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What Does Your Employer Branding Fishbowl Look Like?

Every company has two distinct brands, its employer brand and its consumer brand. With the rise of social networking, your company, how you run it and your culture has become a fishbowl — everything you do is on display for all to see. And like it or not, your employees have an abundance of channels for broadcasting their opinions — both negative and positive.

Company branding and employer branding aren’t the same, but they intersect to fuel each other. Many of the same characteristics that motivate consumers also motivate job seekers. Successful companies foster a culture where employees not only like where they work but also believe in the products and solutions they support. Understanding what distinguishes your employer brand and how it may affect attracting and retaining employees is an essential component to being an employer of choice. It also requires an awareness of changing workplace considerations from the employees’ perspectives to formulate a value proposition to employees that clearly answers the age-old question, “What’s in it for me?”

The employer brand is comprised of a myriad of factors that contribute to how your employees learn, plan and do their work and personal lives. These include everything from the obvious (such as compensation and benefits) to factors which, while more subtle, ultimately affect how employees are motivated and retained — and demonstrate how you’ve taken steps to create a corporate culture where they can thrive.

Below is a list of 11 Employer branding best practices (adapted from a list created by Brett Minchington) that provides clear steps towards establishing an employer brand that bridges business “needs” with employee “wants” and thereby creating a fishbowl that you can proudly display.

1. Establish a real-time career development for employees

Today real-time career development can be facilitated with some imagination, technology devices, innovation and focus.

Take an hour to speak with your employees and assist them to develop a real-time career development plan. This may include coaching them to develop a plan that tracks their career development interests, current job function responsibilities and personal development interests (if it’s just work related people will switch off, many employees want a blended life so if you mix it up a little you will keep it interesting).

2. Get buyin from other functional areas within your organization

It’s no longer efficient or effective to develop and implement an employer brand strategy solely with HR resources and budget. Your employer brand is interconnected with your corporate and consumer brand and the total portfolio needs to be considered if you really want to build an adaptable and agile employer brand.

Schedule a two hour meeting with leaders from HR, Marketing, Communications and IT and have a discussion around these agenda items – it will start the conversation and provide for some good discussion on where to go next. Some of the questions that may be useful include:

  • How will a stronger employer brand support our business strategy e.g. mergers and acquisitions, growth, consolidation?
  • What are the main factors currently driving our employer brand?
  • What kind of organizational culture do we have? How consistent is it across geographical and divisional boundaries?
  • What are the most consistently attractive and compelling organizational attributes for both current employees and potential employees?
  • What behaviors are felt to be most characteristic of our organization? What are the moments of truth when our organization is at its best (and worse?)
  • What is the most useful way of segmenting the employee population in terms of cultural characteristics and distinctive needs?
  • What are the most effective channels of employee communication, both top/down and bottom/up?
  • Which positions are most critical to our success and what are we currently doing/need to do to attract, engage and retain this talent?
  • What levels of resources are we prepared to invest in our employer brand strategy?
  • What time frame will we be working towards to define and develop our employer brand strategy?

3. Assess your employer branding performance against best practice

Take this quick assessment to see how your employer branding initiatives measure up against best practice companies. Answer yes of no to each question and then total your score out of 20.

  1. We have developed an employer brand strategy
  2. We have developed a social media strategy
  3. We have at least two of the following working closely on our employer brand strategy – HR/Marketing/Communications/IT
  4. Alignment to brand values is part of our performance management system
  5. We have an active coaching and mentoring program in place to transfer knowledge and build internal capabilities
  6. We have defined our employer brand metrics
  7. We have conducted research to determine the perception current employees have about our company
  8. We have conducted research to determine the perceptions prospective employees have about our company
  9. We monitor what people are saying about our brand online
  10. We have identified the leadership competencies we aspire employees at all levels to have
  11. We have created a database of talented employees who we would like to hire when the time is right
  12. We have a dedicated careers section on our corporate website
  13. Managers have access to a leadership development program
  14. We have defined our employer value propositions (EVPs)
  15. We have reviewed our EVP’s in light of the Global Financial Crisis
  16. We have an active employee referral program which we promote to staff and external stakeholders
  17. We conduct an employee engagement, satisfaction and/or climate survey at least once per year
  18. We participate in an external annual best employers and/or employer of choice survey
  19. Each staff member has a documented career development plan that is reviewed at least annually
  20. We use an IT system to automate our recruitment process and rank candidates against weighted criteria

How did you rate?

0-5 We are in the very early stages
6-12 We have made a start
13-17 We just need some fine tuning
18-20 We are up there with the best

4. Review and update your employer value proposition (EVP) communication assets

When was the last time you review your EVP communication assets, how long ago were they developed? Make it a project to review all your internal and external EVP communication tools and ask the following questions:

  • Does our employer value proposition clearly reflect the current employment experience?
  • How inspiring is our welcome pack for new hires? How does it differentiate our employment offering?
  • Can we deliver on what we are promising in our recruitment communication efforts?
  • How effective is our social media strategy – are we engaging with our communities or are we merely broadcasting about our products and services?
  • If I was looking for a job how inspired would I be by what our company is communicating and how consistent is the messaging
  • How well do our communication assets flow from text – images – audio – video?
  • How authentic is our messaging?
  • How do we feel about the tone, style and imagery we are using in our communications?

