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Guide

Employer branding
A no-nonsense
approach
Contents
Acknowledgements 2
Foreword 3
Part 1: Introduction 4
Part 2: Before we get started… 5
Part 3: How did we get here? 6
Part 4: What is a brand? 10
Part 5: How to tell if you need an employer brand 13
Part 6: Making the case, getting the cash 22
Part 7: Overcoming objections 30
Part 8: Choosing your partner 34
Part 9: From plan to practice 45
Part 10: Every picture tells a story 49
Part 11: Building brand loyalty, creating brand equity 54
Part 12: The brand and broader HR issues 59
Thirty things you need to remember about employer brands 62
Find out more... 64
Employer branding 1
Acknowledgements
Thank you to those individuals who have contributed
significantly to the shaping of this guide:
Helen Rosethorn, Bernard Hodes
Simon Barrow, People in Business
Graeme Martin, University of Glasgow
David Roberts, Orange
Alison Ballantyne, Scottish Power
Rebecca Martin-Cortez, Argos
Anne Spearman, British Library
Georgina Whiteley and Katrina Fox, Vodafone
Lorraine Homer and Nicky Ivory, McDonalds
Lorraine Taylor, RBS Group
Howard McMinn and Sophie Ling, Deloitte and Touche
Theresa Proctor, Tesco
Michelle Carr and Karen Scott, Tower Hamlets
Sue Hossent, Kings College Hospital NHS
Foundation Trust
Neil Cox, Baker Tilly
Michelle Armitage, Andrews and Partners Ltd
Tim Pointer, Diesel
Nicola Wilton, Paperchase
Debbie Bullock, Lakeland
This project required an enormous amount of research
and the CIPD is immensely grateful to all the other
organisations and individuals who gave of their time in
a variety of different ways to ensure this research was
relevant and up to date.
2 Employer branding
Foreword
WhyisIheCIPDinIeresIedinempIoyer
branding…andvhaIisIheIinkIoHß?
Employer branding seems to be offering HR an
intriguing model by which to link their people strategy
and the company brand to achieve differentiation in the
labour market. Results from CIPD research show that
companies are struggling to attract, recruit, engage and
retain talent for their organisations. These are reported
as top priorities for HR in many countries around the
world.
Brand management is a well-established concept – why
can it not be directly transferable into companies to
help drive internal value from a company’s most
valuable asset – its people?
A company brand is used to gain customer loyalty and
therefore increased profits/success through market
differentiation. An employer brand can be used for
similar effect by HR and organisations, to compete
effectively in the labour market and drive employee
loyalty through effective recruitment, engagement and
retention policies.
Employer branding is how an organisation markets
what it has to offer to both potential and existing
employees. A strong employer brand should connect an
organisation’s values, people strategy and HR policies
and be intrinsically linked to a company brand.
The number of definitions and theories about employer
brands can make your head spin. But we suggest here
that the most sensible, workable definition goes
something like this:
An employer brand is a set of attributes and qualities
– often intangible – that makes an organisation
distinctive, promises a particular kind of employment
experience, and appeals to those people who will
thrive and perform to their best in its culture.
WhaIviIIIhisguidedeIiver?
This guide starts at the beginning and shows the HR
practitioner how to develop and communicate an
employer brand.
In support, case studies from a very wide selection of
employers and organisations illustrate why and how
they have developed and communicated an employee
brand to attract, retain and/or engage both potential
and existing employees.
This work is supported by an interactive practical tool
www.cipd.co.uk/tools
If you would is comment on this research then please
email research@cipd.co.uk
Further research and insights on employer branding
from the CIPD can be found at www.cipd.co.uk/
research/_empbranding.htm
This guide has been written for the CIPD by Paul
Walker, Head of Employer Branding, Barkers, and
project-managed by Andrew Platt Higgins,
Planning Director, Barkers.
Employer branding 3
Part 1: Introduction
‘The power of the brand in all its forms is likely to become even more deeply embedded in
our cultural landscape.’ Dr Shirley Jenner and Stephen Taylor, Manchester Metropolitan University
Business School
If you’re bracing yourself for a long, challenging, jargon-
laden read, arguments and counterarguments that zoom
back and forth like tennis balls on Wimbledon’s Centre
Court, and theories that make your head spin, relax.
At the risk of mixing metaphors, the best way to think
of this guide – and to actually use it – is as one of those
‘I can’t imagine life without it’ cookery books that you
clutch thankfully in one hand while you stir the
béchamel sauce with the other. And the more its pages
become well-thumbed or metaphorically stained, the
more it will have served its purpose.
But what is its purpose? And why is it appearing now?
After all, with Amazon able to show you at least one
hardback treatise on the employer brand, when the
CIPD itself has already published on the topic, when
virtually every recruitment advertising agency lists
employer branding among the services it offers, isn’t yet
another guide, well… just a little late in the day?
There’s no glossary of technical terms;
something as logical and common sense as
employer brand development shouldn’t
need one.
Employer brands and the whole discipline and practice
of developing and implementing them aren’t new. And
that’s the reason why this guide is so timely. It’s based
on the collective experience of many different
organisations – large and small, public sector,
commercial sector, ‘third sector’ – who shared their
experiences with the CIPD and with the author and his
colleagues in an extensive programme of research that,
not surprisingly, used some of the techniques that
feature prominently in brand development projects. It’s
also based on the author’s own practical, sharp-end
experience of actually doing employer brand
development for organisations ranging from
multinationals to individual NHS trusts over a period of
seven years.
So this isn’t a prescriptive, ‘this is how you must do it’
guide; it’s the accumulated experience, the knowledge,
the learning points of dozens of people who have taken
the plunge, done the work, faced up to the challenges
– and derived the benefits. They’re in the unique
position of being able to say: ‘This is how it worked for
us, therefore this is how it can work for you.’
But if we look at the employment market, the economy
and how the fundamental relationship between people
and work is changing, this guide hasn’t arrived a
moment too soon. The ‘war for talent’ – that HR
catchphrase of the turn of the century – is turning hot
again. The HR profession is seeking new ways to
demonstrate the true value it brings to an enterprise.
The CIPD’s own recent survey shows that recruitment
and retention are big, big headaches for many
organisations. It also says that, ‘Employer brands are
very much in fashion at the moment.’ That’s both a
good thing and a bad thing. It’s good to see they’re
receiving the attention they deserve. But if people don’t
fully understand what they are and what they can and
can’t do, there’s a danger they’ll go the way of power
breakfasts, big hair and padded shoulders.
So the time is right for a guide that lives on the same
planet as every hard-pressed HR practitioner, that mixes
the authority of collective experience with a degree of
humility, that seeks to teach, not preach.
This is that guide. Read, react, learn, practise.
And enjoy.
4 Employer branding
Part 2: Before we get started...
You might find it useful to see the format a typical in this guide. But in the meantime, the four stages of a
employer brand development and communication project project, and what happens in each one, are outlined in
follows. You’ll learn more about the specific activities later Figure 1 below.
Figure 1: Employer brand development and communication
What’s happening Project stages
At this stage you’ll get a firm fix on how your
brand is perceived by your top management,
other employees and your external talent
market(s). You’ll get a sense of how big a task
the new brand faces. You need to develop
relationships with other disciplines, and prepare
Discovery
your business case. You’ll almost certainly have
some of the research data you need already.
Don’t forget to measure the current perfomance.
This is the critical stage between input and
output. You – or, more probably, your external
partner in the project – will be creating your
Analysis,
brand’s ‘stem cells’ or its unique ‘DNA’ and
starting to build it from there. You’ll start to get interpretation
a clear picture of what your organisation stands
and
for, offers and requires as an employer – its
distinctive value proposition. creation
Before you rush to apply the brand to your next
big recruitment push, make sure that you can
deliver what the brand promises, that the value
proposition is one your current employees can
Implementation
recognise and believe in, and that the candidates
and
will experience full alignment between what they
expect and what they experience. communication
Qualitative research, both external and internal,
will reassure you that the new brand is perceived
the way you’d intended. By now, the brand is
starting to make its presence felt in day-to-day
internal communications, and in your ‘people
practices’. For the first time you’ll be able to
demonstrate improvements on your original
baseline measures, and it will be clear to all that
the brand is delivering real value.
Measurement,
maintenance
and
optimisation
Typical actions
• senior management workshop
• internal and external focus group
• employee survey
• candidate journey audit
• building rapport with
marketing/PR/communications
teams
• ensuring top-level buy-in
• select external partners
• apply baseline metrics
• define brand attributes
• define overall employment value
proposition
• associate specific behaviours with
each attribute
• ‘flex’ attributes for each talent
market segment
• overall creative brief
• initial creative expression of brand
• apply brand to:
• induction programme/material
• applicant information
• briefing for recruitment
consultancies
• interview/assessment process
• launch brand internally
• apply brand fully to talent-
attracting programmes/materials,
including website
• probe internal response to
new brand
• probe external perception
• measure improvements in
recruitment and retention metrics
• complete application of brand to
candidate journey
• measure uptake of ‘living the
brand’
Employer branding 5
Part 3: How did we get here?
ßackgroundIoIheprojecI
WeconducIedIvodiscoverydaysin which senior
HR people from respected, high-profile organisations in
both the commercial and public sectors shared their
experiences of brands and brand development, and
worked to give us an idea of what ‘best practice’ might
look like. They also supplied two of the three full-length
case studies you’ll find later in this guide.
WecarriedouIanonIinesurveyon the CIPD
website, asking for responses to key questions about
employer brands and their development. 280 people
took part in the survey.
WeconducIedIeIephoneinIervievswith senior HR
people who had direct experience of developing and
communicating employer brands, with particular
emphasis on small and medium-sized enterprises.
Wesearchedthrough a wide range of papers and
articles about all aspects of employer brands, including
the CIPD’s own published material.
0 20 40 60 80
% actively managing this factor n=274
Leadership and management behaviours
Careers website
Performance management
Public relations
Physical working environment
IT, technology and communications
Compensation and benefits strategy
Diversity communications
Other
Employee communications
Recruitment advertising
Learning and development
Campus/schools recruitment
Figure 2: Aspects actively managed through employer branding programme
6 Employer branding
WhaICIPDmembersIoIdus
The brand playing an active part in managing
recruitment advertising and employee communications?
Yes, you’d expect those two bars to protrude way
beyond others in Figure 2. But look closer; notice how
respondents believe that the brand has a relationship
to, and an impact on, other issues like leadership and
management behaviours, and performance
measurement. This suggests that more organisations
than one might expect recognise the importance of
‘living the brand’. One surprise – and a disappointment
– is that campus/schools recruitment seems to be
relatively low on the agenda; a brand gives you the
means to engage with both of these key audiences.
From the online survey results it’s encouraging to see
that responsibility clearly rests with the leadership
team for most respondents. More worrying is the
apparent imbalance between corporate/brand
communications and the HR director, suggesting that
he or she may not yet be quite ‘up there’ where the
big decisions are made. More concerning still is that
‘no real or definitive point of ownership’.
Employer branding 7
0 20 40 60 80 100
% objective is important or very important for respondents n=274
Compete for labour (locally)
Increase employee satisfaction
Improve productivity/delivery
Compete for labour
(national/international)
Reduce attrition
Reduce costs of HR
Alignment to vision/values
Improve recruitment performance
Figure 3: Employer branding objectives ranked by importance
Respondents were very clear about their objectives in
developing, communicating and maintaining an
employer brand. What’s particularly encouraging is that
so many clearly recognise the impact the brand can and
should have on productivity and service delivery.
8 Employer branding
Figure 4: Characteristics of employer branding
You can’t try to create a single
employer brand in an organisation that
employs a diverse range of people
Public sector employers should not
bother with employer brand development
In my organisation, we could never
get HR, communications, line
management, learning and development
Employer brand programmes are
often a waste of money
Only big employers can find the
resources to develop and maintain a
strong employer brand
There’s no clear model or template
for employer branding work in
an organisation like mine
It’s clear how employer branding
activity can be measured
An employer brand is inextricably
linked to an organisation’s reputation
for its products and services
Employer branding should be
thought an investment, not a cost
0 10 20
Good news all round in Figure 4 – particularly the belief
that brand performance can be measured and can
therefore be shown to be an investment, not a cost.
But some organisations clearly need to challenge their
assumption of an automatic linkage between the
employer brand and the reputation of their goods and
services. For some organisations the two need to be,
and can be, effectively de-coupled.
30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
% agree or strongly agree n=267
ThechaIIengesandprobIemsrespondenIs
experiencedincIuded.
• fragmentation of ownership, with poor
communication between departments involved in
the process
• lack of recognition of employer branding as a vital
element of corporate strategy
• size of organisation: paradoxically, bigger
organisations reported more problems than smaller
ones, even though there’s a presumption that
employer branding is only relevant to corporate
giants
• HR not perceived having the ‘clout’ to get involved
in strategic functions
• fragmentation of workforce militating against
consistency of message.
Employer branding 9
Part 4: What is a brand?
‘I’m part of the HR community, but I sit with my colleagues in brand. My job is trying to
speak marketing to HR people and HR to marketing people.’ David Roberts, Orange Employer
Brand Manager
‘The branded employment product simplifies choice, reassures prospective employees about
quality and reduces risk.’ Dr Shirley Jenner and Stephen Taylor, Manchester Metropolitan University
Business School
‘We can all have those performance conversations… but by trying to communicate the
brand values, it’s useful to have another way of saying, “This is what we expect of you.” It’s
a more positive way.’ Senior HR practitioner at first discovery day
Alongside the war for talent, there seems to be another
fierce little conflict going on – for the ownership of the
employer brand and its development and
implementation.
There’s no shortage of protagonists. The main forces
take the form of an alliance between HR departments
and their recruitment advertising agencies. And why
not? After all, most organisations see the employer
brand, initially at least, as a tool to help them recruit.
But within those organisations there may well be a
separate tussle going on between HR and marketing,
particularly in organisations with prominent, valuable
consumer brands. But then there’s a school of thought
that says that employer brands are not really about
talent attraction, but about that pot of gold at the end
of the rainbow: employee engagement. At that point,
another army steps in to claim ownership – the
management consultants (and even the actuarial
practices), who have little interest in or knowledge of
marketing and marketing communications, but who
feel that such strategic issues are their natural fiefdoms.
It’s all very confusing. And while the debate rages, HR
practitioners agonise, time runs on, problems pile up and
great opportunities are missed. What often gets lost in
the mêlée is the fact that brands – any kind of brand,
What often gets lost in the mêlée is the fact
that brands – any kind of brand, including
employer brands – are marketing concepts
and marketing constructs.
including employer brands – are marketing concepts and
marketing constructs. It’s significant that Orange, that
supremely brand-savvy organisation that supplied the
excellent case study you’ll find later in this guide, say of
their approach: ‘We took the best approaches from the
marketing community around brand-building and
segmentation and applied them to the HR world.’ Brands
make people want to buy something and feel good
they’ve bought it for a long time afterwards. And feeling
good makes you want to tell other people about it; it
turns you into an unsuspecting brand advocate. They’re
also about differentiation. Don’t forget that was the main
purpose of the original, physical brand burnt onto the
rumps of several thousand head of cattle – to distinguish
them from all those other critters from that ranch on the
far side of the hill. And today, when technology makes
products (and jobs) increasingly similar, the brand comes
into play to give people a basis for choice, irrational
though that process may often be. Finally, brands are
about reputation, which probably explains why Oracle’s
10 Employer branding
legendary founder and CEO, Larry Ellison, is on record as
saying, ‘Your brand is what people say about you when
you’ve left the room.’ And think of the way reputation
has seen many great brands safely through a rocky
patch. When Marks & Spencer seemed to have lost the
plot a few years ago, their reputation, built up over long
decades in the British psyche, saw them through. The
engine may have stalled, but the flywheel of that massive
reputation kept on turning.
Employer brands are more like consumer or corporate
brands than many people realise or acknowledge. All
brands function and deliver value in the same way,
like this:
Theyachievedi!!erenIiaIion
One of the questions that people raised in our research
and that clients have often asked me in the past goes
like this:‛What are we offering that’s different or
special? How can I claim that our call centre/NHS trust/
retail operation/civil service department/local authority is
really any different to any other?
It’s a good, valid question and it deserves a full answer.
Let’s take the imaginary case of two apparently similar
(in practice, nearly identical) call centres. Both offer
excellent training, flexible shift patterns, and plenty of
other good things that people look for in their next job.
But one has taken the trouble to communicate these
clearly and consistently over a period of time. It has
taken steps to build its reputation among the local
community. It has made sure that what it promises
potential employees – how it actually feels to work
there – is pretty much how it really does feel, and that
external promise aligns with internal reality. Its
recruitment advertising and all the material an applicant
sees contain the same messages and share a common
look and feel.
At the end of the day, the two call centres still remain
as they always were, nearly identical to each other. Any
differences may be of style rather than substance, but
that’s not the point. The point is that one call centre has
pre-empted and outsmarted the other by painting a
realistic picture of what it will feel like to work there.
The real differentiation lies in the fact that the
perception one has created is clearly delineated; the
other is still vague and fuzzy.
TheysupporIpremiumpricing
How often have you shelled out a few extra pence (or
maybe many extra pounds) on a product whose brand
you recognise, trust and admire? In consumer
marketing, you can simply charge more on the basis of
the strength of your brand.
In the world of employment marketing, the same
benefit of a well-developed brand applies, but is
expressed rather differently. With no brand, no profile,
no reputation, you’re forced to compete on money. Like
many organisations, you may find yourself simply
throwing money at a recruitment problem, and getting
embroiled in some crazy kind of auction in which you
and your closest competitors try to outbid each other
on salaries. (Anyone who’s ever recruited in the
graduate market will know just how this feels.)
With a fully formed brand, you’ll have plenty of other
areas in which you can compete – successfully – for
talent. You’ll be joining the ranks of those fortunate
organisations who can say: ‘Of course, we don’t pay
the highest salaries, but people are queuing to join us.
They like working for us and they know our name will
look good on their CV.’
TheyinspireIoyaIIy
Any marketer knows that the greatest value of their
brand doesn’t come with the customer’s initial purchase
but with the way that customer will stay loyal to the
brand for many years to come. If you feel good about
the car, mobile phone company, bank or holiday
company you’ve chosen, if you feel that it’s done what
it said on the tin and actually delivered on the kind of
promises that attracted you in the first place, you’ll
want to tell people about it. And when you do, your
spontaneous advocacy will cut much, much more ice
than any amount of that company’s advertising, no
matter how skilful and creative it may be.
An employer brand will stimulate that ‘initial purchase’
by attracting enough of the right kind of applicant. But
the real value comes later, when that individual looks
round after their first few months, feels that things are
pretty much how they’d hoped and been promised, and
starts to feel that affinity, that bond – often irrational
but always powerful – that characterises the
relationship people have with all the really important
brands in their lives. They’ll be more engaged in their
Employer branding 11
work, showing more of that ‘discretionary time and
effort’ that’s one of the basic measures of employee
engagement. They’ll feel proud of their organisation
and what it does. They won’t feel forced into the kind
of defensive response that some of the participants in
our discovery days described, in which in a social setting
they dreaded the question, ‘so who do you work for?’
and felt furtive or evasive in their replies.
The notion of affinity is central to the concept of the
employer brand – arguably to a greater degree than
consumer brands. It’s a sign of psychological
engagement – that all-important aspect of overall
engagement that, as the CIPD’s own publication
Working Life: Employee attitudes and engagement
2006 points out, is one of the key drivers of superior
individual and collective performance. Where loyalty is
at least in part logical and often publicly expressed,
affinity is something quieter, more intuitive and harder
to articulate, more private and personal – but every bit
as strong and as valuable to the organisation. It’s simply
The brand creates an opportunity to identify
and create a bond with the ‘right’ people –
those who will feel an affinity with the
organisation and who will thrive and perform
to their fullest potential in its culture.
the feeling that the organisation I work for is somehow
‘for me’. And the corollary of that is that, if it’s right for
the kind of person I am, it’s wrong for a different kind
of person. So, in the context of employer brands,
affinity is another dimension of differentiation. And
even at the earliest stages of talent attraction, in the
first ad or webpage that initiates an individual’s
relationship with an employing organisation, the brand
creates an opportunity to identify and create a bond
with the ‘right’ people – those who will feel an affinity
with the organisation and who will thrive and perform
to their fullest potential in its culture. And at the same
early stage, the opportunity also exists to gently
dissuade and deter the ‘wrong’ people.
When I developed the employer brand for HM Prison
Service, one of the outputs was naturally an articulation
of ‘the sort of organisation we are’ and ‘the sort of
people we need to attract and retain’. On that basis,
the Service’s senior management team saw the brand as
a much-needed opportunity to identify the type of
person it didn’t need and whose presence they felt was
inhibiting progress and blocking change. As
organisational or cultural change become increasingly
frequent and radical, the constituency of people who
won’t or can’t adapt becomes bigger. An employer
brand can articulate to them what ‘the new way’ means
in terms of beliefs, attitudes and behaviours: it can help
them change and catch up. And if all else fails, it can
indicate to them that the time might be right to start
looking around. An employer brand has as much value
in deterring the wrong kind of people from an
organisation as in attracting the right kind – ‘right’
meaning not just natural members of a cabal of
corporate clones, but people who understand and
espouse its distinctive vision and values.
12 Employer branding
Part 5: How to tell if you need an
employer brand
‘Our new chief exec opened the local paper and spotted five of our recruitment ads
on the same spread – all different, some with just little captions managers had done
for themselves. That created the platform to try and fix this thing.’ Senior HR manager, a
participant in our first discovery day
‘If people apply for a job or when they come for an interview, and they have a bad
experience, they’ll slag us off. And that impacts on our consumer brand as well.’ Senior HR
practitioner at first discovery day
The!irsIpoinIIoreaIisehereisIhaIyouaIready
haveone
That doesn’t mean that one of your HR predecessors
went out and developed one. It simply means that your
organisation has a reputation as a place to work. It may
not be the reputation you would want, or that accurately
reflects the internal reality of what working for your
organisation actually feels like. It may be stronger or
weaker than you suppose. It will, in all probability, be
more vague and fuzzy, more devoid of clear, distinctive
features than you would wish – it may fail to do the job
of differentiating you from your competitors in your
talent market or markets.
But while you ponder the state of your brand and
cogitate about what you should do with and about it,
there are some classic symptoms that suggest something
needs to be done. And for many organisations, these are
the triggers, the catalysts that start the process of
developing their employer brands and ensuring they
derive full benefit from them.
Yourchie!!inanciaIo!!icerasksIo‘haveavord’
abouIescaIaIingrecruiImenIcosIs
Many organisations fail to establish their true costs of
recruitment because the figures such an exercise would
reveal would be pretty scary. The traditional cost-per-hire
measure is useful – but only up a point. It may help to
see how your costs compare with the usually accepted
average for your industry or for a particular recruitment
category, such as graduates.
But the figures that really shed light on the state of your
employer brand are more specific. One of the most telling
metrics of all is how much you spend on recruitment
consultants. There are many reasons why organisations
use recruitment consultants and, at least in terms of
yielding a shortlist of good candidates, they do an
excellent job. But, in my own experience, many recruiters
confess to using consultants because their own
organisations lack the reputation, the presence, and the
brand profile that would make their recruitment
advertising fully effective. Their advertising would simply
have too much to do – answer the basic question, ‘What
would this outfit be like to work for?’ as well as
generating response from enough candidates who fit the
candidate specification.
Recruitment consultancies deliver the goods – but at a
price. Where brand profile is concerned, remember it’s
their logo on the ad, not yours.
Another key metric is the proportion of candidates who
simply fade away during the application process –
particularly those who, after several interviews and having
shown bags of enthusiasm, then decline your kind offer
of a job. The actual costs of such a failure need some
work if they are to be fully quantified, but the effort will
Employer branding 13
be worth it since it shows the true cost of failing to excite
and engage (there’s that word again) the right candidates
as you and they go through the courtship rituals of the
application/candidate-management process. But consider
the cost of having to re-advertise. Put a measure on the
value of management time that must be devoted to
reinterviewing. Depending on the nature of the role in
question, you may even be able to point to the cost of
lost business or delayed projects.
YourmanagingdirecIorvondersvhyyour
organisaIiondoesn’I!eaIureinIheSunday Times
‘ßesI100pIacesIovork’
A fixation with league tables has almost become a
national disease. Nevertheless, there’s real value in
appearing in this and any other tables that identify and
recognise good employers and good employment
practices, to say nothing of how good it feels as you
make your first entry into the charts.
The Sunday Times survey is, for my money, one of the
most valuable, not just because of its high profile, but
because it’s based on how real people genuinely feel and
what they actually say about working for their
organisation. What still surprises me is how many smaller,
almost niche organisations regularly appear in the
rankings, and often towards the upper end. They won’t
have spent a fortune on high-profile, brand-based talent
attraction advertising, because their relatively small size
means they don’t need to. Instead, they’ve focused on
defining what they want their distinctive employment
experience to be, and ensuring that it becomes an
everyday reality for their employees.
And in so doing, they’ve given themselves three of the
greatest benefits of an employer brand – loyalty,
engagement and advocacy.
5omeo!yourbesIpeopIeareIeavinga!IerIess
Ihan18monIhs
You’ve got serious problems. Because what’s happening
is that newcomers experience a disconnect between
what they assumed (or were led to believe) working for
your organisation would feel like, and what they actually
discover. This lack of alignment is one of the cardinal
brand sins: any brand that doesn’t deliver – from the
airline that leaves you stranded to the credit card
company that leaves you fuming – is shooting itself in
the foot. And the bigger the purchase decision, the more
complex and important the ‘product’ (like a new job), the
greater the sense of disillusion and let-down. And the
greater the likelihood that you’ll tell people about your
bad experiences. And that they’ll tell someone else and…
In that way, people who should be brand advocates
become brand saboteurs.
You!eeIuncom!orIabIeIeIIingpeopIevhoyou
vork!or
‘I’ve given up telling people I work for the local council. I
just tell them I work in HR and leave it at that.’ That was
the comment of a participant in one of the discovery
days that provided so many insights for this guide. Okay,
local authorities are always going to be the butt of
carping criticism, but so are many other organisations.
And the saddest thing of all is the sense that many
people, in many different organisations, have simply
thrown in the towel and opted for the soft option,
instead of fighting their corner and saying, ‘Yes, I do
work for so-and-so organisation. And do you know
what? I really love it.’
In a recent CIPD-sponsored survey, less than
half of the respondents said they would
encourage friends and family to do
business with their organisation: just over
half would recommend it as a place to
work, but with barely 19% prepared to do
so without being asked.
Working Life: Employee attitudes and
engagement 2006
Many people instinctively feel good about the
organisations they work for, but they struggle to
articulate why. What the process of developing an
employer brand does is to identify the reasons why: it
gives shape and coherence to what would otherwise
remain a powerful but unfocused feeling. People who
like the job they do and the place they work want to
become advocates for it. An employer brand arms them
with the arguments they need.
YouadmireyourcompeIiIors’recruiImenI
adverIisingmoreIhanyourovn
I suppose it’s only natural that the one community that
has done more than any other to claim ownership of
employer brands and their development is recruitment
advertising – or ‘employment marketing’, to use a term
14 Employer branding
Within the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and in the accountancy profession generally, Defence Internal
Audit (DIA) was seen as those nasty people whose job it is to point accusing fingers, rap overspending
knuckles and find scapegoats. A modest employer brand project based on some simple focus groups and
resulting in a bold, innovative (and highly successful) creative approach to recruitment advertising
revealed a very different picture and effectively repositioned DIA as the team that helps managers
manage financial risk.
When the brand was launched at the DIA’s national management conference, two delegates claimed
that the new representation of their organisation had initially surprised and even shocked them. ‘Our
first reaction was, “that’s just not us”. But a few minutes later we realised the new brand was exactly
us – it’s just that we’d never seen it that way before. It made us feel better about the organisation and
our own jobs.’
De!enceInIernaIAudiI.!romviIIainsIoheroes
that more accurately describes what this corner of the
marketing communications industry does these days.
But this has created problems. For a start, it’s created
the widespread impression that employer brands are
mainly, or even exclusively, about the look and feel of
your recruitment ads. You still hear clients asking for ‘a
really well-branded campaign’, when what they really
mean is little more than a new house style. And with
some honourable exceptions, even some of the entrants
in the ‘best employer brand’ category of the various
award schemes that lighten up the HR calendar are
You still hear clients asking for ‘a really well-
branded campaign’, when what they really
mean is little more than a new house style.
really better defined as campaigns – sophisticated,
creative campaigns, but campaigns nonetheless.
The other problem is that too many organisations have
rushed to express their shiny new employer brand
externally without having made sure that it accurately
and honestly reflects the internal reality of what it feels
like to work for that organisation.
But having said all that, recruitment advertising (or
rather, employment marketing communications) is one
of the most powerful and important manifestations of
an employer brand. Remember, we said at the start that
an employer brand is a marketing concept or construct.
But why do so many organisations feel that their
recruitment advertising, in whatever medium, is
disappointing and lacking a certain something? Are
they right, or is it just the same human instinct that says
one’s next door neighbour’s picnic or barbecue is always
better than one’s own?
I suspect they are right, and the root of their
disappointment is the fact that, for all its impact and
originality, for all the display of consummate creative
craft skills, there’s little clarity in what the advertising is
actually saying – there’s no clear proposition. And that’s
because they haven’t identified the essence of what
their organisation is and offers as an employer. No
brand, therefore no distinctive identity for the
organisation. And no consistency, either. Your instinctive
disappointment will almost certainly lead you to try
something different next time and ask your agency for
yet another set of creative proposals. And so you’ll miss
the steady build-up of your brand – its distinctive
features, values and personality – in the minds of your
target audience. People relate to the brands in their
lives almost as they relate to other people. They seek
and enjoy a long-term relationship that may spring a
few pleasant surprises as the brand develops and grows
in clarity and confidence. But they don’t want shocks –
the feeling that the person they thought they knew and
liked has somehow changed.
Employer branding 15
foryourIasIbigrecruiImenIdrive,yousenIouI
267appIicaIionpacks…andgoI48back
What’s almost certainly happened here is that your
recruitment advertising, in whatever form or medium,
has created certain expectations – which subsequent
material and the candidate’s experience have failed to
meet.
For the candidate, the whole application process (which,
even in the days of online application forms and
applicant tracking systems, can still be long and complex)
should be one of growing familiarity and engagement
(see Figure 5). It should be a smooth, incremental
process, culminating, ideally, in the candidate feeling they
have psychologically joined the organisation even before
they turn up in the flesh on their first Monday. In reality,
the candidate will undergo an emotional roller-coaster
ride in which the initial high is quickly followed by a
sense of disappointment and uncertainty.
What’s needed is absolute consistency of message, style
and tone at every contact between the organisation
and the candidate. And it’s the brand that makes that
possible, by identifying not just the messages the
candidate needs to receive, but the style and tone in
which it receives them.
Yourvork!orceIacksIhebaIanceanddiversiIy
youvanIandneed,viIhIoomanyappIicaIions
coming!romIhesamecommuniIiesIhey’ve
aIvayscome!rom
Amazingly, even in the days of fragmenting
communities and high personal mobility (although not,
apparently, social mobility), you still come across
organisations that can boast employees from three
generations of the same family. There’s something
quaint, cosy and faintly reassuring about such a
phenomenon – something rather traditional and British.
And let’s face it, it suggests the organisation must be
doing something right if mums and dads are happy to
see their kids following in their footsteps – and maybe
even joining their own parents who are thoroughly
enjoying part-time work as they head towards
retirement. The organisation’s PR machine will love it;
the local paper will print it.
Managed diligently,
using the brand at every
touchpoint, the candidate
journey will be one
steadily, smoothly
growing engagement
and affinity.
Should bring the
brand and
its attributes
dramatically
to life.
Remember rejection
letter is equally
important – leave
them feeling good
about the brand.
Ideally new starters
will feel they’ve
psychologically
joined before their
physical start date.
Make it soon!
Use it to embed
on-brand attitudes
and behaviour,
stimulate
engagement.
F
I
R
S
T

