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The concept of branding for products and services is well known. Employer branding may be the least known type of branding yet is becoming more important to organizations. The reason is changes in workforce demographics. The baby-boomers are retiring and the pool of new recruits is not sufficient to fill the gap. According to an Accenture survey, 60% of CEOs are very concerned about attracting and retaining people. Enter the concept of Employer Branding.
Brett Minchington (The Employer Brand Institute), defines employer branding as "the image of the organization as a 'great place to work' in the minds of current employees and key stakeholders in the external market (active and passive candidates, clients, customers and other key stakeholders)."
In order to attract and retain top talent, your company must make a concerted effort to ensure you stand for something meaningful as an employer, that potential job seekers and employees know what that "something" is, and that you communicate it through your employment branding message. The foundation of any successful branding campaign is reliable data. It iseasy to create an attractive brand message, but without an understanding of who your target audience is and what they value in an employer, who are you really attracting? Your message, after all, is a promise to current and future employees about what it means to work for your company. Failing to deliver on that promise can cost you big by leading to low morale, lost productivity, high turnover and significant costs associated with time-to-hire. "To attract the top players, you need to understand what factors are most important to your specific audience," says Mary Delaney, President of CareerBuilder's Human Capital Consulting Division, Personified. To create a brand message that truly speaks to who you are as an employer, it is important that you first have a true understanding of your employment brand. Smart companies understand that reliable, objective data is the key to determining those factors that will inform their best branding efforts.
It's no coincidence that many of today's most successful and admired businesses - Google, Whole Foods, IBM, USAA and UPS, to name just a few - are as widely recognized for
their forward-thinking business practices as they are for their reputations as employers of choice. These companies all share one characteristic: A strong employment brand.
An employment brand is the way your organization's prospective applicants, candidates, and employees perceive you as an employer. A strong employment brand is one that clearly communicates the culture of your company, its mission and its values, giving people a compelling reason to want to work for - and stay with - the organization. Not only have the companies above built corporate cultures that recognize their employees as their most important asset, but they successfully communicate this culture to those outside the company as well, creating reputations for themselves as great places to work and attracting top talent to their jobs.
All companies have an employment brand. Not every company, however, realizes just how critical a role their employment brand plays in both attracting and retaining talent. This e-book
explores how to build your company's employment brand to better recruit and retain top talent - and maximize your company's bottom line.
"Employer brand is about capturing the essence of an organization in a way that engages current and prospective talent. It expresses an organization's 'value proposition'-the entirety of its culture, systems, attitudes and employee relationships, providing a new focal point for the company. "Today, an effective employer brand is essential for competitive advantage. Increasingly, Indian corporations are becoming intentionally strategic to utilize the employer brand to attract and retain talent and, ultimately, to expand and grow.
Here are some questions that HR Managers should be prepared to answer in this new world.
Competence: To what extent does our company have the required knowledge, skills, and abilities to implement its strategy?
Consequence: To what extent does our company have the right measures, rewards, and incentives in place to align people's efforts with the company strategy?
Governance: To what extent does our company have the right structures, communications systems and policies to create a high-performing organization?
Learning and Leadership: To what extent can our company respond to uncertainty and learn and adapt to change quickly?
Brands are among a firm's most valuable assets and as a result brand management is a key activity in many firms. Although firms commonly focus their branding efforts toward developing product and corporate brands, branding can also be used in the area of human resource management. The application of branding principles to human resource management has been termed "employer branding." Increasingly, firms are using employer branding to attract recruits and assure that current employees are engaged in the culture and the strategy of the firm. Employer branding is defined as "a targeted, long-term strategy to manage the awareness and perceptions of employees, potential employees, and related stakeholders with regards to a particular firm" (Sullivan, 2004). The employer brand puts forth an image showing the organization as a good place to work (Sullivan, 2004). Many firms have developed formal employer branding or are interested in developing such a program (Conference Board, 2001).
"The Employer Brand-A Strategic Tool to Attract, Recruit and Retain Talent" highlights that HR uses the employer brand for three main reasons: 1) organizational culture and employee fit; 2) positive outcomes for recruiting; and 3) retaining talent with corporate values and a team-based culture. At its most effective, the employer brand is a long-term strategy with a transparent message that promotes the organization as an employer of choice.
The evolving and expanding focus on Brand India is one of many great changes occurring in the Indian business landscape. In India's Global Powerhouses: How They Are Taking on the World, author Nirmalya Kumar points out that brand building-the image and the recognition-is a long-term effort that requires substantial resources. "The shackles of Brand India, where even sophisticated people outside India see it as associated with call centers and software engineers, are not consistent with creating and managing [â€¦] consumer products." He notes important exceptions where the stereotypical India image can be beneficial, such as in niches related to what may be seen as "exotic India" (foods or fabrics, etc.). At the same time, he says that "Brand India is also complex. In terms of hard power (i.e., cash) [â€¦] India is poor, especially compared to China [â€¦] However, when it comes to soft power (ideas and values), Brand India-because of its history, large private sector, functioning democracy, and free press as well as the relatively peaceful coexistence of its multicultural, multi-religious population-has a positive image."
