Ep. 16 – HollyFrontier’s Employer Brand

S2E Solutions Partners with HollyFrontier to “Refine” Their Employer Brand

HollyFrontier is an independent petroleum refiner that produces high-value light products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, specialty lubricant products, and specialty and modified asphalt. A Fortune 500 company, HollyFrontier has been expanding rapidly through organic growth and acquisitions. However, despite this growth, their talent acquisition team was facing a major challenge—no one knew who they were.

The Challenge: Uniting HollyFrontier

We were a melting pot of all of these organizations. All of our leaders came from different companies, and they understood that we needed to become one HollyFrontier. We were no longer individual organizations, but we were one HollyFrontier.

—Kenny Braxton Talent Acquisition Program Supervisor at HollyFrontier

Kenny Braxton, Talent Acquisition Program Supervisor at HollyFrontier, used to refer to the company as the “best-kept secret in the industry.” With locations all over the United States, Canada, and the world, HollyFrontier flourished and grew both organically and through acquisition. However, as a result, the company was defined by a patchwork of many individual brands—each site with its own logo and each recruiter with their own pitch.

Although they had a general idea of the major advantages of working at HollyFrontier, they never went through the exercise of understanding exactly why people make the decision to work there or why they decide to stay. As a result, they weren’t attracting the candidates who matched their company’s needs and culture.

The Solution: Setting the Trend

Those messages that you were able to craft from the feedback…hit a nerve with me. It not only made me realize that’s why other people are here…but it was why I wanted to be here and what attracted me to this organization.

—Tara Owens, Director of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management at HollyFrontier

HollyFrontier partnered with S2E Solutions as part of their initiative to bring together its brand under one umbrella that accurately and authentically represented its diverse locations and personalities in order to attract and retain the best candidates for their organization.

Although company leadership acknowledged the need for such an initiative from the start of our partnership, the real “lightbulb moment” came when we presented our competitive analysis and compared HollyFrontier’s website to those of their competitors.

The problem was not that they were failing to keep up with the industry. In fact, their website looked nearly identical to their competitors. The real problem was that HollyFrontier were failing to stand out from the crowd. As Tara Owens later said to us, “We’re keeping up with the trends, but the trends are really bad.”

We demonstrated how S2E Solutions could help HollyFrontier take advantage of the overall stagnation in the industry to set themselves apart as leaders within an otherwise homogenous industry by creating an authentic and impactful employer brand. And, to do that, they would need real stories from real people within their company.

The Process: From Toronto to Dallas

It was comforting to know that we are who we are—whether we’re 1,000 miles away from the US or we’re right here in Dallas, Texas.

—Kenny Braxton, Talent Acquisition Program Supervisor at HollyFrontier

In order to get the most accurate information possible to shape an employer brand, you need to hear from people at every level of an organization, and that’s just what we did. Traveling to 5 different locations across the U.S. and Canada, S2E Solutions partnered with HollyFrontier to conduct focus groups and one-on-one interviews with employees and members of the company’s leadership team. We met with a diverse group of people—from boomerang employees and new hires to company veterans. We also gathered quantitative data from existing assets, such as surveys and questionnaires.

These employees were hungry to tell their stories and excited to see how their ideas would shape the company. HollyFrontier made a special effort to show their appreciation to these employees, and it was rewarded with enthusiastic buy-in from participants. Despite the diversity of people present in our discussions, there was a consistent message and energy to each site we visited.

The Results: Uncovering the Real HollyFrontier

I felt we were going to find that [HollyFrontier] was a family-oriented company…and while they did say that, it was not even close to what our brand really was…It’s just a piece of it.

—Tara Owens, Director of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management at HollyFrontier

In all of our focus group discussions with HollyFrontier employees and the S2E Solutions team, four key words kept popping up—safety, integrity, teamwork, and ownership. These are the values that employees experience in their workplace, and these are the elements that would become the core of HollyFrontier’s recruitment marketing strategy. As their website reads, “Safety is first. We care about our people and work tirelessly to make sure they return home safely, every day. Everything we do is done with integrity. We encourage growth and exciting possibilities by championing a culture of teamwork and ownership.”

Currently, HollyFrontier is working to incorporate their new employer branding messaging into their larger recruitment strategy. Everything from how they market their benefits package to the questions they ask in their interviews is now defined by a uniform employer brand.

HollyFrontier is also training recruiters to understand exactly what will make a candidate successful at the company and how to appeal to those ideal candidates. Providing a more defined structure to the recruiting process, this employer brand ensures that, at every touch point, candidates have a positive experience and are being given a cohesive and consistent message.

“It’s hard when you’re a smaller company,” Owens says, “because you look around and you’re like, ‘Gosh, how do we get to the place where some of these bigger fish are?’…But a lot of times the people who are working at those companies won’t fit here, nor would some of our employees fit there. So, it’s about finding that person who works well in our environment and wants to be a part of what we have to offer.” In this way, HollyFrontier’s renewed employer brand will ensure the company is no longer a well-kept secret but rather a leading voice that attracts top industry talent and brings lasting value for years to come.

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