M
O
N
D
A
Y

Is interviewing/
hiring manager
briefed on the brand?
An impressive
brand exemplar.
Start
Does your assessment
approach measure
‘brand fit’?
The candidate journey:
the brand has a role to play
every inch of the way.
This gap could be
several weeks – even
months. Keep in
touch, use every
opportunity to
grow emotional
engagement, brand
affinity. This is where
too many good
candidates drop
off the radar.
Does it relate
competencies to
on-brand behaviours?
W
e
b
s
it
e

A
p
p
lic
a
t
io
n
f
o
r
m


p
r
in
t
o
r
o
n
lin
e

In
t
e
r
v
ie
w

A
s
s
e
s
s
m
e
n
t
(
if
a
p
p
lic
a
b
le
)

O
f
f
e
r
le
t
t
e
r

In
d
u
c
t
io
n


K
e
e
p
w
a
r
m

a
c
t
iv
it
y

B
r
a
n
d
-
b
a
s
e
d
w
e
lc
o
m
e
p
a
c
k


h
o
w
w
e
d
o
t
h
in
g
s
r
o
u
n
d
h
e
r
e
.

P
e
r
s
o
n
a
l
m
e
s
s
a
g
e
f
r
o
m

m
a
n
a
g
e
r
/
b
u
d
d
y

Figure 5: The candidate journey
16 Employer branding
But all is not as well as it seems – not nearly as well.
And in the seeds of such apparent comfort, future
discomfort lies. A situation in which successive waves of
applicants arrive, almost by a process of osmosis, from
the same communities means the organisation will lack
any profile outside those communities. Because the
supply has always been there, the organisation has
never felt the need to spread the net wider, to explore
alternative pools of talent. And because we’re talking
about a generational phenomenon here, one that goes
back several decades, those communities will be
predominantly white.
But diversity – or lack of it – isn’t the only issue here.
What’s happened is that the organisation’s employer
brand – the articulation of the distinctive employment
experience it offers – will have been created and
communicated not by the organisation itself, but by the
communities from which it draws its talent. Its
reputation will have been made not by any concerted,
brand-based communications initiatives, but by
countless conversations over the garden fence. And the
aspects of the employment experience that become the
stuff of local folklore may not be those that the
organisation needs to emphasise and promote. And
local perception may lag well behind the changing
reality, with the result that subsequent starters may
experience a sense of shock that ‘it’s not a bit like what
my dad said it would be’.
And a situation in which organisations have allowed
their employer brands to be determined and
communicated not by themselves but by the markets
they seek to recruit from isn’t an exclusively local
phenomenon. For years, the BBC allowed itself to be
seen as the natural destination for liberal arts graduates
who didn’t want to dirty their hands with anything too
overtly and squalidly commercial. Right across London,
the London Fire Brigade had to fight long and hard to
reduce its dependence on applicants from white males
from families where joining the brigade was almost a
tradition, like driving a black cab or getting a job in ‘The
Print’.
In this context, the function – and the value – of an
employer brand is as much to say ‘this is how it won’t
be if you work here’ as to paint the picture of how it
will be.
YousenseIhaIyourvork!orcehasmorecynics
IhanopIimisIs
Cynicism is the corporate equivalent of Japanese
knotweed – insidious, pernicious, and hard to get rid of
once it’s established.
Its seeds can be sown early in an individual’s
employment with an organisation, with the
misalignment between what they anticipated and what
they actually experienced. For some, the sense of
let-down will be so strong that they’ll simply vote with
their feet. But others may not be so lucky in finding
their next job. Their sense of disillusion may stop just
short of the point at which they write their resignation
letter, and in some ways this is even more damaging.
‘Oh well,’ they say. ‘It’s a job, isn’t it? I guess I’ll stick it
out for a bit.’ And as they do stick it out, they start to
infect those around them, including new arrivals.
The employer brand can address this issue in two ways.
First, it can create that all-important alignment between
the anticipated and the actual experience. Through
carefully planned, consistent messages, style and
tonality right the way through the application process,
joining, induction and beyond, it can set detailed,
realistic expectations of what it means to work for that
particular organisation, what it offers and demands,
what it will actually feel like on a day-to-day basis.
(The brand) can create that all-important
alignment between the anticipated and the
actual experience.
In addition, the research that distinguishes the
development of an employer brand from any other kind
of employment marketing initiative will reveal any gaps
between how the senior management team sees the
organisation, the values it espouses and the
employment experience it offers and how things appear
to those working closer to the coalface. The bigger the
gap, the harder the brand has to work, and the more
caution needs to be exercised over any claims or
promises the brand may make.
And at the very least, the brand development process,
particularly with a proper creative input, will express
Employer branding 17
that organisation’s vision and values in ways that people
can relate and sign up to, and that’s far removed from
the stilted, limiting and frankly naff vocabulary with
which such key issues are all too often expressed.
YourrecenImergerhasresuIIedinmuIuaIIy
suspiciousIribes,noIone!ocused,homogeneous
Ieam
Multinationals and big PLCs aren’t the only
organisations who regularly undergo the shocks of
mergers or acquisitions. It’s happening everywhere – to
central government departments, not-for-profit
organisations and NHS trusts.
Each party will have its own distinctive way of doing
things, its own ethos and culture, even if it never went
down the route of formally developing its employer
brand. And perhaps it’s because the issues of its vision
and values – the precise nature of the employment
experience it offers – have never been fully resolved or
properly articulated, that the organisation’s people will
feel threatened by the impact of what they may
instinctively feel is an alien culture.
There’s a bizarre paradox at work here: the closer the
two organisations get to each other in structural and
operational terms, the more their employees will start
to notice differences rather than similarities – and the
more they will feel separate from ‘the other lot’.
Any merger situation represents a golden opportunity
to develop and communicate an employer brand;
there’s simply no excuse for not doing it. Technical,
structural and operational issues will still take time to
resolve. What the brand does is to give all employees a
sense of what the new organisation adds up to as an
employer, probably with greater clarity and certainty
than they’d experienced under the old, separate
regimes. They’ll feel more confident and less suspicious.
And they’ll feel more engaged not just with the
enterprise per se, but with their new colleagues, who
are now ‘us’ and not ‘them’.
WhaIprompIedyouIodeveIopanempIoyerbrand?
ScottishPower is actually made up of four businesses that have evolved quite separately for a variety of
regulatory and other reasons. While taking account of the required separation, there has been an
increasing desire from our executive to enable us to exploit the ScottishPower brand in terms of market
positioning and opportunities that present themselves through economies of scale. In terms of our
people brand, a catalyst was five ScottishPower adverts appearing in one local newspaper, all with a
very different look, feel and tone.
War for talent was already hurting in some roles requiring key skills, such as engineering. And
demographic trends tell us that in some of our businesses we need to recruit fresh talent. Our contact
centres face typical industry challenges of recruitment and retention.
All of this led us to question our employment proposition and people branding. Do we really
understand perceptions both internally and externally? Is the employment proposition as compelling as
we want it to be? Are there any negative perceptions we might be able to manage out?
We decided we wanted to create a consistent and safe employment proposition that clearly articulates
what ScottishPower stands for as an employer of choice. That – together with the management of
existing perceptions – would inform the employment brand design.
HovdidyoumeasureyourorganisaIion’ssIaIusbe!oreIakingacIion?
Having secured Executive Team buy-in in March 2006, with our chief executive as overt leader of the
ScottishPower employment experience work, he invited 350 people from across all four businesses to
5coIIishPover.securingbuy-inIogeIresuIIs
18 Employer branding
participate in ‘What Matters to You?’ workshops. Delivered by people with gravitas in the business – not
senior managers or HR – we took them through a series of questions: Why work? Why work at
ScottishPower? How would you rate us against these? The outputs gave us the first detailed employee
feedback plus the rationale behind the creation of our first, all-company, externally managed and
benchmarked engagement survey that went to all 9,000 employees. At the same time, we commissioned a
piece of market research among people looking for work in the geographies and sectors we operate in. We
took them through a similar exercise to our ‘What Matters to You?’ workshops, with the addition of gathering
data on who they saw as great employers as well as their perceptions of ScottishPower. All this data helped us
identify key messages based on positive perceptions and action, and management of weaker perception in the
development of the creative brief that formed the basis of the ScottishPower employment brand.
WhaIdidyouhopeIhaIempIoyerbranddeveIopmenIvouIddeIiver!oryourorganisaIion?
Energy around the opportunity of working with a major energy company! An opportunity to present
the company as exciting, varied in terms of opportunity and forward-looking – future-proofed! In turn
this would improve attraction to the many varied roles at ScottishPower – some of which lack visibility.
The knowledge the research gave us about employee issues stimulated more leadership ‘listening’ to
inform employee-led change. This would improve engagement and so lead to better performance
together with better retention and reduced sickness absence rates in our high-churn businesses.
WasIheempIoyerbranddeveIopedasparIo!anoveraIIHßorIeadershipsIraIegy?PIease
describe.
Absolutely. The ScottishPower HR strategy was articulated in 2005 and, while it has been fine-tuned
since, remains fundamentally the same now as described then. Given our recent acquisition by
Iberdrola, it remains to be seen whether this strategy will take us forward into next year.
WhaIrisksvereinvoIvedinembarkingonIheprojecI?
• Executive buy-in might have been lip-service only. Tried to develop a brand before with external
consultants but did not gain business support.
• Ability to convince all key stakeholders of risks of doing nothing and opportunities to the businesses if
we were to do this well.
• Potential takeover – appetite to deliver this might be different.
• Some of the businesses were familiar with engagement and branding principles and had action under
way – to which they were attached. Others did not. Trying to find a common approach across four
diverse businesses would therefore be difficult.
• Stakeholder management – so many stakeholders with competing priorities and different views.
• Ability to convince employees that there was value in their participation – action would occur.
• Lack of marketing awareness in the team.
• Lack of brand management or focus outside of the retail business.
HovdidyoudeveIopyourempIoyerbrand?Wereany!ormaImodeIsorprocessesused?
We developed the approach based on work we knew Severn Trent Water had carried out in terms of
employee engagement and used our own approach to market research and creative briefing on the
back of that.
(continued)
5coIIishPover(conIinued)
Employer branding 19
WhohadovnershipoverIheprojecI?
Genesis from the HR Director who tasked the Head of Employee Engagement and Resourcing (me) to
lead activity but signed off by the Executive Team and Chief Executive, and the directors fronted
communications to the business – as a business-led initiative.
WhaIoIher!uncIions(i!any)vereinvoIved!romyourorganisaIion?Hß?MarkeIing?OIher
!uncIionsldiscipIines?
Group Communications; Marketing; HR Consulting Teams and the business; Procurement.
OuIIineIhebasicsIageso!IheprojecI
• research and competitor benchmarking
• proposition definition and executive sign-off
• employee workshops
• employee surveys
• market research
• creative agency brand development
• stakeholder sessions throughout design
• communication and training
DoesyoursoIuIionencompasschangesIomanagemenIbehaviours,compeIency!ramevorks,
assessmenIanddeveIopmenIprocesses?
Not yet. We had developed a series of employment commitments – through ‘diagonal slice’ in terms of
level, pan-business focus groups and planned to present them to the board. These articulated an
employment ‘deal’ – the two-way nature of what the company commits to with its employees and also the
commitment employees give in return. These would have informed behaviours, competencies,
communication… At the same time, our board had recommended the takeover by Iberdrola and we knew
our CEO would be leaving when the transaction took place in April – his commitment to this was crucial to
credibility that we would do something about this. We took the decision to hold the commitments until/if
we could secure the commitment of our new CEO. This has not yet been proposed, as the focus right now
is on integration and ensuring the transaction delivers its numbers. We will make a decision on whether to
take this work forward once there is more clarity around how the business will look going forward.
WhaIdoyouregardasIhemosIsuccess!uIaspecIso!IheprojecI?
• buy-in from the Executive Team
• presenting the entire programme of activity as a major piece of business – not exclusively HR-led – and
using business leaders to communicate and managers with gravitas and influence to run the focus
groups
• willing participation and honest feedback from people at ScottishPower
• external benchmarks and survey response toolkit to inform actions by using a third party – Best
Companies
• single look and feel to advertising recruitment is a fantastic achievement – in pilot now
• the modular design of the adverts and the advert builder that allows managers to choose their own
photography (if they want to), strap-line and energy line, together with size and shape of advert
– designed but launch planned for July post-pilot so lots of interest in this from managers who have
seen it but no actual feedback on use of this yet
5coIIishPover(conIinued)
20 Employer branding
AndIheIeasIsuccess!uI?WhaIprobIemsdidyouencounIer?
• less scope for quick wins to respond to both the focus groups and survey than I would have liked
• should have kept the community who delivered the focus groups more informed after the events and
tried to keep that community together as a way to manage information into the business
• resistance from the businesses who had their own survey
• some survey distribution challenges cost us some credibility
• too long between running the survey – November/December – to announcing the results – March
• takeover!
WhaIvereIhekeyIearningpoinIs!romIheprojecI?
The importance of stakeholder buy-in and management across the levels.
WhaIbudgeIdidyouhave?
• approximately £30,000 to run the focus groups and survey last year
• approximately £45,000 to deliver the market research and creative advertising this year
WhaIvereIheprojecIIimescaIes?
One year from focus groups to single look and feel to advertising recruitment delivery.
InvhaIvaysdidIheprojecIdi!!er!romyouroriginaIexpecIaIions?
Began as an engagement programme and widened to incorporate the brand.
HovareyoumeasuringIhee!!ecIivenesso!Ihebrand–IhereIurniIyieIdsoniIsoriginaI
invesImenI?
Major deliverables are the action plans around the survey and the brand. Both of these have delivered
in the last two months, so it’s too early to measure results. We have developed an engagement model
that we plan to use to look at feedback – from joiners, leavers and existing employees – going
forward. We will also track attraction and retention as well as absence management data. Ours will
not be the only initiatives informing movement in these numbers, but they will help us to understand
the effectiveness of what we have done. We’re hoping this will work post-integration with Iberdrola.
LookingbackonIheprojecI,vhaIvouIdyouhavedonedi!!erenIIy?
• more stakeholder management – never seem to be able to get enough
• used different communication channels and involved all managers in delivering information/
instruction rather than landing on them at the same time as their teams
• might be easier in an organisation that had more of a brand focus
In!ormaIionsuppIiedbyAIisonßaIanIyne
5coIIishPover(conIinued)
CasesIudyIearningpoinIs
Two points occur to me after reading this excellent
case study. The first is the absolute necessity of
getting wholehearted support (note the phrase:
‘executive buy-in might have been lip-service only’.)
from as high a level as early as possible – an issue
that surfaced time and time again in the research we
conducted for this guide.
The other is the way this HR team made it abundantly
clear from day one that they were the people in the
driving seat – no ownership issues here!
Employer branding 21
Part 6: Making the case, getting
the cash
‘We estimate that we are saving £2.5 million per annum as a result of these changes.’
Peter Absolom, King’s College NHS Trust
People’s estimates of what it actually costs to develop,
implement and communicate an employer brand vary
wildly. A few years ago, we tacked some questions
about employer branding onto The Economist’s regular
survey of the movers and shakers of British business.
One of the questions we asked was how much they
supposed a full-scale employer brand development
project would cost. The average figure, I seem to recall,
was £250,000 – a figure, you’ll be glad to learn, that’s
miles wide of the mark (even though it left my
colleagues and I muttering ‘if only…’).
Admittedly, a brand development project for a
well-known, global IT company that I managed some
years back came out at around that figure – due largely
to an exceptionally intensive programme of research
conducted in a dozen different countries. More typical,
in my experience, would be an £18,000–£30,000
project for an NHS trust or a local authority. A project
for a major UK automotive brand (one of the very few,
sadly) cost the client £47,000, including full-scale
creative development. But it delivered, in his
unprompted estimate, a value of £250,000 in terms of
its ability to attract better-quality engineering graduates,
and, for the first time in the company’s history, women
and graduates from black and minority ethnic (BME)
communities. By my somewhat shaky maths, that
represents a return on investment (ROI) of 290%.
The fundamental difference between any talent attraction
or internal communications initiative that’s based on a
brand and one that’s based on the traditional platforms
of instinct and rule of thumb is research. So it’s hardly
surprising that research is the major cost element in
developing an employer brand. And the good news is
that research costs are readily quantifiable.
It’s one thing to hear someone’s comments on a
brand-related issue; it’s something else to
actually see their body language as they make
those comments, and to observe the dynamics
between them and the other group participants.
Only a few years ago quantitative and qualitative
research lived in two distinct worlds. Qualitative
research, incidentally, asks relatively deep questions,
explores more complex brand-related issues with
relatively small numbers of people: think focus groups.
Quantitative research does the opposite: think street or,
increasingly, online surveys. But today, technology
makes it possible to factor qualitative questions into
quantitative research – for example, prompting
participants to respond to a brand proposition or even a
brand-based design in their own words, as well as
ticking boxes and agreeing or disagreeing with certain
statements. For anyone contemplating developing an
employer brand and wondering what the bill will come
to, this is good news because, as in so many other
business activities, smart technology means lower costs.
Having said that, there’s still no substitute for focus
groups. It’s one thing to hear someone’s comments on a
brand-related issue; it’s something else to actually see
their body language as they make those comments, and
to observe the dynamics between them and the other
group participants.
If you’re thinking of running focus groups (and there’s
nothing to stop you doing this yourself, using outside
specialists simply to recruit relevant participants), the
cost variables will be the time it takes to locate suitable
participants and the size of the incentive you have to
offer to persuade them to turn up. A word of warning –
22 Employer branding
if you’re planning on running focus groups in mainland main cost elements of research – and remember, these
Europe or other parts of the world, the cost of will almost certainly be the major cost elements of the
incentives rises dramatically. Having said that it’s whole brand development project.
possible to give a reasonably detailed breakdown of the
GuideIoresearchcosIs
The following guide is based on 2007 prices and is intended to illustrate the average costs you can expect
to incur when commissioning a reputable research or communications business to deliver the research
component of an employer brand programme.
ExIernaI!ocusgroups
A programme of focus groups made up of the kind of people that you want your employer brand to
reach and influence will be made up of a number of components:
Recruitment costs reflect how difficult it will be to find people who match your target profile and how
much persuading and project management will be involved in getting a group of them together to discuss
your issues. A relatively easy target profile, say people working in customer service jobs in the Leeds area,
might cost as little as £250 per group to recruit. A more complex profile, such as senior female managers
within major technology businesses, would present a much harder job for a recruiter and could take
several days’ work to populate even a single session. So recruitment fees in this case could be £750 or
more per group. It’s often the costs and practicality of group recruitment that dictate whether focus group
work is the right approach for your project.
Incentives are the rewards paid to the respondents themselves for turning up to your focus group. They
range from around £10 per session for students, through to perhaps £25–£40 for contact centre and
general staff, to £100 or more for professionals, managers and specialists. In some cases, respondents can
be motivated by a non-cash incentive such as a box of wine, store vouchers or a donation to charity.
Venue hire costs will depend on whether you use a community centre, a hotel conference room or a
purpose-built viewing suite. A neutral venue is often essential if people are to feel comfortable talking
about working for employers other than their own, so it’s worth the investment. Allow £150 for a
mid-range hotel venue and perhaps another £30–£50 per group for refreshments.
Moderation fees will usually be based on the day rate of the person who’s running the groups for you.
An experienced moderator will be able to run up to four groups in a single working day (but remember to
allow for travelling time, preparation, and so on), which can bring costs down, but in practice you should
allow for up to a half-day per group. Day rates might range from £400 to £1,000 and more, depending
on the moderator’s experience and speciality. Some groups (including those among people with
disabilities, or longer workshop sessions) may require more than one person to run them properly.
Analysis and reporting will often be done by the same person who moderated your focus groups and
will probably be based on the same day rates outlined above. You can expect to receive a report of what
respondents said at the groups (suitably anonymous to protect individual confidentiality), together with
some conclusions and recommendations. This takes time and thought to put together, and for a
programme of groups will usually take a few days to complete.
Employer branding 23
Project management will involve discussing your objectives with you, developing your respondent
profile, writing discussion guides, booking venues and so on. It might range from £100 to set up a small
project to several thousand pounds over a large sampling programme.
InIernaI!ocusgroups
Groups made up from among your current employees will obviously be cheaper to run, since you don’t
have to recruit or incentivise your own people – or pay for a venue. If you’re using external help, though,
you can expect moderation, analysis and project management charges to be calculated in the same way,
although they can be minimised if you can provide administrative support.
OIhersampIingmeIhods
If focus groups aren’t the way forward, there are a few other ways in which you can build insight into
employee and potential candidate attitudes:
Telephone interviews can allow you to reach a larger number of people than focus groups and can
often be conducted more quickly, since people don’t have to be brought together. While a telephone
sample is quicker and sometimes cheaper to conduct, researchers agree that it will provide less depth than
focus groups – not a problem if you’re looking to get a snapshot of awareness and perception of your
status as an employer, but less useful if you want to explore attitudes in more depth. One hundred
straightforward interviews with fairly easy-to-reach people might cost around £4,000, including project
management and a report.
Online surveys are increasingly used to build insight within an organisation and are very quick and
comparatively inexpensive to use. They can also be used among people outside the organisation, although
the challenge then is to identify the right people and persuade them to complete the questionnaire. This is
one of the easiest techniques for employers to use without external help. There are a number of
proprietary online survey tools to choose from and some of these allow users a limited version of their
package free of charge. If you’re using an agency, allow £1,500 for survey design and deployment plus
any costs for finding a suitable external sample.
Street surveys have become harder in the age of the mobile phone and iPod, but can still offer real insight
into employer perception among local people. You’ll need to use qualified researchers and they’ll need
permission to conduct the survey if it’s around a school, college, in a shopping centre or other private land. A
good survey, conducted over a couple of days in a number of sampling locations might cost £3,000–£5,000.
Omnibus research offers a way in which a number of different organisations can conduct market
research at the same time, each asking a few questions of the same sample. Some omnibuses are done
online, others by telephone and others in-home or on-street. Essentially, you buy space on the survey
question by question, so if you only want a simple answer to a straightforward question, an omnibus
could be the most cost-effective way in which to do it. Single questions on an omnibus reaching 2,000
people can cost from £300, while more complex question combinations could reach £5,000 or more.
That covers the inputs to your employer brand As for outputs, many of these will be activities that are
development (we’ll discuss the relationship between ongoing, or initiatives you’re contemplating or that
input and output and the whole structure of a brand you may even have scheduled for action. And on that
development project later in this guide). basis, any additional cost could well be minimal or
even non-existent.
24 Employer branding
For example, you will still need to recruit, and therefore
to attract, applicants through one form of employment
marketing communications or another. Your newly
developed employer brand will obviously have a big and
immediate impact on this. It’s not just a question of
new messages, a new look and feel. The brand will
probably change the whole relationship between the
offline and online elements of your employment
marketing. The other thing it will do – should do, must
do – is to reduce your costs by reducing your
dependence on traditional, reactive, ‘distress purchase’
recruitment advertising.
The new brand will have to be applied to a broad range
of other employment marketing or internal
communications initiatives and materials – applicant
information literature, campus marketing programmes,
induction materials and programmes, the organisation’s
intranet or staff magazine, and so on. It may be that
your initial research, particularly a communications
audit, reveals that there are glaring gaps in your
communications armoury, or that the messaging and
tone of certain items is in conflict with the new brand.
If that’s the case, action needs to be taken, and the
funding needs to be found to fix an urgent problem.
