It is not at all what companies want, but we are in a labor market where the final word belongs to the candidate, not the employer. How we got here is less important now, because every moment – with or without the support of the HR function – employers have to face the consequences of this situation. The labor market went through a similar situation back in 2006-2007, and the solution for many companies, at that time, was to build up an employer branding. Not for long, because the crisis came and the labor market returned to employers again. But now companies really have no escape, and the conferences about the employer branding concepts do not provide any silver bullets.
What is the employer brand?
If the personal brand is what people say about you when you are not present, then the employer brand is what people say about how your company recruits, motivates and retains employees, when no one from your company is present. The personal, commercial, or employer brand is a promise of value, but also a shortcut to a decision.
When the brand is strong, authentic and respects the promise of value made to consumers, they have the elements to facilitate their quick decision in favor of that brand. Similarly, when the employer brand is strategically conceived, consistently communicated and positively supported by the day-to-day reality of the firm, candidates have the elements to facilitate their employment decision.
It is important to say that there is no company that does not have an employer brand. It’s just that, the employer brand can be managed or not, positive or negative, honest, assumed and genuine (meaning aligned with the reality of the firm) or not.
Why do not companies look after the employer brand?
First of all, because it was not necessary. The labor market has belonged for a very long time to employers (24 of the last 27 years), and the phrase “if you don’t like it (this job), 20 more like you are at the door” was omnipresent in the minds of many bosses. The communication environment was completely different, which allowed companies to “save the face” from all sorts of abusive or just unpleasant situations for the employer brand. Employees did not have the perception or the means to get empowered in their relationship with the employer. Their resignation or readiness to comply with anything required, made life easier for employers. And then, why would you care about something like this, when, from the top management chair, only the short-term results would lead you to the next promotion?
What is now different in some companies?
Multinational companies first gave a good example of employer branding. Even if they were doing so to meet headquarter’s requirements, and for that they were allocating extremely small budgets, good practices began to appear in Romania in the early 2000s. The issue encountered (even today) is that of the huge differences between the content of employer brand communication and reality within such companies (hence the jokes on this subject). Of course, not all multinationals are misaligned, but the challenge of maintaining a people-centered organizational culture and a good employer brand in an environment with little local decision-making power has often been a hindrance.
At the opposite end, entrepreneurial companies have the limitation of the understanding and attention given by the founder to the employer brand of the company. Unfortunately, for many years, this was not the focal point for entrepreneurs, but the continuing struggle with the instability of the economic environment, the challenges of business scalability and the achievement of results for the development of the company. Entrepreneurs who have succeeded in building the employer brand are those who are innate communicators, but especially those who have this as a personal value.
How is the employer brand built and how long does it take?
From zero to hero, it takes at least 2-3 years. The starting point is the understanding by all the members of the management team of the concept, the construction mechanisms and the maintenance of the employer brand. As in many other situations, we start from awareness and know-how.
The second step is to carry out, with the help of a consultant, the analysis of the company’s internal and external environment to accurately diagnose the employer branding development status. The items to be included in the diagnose document are the following:
- In the internal environment: company policies, working conditions, key positions, supervising staff practices, recruitment practices, reward and retention, elements affecting/assisting the employer brand, etc.
- In the external environment: the current perception of the employer brand (the non-existent), the landscape created by the competition on the subject, the good practices in other industries that may be relevant, the most effective communication channels, etc.
The third step is to develop the employer value proposition, a 3-year strategy and the tactics for the first year, to start building the employer brand. Obviously, the implementation is the most important and most challenging stage. To be noted that the construction of the employer brand never ends for a company.
What are the elements of success in employer branding?
- Preparation – Clarifying the real values of the company, reinforcing them through behaviors and decisions of the management, stopping the implicit or explicit rewarding of toxic behaviors.
- Diagnosis – Correctly identifying the stage from which we start with the employer brand (very negative, slightly negative, neutral, slightly positive) and communicating within the company the decision that we want to make a change with beneficial effects.
- Involvement – Crowdsourcing the process of employer value proposition to include all the people in the company. Internal communication tools must be adopted to make this process as transparent, honest and inclusive as possible.
- Commitment – Quick take-over at the management team level of the new, changed, improved behaviors to demonstrate honest attachment to the employer brand.
- Consistency and perseverance – Once it starts, the company should never stop building and communicate the employer brand, regardless of changes in the leadership or in other levels of the firm.