Internal Comms Strategy

What does it take to create an effective employee brand?

There’s much debate about what role an employer brand should (and shouldn’t) play in the world of branding, so here’s the distinction – the employer brand should build the image of your company as a great place to work, expressing who you are as an employer rather than just a corporate entity. 

When brands like Unilever, Shell and P&G started taking this exercise seriously in the mid-90s, we found the phrase ‘employee value proposition’ arriving into our lexicon. Essentially this is a fancy way of listing the key benefits offered by the company, in exactly the way the corporate brand is rooted in its features and attributes. Combine this with a set of core values or behaviours, a brand promise that defines it all, and creation of an employer brand follows exactly the same principals as any other form of brand development. 

Who owns it? 

The three-part mantra ‘attract – engage – retain’ is probably on the wall of every HR department, so it’s natural that ownership of the employer brand traditionally lived within this domain, though executives have long argued over the need to make talent attraction a corporate strategy rather than just an HR strategy. But what started out as a necessity for high-churn businesses, has become a strategic move by smart businesses who want to attract the best talent, not just volumes of applicants. 

A recent study by Universum found that many leaders now place primary responsibility for the employer brand with the CEO or marketing, rather than with HR. In fact, 60% of the CEOs surveyed said this responsibility lies with the CEO, which is a strong indication that employer branding is expected to gain greater strategic importance. 

Think digital 

With people far more likely to trust a company based on what its employees have to say than on its recruitment advertising, attracting talent relies far more heavily on existing employee engagement and advocacy than ever before. And with these views predominantly shared online, consideration must be made from day one about how the brand will operate across digital channels – and what the overall digital strategy will be - to ensure that the solution is fit for purpose. 

Measurement 

What about measuring the success of your employer brand? Well, (it’s the same principle as the measurement of any investment in brand work) what are your objectives? 

Whether your major issue is retention, engagement, quality and cost of hires or numbers of applicants – or, indeed, all four and more besides – it is these rates you need to track. 

A smart agency will push to understand your performance in all of these areas before they even begin to look at developing your employer brand, and will want to know what success looks like in each area too. 

Some advice 

  1. Get all of your stakeholders on board early, and make sure they all come on the journey with you. 
  2. Your current employees are your key stakeholders in the process. Unless your brand resonates with them, it’s not the right solution. 
  3. Think carefully about the relationship between the corporate brand and employer brand. The later should be a by-product that releases the equity of the former. If it isn’t, it might be time to look at your corporate brand too. 
  4. Think digital from day one of the project. 
  5. Implementing a new employer brand takes work. You need everyone in the business to understand it and, most importantly, get behind it. 

We pulled all this thinking together to create an internal communications campaign for British Gas that looked to change attitudes towards Health & Safety. By getting buy-in from all the key stakeholders, from senior management to the engineering teams, we've delivered a campaign which delivers effective communications in a meaningful way across the business.