But otherwise, you don’t need to scrap and replace
You need enough to enable you to compare
how your organisation is perceived as an
employer externally, and internally. That’s the
bottom line.
your existing materials – just wait until Stationery tells
you that existing stocks are running low.
All this may still leave you wondering, ‘Yes, but how
much money will I actually have to find? What’s the
minimum I can get away with?’ Only you can
determine the budget you need to set for the exact
circumstances of your own organisation. But there’s a
simple answer, a pretty accurate rule of thumb –
enough to enable you to compare how your
organisation is perceived as an employer externally,
and internally. That’s the bottom line.
Only you can decide how much money you’ll need, and
where it will come from. In essence, developing an
employer brand is a business investment like any other,
and as such will show a return on the original sum
invested. But that still leaves the question of who will
stump up the initial cash to pay for the research. Maybe
you have adequate funding and sufficient budgetary
control to allow you to do this unaided. It’s more likely
that, like most of your colleagues in any business
function, you’ll need to make a robust business case if
the cash is to be forthcoming. In many organisations,
likely sources of supplementary funding can include
marketing, PR or internal communications.
But irrespective of financial considerations, it’s essential
to forge alliances with these and other business
functions if your project is to succeed. It’s not a
question of going to them cap in hand; money aside,
you can do as much for them and help them meet their
business goals as they can for you, and you need to
make them understand that. Here are some of the
arguments you could use:
TocorporaIe!inance
‘I can save you serious money on recruitment,
reduce the hidden but considerable costs of
premature departures and demonstrate an
attractive and measurable ROI.’
Of course, if you make that kind of claim, you’d better
make sure that ROI really is measurable in ways that
would impress the most sceptical accountant. Any
promised improvement begs the question,
‘improvement against what?’ – which is why the
baseline metrics of your current performance in
recruitment and retention is so important. We cover this
issue later in this guide.
Employer branding 25
WhaIprompIedyouIodeveIopanempIoyerbrand?
The trust’s recruitment advertising was bitty and fragmented, and there was no consistency between
advertising and the material that applicants subsequently received. Bringing together all of this material and
relating it to cultural and communication changes was key to improving both recruitment and retention.
HovdidyoumeasureyourorganisaIion’ssIaIusbe!oreIakingacIion?
We took measurements on a wide range of factors including our vacancy/turnover/applications for post
rates together with staff surveys/exit questionnaires and focus groups at the point of induction.
WhaIdidyouhopeIhaIempIoyerbranddeveIopmenIvouIddeIiver!oryourorganisaIion?
The aim was to improve the quality and quantity of applications, to be recognised immediately whenever
we placed advertisements but also to retain staff on the basis that we delivered the expectations they
had of working for the trust.
WasIheempIoyerbranddeveIopedasparIo!anoveraIIHßorIeadershipsIraIegy?PIease
describe.
The employer brand was not just applied to recruitment, but was also applied by formalising the
standards of behaviour, creating our vision and mission and, through our training and development
strategy, bringing about organisational cultural change.
WhaIrisksvereinvoIvedinembarkingonIheprojecI?
There were clearly financial risks, as developing a brand with our partners was expensive. The aim was
for this to play an important part in reducing staff vacancies and aiding retention, thus lowering those
associated costs.
HovdidyoudeveIopyourempIoyerbrand?Wereany!ormaImodeIsorprocessesused?
There were a couple of things we did. We had to work within some national guidelines as an NHS trust
using the NHS brand. We built this into our brand in a partnership approach with our recruitment
advertising agency and our corporate communications department. While we did not follow a specific
model, we had a strategy to evolve our brand over time so it also looked fresh but was clearly still ‘us’.
We continue this today.
WhohadovnershipoverIheprojecI?
The ownership was within HR through my lead as staff resourcing manager. However, as with all of our
projects, we greatly involve staff groups to gain broader input and buy-in.
WhaIoIher!uncIions(i!any)vereinvoIved!romyourorganisaIion?Hß?MarkeIing?OIher
!uncIionsldiscipIines?
We had focus groups covering most staff groups in addition to working closely with our corporate
communications department and our recruitment advertising partner.
OuIIineIhebasicsIageso!IheprojecI.
The basic stages of the project were to look at where we currently were, take professional advice upon
some possible styles, consider the restraints, accept feedback from a wide range of staff, have
management information as a baseline and then, as the brand developed, have a strategy and plan for
future development.
King’sCoIIegeNH5TrusI.cIeardemonsIraIiono!areIurnoninvesImenI
26 Employer branding
DoesyoursoIuIionencompasschangesIomanagemenIbehaviours,compeIency!ramevorks,
assessmenIanddeveIopmenIprocesses?
Yes. The cultural change stage was part of a wider trust project (called First Choice) but built behaviour
standards into every job and assessed through our competency framework tools. Staff appraisals and personal
development plans were also used.
WhaIdoyouregardasIhemosIsuccess!uIaspecIso!IheprojecI?
Our success has been evident from the dramatic improvements we have seen in our vacancy and turnover
rates. Also, our staff surveys give positive feedback that our brand works well. We were also highly
commended at an awards ceremony. The most successful aspect, though, is the bottom line. The brand has
played its part in reducing our expenditure and improving our staff performance, both of which are reflected
in our front-line delivery.
AndIheIeasIsuccess!uI?WhaIprobIemsdidyouencounIer?
One of the problems we faced while evolving our brand was that some of our staff preferred our previous
style. However, as each new style emerged they always said the one before was best. This kept the project
team one step ahead, albeit we learned that within a short time people would value the change. You have to
have faith in what you’re doing to keep moving forward.
WhaIvereIhekeyIearningpoinIs!romIheprojecI?
Leadership, partnership working, consultation and using management information to measure success.
WhaIbudgeIdidyouhave?
In one sense there was no budget, although a five-figure sum was used in developing material and leading
the work – this had to be reflected in reductions to recruitment advertising spend, lower vacancy rates and
reduced turnover. We estimate that we are saving some £2.5 million per annum as a result of these changes.
WhaIvereIheprojecIIimescaIes?
While there was a lot of concentrated work within the first 12 months, this has been an ongoing project for
the past six years and it continues to develop.
InvhaIvaysdidIheprojecIdi!!er!romyouroriginaIexpecIaIions?
As recruitment advertising was a key part of this project, the significant and quick changes to online
recruitment were not in our original expectation. Today we’re more overwhelmed than ‘underwhelmed’ with
people who wish to join us, and that brings a whole new set of problems.
HovareyoumeasuringIhee!!ecIivenesso!Ihebrand–IhereIurniIyieIdsoniIsoriginaI
invesImenI?
We can clearly see from our key measurements that developing our brand has been a significant factor in
returning a far greater yield than the original investment.
LookingbackonIheprojecI,vhaIvouIdyouhavedonedi!!erenIIy?
We’re quite satisfied with what we have achieved so far. Perhaps anticipating and developing our website
quicker would have helped.
In!ormaIionsuppIiedbyPeIerAbsoIom
King’sCoIIegeNH5TrusI(conIinued)
Employer branding 27
CasesIudyIearningpoinIs
‘We estimate that we are saving some £2.5 million per
annum as a result of these changes’ – says it all, really.
ToIheIopmanagemenIIeam
‘An employer brand will enhance our overall
reputation. It will show the world that we manage
our human capital as efficiently and to as much
good effect as we manage any other class of
asset or any other part of our business. It will also
have a positive, measurable impact on employee
engagement and customer-facing performance. It
will impact the bottom line.’
Your top management cadre – right up to board level
– are unlikely to be neutral about your desire to
develop an employer brand. They’ll either welcome the
idea or oppose it, probably on cost grounds or, to be
blunt, on the assumption that disciplines other than
HR are best equipped to handle the task.
No matter which way you suspect they’ll jump, you
need to involve them as deeply as possible and as early
as possible. Later in this guide we outline a very specific
and effective way to secure that involvement and its
natural end-product – powerful advocacy throughout
the organisation for what you’re trying to achieve. But
just remember that the view from the top is one of
three layers of perception you need to capture and
measure, along with the view from less exalted tiers of
the organisation, and the view from the external talent
market. In my experience, very senior managers and
directors absolutely love being involved in developing
the employer brand for an organisation over which they
not only exercise strategic control, but emotional as well
as literal ownership. It helps them see the organisation –
their organisation – with greater clarity and deeper
insight. And it ensures that any closed doors you may
encounter as the project progresses won’t stay closed
for long.
YourHßcoIIeagues
‘This project will establish our team as the driving
force behind a project of strategic business value.
It will prove that we’re making a big contribution
to overall HR strategy, and enhance our reputation
in the eyes of colleagues in other disciplines.’
A few years ago, there seemed to be a debate or even
an unseemly struggle over the ownership of true, deep
HR strategy – and even, at times, over the status and
future of the HR profession itself. Some people,
probably management consultants, seemed to suggest
that dealing with the big, sexy, strategic HR issues was a
task best left to management consultancy. HR
practitioners themselves would, by implication, be
reduced to administrative functionaries.
The profession seems to have been pretty successful in
fending off this attack. But one still encounters a great
many organisations where HR is simply not represented
at the same level as, say, marketing or finance. I’m not
suggesting that developing an employer brand will win
you a seat on the board. But it is a great way to prove
that big, complex issues are safe in your hands, and to
demonstrate the value of what you and your colleagues
bring to the party.
Linemanagersand!ronI-IinerecruiIers
‘The new brand will make your lives easier and
deliver better candidates for less.’
For a line manager, it can be a hard, lonely business
recruiting for your own team. You wish you didn’t have
to spend so much time rewriting that recruitment
agency’s copy. If only those consultants didn’t keep
sending you candidates who look great on paper but
who you know, from the first two minutes of the
interview, just aren’t going to be right for the
organisation. And that last ad you had to repeat cost
how much?
One of the earliest and most valuable outputs of the
brand development process will be a brand toolkit.
Available online or in physical form, it introduces the
brand attributes and associate messages; gives the
rationale behind the new brand; provides hard-pressed
managers with templates, headlines, style guides and
even a library of images – all the tools needed to ensure
that every ad, in whatever medium, will generate
response from the right kind of candidate (it’s that
‘affinity’ thing again) and build the profile of the brand
among key target audiences.
Even simpler but equally effective is a brand briefing
document that can be sent to all the recruitment
28 Employer branding
consultants on the organisation’s supplier list. It will help
them decide which candidates with seemingly identical
CVs will be right – will have that elusive but essential
cultural ‘fit’ with the organisation – and which won’t.
YourmarkeIingorPßIeam
‘I can create thousands of additional OTS
(opportunities to see – a measure of the number
of chances an average member of key target
audiences have of being exposed to your story)
and help build the organisation’s profile and
reputation among many different audiences.
Remember, potential employees are also potential
customers.’
Classic PR is arguably the most underused weapon in
the employer brand armoury. Good messages about an
organisation as an employer send out good messages
about the organisation per se: wouldn’t you feel
better buying an airline ticket, a skinny latte or even a
burger from an organisation that has a reputation for
looking after its people?
And an organisation that gets its employer brand and its
PR people working together is one smart organisation,
for whom both activities support each other, and add up
to a communications and brand positioning whole that’s
greater than the sum of its parts.
I don’t believe in using jargon for its own sake, but
that OTS acronym is something you might like to
casually drop into any conversation with your PR
colleagues. ‘Talking the talk’ can be an important
way to enhance your credibility with a different
business ‘tribe’.
ßecruiIing!orIhecompany,noIIheIocaIchie!Iain
Research that fed into employer brand development for a major UK and European retailer included
telephone interviews with a lengthy list of suppliers, particularly recruitment consultants. As the interviews
progressed, it became clear that many consultants were frustrated by presenting candidates who looked
great on paper, but were ultimately rejected on the grounds that ‘they just wouldn’t fit in’. As one
consultant ruefully put it: ‘I always feel I’m recruiting to the culture of a particular manager’s own team,
not the business as a whole.’
The research revealed the dangerously fragmented, tribal nature of the organisation – and therefore one
of the biggest problems the brand would have to fix. But a simple briefing document for consultants
outlined the core qualities, values and even personality traits that the new brand had established, and
prompted consultants to look for those same qualities – that brand affinity – in future candidates.
Employer branding 29
Part 7: Overcoming objections
‘The employment brand is much, much bigger than the physical manifestation of what your
recruitment looks like. It’s an end-to-end way of thinking about why people choose to work
for you.’ Glyn House, Operations Director, wagamama
That title presupposes you’ll actually receive some: with
careful preparation, a robust business case and investing
the time and effort to make your case and forge
alliances with interested parties, launching and running
your brand development project should be plain sailing,
and any objections are minor irritations rather than
serious roadblocks.
Nevertheless, as you confront the real challenges that
are present in any brand development project,
irritations are things you can well do without. The
objections you’re likely to encounter – and the
arguments with which you can effectively demolish
them – look like this:
‘NevermindabouIyourpreciousbrand–I’vegoI
vacanciesIo!iII.’
There’s no denying that developing, implementing and
communicating an employer brand takes time. In my
experience, the shortest time from switching on the
tape recorder for the first focus group to rolling out the
new creative work was six weeks, and that was pushing
it. You could argue that, while the start of the project is
obvious, there’s really no end-point, since a brand will
go on evolving, adapting to change, and delivering its
value for years.
But that doesn’t mean you have to put all the
activities the brand will affect – particularly
day-to-day recruitment – on hold. The initial research
may yield some insights that can be fed directly into
at least the messaging of your ongoing recruitment
activity, if not its style and tone. It may modify it,
improve it slightly – but it won’t stop it happening.
And it won’t stop hard-pressed recruiters or line
managers recruiting.
‘I’vebeenhandIingmyovnrecruiImenI!or
years.IknovvhaIvorks!orme.’
That’s a reaction anyone trying to launch a new brand
internally is likely to hear. It needs paraphrasing: what
the objector really means is, ‘No one’s consulted me
about the new brand. It’s been presented as a fait
accompli, with a load of rules and regulations that I’m
quite sure I’ll unwittingly break.’
The objector would actually love someone to come
along and give them a brand-based toolkit that makes
good sense, that’s easy to use and that will work in the
talent market. It’s all a question of managing
expectations – if you consult extensively during the
brand development process, and if any new recruitment
toolkit is presented with a robust, common-sense
rationale, that objection (which is largely a knee-jerk,
defensive response) will melt away.
‘ThaIIooksIikeanav!uIIoIo!money!ora
recruiImenIadverIisingcampaign.’
Largely because so much of the debate surrounding
employer brands and its actual practice has focused
exclusively on talent attraction, there’s an assumption
in some slightly sceptical quarters that it’s just a new
way of approaching recruitment advertising. When
sceptics become cynics, there may well be the
assumption that employer brands are also a new way
of enabling ad agencies to charge more and to
compensate for the long-term downward trend in
traditional advertising revenue.
You need to defuse this situation by making it clear that
a brand is a long-term investment, that it applies to
much, much more than just recruitment advertising, and
that its value can be – and, if you have anything to do
with it, will be – substantial and measurable.
30 Employer branding
‘We’renoIMarsorNesIIé–ve’reanNH5IrusI.’
The techniques and methodologies by which employer
brands are developed are the same as those that
create and sustain great consumer and corporate
brands. The terminology is much the same (although
anyone involved in developing employer brands should
strive to keep that discipline a jargon-free zone). The
only real difference is the number of noughts on the
price tag.
Mars or Nestlé work hard to develop, nurture and
protect their brands (in the case of Nestlé, to wrestle
with some serious and deep-seated image problems,
particularly in the eyes of the student audience) and to
give themselves competitive advantage. It’s no different
for a typical NHS trust, particularly when the advent of
patient choice makes marketing an increasingly
important corporate function. Big organisations
recognise that there’s a relationship, a congruence,
between their brands as suppliers of goods or services
and as employers: the more forward-looking NHS trusts
(and indeed a great many public sector and third-sector
organisations) are waking up to the same connection,
and are determined to make it work for them.
‘5houIdn’IvebegivingIhisIosomesIraIegicHß
consuIIancy?’
From well-known management consultancies to
strategically focused actuarial practices, there’s no
shortage of them waiting for the plum projects to fall
into their laps. And they do have plenty to offer,
particularly in fixing, defining or managing the
employment product itself – the issues such as
compensation, benefits, the whole basis of assessment,
reward and recognition. To use an automotive analogy,
they’re the engineers making sure that the suspension,
the braking system, the sequential gearbox all work
perfectly and meet the market’s expectations. But the
product isn’t the brand, and those talented engineers
wouldn’t for one second claim their ability to articulate
and communicate a brand proposition like ‘Vorsprung
durch Technik’, let alone use it as the basis for some
amazing marketing communications and the creation of
a powerful brand identity and personality.
The whole issue of the relationship between employer
brand and employment product, and the impact the
brand can have on broader, more strategic HR issues is
something we cover in greater detail later in this guide.
‘We’resimpIyIoosmaII.’
When we were putting together the online survey that
provided such valuable insight into this guide, one of the
questions asked respondents to select from a lengthy list
the most appropriate descriptor for their type of
organisation. One of the categories we seriously thought
of including was ‘domestic households’.
It’s not as crazy or fanciful as it seems: if you’re a Russian
oligarch seeking to employ a full-time butler on a salary in
excess of £100,000 (and, apparently, this is yet another
employment category where demand far outstrips
supply), you’d need a good reputation as an employer to
attract and retain the services of your latter-day Jeeves.
On a slightly more realistic level, reputation will be
all-important if you’re a new, ambitious small or
medium-sized enterprise or start-up operation that’s
grown out of some cutting-edge scientific research. You
need to attract good people – disproportionately good
people bearing in mind the modest scale of your
enterprise – on the basis of what working with your
team and its distinctive, passionately held vision for the
enterprise will actually feel like.
Defining that experience – fixing and communicating
that vision so it becomes one of the reasons your
people come to work and that will help them over the
inevitable choppy waters that all small enterprises
experience – couldn’t be easier. A simple senior
management workshop (one of the classic brand research
techniques we describe more fully in a later section) will
help you resolve your distinctive vision in colour and
depth, and ensure that everyone in your top team shares
it totally. Simple, brand-based communications will ensure
that everyone joining you will share that vision from
day one, and know just what it demands of them and
offers them in return.
Employer branding 31
The British Library is the national library of the UK and 16,000 people use its services every day from a
stunning marble and brick building in St Pancras, London, with a second site at Boston Spa in Yorkshire and
over the web. It employs over 2,000 people and receives a copy of every item of printed material published in
the UK as well as much digital material. If you viewed five items a day it would take you 80,000 years to see
the whole collection.
Recruitment Strategy Consultant Anne Spearman joined in an interim role and admits she would not have
considered this as an intuitive career choice, since she was not aware of the library as an employer. While in
some academic roles, recruitment and retention are trouble-free, attracting other staff in customer-facing and
commercial operational infrastructure roles is a real difficulty. The library traditionally attracted potential
employees at the point of need to specific advertised roles in the press or professional journals; this reactive
approach did not always achieve results and there was a heavy reliance on using agencies to fill vacancies.
Last year the library restructured its HR team and moved its recruitment online with an integrated candidate
management system to streamline the recruitment process. A website was developed as part of the front-end
access.
Anne says, ‘In reviewing the recruitment strategy we decided it was important to undertake some internal and
external research. This commenced in early 2007 to help us better understand how the potential employment
market in our “difficult to fill” areas perceived us.’
Early in 2007 participants were invited to comment on media adverts and the website and share their
thoughts about the library as an employer. The feedback confirmed both positive and negative perceptions,
which were either a challenge to or advantageous to attraction.
‘Our aim,’ says Anne, ‘was to build on the positive and address negative perceptions of a bureaucratic, boring
and static organisation which only employed librarians, so having little to offer by the way of wider careers.
This was a real wake-up call.’
‘The library is at the cutting edge, leading the way in providing information in the digital era, ensuring more
and more people have access to the 3,000 years’ worth of knowledge we hold,’ says Anne. ‘Clearly we have
a journey to make to challenge these perceptions as an employer.’
‘We needed to understand that some people are aware of the library and others are not and their first
impressions of the library as an employer are informed by what they see in the media adverts and on our
website.’
‘It was recognised that a key “window on the library” for potential employees was the recruitment website
and our adverts. From the feedback it was clear that this was letting the library down and reinforcing a
negative image of what it would be like to work there.’
‘This was not a case of sitting back contemplating what to do and getting all the boxes ticked: it was about
taking the necessary steps for immediate action,’ said Anne.
‘Therefore attraction was where we started and the new site will be launched in September 2007 together
with refreshed advertising templates.’
ßriIishLibrary.sIepbysIep,geIsresuIIs
32 Employer branding
The HR team is engaged in a long-term strategy to challenge and change those perceptions through improved
understanding, effective marketing and advocacy among existing staff and stakeholders. For a long time, the
library’s employer brand has evolved organically, with individual managers advertising roles and communicating
to their teams in their own ways – and with their own budgets.
Achieving change is a gradual process that depends on building trust and understanding, showing how things
can be done without upsetting long-held beliefs and preferences.
HR are starting to have conversations and discussions with their marketing colleagues to understand and build
a common understanding of the employer value proposition, to develop a realistic perspective of what it is like
to work in the library and further develop the attraction strategy.
Engaging with the marketing function to make the business case is seen as an essential step in reviewing the
employer brand to create reach and understanding among a broader candidate community.
Internally, the HR team has created a world-class well-being offer that helps to retain staff at all levels and
provides a new dimension for advocacy and satisfaction from existing employees. Organisation development is
increasingly seen as part of the ’great place to work’ message and all staff have wide access to training and
development opportunities and personal development planning. These activities reinforce this message in
building and maintaining employer reputation.
Some positions in the British Library are so specialist that there may be ‘only a dozen people in the world who
could be right’, so while headhunting is important, the library also has to grow its own people in developing
specialisms and retain them in the face of strong international competition for scarce skills and knowledge.
Here the team are working on a talent management and succession planning framework to address skill gaps
and retain key talent.
Working with public money, the team have to recognise the realities in achieving change. While gradual
progress across the key dimensions of employer branding is being made – and recognised at top team level,
with limited resources and complex talent pools to deal with – working with the public purse, the team have
to recognise the reality that the pace of change cannot be forced.
In!ormaIionsuppIiedbyAnne5pearman,ßecruiImenI5IraIegyConsuIIanI
ßriIishLibrary(conIinued)
CasesIudyIearningpoinIs
What strikes me is the way one employer’s image has
been tarnished by the image of an entire employment
category: the prison service has suffered the same fate,
and only exceptional creative advertising backed by big
budgets has started to address this.
Equally significant is the work that’s clearly been done on
the product itself, with the material aspects of the ‘deal’
now looking anything but staid and stuffy.
As for timing, the HR team clearly understands the
need for sensitivity in persuading exceptionally bright,
articulate academic people to see the value of developing
the brand and to adopt an approach of festina lente
– ‘make haste slowly’.
Employer branding 33
Part 8: Choosing your partner
‘We did some focus groups among our competitors’ staff. The results came back and scared
us to death. We thought we were quite cool, but what people told us was very different.’
Senior HR practitioner at first discovery day
Starting to develop an employer brand is like setting out
on a journey. You’ll encounter triumphs and
disappointment, periods where the going is easy and
those where it feels like the gradient’s against you. The
journey can also be long. For all these reasons and
more, you need to think carefully about who you’d like
as your partner or guide – assuming, of course, you
select any partner at all.
