The goal of an employer branding strategy is to allow your company to succeed in hiring young graduates, salespeople or managers, to contribute to mobilizing your salespeople for their commercial goals, to remotivate social plan survivors and to provide managers whose careers seem to have reached a dead-end, with new perspectives.
Simply counting on one’s notoriety is not sufficient anymore. Due to the pace of change in the economy (mergers&acquisitions, evolution of professions and techniques), as well as to an increase in employee turnover, marketing the company’s brand has become a key-activity for the company's management.
Maintaining and developing the company’s employer brand and making it visible thus represents a major strategic goal for the company's communication, both inside and outside the company. Moreover, the branding strategy should rely on a clear and attractive message that is supported by strong and true-to-life values.
In order to build up your employer brand and make it credible, it is important to set up a multi-disciplinary project team (managers and employees from the line, as well as marketing and salespeople) that will go through a few essential steps together. (Please note that the implementation of the branding strategy as such, as well as its control and monitoring process will be exclusively assigned to the HR Department).
Building up your organization's branding strategy (illustration) will require outlining a dual action plan (external AND internal HR marketing) that will rely on specific tools. Moreover, it will have to follow the following steps:
1. Conduct a field investigation: The first action of this project team will thus consist in conducting a field investigation, so as to make sure that employees do indeed share the management’s vision and that it corresponds to the reality "on the ground". You may gather such information by: 1) visiting production sites in order to better grasp the way in which the company’s organizational culture and values are experienced in everyday life; 2) taking a tour with a salesperson in order to meet customers; 3) conducting interviews with new employees to gather their perceptions on the company before and after entering it; 4) etc.
2. State your company's purpose of existence: This step consists in answering the key-question "what are we doing here?" or, similarly: "Whom do we actually work for?". For instance, making the only too well-known "shareholder value" the top priority - i.e. turning it into an end in itself rather than a mean - often results into a total loss in the understanding of the company’s purpose. Employees should regain the notion that what they are doing is meaningful.
3. Write your company's mission statement: "What are our long term goals?", "How should these goals be reached and with whom?", "How do we treat our people?". Your company's mission statement should answer all these questions and serve as behavior guidelines for everyone within the company. Its contents should also clearly state what differentiates the company from its competitors.
4. Write your organizational charter of ethics: The writing of this statement should be undertaken with all the company’s stakeholders and reflect the reality on the ground. All too often, the writing of the corporate charter is entrusted to some overeducated management gurus, who have no connection to the company’s everyday life. This often results into a charter that is devoid of any meaning and with which nobody identify.
5. Test your branding strategy: The best target-public for this validation process consists in the company's employees. It is thus essential to first introduce the diverse HR marketing projects and messages in the context of round table discussions. This approach shall also contribute to making clear to all employees what the HR Department's role withing the company actually is, and thus foster their adherence to the company’s branding strategy.
6. Design your external action plan: This is the point where the double (internal versus external) approach starts and where distinct tools are resorted to. Please note that each communication plan should identify its target audience. It is thus necessary to ensure that this public will not flooded with irrelevant information.
7. Design your internal action plan: Generally speaking, it may be stated that the marketing of the company's employer brand within the organization itself has become a very important issue. Many convergent factors should be outlined. First of all, the nature of the employer-employees relationship has dramatically changed. Second, a fierce competition is now forcing companies to increase their efforts in terms of internal communication and skills development programs to unprecedented levels. Everyone is mobilized - independent of the position they occupy - to achieve the company's goals. Finally, the HR Department's role inside the company (illustration) is changing (the idea is to turn the HR Department into a "Business Partner" for the company's management); its leaders are being gradually changed into project managers who are in charge of promoting the company's employer brand.
In order to illustrate our approach, we will consider the true case of auto spare parts manufacturer X. that employs over 50’000 employees in more than 20 countries and presents an extremely decentralized management, with 10 activity branches and about 100 divisions.
Until the early 1990’s, each division was thus conducting its own branding strategy in total autonomy. They were indepently dealing with their own suppliers for the selection and implementation of recruitment resources and procedures. In order to meet recruitment needs – i.e. hiring 1000 engineers every year, a strong message had to be passed that would make the company more attractive, so as to attract young engineers and young graduates into the group.
The company thus opened a corporate website on which the HR Department played an important role. This site contained rubrics in which the group was introduced by describing its strategy, organization, products, geographic implantations and financial results. All divisions would send their job advertisements to a single operator, whose mission it was to post them on a "Jobs & Careers" sub-section. It should also be mentioned that, although the posting of job offers was centralized, the applications were sent directly by the candidates to a local recruiter so they may be processed in the local language. "This site is an opportunity to enhance the group’s visibility; it will act as a banner that will contribute to attracting even more visitors. All this will contribute to further increasing the company's notoriety. Moreover, this recruitment strategy will give us an image of great dynamism and international radiance", as the group’s Head of Public Relations explained to us.
Group X. now also uses job advertisements as a vehicle of its corporate communication. A design charter was enforced that set new publication standards; moreover, each offer contains a short introduction to the company.
Finally, the acquisition of advertising space has benn managed till then by a single service provider for the whole group: "The relation between the group’s HR policy and its communication strategy is obvious… We suffered from an image deficit in the perception of young graduates, as we did not enjoy a strong corporate communication – except for the publication of our financial reports. This communication used to be limited to direct exchanges of information with our 30 to 40 main customers around the world. The systematic display of our logo in our advertisements for engineer jobs around the world has thus allowed for the promotion of a high-tech employer brand – which truly matches reality", as the group's Head of Public Relations pointed out.