Traditionally, we've tended to look at employer brands in the context of other components of a company's brand - and also by benchmarking ourselves against competitors. This has served us well so far and we've also learnt the commercial benefits of aligning product brands with employer brands and vice- versa. So, if you say, "We're looking for waiters and waitresses who can sing opera", then expect your customers to respond by saying, "You employ people who can do that? I'd love to eat in your restaurant!"
Right now, we're entering a new era of 'resourcing experience'. We're going beyond simply selling the employer brand to a prospective employee - we're having to ensure that everything to do with the process of an individual becoming an employee is both consistent and appealing, whilst reflecting an individual personality.
However, by perfecting our employer brand we can actually create a rod for our own back. Picture yourself as the candidate. You've been told the company is renowned for its caring approach to staff. Then they clamp your car whilst you are on- site for an interview. And subsequently, they fail to let you know for six weeks whether you've been successful or not.
Admittedly, this could just be an unfortunate sequence of events and nothing like the positive experience an employee could expect. But in a market where as a candidate you can pick and choose freely, you might not give the potential employer the chance to prove otherwise.
All of the research we've conducted at Bernard Hodes Group on behalf of our clients - regardless of candidate type or industry segment -repeatedly reminds us of this. The recruitment process is used by applicants as an opportunity to test the culture and environment of a prospective employer before making a choice. Consider this quote from a recent focus group, "Any company website or brochure can feed me a positive spin. I look at what their interviewers are like. Am I treated like a number or a person? What do the current employees say at the job fair?"
So what's the solution? Well, we can start by defining corporate brand values and seeing how they could dovetail with the employer brand. In most cases, this involves the corporate version of a day on the Gaza Strip - HR and Marketing getting together in the same room. It's painful but necessary - and as a minimum this session should aim to ensure that everyone understands what we want to say about ourselves as an employer - and how it relates to our masterbrand positioning.
Armed with this information, we can conduct a recruitment process audit which dissects the current resourcing experience into all of its component parts. Then we can create a strategy to make sure each part - marketing, application, interview, response, assessment, induction - is conducted in accordance with the key masterbrand values. Ideally, we'll already have done some external research for you, in order to understand what the target audience thinks about your organisation - and what they would like to hear in the future. This means that we can ensure your new and improved resourcing experience is relevant and thus more effective.
The audit itself can cause discomfort. It deliberately airs your dirty laundry in public in preparation for improvement. With the risk of over- burdening the cliché, this is actually positive because ultimately it ensures that your resulting 'whiter than white' resourcing approach would stand any doorstep challenge. Let me give you some examples.
Your corporate strategy is to be 'an innovative and technologically advanced market leader'. Do candidates have the opportunity to apply on- line and get an instant e- acknowledgement of their application? Or do they have to wait for a communication through the post? Your mission is to 'value the wellbeing of our employees'. Do candidates find themselves staying in a quality hotel at a location and time to suit their needs? Or at some place out of the way at a reduced corporate rate?
'We are a dynamic and exciting organisation. ' Does the interviewer 'live' your brand? Can he or she quickly identify and attract others to do the same? To suggest that all of this is simple is at odds with my own personal brand positioning, 'Let's get it right and not be caught out'. It's an extensive process, and depending on where you are, could take place in one location or in sixty across the globe. It may require a carefully executed communication exercise and a radical culture change amongst people not just within HR, but right across the organisation. Most importantly, it involves getting everyone from the security guard to the interviewer to consistently define your corporate culture and say unequivocally, "this is what it's like here, bust a gut at interview and you could be part of it".
So, can you be certain that your recruitment process could stand up to the most intense spotlight? Can your employer brand be sampled at every stage of the recruitment process? Do you actually know what your employer brand stands for and means?
Score one point for each 'yes' answer (this is getting like Cosmo), and any score below three means that you are in grave danger of not converting the best possible candidates into employees - which in itself could mean the loss of the inventor of your next great strategy, product, design, detergent or whatever else you sell or make.