Question: Comment on the following statement;
“Developing and Managing the Employer Brand (EB) is now too important to be left in the hands of the HR department and should become incorporated into all aspects of corporate strategy.”
It is a well established fact that people, or more precisely good people, are the vital for the success of an organization. The key challenge is how to attract, select and retain good people on your side. The emerging areas of HR managements such as talent management, employee engagement and employer branding provides the solutions for such questions. All these areas of HR management very much interlinked with one- another, and often go hand on hand ,but in this essay, we will focus on the importance of employer branding and its impact on the overall performance of the organization. This will also discuss kind of benefits an organization can sought after including this in its corporate strategy.
Ever wondered why Google is getting more than 1000 000 job applications each year despite the fact that about 99.5% of those are going to be rejected? The answer to this; may be people might perceive it as the best place to work or one of the best employer in the world. This perception may be developed due to the expected benefits that a future employee might strive for after joining the organization. Such outstanding perception is hard to create and even harder to maintain. Firms always develop strategies for future products and potential customers but they never realize that same principals applies on them as well when it comes on selecting people who can make big difference for them.
In a survey Chief Executive Magazine in 2001, 47 percent of CEOs of the companies surveyed believed that the greatest challenge in the new economy is finding and retaining good people. In order to remain competitive, one needs to acquire the capable people, which will determine whether or not you will be successful as an organization. Recruitment of staff is a risky aspect and therefore much research and planning is required (Kaliprasad2006). The "right" people will not simply come to firm itself, but the firm has to make effort to make them believe that it is the best place to work.
Although it is an integral part of any organization, Human Recourse (HR) Management is often given less respect and admiration in the boardroom when compared to other functional units of business such as Finance, Accounting and Marketing (The Economist). But now it’s the right time for organizations to start looking at the core concepts of HR management with a new and fresh approach.
Defining Employer Branding
It would be a big slip if anyone assume Employer Branding just a value adding effort made by marketing activities similar to consumer product branding. It is deeper than that. It could be better figure out by looking at the following viewpoints;
In its report, Charted Institute of Personnel Development says, Employer Brand is a "set of attributes and qualities – often intangible- that makes an organization distinctive "and "promises a particular kind of employment experience"
Further, according to Backhaus and Tikoo, Employer brand represents the array of economic, functional and psychological benefits that an employee might receive as a result of joining an organization. Just as product brands convey an image to customers, an employer brand conveys an organizational image to potential and current employees. In that regard, the employer brand presents a "value proposition" about what people might receive as a result of working for a particular employer (Backhaus and Tikoo, 2004)
At the same time it is important to note that, it should not be confused with mere promotional activities of an organization which only aims to attract the potential employee. As Andy Dolby, managing director of Barkers Resourcing says; "Far too often, employer branding gets confused with consistent recruitment identity. Some companies think that if they say they’re forward-thinking and progressive, and produce images matching that description, that’s employer branding. But employer branding has to be consistent with the employee experience."
Employer brand has also been defined as the company’s image as seen through the eyes of its associates and potential hires, and is intimately linked to the employment experience of what it is like to work at a company, including tangibles such as salary and intangibles such as company culture and values (Ruch, 2002)
Therefore, from the viewpoints of these scholars we can derive that employer branding is not just a process, but a ongoing practice which helps to define corporate culture, cultivate its values and strategically deliver an organization’s message with a mission to attract, retain, motivate and focus people (talented people) for the economical as well as psychological benefits of the stakeholders of the organization.
Benefits of Good Employer Brand
A good brand in business is the most valuable asset for an organization. A brand is nothing but a promise or an assurance from the organization, which it has been delivered historically and is committed to deliver in future as well. If an organization manage to create an iconic brand as an employer, the outcomes can be highly desirable.
Simon Hepburn (2005) recognizes that being a good employer is not enough abut you must perceived to be a good employer. The main advantages that firms can which enjoys as a reputations of being a good employer brand can be summarize as follows:
1. Good employer brand can make recruitment process more efficient by allowing organization to attract and select the best talent available.
2. It can also affect the behavior of the existing employees by making them feel proud, motivated and more focused towards organizational objectives.
3. By attracting and retaining most talented people, organization can gain competitive advantage over its competitor.
4. A positive reputation as an employer allow organization to deal rough times an it instill trust that organization will survive through difficult situation.
5. An organization’s perception as a good employer also affects its perception of its products or services in the market. Therefore Simon (2005) suggests managing employer reputation (Brand) should be a business priority it should strive to remain ahead of the rest.
US marketing academics Miles and Mangold (2004, 2005) have developed a model of what they have called Employee Branding. This model shows how all integral parts of organization’s corporate strategy, such as its mission ,values , objectives, source and mode of communications affects and shapes employees behavior and brings out desirable outcomes.
The employee branding process (Miles and Mangold, 2005)
The definition they apply to employee branding is ‘the process by which employees internalize the desired brand image and are motivated to project the image to customers and other organizational constituents’ (2005, p. 535).