One approach is to act as your own project manager,
driving the project yourself and selecting just those
external suppliers to handle functions that are beyond
your normal experience or competence – like
recruiting the right kind of participants to external
focus groups – using the services of research
fieldwork companies to do so.
For internal research, there’s nothing to stop you
conducting your own focus groups, using the classic
combination of a managed discussion and some of the
projective techniques commonly used in many forms of
marketing research and which yield profound insights at
the same time as injecting an element of unabashed fun
into the proceedings. Having said that, there’s a definite
skill to moderating a group – the delicate balancing act
of keeping the discussion on track while allowing it to
veer off down sidetracks that can yield some unexpected
insights. There’s also the question of adherence to the
Market Research Society’s rules and protocols, including
the absolute confidentiality of any comments participants
make and any data that the group delivers.
The DIY approach to developing your own brand is a bit
like the equivalent approach to building your own
house – something only those blessed with limitless
energy, unflagging enthusiasm and nerves of steel
should contemplate.
So if appointing yourself as your own project manager
or at least ‘clerk of works’ seems a little daunting, you
can always choose an independent brand consultant to
lead the project, do the donkey work like arranging
external research, to deliver clear recommendations for
the key elements of the brand, and to help you derive
the maximum value from your investment. But a word
of warning needs to be injected here. There are many
excellent brand consultants with impeccable credentials
in brand development for fast-moving consumer goods.
But they won’t necessarily understand, or even be
sufficiently interested in, the very specific issues, the
challenges and opportunities, of employer brands.
You can entrust the project to your current employment
marketing agency. They know your business, they’ve
impressed you (presumably) with their brave and
innovative creative work and their depth of thinking. If
they’ve been doing their job properly, they’ll probably
have been pestering you for ages to get serious about
developing your employer brand. This time, you really
should listen.
If you have any reservations about your current agency,
you can always hold a beauty parade to see who and
what is out there. But make sure you select on the right
criteria and ask the most searching questions as you
make up your short-list. How big is their research
department? Will you have a dedicated brand
consultant to drive the project? If so, what is their
experience? What’s the agency’s definition of employer
brands and employer brand development? They’ll
presumably show you case studies: ask for the detailed
metrics that demonstrate the real, authentic ROI.
At this point, a rather ungenerous but inescapable
thought enters my mind. In the CIPD’s 2007 guide to
34 Employer branding
EveryempIoyerbrandprojecIneedsiIsprojecIives
People’s relationships with the organisations they work for or might consider working for are highly
complex. Asking people to agree or disagree on a scale of 1–10 that organisation X ‘would look good on
my CV’ only tells part of the story. For real insights, particularly those that can drive the most original, yet
relevant, creative expression of a brand, we need to look deeper – and that’s where projective techniques
come in.
They get respondents to speak about something indirectly by ‘projecting’ their thoughts and emotional
responses onto something else.
Some are the typical techniques that many people are at least aware of – if the organisation in question
was a car, what would it be? If it were a person, would they be male or female? What would they wear?
What would their taste in music be?
Some are more specific to employer brands. For example, I’ve always found it very revealing to give
participants a sheet of paper with the image of two people at a party talking to each other. One happens
to mention (the way one does), ‘Me? Oh, I work for (the name of the organisation in question).’
The participants fill in the other person’s ‘thinks’ bubble – giving a real insight into that organisation’s
reputation as an employer, or even revealing issues (‘Why can’t my mum get her hip replaced sooner?’)
that can militate against brand advocacy.
Another technique that yields some telling and memorable results is image association. From an eclectic
collection of several hundred images, participants are asked to select one that, in their minds, seems to
symbolise the organisation in question. For a London local authority, the image of a drop-dead-gorgeous
fashion shoe suggested an unexpected element of creativity in the authority’s culture. For Land Rover, the
frequently chosen image of a little rowing boat bobbing haplessly in the wake of a giant supertanker
suggested to an external audience of graduates (inaccurately as it happens), ‘That’s poor little Land Rover,
struggling to keep up with the Japanese competition.’
EverypicIureIeIIsasIory
The images people choose to express their perception of an organisation as an employer can be very
revealing – as these real-life examples show:
Staff and management
seen as locked in
confrontation
Dictatorial/hierarchical
management approach
The service is seen as avoiding issues –
people expect support from
management but feel they don’t get it
Employer branding 35
Building internal partnerships and alliances is
at least as important as their external
counterparts, arguably even more so.
the employment marketing industry, just about every
agency lists employer branding as one of the many
services it offers. I wonder… can they all be doing it?
Building internal partnerships and alliances is at least as
important as their external counterparts, arguably even
more so. If you have a marketing function, talk to
them, involve them, engage with them, flatter them
with your acknowledgement of their importance to the
success of your project (but let them know the value of
your contribution to their objectives). Emphasise the
mutual benefit of developing an employer brand, and
the potentially synergistic relationship between
employer and consumer or corporate brands.
The other people you need to involve as early as
possible (assuming they play a different role to
mainstream HR) are your internal communications
team. They’ll be the people who help you get the brand
firmly established, not just as a set of messages, a new
look and feel to your external employment marketing
communications, but as something that defines ‘the
way we do things around here’ – a readily accepted,
fully understood and instinctively practised set of
behaviours that define the experience of working for
your organisation. Their actual remit will depend on the
nature, scale and structure of your organisation, but is
likely to include such brand-critical tasks as induction
and day-to-day employee communication. Those
functions are key to the success of your brand; so are
the people who handle them.
If you have a dedicated PR function, involve them at an
early stage. Tell them you need their support to achieve
optimum exposure for the new brand, and emphasise
the all-round value of being seen as a great place to
work.
How you open and conduct these various dialogues is
up to you, your management style and the political
dynamics of your organisation. But to succeed, you will
need to develop a coherent, robust business plan that
clearly shows how and where the new brand is
expected to create value, and that persuades your
colleagues that there’s going to be plenty in it for them,
as well as for you and your team.
ßuI…
…be!oreyouseIouI,checkyourposiIion…
The whole point of developing and communicating an
employer brand is not because it’s just a nice thing to
do, it will win you awards or make your recruitment
advertising (and you yourself) look great (it might be or
do all these things). You do it because it improves your
organisation’s performance in the key business areas of
recruitment, retention, engagement and ultimately the
bottom line. It’s an investment.
A few years ago, Hewlett-Packard (HP) decided to get back inside its founder’s legendary garage to
rediscover its roots as an innovative, truly creative organisation.
Developing its new corporate brand, HP identified seven brand attributes that it felt expressed the core
concept of ‘invent’. HP then asked its global employment marketing agency if they felt the new
corporate brand could have any relevance or resonance in the talent market.
The answer was an unequivocal ‘yes’, with one exception: the agency selected the attributes or values of
the new corporate brand as the basis for a new employer brand. The attributes of ‘invent’ defined the
experience HP was promising its customers; translating and using them as the basis of specific messages
defined the employment experience HP was offering, and the set of behaviours it expected of its people
to deliver the promise of its corporate brand.
HevIeII-Packard.grovinganempIoyerbrandouIo!anevcorporaIebrand
36 Employer branding
But the whole notion of improvement begs the
question: ‘improvement against what?’
I can’t overemphasise the need to establish a robust set
of baseline metrics for your brand as it is now
(remember, every organisation has one, just not the one
they need, want or deserve) compared with how it will
be after you and your team have done their stuff.
I’m always amazed by just how sparse the data is that
many organisations hold to give a true picture of their
performance – and that includes financial performance
– in recruitment and retention. The required data is
almost certainly there somewhere; it just needs a little
digging to bring it to light. And any gaps that your
quest reveals can be quickly and relatively easily
plugged. Getting the measure of your current
performance may not be as exciting as running your
first internal focus group or delivering the new,
brand-based creative brief to your agency, but it needs
to be done and done well. Without it, the whole brand
development project will be seriously compromised.
The areas of performance you need to fix some robust
numbers on include:
• recruitment advertising spend – is it increasing or
decreasing? What proportion has migrated online,
and what is still based on print media? Do you have
results for specific titles/recruitment sites?
• the prevalence and full cost of premature
resignations (typically 150% of first-year salary),
and taking ‘premature’ to mean any departure
before the individual concerned has delivered the
kind of performance that repays your investment in
their training and development
• your expenditure on recruitment consultants – do
they feature on your preferred suppliers list? Or
are they chosen on an ad hoc basis by hiring
managers? Do you even know?
• the volume of spontaneous applications and
employment enquiries you receive – how many are
there? What happens to them?
• the ratio of acceptances to offers – I always regard
this as one of the absolutely critical metrics, since
it shows the degree to which candidates have
started to experience the alignment – or lack of
it – between promise and reality, expectation and
early experience.
You also need to measure softer issues like employees’
own perceptions of working for the organisation.
What’s the mood like among current employees? Do
you discern any trends in current perceptions – either
downwards or upwards?
Getting the measure of your current
performance may not be as exciting as
running your first internal focus group…
but it needs to be done and done well.
If you’re unsure that you have enough information to
really give you a handle on these and similar issues,
some research will provide the reassurance you seek.
You can quickly commission some internal focus
groups (but remember that, if you want to know
how people really feel about their organisation,
they’ll be more likely to open up to a third party than
to a member of your own team). You can run an
online survey. You can delve more deeply into your
most recent staff surveys or, if you’re due to run one
in the near future, you can include some
brand-related questions. But remember that staff
surveys create the expectation (or at least a forlorn
hope) that something will actually be done about the
issues they raise. Manage respondents’ expectations;
tell them that they’re making a real contribution to
the development of a new brand, and that their
concerns, comments and observations will be a key
part of its development.
…IhenseIyourcourse
In the opening paragraph of this guide, we used the
metaphor of a cookery book. We’d now like to
extend that metaphor: the plates are warming in the
oven, that modest little Beaujolais is gradually
reaching room temperature, your guests arrive in
an hour.
TimeIogeImoving
In this section we show the basic shape and structure of
a brand development project – the sequence of events
that starts with research and discovery; leads to analysis
and interpretation; then to the initial creative
expression; to internal and external launch and ongoing
communication; and finally to maintenance and
measurement.
Employer branding 37
The list of actions and activities is full and all-embracing;
in reality, you’ll be able to look at it and say (particularly
of the research and discovery elements), ‘Yep, we’ve
already done that.’ On the assumption that no
organisation in the real world will either need or be able
to afford every single activity we list, it will hopefully
help you set your own priorities.
But to begin at the beginning…
5eniormanagemenIvorkshop
What is it? A half-day event that’s really like an
extended focus group, and that combines managed
discussion with a range of exercises that make extensive
use of projective techniques – word association, image
association, personification, and so on.
What does it achieve? A lot in a short time. It gives you
one of three layers of perception you need to fix where
your brand is at present and how far that is from where
and what you want it to be. It gives a very important and
influential group of people a real sense of involvement
and ownership and recognition that what you’re doing is
important and valuable. It will also give them, maybe for
the first time, a crystal-clear sense of what their
organisation is and adds up to, what its unique character
and personality is, what it offers in terms of a distinctive
employment experience. It will give you loads of valuable,
deep insights – and some very valuable allies.
Points to watch. Limit participants to 8–10. Try to record
the discussion (you’ll hear and want to capture some
brilliant, telling sound bites), or at least have a colleague
take copious notes while you manage and moderate
the proceedings.
Make sure you’re really confident to act as moderator.
Expectations will be high; any doubts, and you might
be better handing the activity to an external consultant.
CommunicaIionsaudiI
What is it? A detailed examination of all the materials
that come into play during the journey an applicant
makes from initial interest to induction and beyond. It
will typically cover:
• all forms of external employment marketing, from
press ads to website
• applicant information material
• your recruitment website (or the recruitment pages
of your corporate website)
• the application process, whether online or
paper-based
• the physical surroundings applicants encounter on
their first actual visit to the organisation
• the timing of the whole applicant journey,
identifying any gaps or bottlenecks
• the tone of the offer letter – and, equally or even
more importantly, the rejection letter.
CreaIing‘commiIIedvisionaries’
In the CIPD’s research report Working Life: Employee attitudes and engagement 2006, many employees
claimed that their senior managers lacked vision, with only 38% being accorded the title ‘committed
visionaries’. The report then goes on to say: ‘This suggests there may be problems of strategy in many
organisations and in the communication of strategic vision. It may be more difficult for employees to feel
engaged with their work when they do not have a clear understanding of what it is their organisation is
trying to achieve.’
One of the most valuable outputs of senior management workshops is that they help the organisation’s
movers and shakers acquire that vision, because they will have worked through it themselves – sometimes
reaching a kind of epiphany, a moment when, as the saying goes, ‘it all becomes clear’.
When that happens, they’ll be more likely to become sponsors of formal initiatives to articulate and
communicate the brand internally. But their spontaneous, informal influence as exemplars of the brand
will be just as valuable.
38 Employer branding
Ideally, the audit will include some telephone
conversations with recent starters and some applicants
who, for whatever reason, didn’t complete the process.
The audit will discover those reasons.
What does it achieve? A graphic, comprehensive picture
of how it actually feels to make the journey towards
becoming an employee of your organisation – the
formative stages of an individual’s relationship with your
employer brand.
Points to watch. You need an objective view of your
application process and materials, and of the
applicant journey; you and your own people might
be too close. If you’re giving the task to an outside
consultant, make sure that all the necessary material
really is forthcoming.
InIernaI!ocusgroups
What are they? Carefully managed discussions among
employees representing different roles and locations.
The groups can also include some of the exercises and
projective techniques we described in the senior
management workshop.
What do they achieve? A spontaneous, graphic picture
of how your people feel about working for your
organisation. The numbers won’t be high, but the
insights can be very deep.
Points to watch. Limit numbers to around eight and
remember that most people’s attention runs into the
buffers after about an hour. Emphasise absolute
confidentiality, and encourage participants to say what
they really feel.
ExIernaI!ocusgroups
What are they? (Should be obvious!)
What do they achieve? External focus groups can
yield deep insights into how your organisation is
perceived as an employer among key target
audiences – anyone from graduates to people in
specific professions or business or technical
disciplines. Focus groups are classic qualitative
research tools and it’s the quality of insight they yield
that makes them so valuable. Focus groups, both
internal and external, can also come into their own
to test the initial creative expression of the brand.
Points to watch. Recruitment costs can be high, and
you need to find a good fieldwork company to source
relevant people. External groups only work if the
participants have some familiarity with your
organisation. Incentives can range from around £40 per
person to £80 or more. Very senior people will have
neither the time nor the inclination to attend.
InIheirovnvords
It’s a fascinating and invaluable experience,
listening to focus group participants give their
honest, off-the-cuff responses to questions. An
extensive series of groups for one of the UK’s
most prominent public organisations put its
finger bang on the huge cultural divide that
was bedevilling the organisation. The issue was
the conflict between the motivated, engaged
newcomers ready to put in their own fair share
of discretionary effort, and those who had
joined the organisation just as another job (‘My
wife stuck an ad under my nose,’ was how one
participant described his initial contact).
‘My face doesn’t fit any more’ complained one
long-serving employee ruefully, while a more
recent arrival had this to say of the old guard:
‘The dinosaurs are still around – they’ve been
here for 20 or 30 years. They’re set in their
ways, not willing to change and they have a
negative attitude.’
Another recent arrival (‘I’m proud of what I do
and I don’t mind admitting it’) complained: ‘If
you look like you want to help, or do too
much, it’s like you’re the class swot – a “care
bear”.’
Those two opposing descriptors – ‘care bears’
and ‘dinosaurs’ came to summarise the whole
battle for the soul of the organisation. They
made a huge contribution to the development
of the brand and, as with most aspects of the
brand development process, yielded insights
and value in their own right.
Employer branding 39
TeIephonedepIhinIervievs
What are they? Structured, one-to-one interviews with
carefully identified individuals who will have a detailed,
intelligent view of the organisation in question, and
who will be important in determining its reputation.
These individuals can be senior representatives from
key employment markets; they can equally – and
equally valuably – come from an indirect audience of
suppliers, partners or influencers. Interviews typically
last 30–40 minutes.
What do they achieve? A detailed, considered
response to a range of brand-related issues and an
objective assessment of the organisation’s reputation
as an employer.
Points to watch. Identifying the right kind of
respondents and booking time slots with them can be
time-consuming.
OnIinesurveys
What are they? Surveys conducted among relatively
large numbers of people (typically 100+), using
sophisticated but user-friendly, proprietary online
research tools.
What do they achieve? They’re quick, they usually
achieve a good response, and their ability to combine
both qualitative and quantitative elements makes the
data they provide particularly valuable. Off-the-shelf
tools include Zoomerang (which gives you the option
of using preset templates to customise your own
survey) and the wonderfully named Brainjuicer are
typical of the latest generation of research tools that
have a particular relevance to employer band
development.
You’re now in a good position to map the brand in its
current state, to measure the gaps in perception
between the three key audiences, and to establish
how far and in what direction you need to move the
brand to meet your objectives for it. You’ll know just
how big the gap is between the brand you currently
have, and the one you want. Closing that gap may
mean a long, hard slog or a quick fix, but at least
you’ll know.
There are a number of graphic devices you can use to
express the current brand positioning; one of the
clearest is shown in Figure 6.
Creative
Inclusive
Fun
Democratic
External perception
Competitive
Senior management perception Internal perception
Figure 6: Expressing the current brand positioning – an example
40 Employer branding
The classic spider diagram is a great way to map how
your organisation is perceived as an employer by three
key audiences – potential employees in the big wide
world outside; current employees; and the people at
the top who run the show.
The example shown here is an investment bank that
wanted to develop its brand and significantly raise its
profile, particularly among a global graduate audience.
You’ll notice that on virtually all points, external
perception lagged way behind internal reality. Most
significant of all is the issue of competitiveness; clearly,
potential employees didn’t really rate the bank’s chances
against the giants of the sector such as Goldman Sachs
and Merrill Lynch.
But notice something else: there’s a high degree of
alignment between how senior management perceive
their organisation, and the perception of those analysts,
traders and associates down on the trading floor or
dashing off to a client meeting. That’s a strong position
to be in, because it means you can present a united
front to the talent market, and any promises you make
for the brand externally won’t be sabotaged by internal
sentiment and perception.
Around how many nodes should you conduct this
extremely valuable exercise? And how should you label
them? The simple answer is: it’s up to you. Only you
can choose the issues, the identity features around
which you want to construct your brand on the basis of
those that are relevant to your particular activity or
industry sector. For example, a retailer would be crazy
not to include competitiveness or commercial focus. A
small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) will surely want
entrepreneurial spirit to be very much to the fore, while
an NHS trust may well want the extent to which it’s
perceived as having a learning culture to be part of the
equation.
As for how many… well, any more than six nodes could
start to get a bit unwieldy.
This is not a quantitative exercise, and the results are
not scientific in the traditional sense. But they certainly
give you a clear, very graphic expression of where your
brand is now, the direction you have to take it in, and
the likely scale of that task.
How do you choose and label the nodes around which
you build your diagram of the brand? There’s no
absolute logic to this – it’s a process that’s partly
intuitive. But you will know the issues that are
particularly important to your brand, bearing in mind
the nature of your organisation and its business. For
example, when I developed the Land Rover employer
brand, diversity was a really big issue for an
organisation that was seen as being (and probably was)
as chauvinistic and ‘blokey’ as Jeremy Clarkson. For a
major retailer, commercial awareness is clearly important
– the sense of ownership over the organisation’s sales
and profit performance. (In this context, we’ll take the
oft-quoted ‘customer focus’ as read.)
For a newly merged NHS trust, the issue of teamwork
may be particularly important; for a call centre
operation, the social dimension of its jobs may need to
be mapped and measured.
Only you can decide the issues on which you want to
be measured, the strengths for which you want your
organisation to be known.
AcrossIhegreaIdivide
It’s helpful to see the whole brand development/
communication chain as two opposing funnels – input
and output. It’s that bit in the middle that’s the real
challenge. You need to make sure the research insights
really do drive the expression of the brand – but not in
a boring, literal, ‘plonky’ way. You need to ensure that
all creative expression through every channel is fresh
and sparky – but still anchored firmly in what the
research is saying.
GeIIingbioIogicaI.creaIingyourbrand’ssIem
ceIIs
We’re now at the most critical point in the whole brand
development process – the gap (which may appear
seductively small) between the two funnels, between
input and output.
It’s at this stage I find myself unavoidably using the
language of genetics, with acronyms like DNA and
phrases like ‘stem cells’ entering the discourse. But the
analogy’s a sound one, and it may help to explain and
rationalise a process that’s both right- and left-brain,
creative as much as analytical.
Employer branding 41
Published information
on strategy and direction
Management workshop
External focus groups
Internal focus groups
Interpretation
and
analysis
Subsidiary
propositions
or ‘brand
muscles’
Brand
proposition
or
promise
Brand
attributes
or
values
Brand-based
overall
creative brief
Channel
strategy
BRAND
DEFINITION
AND CREATION
Figure 7: Brand development process
The task you now face (or your brand consultant or
employment marketing agency faces) is to identify and
name the distinctive features that characterise your
organisation as a place to work – the basic attributes of
your employer brand. I prefer to use the term ‘attributes’
rather than ‘brand values’: values are something you see
objectively, and choose to espouse and adhere to.
Attributes are more fundamental – they’re what you are,
your individuality, the key to your uniqueness, the colour
of your corporate eyes, your corporate ‘soul’, if you’ll
forgive a brief excursion into metaphysics. Every other
aspect of the brand – every piece of talent attraction
material, every induction programme, every employee
referral scheme, every campus presentation – will grow
from and depend on these attributes or stem cells.
What we’re really talking about is deciding what you
want to be famous for. Obviously, a degree of realism
needs to come into play. You can’t just pluck attributes
out of thin air; they have to be based on what your
organisation actually is and stands for (Figure 8). There
may not be too many surprises in the attributes you
choose – apart from the fact that probably no one has
chosen and articulated them before.
The research will give a clear indication of what these
are (that’s its main purpose). But only you or your
advisers can choose the actual form of words in which
they’re expressed. From my experience, there are two
golden rules that come into play at this stage of the
brand development. The first is to keep the actual
number of attributes to a minimum: remember, these
are the words you’ll want all your employees to respect,
remember and act on. And, whatever you do, please
avoid the stilted, restricted vocabulary, the totally
debased linguistic currency that so many organisations
42 Employer branding
Figure 8: The key attributes of the Prison Service employer brand
COMPETENC REALISM
HUMOUR OUGHTFULNESS
HUMAN INSIGHT
COURAGE
You have to be clear what each attribute actually means. And you need to build the inference that each
attribute leads to a specific behaviour – like this:
usly optimistic
Taking people as you find them