Based on the outcomes of your review, schedule a project to update your communication assets across key offline and online touchpoints.

For a best practice case study, see how effective Starbucks is across its online platforms including facebook, twitter and YouTube

5. Learn from best practice employer brand companies

Study and learn from companies who are leading the way in employer branding including Google, IBM, Starbucks, Sodexo, SAS, Singapore Airlines, Deloitte, McKinsey, etc there are many but these are some good companies to observe and learn from – for starters!. Don’t just study companies in your own industry – you’ll find companies outside your industry a great source of innovation for employer branding best practice. Companies in the oil and gas industry companies such as Chevron, Schlumberger and Shell are good companies to follow as are the major players in the banking and finance industry such as Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs.  They all invest in employer branding!

6. Assess the employee lifecycle

Have your business unit leaders assess the employee lifecycle in their function to evaluate how well it adds value to an inspiring employment experience and one that adds, not distracts from engagement and retention efforts.

Employees at your company will transition through different stages of the employee’s lifecycle depending on factors such as age, education, experience, living arrangements, marital status, etc. It is important to understand how important these ‘moments of truths’ are to employees and to realize which ones if not handled well, can be deal breakers and result in employees seeking another place to work whilst being unconsciously unproductive in their current role. It is important to make adjustments based on observation and feedback from employees.

7. Your existing employees are your best brand ambassadors

With the rise of social networking, your company, how you run it and your culture has become a fishbowl. And like it or not, disgruntled workers have an abundance of channels for broadcasting their opinions of the company. The tsunami of people using tools such as Facebook and Twitter to air their loves and hates to the world challenges the degree of control companies have historically had over public perception.

You can not control what is being said but you can substantially influence it by communicating the facts about life inside your company and how employees feel about it. Evaluating and upgrading the employee value proposition is the indispensable first step to creating favorable buzz about working for your company.

Train employees in how to use and leverage social media to support branding efforts and develop a social media sharing culture within your  organization. It won’t happen just because your company has a Facebook page or Twitter profile, employees need to be trained across the company to ensure your initiatives are aligned with your brand strategy. Conduct internal influencer studies to identify your social media rockstars — those employees who are the most connected, active and influential social media participants in your organization.

8. Write a handbook

Write a handbook about your employment practices and use it as an EVP communications tool for all stakeholders. Over a 12 month period, an HR Manager at Essar, a multinational conglomerate corporation in the sectors of steel, energy, power, communications, shipping ports and logistics as well as construction, compiled a book on the company’s mentoring practices and included insights from leaders and employees across the organization. While the publication took a while to write, it provides a lifetime of value for Essar. It has also been an excellent tool to build internal engagement as employees were involved in the development of the product and distribution of it on its release. So find a topic, write about it and share it with stakeholders!

9. Connect your employees on the inside!

How often do we see the ‘wheel being re-invented inside organizations because there is no way to track what has been developed previously and if it has, it’s usually outdated or too hard to find. IBM have had some great success in this area by establishing an internal social networking tool, ‘Beehive’ which has allowed employees across the world to make new connections, share knowledge and capabilities and to advance their career. Connected employees will lead to higher levels of communication and trust between employees across the enterprise and is becoming more important in today’s increasingly dispersed workforces.

10. Foster a culture that mentors employees, not one that burns them out

Too many of today’s leaders are too busy to spend quality time coaching and mentoring or even just communicating with team members due to shorter deadlines, increasing workloads and longer working hours.

Even senior leaders become burnt out, fail to take holidays and disconnect from the very people who can assist them, their staff. This leads to higher levels of disengagement which is an all too common output in organizations around the world today.  For the first time in a decade, research from the Hewitt Global Engagement database shows the percentage of organizations with decreasing engagement now exceeds the percentage with increasing engagement. Slow down. Take the time to share your knowledge and experiences with middle managers to enrich your talent pipelines, increase trust and developed capabilities.

11. Build employer brand awareness, knowledge, skills and capabilities

Most of time employees don’t buy into your vision to develop and implement an employer brand strategy because they lack the skills and capabilities to do so. Employer branding is an emerging field in many economies so take the time to build awareness, knowledge, skill and capabilities within your organization. I’ve written two books, ‘Employer Brand Leadership-A Global Perspective’ and ‘Your Employer Brand attract-engage-retain’, and a do it yourself guide, ‘The Employer Brand Manager’s Handbook-2011 International edition’ which will assist you to build employer branding capabilities inside your company.


Additional resources:

Employer Branding:Winning the Post Recession Competition for Talent, Murray Associates

27 thoughts on “What Does Your Employer Branding Fishbowl Look Like?”

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