According to Miles and Mangold (2005), the brand image has to be conveyed through a range of internal and external, formal and informal communications media to shape employee’s understanding and psychological contracts. Most of the usual qualifications apply concerning the nature of communications, including the coherence and credibility of the message and medium, and the need for leaders and managers to act as they say in reinforcing the message. The qualifications fit well with our strategic narrative approach. The resulting employer brand image will lead, to a range of favorable outcomes, including positive organizational reputations, customer loyalty and satisfaction, positive brand and organizational positioning, employee satisfaction and turnover.
Developing and Managing Employer Branding
In a way Employer brand can also be seen as the reputation of the corporate. According to Balmer and Geyser (2003), managing corporate reputations is becoming an increasingly important strategic issue for organizations. Reputations and brands are also becoming more and more important. Further, there is emerging empirical proof of a strong link between corporate reputations, brands and financial performance (Roberts and Dowling 2002). Much of the literature and practice in this field is from marketing, branding and communications, with the HR function and HR academics relatively silent on these issues until recently (Boxall and Purcell 2008).
However, it’s important to note role of the HR function and people management in creating and maintaining these valuable assets. HR can contribute significantly to corporate reputations and branding by influencing the lived experience of employees, levels of engagement, and through these, organizational identity, governance and leadership (Graeme Martin 2009). When such information will be available outside for talented people who are looking for work, it will definitely make an impression. Such HR policies act as a magnet to attract very few talented people. Theses increase the engagement of the existing employees, hence, increases rate of retention.
It should be noted that the success of employer branding depends on creating a realistic analysis of the external and internal brand propositions, only them aligning them if there is a broad agreement between the two through core employee value propositions (Barrow and Mosely 2005).
It is argued that marketing department is better for developing and managing employer brand and vice-versa. For instance, Chris Wood, chief executive of strategic branding consultancy Corporate Edge, says:"There is no role for marketers in internal marketing because it is about people, so should be handled by HR." He concedes that marketing involvement may be justified for service brands, (Jane Simms.2003).Conversely, David Hail, managing director of internal marketing agency Serac Communications, believes that where internal marketing sits is less important than making sure it is done properly. At the moment it tends to fall within HR’s remit, but he questions whether HR is best-placed to drive it. Few HR professionals are trained in marketing or communications, and many employer branding programmers’ fail because the message is not compelling or personal enough or because they are underfunded and resourced. (Jane Simms.2003)
Since both marketing and people management aspects of employer branding appears to be essential, Hail suggest the best solution is to take a joint marketing/HR approach. "What’s required is a real step-change to ensure employees are aligned behind the brand positioning and promise, and to have the systems and processes in place to do that. In an ideal world that means marketing should drive it, with strong support and involvement from HR." (Jane Simms.2003)
Drawbacks of Poor Employer Brand
As a poor employer brand, a firm would not be able to attract talented people is likely to limit access to the best staff that it could have been if it has a stronger employer brand. Moreover, it could also affect the performance of the existing employees by limiting their motivation level and hence, decreasing engagement with their area of work. However, as consequences of this a firm is more likely to hire people who are not much talented or people who do not posses enough passion or enthusiasm for their jobs. This could lead to the firm into new situation. For instance, according to Ted’s Jon Holden1, if poor branding results in recruiting the wrong talent, it can be costly. By the time firm realize that it has hired the wrong person, it can be significant – perhaps as much as two times the person’s annual salary. It also creates a negative environment in the organization which can further affect the performance of others as well. But most companies don’t measure that – how many measure quality of hire? (Daniel Allen 2008)
Criticism of Employer Branding
It’s not that everyone believe in employer branding as the others do. There are also some alternative viewpoints about the concept of employer branding which should be acknowledged. For instance Simon Russell2, director of consulting for Work Communications argue that branding is often associated with sleight of hand, spin and creative sophistry. Like reputation, brand is anamorphous concept that many employers are beginning to shy away from. Instead, they are focusing on employee value proposition (EVP), which, Russell says, poses one simple question: "Why should the people we want to employ want to work with us?" He further adds few companies take the trouble to differentiate their offer from that of the competition. However, those that do give themselves a big advantage. An EVP offers the scope to demonstrate and substantiate their difference at every stage of the recruitment and employment cycle. (Daniel Allen 2008)
From this discussion we can derive that despite of slight criticism, the concept of employer branding does hold good for the both employees(current and future) and the organization. As the demographic studies shows that there will be a shortage of talented people in near future, therefore, firms should adopt a comprehensive employer branding strategy, which will help them to attract, recruit, and engage good (talented) people. The adopted strategy should be implemented sincerely, under the close guidelines of Strategic Human Resources Department. This practice will enable firms to gain competitive advantage over its competitors and ensure success of the business in future.
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1Ted’s Jon Holden “Brand Aid” PM Guide to Recruitment Process Outsourcing pg 13 Nov 2008
2 Simon Russell “Brand Aid” PM Guide to Recruitment Process Outsourcing pg 13 Nov 2008