Sceptical not cynical
Nobody’s fool
Happy to change a small
part of the world
REALISM
Empathy
Understanding
Bridge-building
‘People not place’
Maturity
Fairness
HUMAN INSIGHT
Moral as much
as physical
Sense of justice
Don’t ‘go with the flow’
Loyal to team,
not to tribe
COURAGE
deal in when they express their values. You’ll know the
words I mean – and, in any case, the depth and detail
of the picture of your brand that the research yields will
open many more verbal choices to you.
AIIhehearIo!iIaII.IhevaIueproposiIion
You’re now ready to write the few words that are right
at the core of the new brand – its overall value
proposition. A brand proposition isn’t the same as a
campaign strapline, although some people seem to
confuse the two. A proposition doesn’t have to be
clever or snappy (but it should never be turgid or
predictable); it probably will never appear in recruitment
or other brand-based communications. But it’s a form
of words that describes, in essence, what makes
working for your organisation different and special. It
therefore needs to be around and to work for a long
time, so it’s worth taking the time to get it exactly right,
and to check that everyone who’s close to the
development of the brand is happy with its final form.
Looking at that Prison Service example… that set of
brand attributes led us to the initial proposition we
proposed:
‘If you’re fascinated by people and can relate to
them effectively, you’ll find long-term interest and
satisfaction in a career with the Prison Service.’
For a major retail chain, we developed a quartet of
brand attributes:
• champions
• commercial
• committed
• credible.
Why just four? Because we wanted them to be easily
remembered and acted on in an organisation where
most employees are hard at it in busy stores, trying to
respond to customers and react to the latest
machinations of the competition.
Employer branding 43
A proposition that grows naturally out of these
attributes is:
‘Be the best, beat your best as you earn the trust
of customers and the respect of colleagues.’
It defines how it would feel to work for this organisation.
It’s aimed at attracting people who get a buzz from the
cut and thrust of modern retailing. But it indicates some
of what the organisation expects of you, and in this
aspect, it relates closely to some of the behaviours
associated with the specific attributes, for example:
Champions
We love to beat our best, including our personal best.
We’re passionate advocates of new ideas.
The competition’s out there, not in here.
Today’s successes are tomorrow’s challenges.
fromaIIribuIesIoargumenIs
Once you’ve established the brand attributes, you can
then build specific examples of ‘what this means in
practice’ for each one. You can identify and articulate
the behaviours that you want everyone to associate
with each attribute; you can even use them as the basis
for specific arguments you can deploy in future
employment marketing initiatives. Because, together
with the proposition, you now have a complete,
distinctive, accurate, compelling description of what it
means and feels like to work for your organisation.
fIexingIhebrandmuscIes
One of the questions people often ask about employer
brands is: ‘How can I make sure the brand works for
different categories of staff – for senior managers as
much as call centre workers?’
The answer’s simple: you emphasise those brand
attributes that will have most resonance and
significance for the particular audience you’re talking to
at any one time. A former colleague, now a highly
successful employer brand manager, describes this as
‘flexing different brand muscles’ (see Figure 9). Another
analogy is a mixer desk. Your attributes are the different
tracks; you can fade them up or fade them down
depending on the audience you’re playing for. You’re
not sacrificing consistency or compromising the brand.
The music remains the same; it’s just that different
audiences will hear it slightly differently.
You have the inputs. You’ve established your baseline
metrics against which you will confidently demonstrate
future improvement. You’ve identified the attributes
that define your brand’s individuality. You’ve developed
an overall value proposition, the one overarching
answer to the ever-present ‘what’s in it for me?’
questions lurking in the minds of current and
prospective employees. It’s time for some action.
Ready?
Figure 9: Different audiences, different emphasis – flexing the brand muscles
For potential Prison Officers... ...and for professional staff
Human insight Human insight
Courage
Thoughtfulness
Realism
Thoughtfulness
Realism
Competence
Humour
Courage
Competence
Humour
44 Employer branding
Part 9: From plan to practice
‘We thought we were quite clever developing an employee value proposition and then
segmenting it across different talent pools. We sat back and thought: “Nice one!”
‘But the reality is that it should be 1% of the effort. And what we really focus on is
shouting less about the strategy and more about aligning our processes to the employer
brand. It’s nuts and bolts that make this work.’ David Roberts, Employer Brand Manager, Orange
ThebrandIaunch.hoIdbackonIhosevhisIIes
andbeIIs
You now have everything you need to brief whoever is
responsible for developing the initial creative expression
of the new brand. Whoever they are, they’ll have the
one thing that all creatives crave – a proposition! And
you’ll have some objective criteria for reviewing their
efforts. It’s no longer a question of, ‘Do I like what
they’re showing me?’ but, ‘Is what they’re showing me
an accurate expression of the brand?’
For additional reassurance, you can use focus groups
(internal, external or both) as a means of testing the
initial creative work to see if everyone else ‘gets it’ and
that they can discern clear brand-based messages
within it.
So you’re now ready to launch the new brand with
some spectacular, potentially award-winning,
employment marketing. Whoa! Not so fast! As we’ve
seen, alignment between expectation and reality is one
of the key features of a successful, effective employer
brand, and you’re in danger of setting external
expectations without first making sure that the internal
reality will actually live up to them.
So the golden rule is: launch the brand internally, make
sure everyone understands it, agrees with it, and it’s
starting to impact the way they think and work. Then,
and only then, can you think about launching it
externally.
The means of launching and embedding the brand
within your organisation are quite specific, but the
quality of the end result will depend on the quality of
the relationship you establish with whoever handles
your internal communications.
Activities you need to consider, and which give you
ample opportunity for demonstrating and expressing
the new brand internally, include:
A formal announcement. ‘Formal’ doesn’t mean stiff
and starchy – it just means an internal
communications initiative that’s fully thought through
and that people will really notice and respond to. You
can present the new brand to the senior
management team (hopefully they’ll have been
involved and supportive right from the start) – and
give them the means to cascade the presentation
down through the organisation. You can hijack a slot
at the next management conference. You can send
everyone an email introducing the new brand. You
can use any or all of the communications channels
and techniques open to you.
But you must make sure that everyone understands the
thinking behind the new brand, where it’s come from,
what its purpose and value are. Simply presenting them
with a fait accompli is to make them switch off or even
to invite resistance.
The candidate journey. This is really a mix of external
and internal communications. The communications
audit (assuming you’ve done one) will have revealed
gaps or weaknesses in the process – points along the
way where the potential employee may experience
misgivings or even decide to go no further. The brand
Employer branding 45
gives you the means to plug them. It also gives you a
unique opportunity to create a completely seamless
experience where every touchpoint is a further
demonstration of the brand, its attributes, messages
and personality – everything from the letter inviting the
candidate to interview (how about telling them how
the brand has helped shape the questions?) to what
they see and hear as they wait in reception, to the tone
and style of the post-interview follow-up. Imagine
applying for a new job and discovering that every letter,
every brochure you receive, every email, every telephone
conversation, every personal contact confirms your
biggest hopes and confounds any lingering suspicions.
How impressive would that be!
Factoring the brand into the induction process. This is a
sure way to introduce newcomers to ‘the way we do
things around here’ – in other words, to a clearly
defined set of on-brand behaviours. The brand is at the
centre of the oft-quoted ‘psychological contract’
between employer and employee: the induction
programme is a great way to give employees an idea of
what their side of the bargain involves.
After the brand has been launched internally, you can
check the effectiveness of that launch, the extent to
which it has been embedded. A quick online survey will
test people’s recall of the brand attributes, and the
overall proposition. A few internal focus groups among
recent starters will help you check alignment – the
degree to which they feel the brand has fulfilled its
promises and met their expectations.
TimeIogopubIic.‘II’sIheveb,sIupid’
If any one phenomenon marks the watershed between
the old and the new, provides the catalyst that has
transformed recruitment advertising into joined-up,
grown-up employment marketing and moved employer
branding from a concept waiting in the wings to its
current position very much centre stage, it’s the World
Wide Web.
A recruitment website, or the recruitment pages on a
corporate site, gives a potential employee the chance to
encounter and experience an employer brand in ways
that no other medium can. A brochure can show and
tell; a website can demonstrate an organisation’s brand
attributes and values in action. It can introduce
candidates to current employees, and create the basis
for an ongoing relationship. It can offer a ‘test drive’ of
the roles in question and what they will feel like in the
context of that organisation. It can offer the means to
apply there and then, while the initial surge of interest
and excitement is still flowing.
In one of the discovery days that formed part of the
development programme for this guide, we looked at
recruitment websites for a range of employers. The
overall reaction was disappointment. Most were
perfectly practical and functional (some weren’t); few, if
any, showed any individuality or personality, two key
features of an employer brand. Everyone felt that real
opportunities for expressing the brand had been
missed. A pity, especially when, just as with print-based
advertising, it costs no more to create something great
than something average.
Takeyournevcareer!oraIesIdrive
Websites create the perfect opportunity for candidates to experience a particular role or field of
employment – and for organisations to express their employer brands in experiential ways.
The Army website was a classic case – a place where you learned what it feels like to make instant,
life-or-death decisions and, from a brand perspective, how tough it is to ‘be the best’. An HSBC graduate
website subjected potential applicants to real tests in real time – asking them, for example, to decide
between holding and selling a banana plantation as a hurricane threatened to head towards their precious
investment. GCHQ sought potential code-breakers (in reality, exceptionally talented maths graduates) by
hiding lines of different code in its website, expressing not just the cerebral aspects of the brand, but its
playful, fun aspects as well.
46 Employer branding
ThemediumisIhemessage seek?’ The second is slightly more complex, but
Technology has resulted in an explosion of channels equally important: ‘Which channels will not just give
through which you can establish your brand and me access to the communities I seek but will also
communicate its message. Digital radio gives you provide, in themselves, expressions of the brand?’
affordable access to almost any minority community
you can think of. Podcasts put you and your brand in Being seen to be using certain channels will, ipso
touch with people on the move. Web banners can drive facto, say something – actually, say plenty – about
people to your own website. Cinema advertising, your brand. Using SMS text messaging will not just get
targeting specific films in specific locations, is no longer your recruitment message through to a younger
the stuff of dreams. And owners of traditional media audience, it will help establish your brand as
have responded to the digital challenge with their own something credible and cool. If creativity is one of your
innovations, their own deals. brand attributes, being seen to use radical, offbeat
communications channels – like projecting your
Clearly, there are some amazing opportunities out message on the side of a high-rise building – will
there. But how do you know which ones to take? And convince people of your organisation’s creative
can the brand help you choose? credentials. If you want to come across as a highly
competitive, macho commercial enterprise, carry
The first question to ask as you survey the multifarious your recruitment message to your competitors by
channels available to you is: ‘Which of these will give a deliberately provocative billboard right outside
me affordable, effective access to the audiences I their offices.
Diesel was founded in 1978 and has grown to become one of the world’s truly global fashion brands.
The tagline ‘For successful living’ encapsulates a single brand focus and people at Diesel are keen to spell
out how, for them, there is no separation of employer branding from consumer branding: there is just
one, unified Diesel brand, stemming from the vision of founder Renzo Rosso.
The brand is ‘unique’. It’s one of choice, rather than utility and Tim Pointer, recently appointed HR
Director, feels that the staff who choose to work at Diesel do so because of their strong affinity with the
company’s clothes and attitude, which means that the business is often recruiting from among its
passionate consumers, rather than those who are simply looking for a good job in fashion retail.
In design and merchandising disciplines, Diesel receives a lot of unsolicited interest, as the firm is a
natural destination for many people with these skillsets. But when setting out to recruit people for the
retail network, the HR team works closely with the trade and retail marketing team to create in-store and
advertised candidate generation campaigns that are seamlessly linked to the current collection and the
theme (always current and sometimes controversial) that supports it.
The opening of Diesel’s flagship store in Bond Street saw promotion in the London press and in-store
flyers lead to some 3,000 people expressing an interest in retail roles. Around 150 of these were invited
to a branded event held in a premium London venue, where everything was themed in the season’s
oriental style, with cushions, screens and water gardens installed around ten separate interview areas to
ensure the ultimate branded candidate experience.
(continued)
DieseI.communicaIionschanneIsIomaIchIhebrand
Employer branding 47
Applicants were invited to dress in the way that they felt best expressed their relationship with design
and, as a final touch, were challenged to accessorise their look with a flower or plant that described their
personality. Perhaps unorthodox, the event allowed Marketing and HR to collaborate in finding people
who could truly deliver the Diesel brand and generated enough successful candidates to resource the
Bond Street store and to provide a pool of high-quality, validated applicants for other vacancies across
the retail network in and around London.
Across the business, it remains an important priority to keep the founder’s vision central to employees’
understanding and behaviours. Staff are encouraged to read the books by Rosso, which are available
in-store, alongside frequent formal and informal communications, including branded events and
collection briefings. But while staff in-store wear clothes from the latest range, they’re encouraged to
customise and accessorise – to show their individual relationships with the brand in a way that their
marketing colleagues acknowledge is a critical dimension of Diesel’s brand identity.
DieseI(conIinued)
CasesIudyIearningpoinIs
A stylish brand needs to come across stylishly and wow
potential candidates from their first experience of the
employer brand. Those flowers and cushions… a little
over the top perhaps? For other brands, yes, but for
Diesel it was wholly appropriate – and the results
speak for themselves.
48 Employer branding
Part 10: Every picture tells a story
Although employer brands are about much, much more
than just graphics and design, there’s no getting away
from the fact that logos and symbols are integral
elements of all brands. Get them right, and they can
speak volumes for you.
I’ve always been impressed by the way the Civil Service
Fast Stream brand logo has been intelligently tweaked
and developed to keep it up to date, to send out the
right messages and avoid sending out the wrong ones
(see Figure 10).
It started life as a pen nib (very old-style Parker 51, very
Sir Humphrey) but these days it’s more of an arrow –
clean, simple and contemporary. And it neatly blows
away any whiff of elitism, any hint of Whitehall cobwebs.
And look at the way the Unilever logo has morphed
from something cold, hard and impersonal (very
corporate, very 1980s) into something softer and more
engaging. I know it’s the logo of a corporate brand, but
it arguably has more currency and greater influence in
the context of employment marketing than any other.
Figure 10: Logos and symbols as part of the brand
MainIainingimpacI
A great many people in a great many organisations
complain about information overload. Their inboxes
are overflowing; their heads are reeling with every
latest edict, diktat or communications initiative. In
research for a recent brand development programme
for a major UK and European retailer, senior managers
ruefully drew the distinction between information and
communication. They complained about an excess of
the former, and described how so much of the latter
just seemed to run into the sand.
The employer brand can address this. It can give
continuity, consistency and focus to what would
otherwise have been discrete initiatives. It can
become the driving force behind your organisation’s
intranet, and provide the consistent look and feel,
even the actual graphic templates, that will effectively
make all your day-to-day, tactical internal
communications expressions of the brand – and
contributors to its stature and recognition within the
organisation.
Employer branding 49
TheIooIs!orIhejob
In many organisations, recruitment is and will continue
to be conducted through a wide range of people and
locations. The role of the brand in such a context is to
provide the consistency of message, of look and feel
that will build awareness of the brand, but also to offer
a degree of flexibility to take account of local market
conditions, media habits and even cultures.
A well-thought-out brand toolkit will achieve this for
you. We draw a distinction here between a toolkit and
the more familiar visual identity manual. The latter will
probably be full of detailed, nit-picky rules and
stipulations that will enforce visual uniformity – but also
engender resistance and hostility. A toolkit, on the other
hand, will be light on hard-and-fast rules, stronger on
examples and suggestions that ‘doing it this way might
well work for you’. It will also explain the reasoning
behind the new brand, and make it clear that using it
will make the recruiter’s or line manager’s life easier,
their recruitment efforts more effective.
Figure 11: Coca-Cola HBC ‘toolkit’
Coca-CoIaHßC.IheIooIs!orIhejob
HBC stands for Hellenic Bottling Company – the
business that bottles and markets Coca-Cola brands
throughout the whole of Europe, from Greece to
Germany. So the new brand had to be flexible and
sensitive to local market conditions if it was to have any
chance of being accepted and adopted.
The toolkit (see Figure 11) provided that flexibility, with
a range of images and headlines that participating local
companies could choose from to suit their own local
requirements, giving them a real sense of ownership. It
also provided a detailed rationale for the whole
campaign and even sample copy.
There was a subtle difference between saying, ‘do it like
this or else’, and ‘this is the way you really should do it
because it will work best for you’. Subtle, but
important.
50 Employer branding
WhaIprompIedyouIodeveIopanempIoyerbrand?
Phase 1 was to develop an external employer brand where the aim was to create a unique, desirable and
consistent identity externally to ensure that we attracted great candidates. We created a consistent
identity for Orange the employer and then segmented it so that it was relevant and desirable for each of
our talent pools, such as retail, contact centres, finance, technical, graduates, and so on.
Phase 2, which we are still working on, is to join up our external and internal employer brand and to define
and communicate our ‘employment offer’ internally so that it articulates what we offer and why staff
should stay at Orange. The aim here is to use the employer brand to retain and engage staff and was
driven by a tougher employment marketplace and a tougher business environment that we operate in.
HovdidyoumeasureyourorganisaIion’ssIaIusbe!oreIakingacIion?
We conducted three pieces of research:
• Externally – we ran focus groups across our target talent pools in retail: contact centres, IT and
engineering, finance, marketing, HR, and within our main geographic areas and spheres of influence
(for example M4/M5 motorways). At these sessions we investigated how Orange was perceived as an
employer and what potential candidates wanted from an employer and how they saw us delivering that.
• Internally – we run a twice-annual climate survey that goes to all staff to capture the reality of working
at Orange.
• Vision/company strategy – we spoke to our strategy team to get an idea of where we’re heading from
a business strategy point of view.
These three pieces of research gave us the information (perception and reality both internally and
externally) to create our employer brand.
WhaIdidyouhopeIhaIempIoyerbranddeveIopmenIvouIddeIiver!oryourorganisaIion?
• Improve recruitment – by making it easier to attract talented candidates, better fit (giving candidates a clear
picture of what it is really like to work here), reducing cost to hire and driving more speculative CVs.
• Improved retention and engagement internally.
WasIheempIoyerbranddeveIopedasparIo!anoveraIIHßorIeadershipsIraIegy?PIease
describe.
Our employer brand was developed to assist one of our key UK corporate objectives and to fit with
France Telecom’s wider HR strategy.
HovdidyoudeveIopyourempIoyerbrand?Wereany!ormaImodeIsorprocessesused?
We took the best approaches from the marketing community around brand-building and segmentation
and applied it to the HR world.
Our model involved defining our offer, segmenting it to our target audience and then implementing it in
a consistent way internally and externally.
We used a mixture of in-house and agency expertise to research, design and communicate our employer brand.
(continued)
Orange.acIassico!iIskind
Employer branding 51
WhohadovnershipoverIheprojecI?
The project sits within Orange HR with close co-operation with our colleagues in marketing. The key
sponsor is our HR vice-president.
WhaIoIher!uncIions(i!any)vereinvoIved!romyourorganisaIion?Hß?MarkeIing?OIher
!uncIionsldiscipIines?
Reward, internal communications, HR operations, physical environment, brand, PR and employee
engagement teams.
OuIIineIhebasicsIageso!IheprojecI
• Scope the project.
• Conduct research.
• Create the employment positioning/offer.
• Gain buy-in across the company.
• Build creative execution.
• Launch the employer brand.
• Monitor the progress of the brand.
• Adapt as necessary.
DoesyoursoIuIionencompasschangesIomanagemenIbehaviours,compeIency!ramevorks,
assessmenIanddeveIopmenIprocesses?
We’re using our employer brand to support the uptake of leadership development within Orange.
WhaIdoyouregardasIhemosIsuccess!uIaspecIso!IheprojecI?
• using solid marketing techniques to develop our employer brand
• flexibility to segment our offer to different groups
• breadth of our employment offer – covering emotional and rational offers
AndIheIeasIsuccess!uI?WhaIprobIemsdidyouencounIer?
The biggest issue is where does employer branding sit? HR, engagement, marketing, brand, internal
communications, PR?
WhaIvereIhekeyIearningpoinIs!romIheprojecI?
Buy-in is key as employer branding covers many directorates and functions.
WhaIvereIheprojecIIimescaIes?
Phase 1 = six months build + two-year implementation
Phase 2 = one-year build + projected two-year implementation
Orange(conIinued)
52 Employer branding
InvhaIvaysdidIheprojecIdi!!er!romyouroriginaIexpecIaIions?
Buy-in for an employer brand can take longer than expected due to the wide range of directorates it
covers.
HovareyoumeasuringIhee!!ecIivenesso!Ihebrand–IhereIurniIyieIdsoniIsoriginaI
invesImenI?
• perception of Orange as an employer in the marketplace and brand pull (for example candidate CVs
registered on our jobs website, reduction of advertising costs)
• internal perceptions through our annual climate survey and attrition levels
LookingbackonIheprojecI,vhaIvouIdyouhavedonedi!!erenIIy?
More buy-in before starting the project. You can never have too much.
In!ormaIionsuppIiedbyDavidßoberIs,EmpIoyerßrandManager
Orange(conIinued)
CasesIudyIearningpoinIs
While we hope this guide makes it abundantly clear
that employer brands are about much more than just
recruitment, there’s no denying that ‘to ensure that we
attracted great candidates’ is a pretty strong reason for
going down the brand route in the first place. The other
impressive point is Orange’s realism about the time it
takes to do the job properly: six months to build and
two years for implementation is refreshingly realistic. It
was probably the acceptance of these relatively long
lead times that prompted Orange to apply the new
brand to the issue of talent attraction first.
Employer branding 53
Part 11: Building brand loyalty,
creating brand equity
‘If you take your foot off research, you’ll slip behind,’ David Roberts, Orange Employer Brand
Manager
Most truly great brands have been with us for a long
time. They may have tweaked their logo, modified their
colour palette and inspired some great advertising
campaigns along the way. But the overriding impression
they create is one of permanence and the ability to
change with changing times – but with each change
only confirming their essential nature and identity.
BMW has been promising the excitement of getting
behind the wheel of the ‘the ultimate driving machine’
since the late 1970s. Richard Branson’s burgeoning
empire has been claiming to fight Joe Public’s corner
against the vested interests of the commercial
establishment since he sold his first cut-price 12-inch
vinyl from a cramped, first-floor Oxford Street record
store in 1970. Marks & Spencer’s reputation for quality
has been passed down through successive generations –
as has its reputation as a good company to work for.
British Airways is still attracting spontaneous enquiries
and applications from young men (and, thankfully,
women) who want to get behind the controls of a 757,
or at least dispense in-flight catering with ‘the world’s
favourite airline’.
Your brand development project will need a specific,
relatively short-term focus and you’ll need to show
some quick wins to confound the sceptics and win
support for each successive phase of the project. But
remember this: the brand you create and communicate
will be around long after you’ve left to take up the
plum job that your prowess in brand development will
qualify you for. The brand to which you give birth will
grow up to acquire its own, almost independent
existence. So even while your initial focus is relatively
short term, there are things you can be planning and
doing to ensure your organisation reaps maximum
long-term benefit from the brand.
ßrandIoyaIIyandIheIonggood-bye
People will leave your organisation as surely as night
follows day. If the brand is doing its job, they’ll be fewer
in number, fewer still will leave prematurely, and at their
farewell party they’ll be saying things like: ‘Well, I’ve
had a fantastic time here. But this amazing job came up
and I knew I’d be crazy to turn it down.’ In the back of
their minds may be the ghost of a thought about
returning at some point in the future; that thought
should be in your mind, too.
You need to understand that one of the objectives of
your brand project is to create long-term loyalty. And for
that, you need to recognise that people’s relationship
with their employer brand (or their employer’s brand, to
be more precise) doesn’t end when they pick up their
P45 and head off to the pub.
