UPFRONT : Christine Arden On – How to get your employment brand to work

Employment branding – the latest concept to hitch ride on the global brandwagon – involves strategies and activities that help shape perceptions of business as an employer of choice, attract and retain high value staff, and thus contribute to enhanced business performance, productivity and cost containment.
A whole gamut of activities can be implied by the term, including the development of value propositions for staff or business units; recruitment advertising; incentive and award schemes; orientation and training; climate surveys, corporate values and motivational programmes; and staff/community interaction sponsorships.
The concept itself is not new, but takes on greater significance during cycles of workforce scarcity: hence the current preoccupation with it.
Whilst appreciating the underlying motivation, I am concerned at how ‘employment branding’ can inadvertently create and perpetuate silo thinking within many companies – sapping focus and precious resource.
The key problem, it seems to me, lies in lack of coordinated focus.
Employment branding is often driven by HR; external customer-facing branding activities are viewed independently -and are the domain of marketing communications. And here lies the nub of the issue.
Instead of working together to support one another, those responsible for the employer brand and the external brand behave independently.
The irony in this is that more successful international companies are coming to the realisation that the true test of brand lies less in an ad campaign’s success and more in the customer’s direct interaction with the brand and people within the organisation.
Just as consumers are looking to bond with brands that possess greater emotional significance that feel authentic and synergistic at every point of contact, employees too are looking for greater meaning and opportunity in the work that they do. And since ultimately it’s staff who deliver the all important brand experience, stronger alignment and coordination between HR and marketing would seem to be beyond question.
This is certainly the case with leading United Kingdom retailer Tesco, which articulates its commitment to customers through its promise, ‘Every little helps’. This idea is mirrored in the programmes it delivers to staff. As result, it is one of the United Kingdom’s employers of choice.
My advice: start by ensuring HR and marketing agree on the opportunity and on the contribution each brings to making best use of your branding. Then encourage them to work together towards developing an overarching brand proposition that is relevant and appealing to customers and staff alike.

Christine Arden is director of marketing and strategy at DNA Design and editor of allaboutbranding.com

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