setting of targets and goals are on going processes. The company strategies must incorporate the Employer Brand development into those strategies and performance management (John Austin,et el , 2009)

5. Research Methodology

Research methodology is how the research should be carried out in a way that is practically possible in order to scientifically achieve the aims and objectives of the proposed research. (Trochim, W.M.K, 2006). Such methods can be chosen from many methods where data can be obtained and analyzed for deriving conclusions. However, due consideration must be given to avoid biasness and to conclude the research within a given period of time.

5.1 Research Design

In conducting a study project, research philosophies play an important role in. The main 2 forms of research philosophies used by the researchers are (1) theory of Phenomenology and (2) Positivism. In Phenomenology method the researcher tries identify the essence of human experience about a scenario or phenomenon as explained by the participants ( subjects) of the research. These are the experiences known to them empirically by doing something or by their own instincts (Nicolaas J. Molenaar, 1982).

Phenomenology leads understanding the experiences of the subjects and thereby develop possible relationships and patterns of the outcome (and possibly develop statistical analysis). In this method, the researcher must be careful not to allow his own experiences influence the type of questions asked or the way the research is carried out. This helps him avoid biasness.

In this particular researcher decided that phenomenology would be the most suitable research philosophy to this study as Employer Brand perception is known to the participants through their own experience. This phenomenological method involves (a) interpretation of the experiences and observations from the participants, (b) Adjustment of those interpretation for researcher's meanings in a form which can be used for analysis and (c) using the data for deriving conclusions and to make recommendations.

In order to obtain the information as above, the researcher, after careful consideration of various methods, decided that surveys though questioners is the most suitable research design method given the fact that it provides an easy and straightforward method for the researcher and participants to describe their own Employer Brand perception about Marks and Spencer and easily collect data within a given period of time and ease of analysis of data collected from a sample of staff members in the organization.

5.2 Data collection method

In order to collect data from the participants, researcher consider ' survey questionnaires to be the most appropriate method. This is based on the fact that this research is an evaluative research and the research design was based on a survey. However, semi-structured interviews are also used in order for the researcher to probe into the answers and clarify any unclear responses. This helps in improved quality of data and avoids the researcher having to seek clarifications at the stage of data analysis. In this research questionnaire shall consist of a mixture of open and close-ended questions (refer appendix-1). While close-ended questions help obtain a specific answer on a particular subject, open-ended questions give the opportunity for the participants to elaborate on an answer or describe their opinion in a wider scope.

6. Sampling

Sampling is the statistical process of selecting an unbiased random subset from a population in order to yield some information/ knowledge about the whole population (Adèr, Mellenbergh, 2008) This help the research to be conducted in cost effective way and makes it efficient and less time consuming. And, at the same time, it helps the researcher achieve his goals and objectives. In this research, the selected size of the sample is 80. This is in two categories. 40 male and 40 female employees in Marks and Spencer selected at Random. The researcher will first contact the head of HR at Marks and Spencer through a telephone conversation and then the selected participants are notified via telephone through the HR manager. This help the researcher to be identified by the participant as someone having right and credibility to conduct such research. Also, it help the participants' superiors to allocate some time for them to answer the questionnaire and have a short interview session with the researcher on an agreed date and time.

7. Data Analysis

Once the completed questionnaires are received by the researcher, the quantitative and qualitative data ( which have been pre coded) are entered into a structured database. Where the number of responses for each category can be calculated and tabulated in pie-charts . Also, qualitative comments (answers) given for open ended questions can be categorized based on the type of responses and can be assigned with a code for further analysis and presentation.

8. Limitations

Inspite of the fact that researcher has taken steps to make the research as unbiased as possible, there are following limitations.

(a) Since the participants are only selected from Marks and Spencer , the type of answers and the outcome of the result could be different in any other organization. However, since the research is conducted for Marks and Spencer and the results are used for improving its own selection and recruitment processes, the research is relevant and useful for Marks and Spencer.

(b) Due to time and cost constraints, only a limited sample was selected. In a larger sample, some different would have been possible.

(c) Interpretation and understanding of questionnaire would hamper the quality of answers given by the participants. Therefore, active participation of the researcher is important in order to ensure that that what is meant by a question is the same as what is understood by the participant.

(d) Also, in certain cases, the participants may not provide their honest opinion and try merely to provide any response if they are not interested in spending time and careful consideration for the research.

But these limitations can be minimised by setting up a suitable environment for them to discuss the questionnaire with the researcher and provide real answers about their perception of employer brand.

9. Ethical Issues

It is important that the research is conducted in a way that ethical issues are considered and provides the participants with assurance that the research or the results are in no way harm them in their workplace or outside. In order to win this confidence from the participants, the researcher must show them a high degree of professionalism and legitimate authority to conduct the research. (Reynolds, 1979) The researcher can obtain a letter from the Chairman of the company for access the premises and engage in research with the participant.

The participants must be informed of the purpose of the research in advance. Also, they must be informed that the research is governed by the data protection act 1998 and the analysis etc are conducted confidentially and the data and intellectual property rights of the company are adhered to . Also, in designing the questionnaire, the selection of wording and presentation of it should be carried out in a manner that it would not offend the participants beliefs etc. Also, the questions asked and the matters discussed in an interview must be limited to what is relevant to the research .