You need to see them not as leavers (less still the
traitors that some organisations, amazingly, still regard
anyone who has the temerity to look for pastures new)
but more as alumni – a valuable constituency of people
who, with the right treatment, will act as informal but
highly effective recruitment consultants and brand
advocates for the organisation that still holds a place in
their affections.
There are two ways you can make this happen. The first
is to discover the real reasons why people leave.
Traditional exit interviews don’t really do this; people are
too evasive or simply too polite to dish the dirt on that
bullying manager or to fulminate about that missed
promotion. But they’ll happily open up to a third party.
So get a research company or an independent
consultant to conduct a series of short telephone
interviews with recent leavers. They’ll feel flattered, and
automatically more favourably disposed to the
54 Employer branding
organisation; hard feelings will be softened, bruised
egos will be mollified. And to get real value from the
exercise, repeat the telephone interviews with the same
cohort of leavers a few months later. You’ll discover if
the grass really is greener on the other side (it seldom is)
and you’ll discover a more objective, balanced view of
your organisation as a place to work. You may even
find people ready to come back.
The other thing to do is simply to maintain contact with
leavers through newsletters or other classic
communication tools. Depending on the nature of your
organisation, you may want to be selective in who you
keep in touch with – but remember that even a
Saturday morning student on the checkouts may be a
potential future manager or a part-time call centre
operative a future team leader. Let them know what’s
happening with the organisation and with the brand;
let them know the organisation is still around, and
hasn’t forgotten them.
If the brand gives you the means – or at least identifies
the need – to maintain a relationship and sustain
loyalty with leavers, it can also be the basis of building
relationships with audiences who, though they may be
indirect, can make a huge impact on your reputation
as an employer. That audience includes influencers and
opinion-formers, such as teachers and community
leaders. ‘But surely,’ you may be thinking, ‘building
and sustaining those relationships is just good
recruitment practice.’ Yes, up to a point. But the
employer brand helps you create the employment
story you want to get across; it defines the distinctive
employment experience you want those influencers to
comprehend and buy into. At a very basic level, it
gives you something to talk about.
Using the brand to think and plan ahead, to get your
recruitment activity off the back foot and to enable you
to develop a relationship with future potential
employees naturally depends on you maintaining good
relationships with your PR or communications team.
And remember that, while the changes and initiatives
that help determine the distinctive employment
experience your organisation offers may not seem
terribly startling or newsworthy to you, they may well
be just the stuff that editors will love to devote some
valuable column centimetres to.
Don’I!orgeIIoIakemeasures
The world of the HR practitioner never stands still. New
challenges rush over the horizon, and suddenly
yesterday can seem like ancient history. You may
breathe a sigh of relief that your newly created brand
seems to be finding its feet… and move swiftly on to
the next item on your agenda.
One of my biggest frustrations in brand development
projects has been getting clients to put some accurate,
robust metrics on the impact the brand was having and
the value it was adding to the enterprise. It was a
struggle to get them to produce the key baseline
metrics in the first place; it was harder still to persuade
them to make regular measurements against those
original figures.
But it’s a task that must never be overlooked or
underplayed. Apart from anything else, you owe it to
yourself to produce the numbers that prove to anyone
who may still harbour doubts that your brand project is
producing the goods and that you’re doing a great job.
LeI’sgeIengaged
Employee engagement is definitely the hot topic in the
HR firmament right now. Books have been published on
it; strategic HR consultancies are rubbing their hands at
the additional income it represents; Google throws up
countless references to it.
The whole issue of engagement begs the
question ‘engagement with what?’ It’s the
employer brand that can help create and
communicate that ‘what’.
And there’s overwhelming evidence that an
organisation whose people are fully engaged is a
successful organisation. In the retail sector alone, John
Lewis has long known the bottom-line value of treating
employees as partners: the more people feel it’s their
business, the more ‘discretionary effort and time’ they’ll
put into it. Marks & Spencer hasn’t reversed its
declining fortunes simply on some great advertising and
high-profile models of a certain generation. It’s done so
by engaging staff in a new way – the right way – of
thinking about the company and the whole way they
Employer branding 55
approach their work. ‘Your M&S’ has an obvious
resonance with customers; it has an equally strong
resonance with employees. It implies a combination of
ownership and responsibility.
The issue we need to concern ourselves with is the role
the employer brand can play in developing engagement
– in persuading employees to ‘put discretionary effort
into their work, beyond the required minimum to get
the job done, in the form of extra time, effort and
brainpower’, to quote Towers Perrin’s accurate and
detailed definition. More succinctly, the CIPD simply
talks about ‘a passion for work’.
The whole issue of engagement begs the question,
‘engagement with what?’ It’s the employer brand that
can help create and communicate that ‘what’ – the
vision of an organisation that its people can recognise
and believe in, and that makes them want to give of
their best.
Of course, the brand is by no means the only driver of
engagement. Gallup’s useful research model for
measuring engagement lists obvious issues like, ‘Do you
have the materials and equipment you need to do your
work right?’ or, ‘In the last six months, has someone at
work talked to you about your progress?’
But their list of 12 questions also includes several that
are more directly brand-related, like: ‘Does the mission/
purpose of your company make you feel your job is
important?’ or, ‘At work, do you have the opportunity
to do what you do best every day?’ or, ‘Do you know
what is expected of you at work?’
Gallup suggests that asking employees to rate their
response to each question on a scale of 1 to 5 will give
a detailed and accurate picture of the extent to which
they feel engaged or disengaged.
But it’s one thing to measure the degree of
engagement your people feel with their organisation;
it’s something else to be able to put a figure on the
tangible, financial value of that engagement. For some
organisations, any effort to do so is largely irrelevant.
An NHS trust knows that a growth of employee
engagement will show up in an improvement in how
patients and referring GPs perceive the trust and the
services it provides. But there’s no transaction, no sale –
and therefore no bottom line in a conventional sense.
But for a retailer, the link between employee
engagement, market share and sales performance is
absolutely critical.
You can bet Stuart Rose will be looking closely at the
figures that show his employees are signing up to his
vision for the organisation. And he’ll be following in the
footsteps of US retail giant Sears who, 15 years ago,
proved – to its own satisfaction at least – that employee
engagement was the principal factor behind turning a
$3 billion deficit in one of their key divisions into a
healthy $752 million income. More recently, Towers
Perrin have claimed that, for every 1% improvement in
engagement, a 0.1% improvement in sales growth will
surely follow. It’s a neat, memorable formula. And it
won’t half impress your chief financial officer.
56 Employer branding
Over the last 40 years, Lakeland has become one of the leading kitchenware and homeware
companies in the UK. Starting as a small, family-run mail-order concern based in the Lake District, the
company now operates a retail network of 35 stores alongside a thriving online and catalogue-based
mail-order business.
Lakeland is often nominated as a great company to work for and spontaneously mentioned by
job-seekers and HR professionals alike as an organisation that has got employer branding right. Debbie
Bullock, HR Manager, reveals that success has come out of a deeply rooted ethos that runs through the
company, from the leadership team – the founder’s three sons – to the most junior trainee and from the
head office location in Windermere to retail outlets across the country.
‘There’s absolutely no separation. Wherever you work, you’re an ambassador – it’s the first thing you read
in the handbook.’ Lakeland has a history of involving all colleagues in product development and sampling
and everyone from front-line customer service staff to the despatch team are encouraged to learn about
new and established products, to suggest ideas and offer opinions in a flat structure in which everyone is
on first-name terms. Monthly staff meetings, email communications, fun events, training DVDs and even
proof copies of the new catalogue make sure that ‘everyone knows everything’ and that ‘no one’s ever
having to play catch-up’.
Staff targets are focused on customers’ enjoyment of their shopping experience rather than on sales, and
employees are frequently visible in catalogues and customer communications, where they are proud to
represent the business, their colleagues and the product range.
The unique ethos at the heart of the business drives recruitment and training. Although the Lakeland
package is competitive, rather than spectacular, the company receives a big response to its recruitment
ads, whether in its Lake District heartland or retail locations (including some traditional hotspots). Despite
having a strong online presence for its customer offering, the business prefers not to use online
recruitment channels and doesn’t contract out any part of its recruitment and assessment processes.
Traditional methods, closely managed by a team who live and breathe the brand, deliver consistent
recruitment outcomes, while new retail managers spend two weeks in Windermere before even setting
foot in their store location to ensure that they fully immerse themselves in the Lakeland way.
Retail and call centre employers often experience high staff attrition, but at Lakeland seven to ten years’
service is not unusual in these roles and many staff have friends and relatives working within the business
on their recommendation. Community is clearly an important focus and the employer brand meets
corporate citizenship in the way in which Lakeland supports local schools (where the children of many
staff study), charities and community initiatives.
Despite its growth, staff feel that the business remains true to its roots as a family concern, where
everyone is treated fairly and with respect. The employer brand has developed without any sort of formal
model, but intuitively as a shared objective across HR, leadership and staff at all levels.
The secret of Lakeland’s success seems to lie in consistency. ‘Don’t rush it,’ counsels Debbie, ‘Do what’s
right for you. Look at what other companies are doing, but stick to your values and do what you think is
right.’
LakeIand.amodeIo!engagemenI
Employer branding 57
Paperchase, the contemporary stationery retailer, describe themselves as an exciting and ‘must-have’
brand that has doubled in size in the last three years and has grown to over 100 stores in premium
high-street locations, mainline stations and concessions in partner stores. The business is rolling out a
new ‘model store’ concept while continuing to open in new locations.
With a large number of students working at sales assistant level, staff turnover is built into the people
dynamic and isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Growth has been rapid and a small HR team has worked energetically to keep up – five years ago there
was no HR team at all serving a business of some 500 people. Emphasis has been on getting the core
processes right – recruitment to support the expansion, and the retention and development of managers.
Personality fit is central to recruitment and retention efforts and the customer-facing brand is
inextricably connected to the employer brand: ‘they have to love our product if they’re going to work
in the stores.’ There is no formal employer brand programme in place and the company is sceptical
about management artefacts that are not central to the business – there are no formal values, no
mission statement, no staff satisfaction survey and no formal referral scheme.
Nicola Wilton recognises that ‘there’s loads more we could do, but we don’t have the time. We have
to concentrate on the things that will bring results today and focus on what we can do to recruit and
retain good people at all levels.’
While some press advertising continues to feature in the recruitment strategy, migration online is
working well for entry-level positions. The business researches potential locations to find potential
sources of labour, building links with local colleges and tries to create advocacy through existing staff
and customers.
The big issue is to move away from agencies – especially at store manager level – and to accommodate
‘next steps’ for emerging managers within a flat structure.
Communicating as an employer depends on close working with Paperchase’s busy marketing team –
the owners of the brand. Personal contact and trust is key here: ‘There’s a running joke in our design
team: “Just say ‘no’ to HR”, but trust is built around commitment to the brand – we’re designer-led,
innovative and quirky; people just instinctively get it or they don’t.’
Paperchase.vhereproducIcreaIesbrand
CasesIudyIearningpoinIs
Apart from highlighting the day-to-day pressures that
HR teams in a high-growth retail environment have to
contend with, this study emphasises yet again the
importance of a good relationship (albeit tinged with
playfulness in this instance) with marketing. But it also
demonstrates that elusive quality of affinity – the
hard-to-articulate sense that a particular organisation is
somehow ‘for me’.
58 Employer branding
Part 12: The brand and broader
HR issues
‘Tomorrow’s CEOs will spend more time on their organisation’s reputation as an employer
than with the investment community (and fund managers will worry if they don’t).’
Simon Barrow, Chairman, People in Business
The HR profession increasingly sees the concept of
the employer brand as important to HR strategy.
However, employer brands aren’t the philosopher’s
stone that turns everything to 24-carat gold. Any
impression that they might be omni-competent and
all-powerful probably comes from the fact that many
of their exponents and practitioners are marketing
people who are seldom lacking in enthusiasm and
their ability to persuade.
Employer brands aren’t the answer to every
hard-pressed HR practitioner’s prayers. But because so
many aspects of an enterprise impinge on the brand,
and vice versa, they can be a conduit through which
other HR issues can be identified and addressed.
There’s a close, functional relationship between brand
and product. To use our automotive analogy again,
product means the basics such as engine type and size,
suspension layout, braking system and so on. Brand
means the collection of intangible emotional responses
that any encounter with the product provokes – from
climbing eagerly behind the wheel to just clocking a
sleek coupé on the street. The two may be in conflict:
that soggy gear change or an engine that seems to be
lacking in the ‘va-va-voom’ department will diminish the
brand’s stature and tarnish its reputation.
And the same applies to employer brands. The brand
image you want to project may be of a thrusting,
entrepreneurial enterprise where risk is actively
encouraged and amply rewarded. But this may be
totally at odds with a compensation structure that
rewards tenure rather than tenacity, long service rather
than long hours and that has little or no element of
incentive to it.
Your brand may promise a collegiate, supportive culture.
Someone joining your organisation, perhaps returning to
work after a break or changing career, may find a frosty
reception and support that’s only grudgingly given.
In both these cases, the research that’s part and parcel
of any brand development project reveals issues that
need dealing with irrespective of the way they relate to
the brand. The brand can’t fix those problems, but it
can identify that they exist and need fixing.
Time and time again in any discussion about employer
brands, the issue of alignment comes to the surface,
and its importance is borne out by the recent
CIPD-sponsored research project we’ve referred to
elsewhere in the guide.
In the context of employer brands, alignment simply
means: ‘This is pretty much how I expected and hoped it
would feel like to work here.’ Achieving this all-important
alignment between expectations and reality depends on
another kind of alignment – between the rhetoric an
organisation employs and the reality of what it delivers.
In other words, people in any organisation need to feel
that their ultimate issues will deliver on their promises
and, in general terms, do what they say they’ll do. It
doesn’t always happen: only 34% feel they can trust
their senior management team and, as the report
makes startlingly clear, ‘as employees gain more work
experience, they become more cynical about their
senior managers.’
The implications for brand development are twofold.
First, if senior managers are involved at the outset,
they’ll more readily appreciate the need for alignment.
Employer branding 59
Second, they’ll realise that they’re the people who can
deliver it.
A new brand can make you review your whole
approach to appraisal and promotion. Many
organisations these days talk about ‘living the brand’;
rather fewer make any strenuous attempts to inculcate
on-brand behaviours and measure the extent to which
they really do drive the way the organisation thinks and
operates.
That measurement isn’t difficult. And it provides a great
pretext for beefing up your appraisal system and even
extending the process to include full 360-degree
appraisals.
Resource planning is something many HR practitioners
would love to be able to do, but seldom seem able to –
perhaps because reactive, day-to-day pressures intrude
too deeply into their work.
Before the advent of employer brands, opportunities to
put one’s organisation on the radar of various audience
groups from which future talent might be drawn were
scarce or non-existent. One of the problems was that
your recruitment advertising had relatively little to say
other than ‘come and apply for this great job’. (The
reasons why anyone should consider applying, that is
the employer brand, were seldom articulated.)
But because the brand gives you a coherent and
compelling story about what working for your
organisation might offer and feel like, it also gives you
valid reasons for telling that story to those
constituencies of people you might want to directly
attract at some stage in the future.
Your strategic business plan and marketing research
indicates a growing need for older employees in
customer-facing roles. You don’t need them right now,
but you will sometime. The brand has given you specific
arguments (remember those ‘brand muscles’?) that will
resonate with that audience. Classic PR and the use of
non-traditional channels (how about an ad or article in
Saga magazine?) helps you make the connection. So
when you eventually do need to recruit, you’ll be doing
so against a background of awareness and favourability.
You’ll get the people you need, they’ll know what your
brand means to them and what it asks for in return.
Recruitment will be easier, so your costs will be lower.
You won’t just have caught up, you’ll have got ahead
of the game.
ßecauseyou’revorIhiI
Finally, I’d just like to leave the here and now and try
to take a peep into the future. Just imagine how it
would be if your organisation’s employer brand – the
brand you developed – was seen as a measurable,
Measuringandrevarding‘IivingIhebrand’
A fast-moving consumer goods multinational whose products feature in most kitchen cupboards or
bathroom cabinets wanted to develop and implement an employer brand in the wake of an aggressive
takeover.
Research revealed that in the brand it wanted and, to a large extent, already had, attributes like
‘competitiveness’ and ‘commerciality’ were very much to the fore. On the axis of ‘competitiveness’, the
results were almost literally off the scale – a result that gave the organisation consolation rather than
consternation.
They quickly realised that their compensation structure was at odds with what the brand promised, and
the behaviours it demanded. Equally quickly, they fixed the problem by making ‘living the brand’ a major
factor in managers’ six-monthly appraisals – and an even bigger component of their remuneration.
60 Employer branding
valuable asset – the kind that features in the balance
sheet and all those densely packed pages of the
annual report. Suppose, if yours is the kind of
organisation that’s likely to attract hostile bids from a
rival or from a private equity partnership, the book
value the accountants place on the employer brand
boosts the organisation’s overall value and helps it
mount a spirited, successful defence.
It’s not as fanciful as it may seem. Already the world’s
great brands have acquired a value as assets measured
in terms other than straightforward sales performance
or market share. The methods for measuring their
value (Accenture $6.78 billion, McDonalds
$27.51 billion) are many and varied, but one
particularly clear and robust approach, developed by
the global brand consultancy Interbrand, has certain
features that could, with a little thought, be applied to
employer brands. They talk about ‘forecasted current
and future revenue specifically attributable to the
brand’. For revenue, substitute the measurable
reduction an employer brand makes on the traditional
costs of talent attraction, recruitment and retention.
Remember the formal relationship (again, measurable)
between employee engagement and sales revenue. It’s
interesting that Interbrand’s ‘brand strength analysis’
includes the words ‘loyalty’ and ‘retention’. They’re
not talking about employee retention, but we are –
and we can place a value on it.
This guide is to help you get started on your employer
branding journey. Puzzling over how to measure the
financial value of the employer brand won’t yet be a
priority for many. But in future, it could be another
way for the HR community to prove the real value it
adds to an enterprise.
Employer branding 61
Thirty things you need to
remember about employer brands
(or may never have known)
1 Like all brands, employer brands are essentially
marketing concepts and constructs.
2 The tools and methodologies of employer brand
development are substantially the same as those for
consumer or corporate brand development.
3 Employer brands are at least as much about
retention and engagement as they are about
recruitment.
4 Never trust anyone who tries to wrap employer
brands in a cloak of mystique or jargon.
5 They’re not just for the big, glamorous PLCs with
their own high-profile consumer brands. They’re for
every local authority, charity, SME, government
department, academic organisation that needs to
recruit, retain and engage good people.
6 The basic difference between talent attraction the
old way and the brand-based way is the
introduction of research.
7 Employer brands can support corporate brands, and
vice versa.
8 Every employer brand is an investment that should
and must demonstrate a return comparable to other
forms of business investment.
9 To prove a brand’s effectiveness and demonstrate its
ROI, you need to accurately measure your current
performance in recruitment and retention.
10 The highest ROI ever recorded by an employer
brand was 290%.
11 Starting a brand development project doesn’t
commit you to completing it: you can walk away at
any stage, and every stage will yield its own value.
12 Developing an employer brand proves that HR can
handle big, strategic projects and issues.
13 The shortest realistic time to develop a brand is six
to eight weeks: in reality, you should allow a lot
longer. Its value will last and grow for as many
years, and probably longer.
14 The biggest cost element of an employer brand
project will be research.
15 You already have an employer brand, because your
organisation has a reputation as an employer. It may
not be the brand you want or deserve, but it’s there
just the same.
16 One of the first employer brands – and one that still
enjoys a strong, well-defined reputation – is Civil
Service Fast Stream.
17 Probably the first commercial organisation to take
the issue of employer brand seriously was British
Airways way back in the late 1980s.
18 You can’t develop a brand on your own – you need
to involve marketing, PR, your internal
communications team.
19 Your recruitment website is one of the most potent
expressions of your brand, enabling potential
applicants (and your own people) to see your values
in action and experience the reality of working for
your organisation.
62 Employer branding
20 The public sector has done as much to embrace
the concept of employer brands as the
commercial sector.
21 One of the keys to a successful brand is to ensure
that expectation is fully aligned with the reality of
working for your organisation.
22 Before you’re tempted to launch your brand
externally, make sure it’s fully communicated,
understood and embedded internally.
23 Research for the brand may show up weaknesses in
your product – the basic features of working for
your organisation.
24 Brands breed engagement – the discretionary time
and effort that people put into their jobs, and that
customers or service users notice.
25 Engagement – and the financial value of
engagement – can be accurately measured.
26 A brand toolkit will give recruiters and line
managers the flexibility they need, and the brand
consistency you want.
27 Without compromising consistency, a brand can
be tailored to create the greatest resonance with
a number of different audiences and talent
market sectors.
28 Your employer brand can give new focus and
consistency to your ongoing employee
communications.
29 If employer brands are a big HR issue today, they’ll
be even bigger tomorrow.
30 Employer brand development is attracting
managers from classic marketing backgrounds to
move into HR.
Employer branding 63
Find out more...
EmpIoyerßranding.TheIaIesI!adorIhe!uIure
!orHß?(2007)
vvv.cipd.co.uklresearchinsighIs
In this report eight leading commentators consider
employer branding and its current and future role in
people management.
The questions they consider include: What is employer
branding? Where has it come from? Does it really
work? How do you get started? And what is its future
and the outlook for HR?
Contributions from:
• Helen Rosethorn, CEO, Bernard Hodes Group
and Job Mensink, Senior Director Recruitment
Marketing, Philips International
• Dr Shirley Jenner and Stephen Taylor, Manchester
Metropolitan University Business School
• Glyn House, Operations Director, including HR and
Marketing, wagamama
• Simon Barrow, Chairman, People in Business
• Suneal Housley, Country Manager, Universum
• Professor Graeme Martin, Glasgow University
ßecruiImenI,ßeIenIionandTurnover(2007)
vvv.cipd.co.uklsurveys
Annual CIPD survey looking at trends in recruitment,
retention and employee turnover. This survey of
resourcing practices includes a section on employer
branding.
WorkingLi!e.EmpIoyeeaIIiIudesand
engagemenI(2006)
vvv.cipd.co.uklbooksIore
Available from the CIPD bookstore, this report by
Kingston University and Ipsos/MORI contains survey
findings from a nationwide survey of 2,000 employees
in the UK. It gives you:
• a picture of the experience of work in the UK today
• an insight into the drivers of employee engagement
• recommendations for improving employee
engagement levels in your own organisation.
HovEngagedareßriIishEmpIoyees?(2006)
vvv.cipd.co.uklsurveys
Summary of the study of employee engagement and
attitudes by Kingston University and Ipsos/MORI above,
available from the CIPD.
64 Employer branding
We explore leading-edge people management and development issues through our research.
Our aim is to share knowledge, increase learning and understanding, and help our members
make informed decisions about improving practice in their organisations.
We produce many resources on employer issues including guides, books, practical tools, surveys
and research reports. We also organise a number of conferences, events and training courses.
Please visit www.cipd.co.uk to find out more.
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
151 The Broadway London SW19 1JQ
Tel: 020 8612 6200 Fax: 020 8612 6201
Email: cipd@cipd.co.uk Website: www.cipd.co.uk
Incorporated by Royal Charter Registered charity no.1079797 I
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Contents

