I asked a friend that works in a major communications firm in London what are they doing with employer branding.
He said that they aren’t doing that much, only on the rare occasion when a client asks they throw together a small visual template or write down a few slogans. I was rather surprised and inquired which specific branch, the PR, advertising agencies or branding creatives specialize in that. His answer? No one. Maybe back here we might feel a shortage for employees, where he works, branding is only interesting to the major players like Google or Microsoft that are fighting over the best of the best, other companies usually get hundreds if not thousands of CVs for a single position.
Different markets have different problems, but here in Lithuania it is definitely a hot topic.
I can recall surveys on the most attractive employers being conducted a good 10 or even more years ago. Those surveys would highlight the obvious truism of the time, the more a company was known the more it seemed as a good choice for potential employees.
This aura did not dissipate and retains its potency in markets across the board. People often believe that the more well a person is known the better he is in comparison to us mortals.
It would seem that all you need is to kick the communications machine (advertising, public relations etc.) into high gear and your organization will become the belle of the ball.
It might seem as simple as that, but nowadays by using external communication alone you will not go that far. The best example for that would be banking and international company service centers that are cropping up all over Lithuania. Most of these centers have great brand recognition in their name, however, they constantly put out messages that they are looking for new employees and would gladly take in more. Vacant positions number in tens and even hundreds.
It is worth to note that the second largest town in Lithuania Kaunas is facing the same problem, as more and more factories with thousands of work positions start to open up. The brands associated with these factories are often just as well recognized as the service centers who dot the city of Vilnius. The fight over employees is about to heat up and just the notability of the brand might not be enough anymore.
A new approach of quality communication is in order.
The term brandfirst appeared in the twentieth century and was first used for specific products and services. A few decades later the Western world shifted the way people looked at brands and started associating it with the company as a whole, through the lens of it being a great place of employment.
This is how the previously dominant cold hard facts of companies’ successes, the size of the average salaries and work conditions found a new partner. The, for a lack of a better word, irrational information that would promise a fun atmosphere, a friendly managerial staff, new horizons and challenges to be tackled working hand in hand with energetic co-workers.
This duality of logic and irrational communication is based on the Two Factor Theoryby Frederick Herzberg published in Business Review 50 years ago.
The same goes with the products we use. We often pay extra when buying a drink purely for the label, which conveys a myriad of irrational albeit personally important, emotional, fun or nostalgic bonuses.
The problem is the object in question, for which the brand is being created. Products and services are concrete and stable, which is not how you can describe an organization that is made up of tens, hundreds or even thousands of different individuals. Each of them carrying with them their personal irrational hopes, emotions and motives, not to mention that they themselves constantly shift in and out of the company as it progresses, transforms and moves forward.
Three years ago INK agency created a prototype for a new type of inside communication product called the Corporate Gang, a prototype that had to be changed, molded and perfected many times down the line. Corporate Gang spawned many varied inside communication tools and strategies, with the jewel in the crown being Great@Work, an employer branding product made in cooperation with bigNow.
While working on Great@Work we gathered several valuable lessons, which I want to share with you today.
Firstly, it is impossible to transfer methodology meant for product or service branding onto an organization. Employer branding has to be adaptive and fluid in order to react to the ever changing internal and external environment.
Social media isn’t something new, however a classic one-way communication will not work here. Entertaining an audience or conversely drowning them in a slew of banners is no longer a valid strategy. You will have to establish a rapport.
It is critical to note that communication can’t work if it is not directly linked to the way the organization is evolving i.e. a strong external communication can’t separate itself from the changes that are happening within, otherwise soon enough a rift between projection and reality will form and start adversely affecting the brand. It is worthy to note that the reverse is not as detrimental, if internal changes are one step ahead of external communication it will not hit the company hard, albeit it will make it waste potential.
PR and advertising companies are used to be directly dealing with marketing or communications managers, with this change additional links will appear in the form of the head of personnel, who will become the second or even third employer whose wishes and ideas will have to be taken into account.
Although different markets have their own unique specifics you have to understand that eventually you will have to sit down with the CEO, because he is the key to employer branding, especially when it comes to inside communication.
Everything going perfectly in the way it should for an attractive employer is a rare sight within an enterprise. Thus, the necessary changes might have to be implemented through active communication. It will not be easy as no one wants to leave their comfort zone in the name of change.
Finally, a company should never think in terms of attracting employees. This is survivalist logic. A company has to think in terms of how to attract and retain the absolute best of the best. Then and only then will it dominate their competition.