Employer Branding is a hot topic these days. I find it to be one of the most common topics that comes up for discussion during my interactions with HR practitioners. Given how tight the talent markets can be (especially in parts of Asia), the issue of Employer Branding is very top-of-the-mind. Companies want to go out in the talent markets and create the “buzz” about their workplaces.
This is, without a doubt, a noble intent and an important strategy to attract & retain great talent. However, as I see it, a lot has to be done before we get to the branding stage. The first step to an Employer Branding project should be research. Companies need to determine the unique ingredients in their workplaces through quantitative research (employee surveys) and qualitative research (focus group discussions, interviews, vision-boarding etc.). Getting perspectives from senior leaders about the kind of workplace they want to promise to employees is also critical. The research would point us to key factors which employees (and prospective employees) truly value about the workplace – the driving forces which can potentially attract, engage and retain them.
Once we have research which is grounded in business realities, we can mine that information to identify the key themes. These themes (typically 2-3 priority areas) would serve as the key tenets of the company’s Employee Value Proposition. And we would need to validate these tenets through “proof-points”, to make sure there is evidence that the company can actually deliver on these. This is a very critical part of the process. For any product / service, a clear value proposition should be in place before it is branded and communicated in the marketplace. Think of any great products you use in your daily life, and you can see that it first has a clear value proposition. And the branding is built on top of the value proposition. This is also the stage, where one needs to determine if the employee value proposition needs to be segmented for different employee segments like high-potentials, top performers, demographics etc.
The branding part should happen once there is consensus on the employee value proposition tenets and validation exercises have been done to see if it really “sticks”. The branding would be so much more focused, sharp and “real” this way. It will be an authentic articulation of the “deal” that employees get, backed up by the company’s ability to actually deliver on the promise. Of course, at this stage, we also need to think about the channels for reaching the target audience and the messaging strategy itself. If we do Employer Branding in the reverse process, we would be running the risk of not being able to deliver on what is communicated or communicating something that does not resonate with the target audience.
What has been your experience with Employee Value Proposition and Employer Branding? What worked for you?