Defining Employment Branding
Employment Branding, as we define it, is an authentic depiction of the reality of the employment experience at your company. It’s not something you develop, it’s something you uncover, and it’s definitely not a description of what you wish your brand to be. When performing an employment brand exercise you need to ask yourself ‘Who are we right now?’, not ‘Who do we think we want to be?’.
Warts and All
There’s an excellent anecdote that explains the approach companies must take with employment branding exercise:
In January of 1649 during an argument between the current monarch – Charles I – and Parliament a certain Oliver Cromwell became the most powerful man in one fell stroke (literally) when he ordered the king beheaded. He then became Lord Protector of the realm. The first time in the country’s history there was no longer a monarchy. When the portrait painter came days later to paint Mr. Cromwell’s political image he had the audacity to ask the man, who just had a monarch beheaded if he should ‘photoshop out’ (to take artistic liberties) his warts — apparently, Cromwell wasn’t much of a looker–. Mr. Cromwell replies: “Paint me, warts and all.”
This is exactly the kind of tough-skinned response the HR team working through an employment branding exercise must have. It’s not a matter of pride, it’s a matter of false advertising. You must be willing to take a good hard look at the current state of the employee experience. Only with the whole picture, warts and all, can you make decisions that improve things like retention and talent pools.
Employment Branding vs. Tinder
Here’s another metaphor to consider. If you see a tinder profile that looks amazing and decide to swipe right, then you meet the person and find out you’ve been duped and they’re nothing like their profile. How does that make you feel? Employment branding is the same way. It’s not a statement you make about what you want the experience to be. You have to make statements that highlight the truth about working for your company so you can pique the interest of the right talent. It has to be authentic.
This Is An HR Only Party
The intense need for honesty when performing an employment branding exercise means the C-Suite, in most cases, needs to stay out of it. The big wigs see the big picture, and definitely, have a role to play with the employee experience, but it’s a background role of aligning the reality with the dream.
Employment brand can’t come from the ‘corner office’. If you do an employment branding project, commit to it. Conduct qualitative research, focus groups, surveys, and truly penetrate your workforce. Then give back. Don’t just do the research, share the results and what you’re going to do about it. A feedback loop is essential and shows your employees that you care about their experience. Then, tie the results and game-plan back to a business objective. If you want to be seen as customer service friendly, first find out if that’s the current reality, if it’s not, decide what is missing. Is it training? Great! Decide how you need to fix the training and then inform the C-Suite why you’re spending money to fix the onboarding and training process and how it impacts the company’s goal of being ‘customer service friendly’.
Employment Branding and Recruitment Messaging
Publishing recruitment messages requires an intimate knowledge of the state of your employment brand. A job description or recruitment message has to have benefits that resonate with its target audience. For example, if you’re trying to hire in the Tech industry it’s likely your target audience will care more about getting to tinker with the latest technology than they will about having 5 different healthcare plans to choose from. Can you offer them that? Be honest. They’ll find out soon enough if they’ve been had. That’s when your retention rates suffer.
The Truth Mirror: Worth the Pain
The bottom line is, it’s worth the pain of knowing you’re not all you thought you were to find out ways to become it. Marketing the positives you find during the exercise and working on fixing the negatives allow you to make progress in improving your brand. Social media has given employees a platform to speak about your employment brand to a global audience. It’s important, especially for millennials, that the truth is being said and that transparency occurs. When you own your problems and focus on your successes it allows employees to speak positively about their experience and gives them confidence in the brand’s future. It may hurt to know the absolute truth about your brand, but it’s worth the pain.