The increasing focus on competitive advantage is leading many firms to rethink their employer brand. "India, Inc."-a common term used in India to refer to India's corporate sector-aims to positively build on opportunities as the world economy strengthens, and the employer brand is a prime example of a progressive HR practice in India. As highlighted by Indian management researcher and author Jyotsna Bhatnagar, the employer brand is an important differentiator in India for talent management. The fit between employer and employee is important for hiring compatibility. Yet, research shows that Indian companies do not always intentionally develop employer branding interventions. "Infosys, Wipro and TCS did not intentionally build their brands; rather, they focused on building a productive workplace, resulting in happy employees, and their brands were the result of that foundation," says Mr. Bhatnagar. "For other organizations in India, such as RMSI and Google, which already have strong employer brands, their goal is to 'live' the brand." The value of the employer brand in India is multifaceted and mirrors those values seen as critical by most successful multinational corporations. If effectively marketed internally and externally, the employer brand in India has a strong value proposition, with core corporate values at its foundation. A powerful employer brand has the capacity to attract and retain talent and represent quality to its customers, with the goal of gaining global recognition in a sustainable manner. "Every employer brand is an investment that should demonstrate a return comparable to other forms of business investment. The employer brand strongly supports corporate brands, and vice versa. Ultimately, the key to a successful employer brand is to ensure that expectations are fully aligned with the realities of working for the organization," says Manmohan Bhutani, Vice President of People and Operations at Fiserv India.
EMPLOYER BRANNDING FRAMEWORK
According to Figure II, potential employees develop an employer brand image from the brand associations that are an outcome of a firm's employer branding. As prospective employees also develop employer brand associations based on information sources that are not employer-controlled, effective employer branding takes a proactive approach by identifying desired brand associations and then striving to develop these associations. For example, Railtrack, the British firm that maintains railway service in the UK, staged an employer branding campaign to improve and enliven the associations that potential employees had of their firm as an employer. By emphasizing career flexibility and opportunity, they were able to increase the number of qualified applicants for professional positions by 30 percent (Hutton, 2001).
WHY EBM IS HERE TO STAY ?
Many new management disciplines have risen to prominence over the last 20 years. The pattern is now familiar. First there is the seminal book heralding a new dawn of management effectiveness. Consultancies appear on the market with well-packaged implementation programmes. There are a flurry of articles, conferences and guidebooks featuring competing models and pioneering case studies. In some cases there may even be an awards programme. And then, just as people are settling down to await the results, the fickle wheel of management fortune takes another turn, and there's a new game in town. So is this just another fad? We believe there are three fundamental reasons why employer brand management is here to stay.
Organisations increasingly recognise that they cannot take the commitment and loyalty of their employees for granted: Despite the desire to ensure that employees are broadly satisfied with their working conditions, it has largely been taken for granted that if you give people a decent job they will gratefully do your bidding. This view is increasingly at odds to the growing reality of employment. Leading companies are fast realising that valued employees, like profitable customers, are free to make choices, to join, to engage, to commit, and to stay. They are also beginning to realise that to attract the right kind of people, to encourage them to remain loyal and to perform to the best of their abilities requires a far more focused, coherent and benefit-led approach than companies have been used to providing. Given the long term trend for organisations to treat their valued employees more like valued customers, we believe that the logical conclusion for most will be to sharpen up the way in which they manage the brand that these people work for - the employer brand.
Employer branding provides an effective commercial bridge between HR, internal communications and marketing: People management has long been the poor cousin of marketing management, with HR regarded by many organisations as an administrative cost centre rather than as a vital component in the creation and delivery of business value. This is fast changing. Most businesses have woken up to the vital importance to the business of recruiting, retaining and developing the right people. The service sector, particularly, has woken up to the Fundamental importance of engaging employee commitment in delivering customer satisfaction and loyalty. The growing commercial emphasis of these activities is bringing HR and internal communication practice increasingly in line with the approaches and disciplines more commonlyapplied to the creation and delivery of external value, namely marketing and brand management.
Employer branding draws on a discipline that has proven lasting value in the marketplace. Branding and brand management have evolved over time, but the central tenets of the discipline: close attention to the needs and aspirations of the target audience; focus on benefits; competitive differentiation; and the marshalling of a coherent and consistent brand experience are as central to brand management today as they have ever been. The foremost reason why employer branding is here to stay is that in driving and sustaining people's commitment and loyalty there has been no more effective approach than brand management. No doubt it will involve a further evolution in brand management practice. We believe that HR has so much to offer marketing as marketing to HR. Both sides can learn, both sides will benefit, and if, as we believe, the greatest net benefit will ultimately be to the business, employer branding will be here to stay.
Figure III The Contribution of the Product Brand to the Employment Brand (Source: Corporate Leadership Council, 1999)
Key Advice and Recommendations for Building an Employer Brand in India
Every employer brand is an investment that should demonstrate a return comparable to other forms of business investment.
