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Is it Time to Drop Your Employer Brand?

by Simon Lythgoe

13th Nov 2017

It might have been around for a while, but Employer Branding is a hot topic. We talk about it all the time in our industry and within my organisation, Talent Collective. Coined in the 1990s, it ultimately describes the organisations' reputation as an employer and its value proposition to employees. To the employee or candidate it's how they feel about the organisation and whether they feel it’s a good place to work based on their ‘experience’.

Since the dawn of the internet (que rousing atmospheric music), we, as individuals have ever greater access to information, including the ability to peak behind the curtain of some of the largest organisations in the world. Even the US Secret Service has nearly 50 reviews on Glassdoor.  It’s this insight into a company’s inner machinations and our ability to publish views that has changed the HR industry and brought us to (que music again) ‘the era of engagement’.

Engaging with an audience has always been the closely guarded domain of Marketers. But with the rise of Candidate and Employee Experience, HR have increased their efforts to gain crucial insight and with great zeal asking employees with ‘pulse point surveys’ and candidates with ‘candidate satisfaction surveys’ what they think about the organisation; the process, the break-out rooms, their fellow colleagues, the flowers in reception… nearly everything they can ask to gain a complete understanding of what their audience thinks about the brand. But still the picture is incomplete or skewed.

There shouldn’t be one set of communications for customers and one for candidates, creating potentially wildly diverging experiences. There isn’t a brand and an employer brand. And why? Because, like you, I’m not just an employee, future candidate or possible customer, I’m all of these things, maybe at different times, but nevertheless I can wear different hats. From my side of the fence I don’t differentiate your brand based on the lens you apply (excuse the mixed metaphor).

I recently met the Head of HR for a certain airline in a fairly informal situation and jokingly relayed my experience of sitting in Agadir for four hours on a plastic chair waiting for ‘her’ plane – luckily she smiled. The point being, people don't differentiate between various parts of your brand, they want a recruitment experience to be as satisfactory and engaging as your customer experience (ignore the flight anecdote). They want your recruitment website and applicant tracking system to look as good and be as user-friendly as your e-commerce solution and as an employee they don’t just want to be asked what they think annually, they want to ask questions or raise issues in real-time as they would if they talked to customer services and know that they're being heard. In short they want consistency across their experience with your brand.

There’s a now quite famous Virgin Media study which lays the financial implications of getting this wrong totally bare, but you’ve heard it and probably used it in a presentation to justify greater spend on your ‘employer brand’. It’s not easy trying to change how someone thinks, but even more difficult is changing how they feel. It may be time to drop the label of ‘employer brand’ and communicate with individuals as people, not as a customer or as a candidate, more holistically. It’s only when Marketing and HR departments engage with all their audiences in this manner, pooling resources and knowledge and stop trying to force people to wear hats (even if they do rock a trilby) that they’ll create the ‘one brand’ experience which is consistent regardless of channel. To sum up, embrace your customer, your candidate and your employee, equally, with a seamless experience knowing that they may well be the same person.

 

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