Acknowledgements Foreword Part 1: Introduction Part 2: Before we get started… Part 3: How did we get here? Part 4: What is a brand? Part 5: How to tell if you need an employer brand Part 6: Making the case, getting the cash Part 7: Overcoming objections Part 8: Choosing your partner Part 9: From plan to practice Part 10: Every picture tells a story Part 11: Building brand loyalty, creating brand equity Part 12: The brand and broader HR issues Thirty things you need to remember about employer brands Find out more... 2
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Employer branding 

Acknowledgements

Thank you to those individuals who have contributed significantly to the shaping of this guide: Helen Rosethorn, Bernard Hodes Simon Barrow, People in Business Graeme Martin, University of Glasgow David Roberts, Orange Alison Ballantyne, Scottish Power Rebecca Martin-Cortez, Argos Anne Spearman, British Library Georgina Whiteley and Katrina Fox, Vodafone Lorraine Homer and Nicky Ivory, McDonalds Lorraine Taylor, RBS Group Howard McMinn and Sophie Ling, Deloitte and Touche Theresa Proctor, Tesco Michelle Carr and Karen Scott, Tower Hamlets Sue Hossent, Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Neil Cox, Baker Tilly Michelle Armitage, Andrews and Partners Ltd Tim Pointer, Diesel Nicola Wilton, Paperchase Debbie Bullock, Lakeland

This project required an enormous amount of research and the CIPD is immensely grateful to all the other organisations and individuals who gave of their time in a variety of different ways to ensure this research was relevant and up to date. 

Employer branding

engagement and retention policies. Barkers. and project-managed by Andrew Platt Higgins. retain and/or engage both potential and existing employees.co.cipd. A strong employer brand should connect an organisation’s values. Results from CIPD research show that companies are struggling to attract. This work is supported by an interactive practical tool www.uk/tools If you would is comment on this research then please email research@cipd. recruit. These are reported as top priorities for HR in many countries around the world. But we suggest here that the most sensible. promises a particular kind of employment experience.uk/ research/_empbranding. Employer branding is how an organisation markets what it has to offer to both potential and existing employees. Brand management is a well-established concept – why can it not be directly transferable into companies to help drive internal value from a company’s most valuable asset – its people? A company brand is used to gain customer loyalty and therefore increased profits/success through market differentiation. case studies from a very wide selection of employers and organisations illustrate why and how they have developed and communicated an employee brand to attract. Planning Director.cipd. What will this guide deliver? This guide starts at the beginning and shows the HR practitioner how to develop and communicate an employer brand.uk Further research and insights on employer branding from the CIPD can be found at www. In support. Employer branding  .co. Barkers. engage and retain talent for their organisations. An employer brand can be used for similar effect by HR and organisations. and appeals to those people who will thrive and perform to their best in its culture. people strategy and HR policies and be intrinsically linked to a company brand. Head of Employer Branding.htm This guide has been written for the CIPD by Paul Walker.co.Foreword Why is the CIPD interested in employer branding… and what is the link to HR? Employer branding seems to be offering HR an intriguing model by which to link their people strategy and the company brand to achieve differentiation in the labour market. to compete effectively in the labour market and drive employee loyalty through effective recruitment. workable definition goes something like this: An employer brand is a set of attributes and qualities – often intangible – that makes an organisation distinctive. The number of definitions and theories about employer brands can make your head spin.

So the time is right for a guide that lives on the same planet as every hard-pressed HR practitioner. arguments and counterarguments that zoom back and forth like tennis balls on Wimbledon’s Centre Court. jargonladen read. It’s good to see they’re receiving the attention they deserve. when virtually every recruitment advertising agency lists employer branding among the services it offers. challenging. this guide hasn’t arrived a moment too soon. At the risk of mixing metaphors.Part 1: Introduction ‘The power of the brand in all its forms is likely to become even more deeply embedded in our cultural landscape. used some of the techniques that feature prominently in brand development projects. But if people don’t fully understand what they are and what they can and can’t do. done the work. well… just a little late in the day? also based on the author’s own practical. faced up to the challenges – and derived the benefits. The HR profession is seeking new ways to demonstrate the true value it brings to an enterprise. organisations. The CIPD’s own recent survey shows that recruitment and retention are big. when the CIPD itself has already published on the topic. Read. it’s the accumulated experience. something as logical and common sense as employer brand development shouldn’t need one.’ But if we look at the employment market. sharp-end experience of actually doing employer brand development for organisations ranging from multinationals to individual NHS trusts over a period of seven years.’ Dr Shirley Jenner and Stephen Taylor. It’s breakfasts.’ That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. react. But what is its purpose? And why is it appearing now? After all. the more it will have served its purpose. not surprisingly. ‘third sector’ – who shared their experiences with the CIPD and with the author and his colleagues in an extensive programme of research that. And that’s the reason why this guide is so timely. with Amazon able to show you at least one hardback treatise on the employer brand. public sector. ‘this is how you must do it’ guide.  Employer branding . the learning points of dozens of people who have taken the plunge. relax. the economy and how the fundamental relationship between people and work is changing. And the more its pages become well-thumbed or metaphorically stained. ‘Employer brands are very much in fashion at the moment. And enjoy. that seeks to teach. the best way to think of this guide – and to actually use it – is as one of those ‘I can’t imagine life without it’ cookery books that you clutch thankfully in one hand while you stir the béchamel sauce with the other. This is that guide. the knowledge. isn’t yet another guide. big headaches for many There’s no glossary of technical terms. They’re in the unique position of being able to say: ‘This is how it worked for us. there’s a danger they’ll go the way of power Employer brands and the whole discipline and practice of developing and implementing them aren’t new. commercial sector. Manchester Metropolitan University Business School If you’re bracing yourself for a long. So this isn’t a prescriptive. It also says that. that mixes the authority of collective experience with a degree of humility. The ‘war for talent’ – that HR catchphrase of the turn of the century – is turning hot again. It’s based on the collective experience of many different organisations – large and small. learn. practise. big hair and padded shoulders. and theories that make your head spin. not preach. therefore this is how it can work for you.

other employees and your external talent market(s).Part 2: Before we get started. make sure that you can deliver what the brand promises. You need to develop relationships with other disciplines. You’ll get a sense of how big a task the new brand faces. Measurement. You might find it useful to see the format a typical employer brand development and communication project follows. that the value proposition is one your current employees can recognise and believe in. Don’t forget to measure the current perfomance. You’ll learn more about the specific activities later in this guide. more probably. maintenance and optimisation Employer branding  . the four stages of a project. the brand is starting to make its presence felt in day-to-day internal communications. both external and internal. including website • probe internal response to new brand • probe external perception • measure improvements in recruitment and retention metrics • complete application of brand to candidate journey • measure uptake of ‘living the brand’ Qualitative research. and it will be clear to all that the brand is delivering real value. By now. Implementation and communication • apply brand to: • induction programme/material • applicant information • briefing for recruitment consultancies • interview/assessment process • launch brand internally • apply brand fully to talentattracting programmes/materials. and prepare your business case. You – or.. Analysis. You’ll almost certainly have some of the research data you need already. your external partner in the project – will be creating your brand’s ‘stem cells’ or its unique ‘DNA’ and starting to build it from there. will reassure you that the new brand is perceived the way you’d intended. interpretation and creation Before you rush to apply the brand to your next big recruitment push. You’ll start to get a clear picture of what your organisation stands for. For the first time you’ll be able to demonstrate improvements on your original baseline measures. But in the meantime. offers and requires as an employer – its distinctive value proposition. Project stages • • • • • Typical actions senior management workshop internal and external focus group employee survey candidate journey audit building rapport with marketing/PR/communications teams • ensuring top-level buy-in • select external partners • apply baseline metrics • define brand attributes • define overall employment value proposition • associate specific behaviours with each attribute • ‘flex’ attributes for each talent market segment • overall creative brief • initial creative expression of brand Discovery This is the critical stage between input and output. and what happens in each one. are outlined in Figure 1 below. and that the candidates will experience full alignment between what they expect and what they experience. and in your ‘people practices’.. Figure 1: Employer brand development and communication What’s happening At this stage you’ll get a firm fix on how your brand is perceived by your top management.

technology and communications Physical working environment Public relations Performance management Careers website Leadership and management behaviours Learning and development Employee communications Recruitment advertising 0 20 40 60 80 % actively managing this factor n=274  Employer branding . Figure 2: Aspects actively managed through employer branding programme Other Campus/schools recruitment Diversity communications Compensation and benefits strategy IT. 280 people took part in the survey. We carried out an online survey on the CIPD website. asking for responses to key questions about employer brands and their development. including the CIPD’s own published material. high-profile organisations in both the commercial and public sectors shared their experiences of brands and brand development. and worked to give us an idea of what ‘best practice’ might look like.Part 3: How did we get here? Background to the project We conducted two discovery days in which senior HR people from respected. We searched through a wide range of papers and articles about all aspects of employer brands. We conducted telephone interviews with senior HR people who had direct experience of developing and communicating employer brands. They also supplied two of the three full-length case studies you’ll find later in this guide. with particular emphasis on small and medium-sized enterprises.

What CIPD members told us The brand playing an active part in managing recruitment advertising and employee communications? Yes. More worrying is the apparent imbalance between corporate/brand communications and the HR director. you’d expect those two bars to protrude way beyond others in Figure 2. More concerning still is that ‘no real or definitive point of ownership’. Employer branding  . a brand gives you the means to engage with both of these key audiences. From the online survey results it’s encouraging to see that responsibility clearly rests with the leadership team for most respondents. and performance measurement. and an impact on. suggesting that he or she may not yet be quite ‘up there’ where the big decisions are made. other issues like leadership and management behaviours. This suggests that more organisations than one might expect recognise the importance of ‘living the brand’. But look closer. notice how respondents believe that the brand has a relationship to. One surprise – and a disappointment – is that campus/schools recruitment seems to be relatively low on the agenda.

communicating and maintaining an employer brand.  Employer branding . What’s particularly encouraging is that so many clearly recognise the impact the brand can and should have on productivity and service delivery.Figure 3: Employer branding objectives ranked by importance Reduce costs of HR Reduce attrition Compete for labour (national/international) Improve productivity/delivery Increase employee satisfaction Compete for labour (locally) Improve recruitment performance Alignment to vision/values 0 20 40 60 80 100 % objective is important or very important for respondents n=274 Respondents were very clear about their objectives in developing.

Employer branding  . effectively de-coupled. not a cost. learning and development Employer brand programmes are often a waste of money Only big employers can find the resources to develop and maintain a strong employer brand There’s no clear model or template for employer branding work in an organisation like mine It’s clear how employer branding activity can be measured An employer brand is inextricably linked to an organisation’s reputation for its products and services Employer branding should be thought an investment. even though there’s a presumption that employer branding is only relevant to corporate giants • HR not perceived having the ‘clout’ to get involved in strategic functions • fragmentation of workforce militating against consistency of message.Figure 4: Characteristics of employer branding You can’t try to create a single employer brand in an organisation that employs a diverse range of people Public sector employers should not bother with employer brand development In my organisation. with poor communication between departments involved in the process • lack of recognition of employer branding as a vital element of corporate strategy • size of organisation: paradoxically. not a cost 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 % agree or strongly agree n=267 Good news all round in Figure 4 – particularly the belief that brand performance can be measured and can therefore be shown to be an investment. we could never get HR. For some organisations the two need to be. The challenges and problems respondents experienced included: • fragmentation of ownership. and can be. line management. bigger organisations reported more problems than smaller ones. communications. But some organisations clearly need to challenge their assumption of an automatic linkage between the employer brand and the reputation of their goods and services.

the brand comes into play to give people a basis for choice. but who feel that such strategic issues are their natural fiefdoms. And why not? After all. it’s useful to have another way of saying. particularly in organisations with prominent. irrational though that process may often be. Orange Employer Brand Manager ‘The branded employment product simplifies choice. It’s all very confusing. including employer brands – are marketing concepts and marketing constructs. another army steps in to claim ownership – the management consultants (and even the actuarial practices). reassures prospective employees about quality and reduces risk. “This is what we expect of you. My job is trying to speak marketing to HR people and HR to marketing people. there seems to be another fierce little conflict going on – for the ownership of the employer brand and its development and implementation. which probably explains why Oracle’s What often gets lost in the mêlée is the fact that brands – any kind of brand.’ Senior HR practitioner at first discovery day Alongside the war for talent. valuable consumer brands. HR practitioners agonise. And feeling good makes you want to tell other people about it. Manchester Metropolitan University Business School ‘We can all have those performance conversations… but by trying to communicate the brand values. say of their approach: ‘We took the best approaches from the marketing community around brand-building and segmentation and applied them to the HR world. but I sit with my colleagues in brand.’ David Roberts. Don’t forget that was the main purpose of the original. but about that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: employee engagement. But then there’s a school of thought that says that employer brands are not really about talent attraction. time runs on.’ Dr Shirley Jenner and Stephen Taylor. And while the debate rages. And today. most organisations see the employer brand. problems pile up and great opportunities are missed. who have little interest in or knowledge of marketing and marketing communications. What often gets lost in the mêlée is the fact that brands – any kind of brand. that supremely brand-savvy organisation that supplied the excellent case study you’ll find later in this guide. At that point. brands are about reputation.Part 4: What is a brand? ‘I’m part of the HR community. as a tool to help them recruit. 0 Employer branding . initially at least. It’s significant that Orange. But within those organisations there may well be a separate tussle going on between HR and marketing.” It’s a more positive way. physical brand burnt onto the rumps of several thousand head of cattle – to distinguish them from all those other critters from that ranch on the far side of the hill. There’s no shortage of protagonists.’ Brands make people want to buy something and feel good they’ve bought it for a long time afterwards. The main forces take the form of an alliance between HR departments and their recruitment advertising agencies. They’re also about differentiation. when technology makes products (and jobs) increasingly similar. Finally. including employer brands – are marketing concepts and marketing constructs. it turns you into an unsuspecting brand advocate.

When Marks & Spencer seemed to have lost the plot a few years ago. you can simply charge more on the basis of the strength of your brand. we don’t pay the highest salaries. no profile. Employer brands are more like consumer or corporate brands than many people realise or acknowledge. built up over long decades in the British psyche. when that individual looks round after their first few months.) With a fully formed brand. feels that things are pretty much how they’d hoped and been promised. you’ll want to tell people about it. But the real value comes later. you’ll have plenty of other areas in which you can compete – successfully – for talent. nearly identical) call centres. At the end of the day. The engine may have stalled. and plenty of other good things that people look for in their next job.legendary founder and CEO. the two call centres still remain as they always were. The point is that one call centre has pre-empted and outsmarted the other by painting a realistic picture of what it will feel like to work there. no matter how skilful and creative it may be. your spontaneous advocacy will cut much. nearly identical to each other. and getting embroiled in some crazy kind of auction in which you and your closest competitors try to outbid each other on salaries. They support premium pricing How often have you shelled out a few extra pence (or maybe many extra pounds) on a product whose brand you recognise. the other is still vague and fuzzy. Any differences may be of style rather than substance. Larry Ellison. much more ice than any amount of that company’s advertising. is on record as saying. you’re forced to compete on money. They like working for us and they know our name will look good on their CV. In the world of employment marketing. If you feel good about the car. They’ll be more engaged in their Employer branding  . Like many organisations. mobile phone company. ‘Your brand is what people say about you when you’ve left the room. but is expressed rather differently. their reputation. but people are queuing to join us. It has made sure that what it promises potential employees – how it actually feels to work there – is pretty much how it really does feel. (Anyone who’s ever recruited in the graduate market will know just how this feels. the same benefit of a well-developed brand applies. All brands function and deliver value in the same way. saw them through. With no brand. Its recruitment advertising and all the material an applicant sees contain the same messages and share a common look and feel. and that external promise aligns with internal reality. that bond – often irrational but always powerful – that characterises the relationship people have with all the really important brands in their lives. you may find yourself simply throwing money at a recruitment problem. if you feel that it’s done what it said on the tin and actually delivered on the kind of promises that attracted you in the first place. You’ll be joining the ranks of those fortunate organisations who can say: ‘Of course. like this: They achieve differentiation One of the questions that people raised in our research and that clients have often asked me in the past goes like this:‛What are we offering that’s different or special? How can I claim that our call centre/NHS trust/ retail operation/civil service department/local authority is really any different to any other? It’s a good. trust and admire? In consumer marketing.’ They inspire loyalty Any marketer knows that the greatest value of their brand doesn’t come with the customer’s initial purchase but with the way that customer will stay loyal to the brand for many years to come. flexible shift patterns. Let’s take the imaginary case of two apparently similar (in practice. It has taken steps to build its reputation among the local community. but that’s not the point. valid question and it deserves a full answer. no reputation. But one has taken the trouble to communicate these clearly and consistently over a period of time. and starts to feel that affinity. Both offer excellent training. The real differentiation lies in the fact that the perception one has created is clearly delineated.’ And think of the way reputation has seen many great brands safely through a rocky patch. An employer brand will stimulate that ‘initial purchase’ by attracting enough of the right kind of applicant. but the flywheel of that massive reputation kept on turning. bank or holiday company you’ve chosen. And when you do.

