‘It's that word on the street, what others are saying about your company’
When it comes to recruitment and retention, differentiating between employer branding and company branding is important. Canadian HR Reporter spoke with Cissy Pau, principal consultant of Clear HR Consulting in Vancouver, about employer branding.
Q: What’s the difference between employer branding and company branding?
A: “Both revolve around company reputation, but your company's brand is really what your reputation is as a provider of goods and services to your customers, whereas the employer brand is your reputation as an employer. What type of employer are you and why would someone want to work for your company? I describe it as like the flip side of the same coin — one is outward-focused and one is internal.”
Q: What’s the value of a good employer brand?
A: “The main piece of it is to increase your ability to attract and retain staff. The employer brand, from my perspective, is really looking at what sets you apart as an employer and why someone should choose to work for your company or stay working for your company, compared to all the other places that they can choose to work. Many companies spend a lot more time and energy focusing on their company brand for customers, so the marketing budget is spent on trying to get more purchasers or users of their service. They put out a brand promise to their customers, but the people that are delivering on that brand are their employees. So you need to make sure that the employer brand is aligned to that customer brand so that you can deliver on that brand promise that has been made to the customer.”
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Q: What are the indicators of a good employer brand?
A: “The ability to attract quality candidates and to keep quality employees. It's that word on the street, what others are saying about your company. On the employer side, what are people in the industry saying about what you are like as an employer and where are they saying it? What's being said on social media about your company? What's the commentary out there about your business as an employer? And then a more internal look would be employee surveys and exit interviews to find out what employees think about what it's like to work at this company.”
Q: What are some mistakes to avoid in developing an employer brand?
A: “You need to focus on the employee experience, not the customer experience. The focus has to be on the internal question of what kind of employer do you want to be. Even describing what the company does, a lot of times we'll hear companies say, ‘These are all of our service offerings and these are all the product lines,’ and this is very externally focused. I get that, but from an employee perspective, what's important to them? How do they explain what they do in a way that's meaningful to people that work for them? That internal focus is really important when we're talking about employer branding.
“The other area that I think is important is your employer brand can be aspirational, but the brand story that you convey or sell to new candidates or employees shouldn’t be different than the experience once they work in the company. If it's completely different, then the employees will feel that you sold them a bill of goods. You need to look at how to make sure that the employee experience is closely aligned with the brand that you're conveying.”
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Q: How can HR professionals promote their organization’s employer brand?
A: “I think it needs to permeate through all of the HR activities so it's not a one-and-done kind of exercise. It needs to be carried out, communicated, and reinforced in your websites, your job postings, the recruitment activities, interviews, your performance review process. And then constantly evaluate to make sure that the brand and that reality align. Whether that's employee surveys or asking questions in one-on-one performance reviews, just make sure that these are still important pillars of success to the company. And things change, right? As a company grows, there could be more people brought in from outside, so make sure those people are on board with the brand.”
Q: How can HR rehabilitate a shaky employer brand?
A: “The first thing is getting more information. Do you need to conduct an audit of sorts to figure out what people are saying, what staff are saying, and what former employees are saying? It's hard to just create a new culture, it is what it is and you need a whole bunch of things to be working for you to shift that culture. Strong leadership, clarity of message, accountabilities are where they're supposed to be, managers and leaders are pulling in the same direction — all of those things that lead to company culture.
“I think brand is an offshoot of that, you need a lot of things being pulled in that direction for a brand to shift. So you need more information to figure out where to start pulling some levers. And then I think you need to get the leaders onside. There is a conversation to be had, or exploration with management, to see how leaders are conducting themselves. Are they championing the brand? If not, why not? It's something that starts with leadership and may have to evolve into a longer-term project.”
An employee experience and branding expert stressed that aligning the customer and employer brands of a company are key to establishing trust and how the company is perceived.