Offer a strong value proposition to talent in India
Employer brands are at least as much about retention and engagement as they are about recruitment
Retain the core of the brand (if it is an MNC) and contextualize development
Keep the local context in mind: recognize, accept and adapt to the local culture
The employer brand should incorporate sensitivities of employees in foreign countries (if the Indian company has overseas operations).
The advertising of the employer and employee brand should be as synergistic and mutually reinforcing as possible.
REASONS TO INVEST IN YOUR BRAND
Research shows that companies that maintain a compelling employment brand have a critical head start when it comes to attracting talent. A recent CareerBuilder study found that companies with a strong employment brand attract at least 3.5 times more applications per job posting than do other companies in the same industry. A 2009 Employer Branding Institute study showed that nearly half (49 percent) of employees cited an employer's reputation as a major influencer in deciding where to work.
Companies with strong employment brands also enjoy a number of perks that give them a competitive edge, including the following:
1. Improved Quality of Candidates: Companies with strong employment brands have an easier time recruiting qualified candidates, because candidates come in already understanding what the company stands for as an employer. They recognize something in a company's culture that appeals to them and makes them feel as if they would be a good fit for the company. A well-communicated brand also helps job seekers understand when they would NOT be a good fit for a company, saving them the trouble of applying - and you the time of sorting through another irrelevant resume.
2. More Passive Candidate: A clearly articulated employment brand also helps attract candidates who are not actively looking to change jobs but would consider a good opportunity if it came their way. A global study conducted by CLC (Corporate Leadership Council) found that effective employment branding enables organizations to reach into a deeper pool of talent. The study of more than 58,000 new hires and tenured employees from 90 organizations found that organizations with managed employment brands are able to source from more than 60 percent of the labor market, while those with unmanaged brands can source from only 40 percent.
3. Fewer Costs Associated with Turnover: Companies do damage to their employment
brand when they fail to deliver on the expectations they set for their employees during the interview and hiring process - leading, in turn, to higher turnover. In fact, a recent CareerBuilder survey found that 35 percent of workers cited the company as the main reason they decided to voluntarily leave a previous position, while only 28 percent cited the job itself.
4. Fewer Costs Associated with Recruitment: If you have a compelling and
well-communicated employment brand message, candidates are more likely to seek you out to inquire about open positions. You save yourself the time and trouble of sourcing candidates from scratch because there's less of a need to advertise open positions and wait for applications to come in.4
5. Happy Employees (A.K.A. Productive Employees): When your company
creates an environment where employees feel challenged, feel that their contributions hold value
and are recognized for their efforts, employees become more engaged in their work. This
increased level of engagement leads to a higher quality of service or product, and, ultimately, a
better bottom line.
6. Brand Advocates: Speaking of engaged employeesâ€¦ When people love their jobs, they
tend to be vocal about it. For this reason, employees can be your greatest asset not only in driving your business forward, but also in filling your talent pool. Because they know what it takes to fit in and work for your company, employees are the utmost authority on who else will make a good employee. They also know how to sell your company to their peers because they know first-hand what job seekers want in their ideal employer.
7. A Better Bottom Line: Research has shown a definitive link between a company's
employment brand and its financial performance. A recent study of publicly traded companies
on FORTUNE's "100 Best Companies to Work For In America" list by professors at Michigan
State University and University of Wisconsin-Madison showed a connection between the strategy of developing an attractive workplace and performing financially well. "Being an attractive employer may create an important intangible asset, positive employee relations, that differentiates firms in a value-producing way," the authors wrote.
Employers can't afford to fade into the background if they want to attract quality talent; they have to stand out in a way that gets job seekers' attention and makes them an attractive place to work. "Companies are realizing how important it is to differentiate themselves from their competitors with an employer brand," says business marketing expert Jim Lanzalotto, Principal at Scanlon.Louis. Your employment brand strategy is a long-term effort that permeates every aspect of the employee lifecycle, including recruitment, onboarding, retention and engagement. The most important guiding principle is that companies must deliver what they promise.
Consistency between words and actions goes a long way toward building a positive perception among both job seekers and employees. Just as companies invest in their consumer or business-to-business brands, they should also invest in a rigorous, ongoing process to build their employment brand.
Your company's employment brand - the perceptions that employees and potential employees have about what it is like to work there - is critical to your ability to attract and retain talent, especially in today's tough economy. Increasingly, companies are actively managing their image and reputation as a place to work. Employers have a long way to go in better aligning expectations with the reality of what it's like to work at their company. A surprisingly high number of employees believe that their companies are not delivering on
their employment promises, CareerBuilder research has found. Only 44 percent of survey respondents say their company matches their expectations. Asked whether they would recommend their employer to others, 67 percent of respondents say "no" or "not sure."
"Effective employment branding requires an ongoing commitment, but it is well worth the effort," says Mary Delaney, President of CareerBuilder's Human Capital Consulting Division, Personified. By investing in a rigorous, ongoing process to build their employment brand,
companies can improve their ability to attract and retain the best talent, thus enhancing their competitiveness in both good and bad economic times.