And at the same early stage. Where loyalty is at least in part logical and often publicly expressed. It’s a sign of psychological engagement – that all-important aspect of overall engagement that. in which in a social setting they dreaded the question. in the first ad or webpage that initiates an individual’s relationship with an employing organisation. And even at the earliest stages of talent attraction. And the corollary of that is that. On that basis. more intuitive and harder to articulate. So. one of the outputs was naturally an articulation of ‘the sort of organisation we are’ and ‘the sort of people we need to attract and retain’. showing more of that ‘discretionary time and effort’ that’s one of the basic measures of employee engagement. the Service’s senior management team saw the brand as a much-needed opportunity to identify the type of person it didn’t need and whose presence they felt was inhibiting progress and blocking change. the brand creates an opportunity to identify and create a bond with the ‘right’ people – those who will feel an affinity with the organisation and who will thrive and perform to their fullest potential in its culture. the feeling that the organisation I work for is somehow ‘for me’. is one of the key drivers of superior individual and collective performance. ‘so who do you work for?’ and felt furtive or evasive in their replies. The brand creates an opportunity to identify and create a bond with the ‘right’ people – those who will feel an affinity with the organisation and who will thrive and perform to their fullest potential in its culture. affinity is something quieter. It’s simply When I developed the employer brand for HM Prison Service.work. but people who understand and espouse its distinctive vision and values. affinity is another dimension of differentiation.  Employer branding . in the context of employer brands. They’ll feel proud of their organisation and what it does. An employer brand can articulate to them what ‘the new way’ means in terms of beliefs. An employer brand has as much value in deterring the wrong kind of people from an organisation as in attracting the right kind – ‘right’ meaning not just natural members of a cabal of corporate clones. The notion of affinity is central to the concept of the employer brand – arguably to a greater degree than consumer brands. if it’s right for the kind of person I am. They won’t feel forced into the kind of defensive response that some of the participants in our discovery days described. as the CIPD’s own publication Working Life: Employee attitudes and engagement 2006 points out. the opportunity also exists to gently dissuade and deter the ‘wrong’ people. the constituency of people who won’t or can’t adapt becomes bigger. And if all else fails. it’s wrong for a different kind of person. it can indicate to them that the time might be right to start looking around. attitudes and behaviours: it can help them change and catch up. more private and personal – but every bit as strong and as valuable to the organisation. As organisational or cultural change become increasingly frequent and radical.

distinctive features than you would wish – it may fail to do the job of differentiating you from your competitors in your talent market or markets. in my own experience. more devoid of clear. they’ll slag us off. be more vague and fuzzy. then decline your kind offer of a job. they do an excellent job.’ Senior HR manager. at least in terms of yielding a shortlist of good candidates. But. But the figures that really shed light on the state of your employer brand are more specific. It simply means that your organisation has a reputation as a place to work. there are some classic symptoms that suggest something needs to be done. And for many organisations. But while you ponder the state of your brand and cogitate about what you should do with and about it.Part 5: How to tell if you need an employer brand ‘Our new chief exec opened the local paper and spotted five of our recruitment ads on the same spread – all different. Another key metric is the proportion of candidates who simply fade away during the application process – particularly those who. It may not be the reputation you would want. in all probability. the presence. remember it’s their logo on the ad. It may help to see how your costs compare with the usually accepted average for your industry or for a particular recruitment category. ‘What would this outfit be like to work for?’ as well as generating response from enough candidates who fit the candidate specification. The actual costs of such a failure need some work if they are to be fully quantified. Where brand profile is concerned. a participant in our first discovery day ‘If people apply for a job or when they come for an interview. One of the most telling metrics of all is how much you spend on recruitment consultants. It may be stronger or weaker than you suppose. That created the platform to try and fix this thing. and the brand profile that would make their recruitment advertising fully effective. some with just little captions managers had done for themselves. the catalysts that start the process of developing their employer brands and ensuring they derive full benefit from them. And that impacts on our consumer brand as well. Their advertising would simply have too much to do – answer the basic question. or that accurately reflects the internal reality of what working for your organisation actually feels like. and they have a bad experience. but the effort will Employer branding  . It will. many recruiters confess to using consultants because their own organisations lack the reputation. these are the triggers. after several interviews and having shown bags of enthusiasm. such as graduates. not yours. The traditional cost-per-hire measure is useful – but only up a point. Your chief financial officer asks to ‘have a word’ about escalating recruitment costs Many organisations fail to establish their true costs of recruitment because the figures such an exercise would reveal would be pretty scary. There are many reasons why organisations use recruitment consultants and. Recruitment consultancies deliver the goods – but at a price.’ Senior HR practitioner at first discovery day The first point to realise here is that you already have one That doesn’t mean that one of your HR predecessors went out and developed one.

Nevertheless. And the bigger the purchase decision. local authorities are always going to be the butt of carping criticism. but with barely 19% prepared to do so without being asked. Put a measure on the value of management time that must be devoted to reinterviewing. And do you know what? I really love it. the greater the sense of disillusion and let-down.’ That was the comment of a participant in one of the discovery days that provided so many insights for this guide. you may even be able to point to the cost of lost business or delayed projects. engagement and advocacy. they’ve focused on defining what they want their distinctive employment experience to be. instead of fighting their corner and saying. complex and important the ‘product’ (like a new job). and ensuring that it becomes an everyday reality for their employees. there’s real value in appearing in this and any other tables that identify and recognise good employers and good employment practices. but they struggle to articulate why. People who like the job they do and the place they work want to become advocates for it. Some of your best people are leaving after less than  months You’ve got serious problems. What still surprises me is how many smaller. not just because of its high profile. What the process of developing an employer brand does is to identify the reasons why: it gives shape and coherence to what would otherwise remain a powerful but unfocused feeling. An employer brand arms them with the arguments they need. The Sunday Times survey is. have simply thrown in the towel and opted for the soft option.’ In a recent CIPD-sponsored survey. And the greater the likelihood that you’ll tell people about your bad experiences. ‘Yes. and often towards the upper end. I just tell them I work in HR and leave it at that. You feel uncomfortable telling people who you work for ‘I’ve given up telling people I work for the local council. but so are many other organisations. they’ve given themselves three of the greatest benefits of an employer brand – loyalty. to say nothing of how good it feels as you make your first entry into the charts. But consider the cost of having to re-advertise. because their relatively small size means they don’t need to. brand-based talent attraction advertising. I do work for so-and-so organisation. in many different organisations. This lack of alignment is one of the cardinal brand sins: any brand that doesn’t deliver – from the airline that leaves you stranded to the credit card company that leaves you fuming – is shooting itself in the foot. Depending on the nature of the role in question. Working Life: Employee attitudes and engagement 2006 Many people instinctively feel good about the And in so doing. for my money. less than half of the respondents said they would encourage friends and family to do business with their organisation: just over half would recommend it as a place to work. one of the most valuable. the more You admire your competitors’ recruitment advertising more than your own I suppose it’s only natural that the one community that has done more than any other to claim ownership of employer brands and their development is recruitment advertising – or ‘employment marketing’. And the saddest thing of all is the sense that many people. but because it’s based on how real people genuinely feel and what they actually say about working for their organisation. almost niche organisations regularly appear in the rankings. Your managing director wonders why your organisation doesn’t feature in the Sunday Times ‘Best 00 places to work’ A fixation with league tables has almost become a national disease. people who should be brand advocates become brand saboteurs. and what they actually discover.  Employer branding .be worth it since it shows the true cost of failing to excite and engage (there’s that word again) the right candidates as you and they go through the courtship rituals of the application/candidate-management process. to use a term organisations they work for. Okay. Instead. They won’t have spent a fortune on high-profile. And that they’ll tell someone else and… In that way. Because what’s happening is that newcomers experience a disconnect between what they assumed (or were led to believe) working for your organisation would feel like.

rap overspending knuckles and find scapegoats. either. employment marketing communications) is one of the most powerful and important manifestations of disappointment will almost certainly lead you to try something different next time and ask your agency for yet another set of creative proposals. or even exclusively. The other problem is that too many organisations have rushed to express their shiny new employer brand externally without having made sure that it accurately and honestly reflects the internal reality of what it feels like to work for that organisation. And so you’ll miss the steady build-up of your brand – its distinctive features. and the root of their disappointment is the fact that.Defence Internal Audit: from villains to heroes Within the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and in the accountancy profession generally. when what they really mean is little more than a new house style. it’s created the widespread impression that employer brands are mainly. Defence Internal Audit (DIA) was seen as those nasty people whose job it is to point accusing fingers. But why do so many organisations feel that their recruitment advertising. “that’s just not us”. Your instinctive really better defined as campaigns – sophisticated. For a start. actually saying – there’s no clear proposition.’ that more accurately describes what this corner of the marketing communications industry does these days. therefore no distinctive identity for the organisation. People relate to the brands in their lives almost as they relate to other people. But having said all that. when what they really mean is little more than a new house style. But they don’t want shocks – the feeling that the person they thought they knew and liked has somehow changed. for all its impact and originality. two delegates claimed that the new representation of their organisation had initially surprised and even shocked them. Employer branding  . innovative (and highly successful) creative approach to recruitment advertising revealed a very different picture and effectively repositioned DIA as the team that helps managers manage financial risk. about the look and feel of your recruitment ads. there’s little clarity in what the advertising is You still hear clients asking for ‘a really wellbranded campaign’. But a few minutes later we realised the new brand was exactly us – it’s just that we’d never seen it that way before. It made us feel better about the organisation and our own jobs. They seek and enjoy a long-term relationship that may spring a few pleasant surprises as the brand develops and grows in clarity and confidence. but campaigns nonetheless. And with some honourable exceptions. even some of the entrants in the ‘best employer brand’ category of the various award schemes that lighten up the HR calendar are an employer brand. is disappointing and lacking a certain something? Are they right. A modest employer brand project based on some simple focus groups and resulting in a bold. or is it just the same human instinct that says one’s next door neighbour’s picnic or barbecue is always better than one’s own? I suspect they are right. we said at the start that an employer brand is a marketing concept or construct. But this has created problems. ‘Our first reaction was. values and personality – in the minds of your target audience. recruitment advertising (or rather. creative campaigns. in whatever medium. You still hear clients asking for ‘a really well-branded campaign’. And that’s because they haven’t identified the essence of what their organisation is and offers as an employer. When the brand was launched at the DIA’s national management conference. for all the display of consummate creative craft skills. Remember. No brand. And no consistency.

it suggests the organisation must be doing something right if mums and dads are happy to see their kids following in their footsteps – and maybe even joining their own parents who are thoroughly enjoying part-time work as they head towards retirement. using the brand at every touchpoint. even in the days of online application forms and applicant tracking systems. ud m dy w ar m ’a ct ivi ty FIRST MONDAY As se ss m en t The candidate journey: the brand has a role to play every inch of the way. brand Remember rejection affinity. ideally. For the candidate. This is where too many good letter is equally candidates drop important – leave off the radar. Is interviewing/ Ideally new starters hiring manager will feel they’ve briefed on the brand? psychologically An impressive joined before their brand exemplar. can still be long and complex) should be one of growing familiarity and engagement (see Figure 5). with too many applications coming from the same communities they’ve always come from Amazingly. stimulate engagement. What’s needed is absolute consistency of message. in the candidate feeling they have psychologically joined the organisation even before they turn up in the flesh on their first Monday. in whatever form or medium. Start Ap p pr lica in tio to n r o fo nl rm in e W eb sit e In te rv iew (if ap pl ica bl e) Of fe rl et te r ho Br w an w d-b e a Pe do sed rso thi w na ngs elc o l m me rou me an ss nd p ag ag h ack er e f ere /b ro . Should bring the brand and its attributes dramatically to life. Figure 5: The candidate journey Does it relate competencies to on-brand behaviours? Managed diligently. but the style and tone in which it receives them. has created certain expectations – which subsequent material and the candidate’s experience have failed to meet. the whole application process (which. use every approach measure opportunity to ‘brand fit’? grow emotional engagement. physical start date. Keep in Does your assessment touch. smoothly growing engagement and affinity. cosy and faintly reassuring about such a phenomenon – something rather traditional and British. ‘K ee p –  Employer branding – In du ct io n . Your workforce lacks the balance and diversity you want and need. by identifying not just the messages the candidate needs to receive. incremental process. There’s something quaint. culminating. even in the days of fragmenting communities and high personal mobility (although not. the candidate will undergo an emotional roller-coaster ride in which the initial high is quickly followed by a sense of disappointment and uncertainty. This gap could be several weeks – even months. apparently. Make it soon! Use it to embed on-brand attitudes and behaviour. And let’s face it. the candidate journey will be one steadily. social mobility). them feeling good about the brand. the local paper will print it. style and tone at every contact between the organisation and the candidate. you sent out  application packs… and got  back What’s almost certainly happened here is that your recruitment advertising. It should be a smooth. In reality. And it’s the brand that makes that possible. The organisation’s PR machine will love it.For your last big recruitment drive. you still come across organisations that can boast employees from three generations of the same family.

they start to infect those around them. A situation in which successive waves of applicants arrive. it can create that all-important alignment between the anticipated and the actual experience. with the misalignment between what they anticipated and what they actually experienced. from the same communities means the organisation will lack any profile outside those communities. In this context. Their sense of disillusion may stop just short of the point at which they write their resignation letter. What’s happened is that the organisation’s employer brand – the articulation of the distinctive employment experience it offers – will have been created and communicated not by the organisation itself. consistent messages. And the aspects of the employment experience that become the stuff of local folklore may not be those that the organisation needs to emphasise and promote. But diversity – or lack of it – isn’t the only issue here. will express Employer branding  . the BBC allowed itself to be seen as the natural destination for liberal arts graduates who didn’t want to dirty their hands with anything too overtly and squalidly commercial. You sense that your workforce has more cynics than optimists Cynicism is the corporate equivalent of Japanese knotweed – insidious. the values it espouses and the employment experience it offers and how things appear to those working closer to the coalface. the research that distinguishes the development of an employer brand from any other kind of employment marketing initiative will reveal any gaps between how the senior management team sees the organisation. style and tonality right the way through the application process. almost by a process of osmosis. And a situation in which organisations have allowed their employer brands to be determined and communicated not by themselves but by the markets they seek to recruit from isn’t an exclusively local phenomenon. the London Fire Brigade had to fight long and hard to reduce its dependence on applicants from white males from families where joining the brigade was almost a tradition.’ they say. what it will actually feel like on a day-to-day basis. And local perception may lag well behind the changing reality. what it offers and demands. to explore alternative pools of talent.’ And as they do stick it out. Its seeds can be sown early in an individual’s employment with an organisation. ‘It’s a job. realistic expectations of what it means to work for that particular organisation. But others may not be so lucky in finding their next job. ‘Oh well. Its reputation will have been made not by any concerted. the brand development process. brand-based communications initiatives. pernicious. First.But all is not as well as it seems – not nearly as well. the sense of let-down will be so strong that they’ll simply vote with their feet. And at the very least. Because the supply has always been there. the function – and the value – of an employer brand is as much to say ‘this is how it won’t be if you work here’ as to paint the picture of how it will be. it can set detailed. with the result that subsequent starters may experience a sense of shock that ‘it’s not a bit like what my dad said it would be’. including new arrivals. And because we’re talking about a generational phenomenon here. Through carefully planned. The employer brand can address this issue in two ways. For some. one that goes back several decades. Right across London. those communities will be predominantly white. like driving a black cab or getting a job in ‘The Print’. In addition. future discomfort lies. but by countless conversations over the garden fence. and the more caution needs to be exercised over any claims or promises the brand may make. the harder the brand has to work. (The brand) can create that all-important alignment between the anticipated and the actual experience. And in the seeds of such apparent comfort. particularly with a proper creative input. and hard to get rid of once it’s established. joining. induction and beyond. The bigger the gap. isn’t it? I guess I’ll stick it out for a bit. but by the communities from which it draws its talent. For years. the organisation has never felt the need to spread the net wider. and in some ways this is even more damaging.

limiting and frankly naff vocabulary with which such key issues are all too often expressed. In terms of our people brand. While taking account of the required separation. separate regimes. with our chief executive as overt leader of the ScottishPower employment experience work. They’ll feel more confident and less suspicious. That – together with the management of existing perceptions – would inform the employment brand design. Each party will have its own distinctive way of doing things. homogeneous team Multinationals and big PLCs aren’t the only organisations who regularly undergo the shocks of mergers or acquisitions. who are now ‘us’ and not ‘them’. All of this led us to question our employment proposition and people branding. War for talent was already hurting in some roles requiring key skills. There’s a bizarre paradox at work here: the closer the two organisations get to each other in structural and operational terms. but with their new colleagues. its own ethos and culture. and that’s far removed from the stilted. And demographic trends tell us that in some of our businesses we need to recruit fresh talent. structural and operational issues will still take time to resolve.that organisation’s vision and values in ways that people can relate and sign up to. Any merger situation represents a golden opportunity to develop and communicate an employer brand. the more their employees will start to notice differences rather than similarities – and the more they will feel separate from ‘the other lot’. Our contact centres face typical industry challenges of recruitment and retention. even if it never went down the route of formally developing its employer brand. feel and tone. that the organisation’s people will feel threatened by the impact of what they may instinctively feel is an alien culture. probably with greater clarity and certainty than they’d experienced under the old. And they’ll feel more engaged not just with the enterprise per se. Your recent merger has resulted in mutually suspicious tribes. such as engineering. all with a very different look. there has been an increasing desire from our executive to enable us to exploit the ScottishPower brand in terms of market positioning and opportunities that present themselves through economies of scale. he invited 350 people from across all four businesses to  Employer branding . What the brand does is to give all employees a sense of what the new organisation adds up to as an employer. not one focused. And perhaps it’s because the issues of its vision and values – the precise nature of the employment experience it offers – have never been fully resolved or properly articulated. ScottishPower: securing buy-in to get results What prompted you to develop an employer brand? ScottishPower is actually made up of four businesses that have evolved quite separately for a variety of regulatory and other reasons. Do we really understand perceptions both internally and externally? Is the employment proposition as compelling as we want it to be? Are there any negative perceptions we might be able to manage out? We decided we wanted to create a consistent and safe employment proposition that clearly articulates what ScottishPower stands for as an employer of choice. a catalyst was five ScottishPower adverts appearing in one local newspaper. not-for-profit organisations and NHS trusts. Technical. It’s happening everywhere – to central government departments. How did you measure your organisation’s status before taking action? Having secured Executive Team buy-in in March 2006. there’s simply no excuse for not doing it.

Delivered by people with gravitas in the business – not senior managers or HR – we took them through a series of questions: Why work? Why work at ScottishPower? How would you rate us against these? The outputs gave us the first detailed employee feedback plus the rationale behind the creation of our first. Was the employer brand developed as part of an overall HR or leadership strategy? Please describe. (continued) Employer branding  . Others did not. We took them through a similar exercise to our ‘What Matters to You?’ workshops. it remains to be seen whether this strategy will take us forward into next year. remains fundamentally the same now as described then. • Ability to convince employees that there was value in their participation – action would occur. At the same time. with the addition of gathering data on who they saw as great employers as well as their perceptions of ScottishPower. How did you develop your employer brand? Were any formal models or processes used? We developed the approach based on work we knew Severn Trent Water had carried out in terms of employee engagement and used our own approach to market research and creative briefing on the back of that. What did you hope that employer brand development would deliver for your organisation? Energy around the opportunity of working with a major energy company! An opportunity to present the company as exciting. • Some of the businesses were familiar with engagement and branding principles and had action under way – to which they were attached. This would improve engagement and so lead to better performance together with better retention and reduced sickness absence rates in our high-churn businesses. The ScottishPower HR strategy was articulated in 2005 and. All this data helped us identify key messages based on positive perceptions and action.000 employees.ScottishPower (continued) participate in ‘What Matters to You?’ workshops. • Potential takeover – appetite to deliver this might be different. varied in terms of opportunity and forward-looking – future-proofed! In turn this would improve attraction to the many varied roles at ScottishPower – some of which lack visibility. Trying to find a common approach across four diverse businesses would therefore be difficult. • Ability to convince all key stakeholders of risks of doing nothing and opportunities to the businesses if we were to do this well. The knowledge the research gave us about employee issues stimulated more leadership ‘listening’ to inform employee-led change. • Lack of marketing awareness in the team. externally managed and benchmarked engagement survey that went to all 9. • Stakeholder management – so many stakeholders with competing priorities and different views. What risks were involved in embarking on the project? • Executive buy-in might have been lip-service only. Tried to develop a brand before with external consultants but did not gain business support. • Lack of brand management or focus outside of the retail business. while it has been fine-tuned since. Given our recent acquisition by Iberdrola. we commissioned a piece of market research among people looking for work in the geographies and sectors we operate in. and management of weaker perception in the development of the creative brief that formed the basis of the ScottishPower employment brand. all-company. Absolutely.

together with size and shape of advert – designed but launch planned for July post-pilot so lots of interest in this from managers who have seen it but no actual feedback on use of this yet 0 Employer branding . We had developed a series of employment commitments – through ‘diagonal slice’ in terms of level. communication… At the same time. competency frameworks. What do you regard as the most successful aspects of the project? • buy-in from the Executive Team • presenting the entire programme of activity as a major piece of business – not exclusively HR-led – and using business leaders to communicate and managers with gravitas and influence to run the focus groups • willing participation and honest feedback from people at ScottishPower • external benchmarks and survey response toolkit to inform actions by using a third party – Best Companies • single look and feel to advertising recruitment is a fantastic achievement – in pilot now • the modular design of the adverts and the advert builder that allows managers to choose their own photography (if they want to). These would have informed behaviours. This has not yet been proposed. and the directors fronted communications to the business – as a business-led initiative. Procurement. Marketing. We took the decision to hold the commitments until/if we could secure the commitment of our new CEO. our board had recommended the takeover by Iberdrola and we knew our CEO would be leaving when the transaction took place in April – his commitment to this was crucial to credibility that we would do something about this. pan-business focus groups and planned to present them to the board. assessment and development processes? Not yet. HR Consulting Teams and the business. We will make a decision on whether to take this work forward once there is more clarity around how the business will look going forward. Outline the basic stages of the project • research and competitor benchmarking • proposition definition and executive sign-off • employee workshops • employee surveys • market research • creative agency brand development • stakeholder sessions throughout design • communication and training Does your solution encompass changes to management behaviours. as the focus right now is on integration and ensuring the transaction delivers its numbers. These articulated an employment ‘deal’ – the two-way nature of what the company commits to with its employees and also the commitment employees give in return. strap-line and energy line.ScottishPower (continued) Who had ownership over the project? Genesis from the HR Director who tasked the Head of Employee Engagement and Resourcing (me) to lead activity but signed off by the Executive Team and Chief Executive. What other functions (if any) were involved from your organisation? HR? Marketing? Other functions/disciplines? Group Communications. competencies.

We have developed an engagement model that we plan to use to look at feedback – from joiners. Looking back on the project. We’re hoping this will work post-integration with Iberdrola.) from as high a level as early as possible – an issue that surfaced time and time again in the research we conducted for this guide. We will also track attraction and retention as well as absence management data. so it’s too early to measure results.ScottishPower (continued) And the least successful? What problems did you encounter? • less scope for quick wins to respond to both the focus groups and survey than I would have liked • should have kept the community who delivered the focus groups more informed after the events and tried to keep that community together as a way to manage information into the business • resistance from the businesses who had their own survey • some survey distribution challenges cost us some credibility • too long between running the survey – November/December – to announcing the results – March • takeover! What were the key learning points from the project? The importance of stakeholder buy-in and management across the levels. How are you measuring the effectiveness of the brand – the return it yields on its original investment? Major deliverables are the action plans around the survey and the brand. leavers and existing employees – going forward. What budget did you have? • approximately £30. Ours will not be the only initiatives informing movement in these numbers.000 to deliver the market research and creative advertising this year What were the project timescales? One year from focus groups to single look and feel to advertising recruitment delivery. In what ways did the project differ from your original expectations? Began as an engagement programme and widened to incorporate the brand. but they will help us to understand the effectiveness of what we have done. Both of these have delivered in the last two months. what would you have done differently? • more stakeholder management – never seem to be able to get enough • used different communication channels and involved all managers in delivering information/ instruction rather than landing on them at the same time as their teams • might be easier in an organisation that had more of a brand focus Information supplied by Alison Balantyne Case study learning points Two points occur to me after reading this excellent case study. The other is the way this HR team made it abundantly clear from day one that they were the people in the driving seat – no ownership issues here! Employer branding  .000 to run the focus groups and survey last year • approximately £45. The first is the absolute necessity of getting wholehearted support (note the phrase: ‘executive buy-in might have been lip-service only’.

would be an £18. It’s one thing to hear someone’s comments on a brand-related issue. So it’s hardly surprising that research is the major cost element in developing an employer brand. as in so many other business activities. in his unprompted estimate. in my experience. But today.000 project for an NHS trust or a local authority. Only a few years ago quantitative and qualitative research lived in two distinct worlds. And the good news is that research costs are readily quantifiable. this is good news because. prompting participants to respond to a brand proposition or even a brand-based design in their own words. that’s miles wide of the mark (even though it left my colleagues and I muttering ‘if only…’). we tacked some questions about employer branding onto The Economist’s regular survey of the movers and shakers of British business. incidentally. But it delivered. increasingly.000. global IT company that I managed some years back came out at around that figure – due largely to an exceptionally intensive programme of research conducted in a dozen different countries. sadly) cost the client £47. and. implement and communicate an employer brand vary wildly. Qualitative research. It’s one thing to hear someone’s comments on a brand-related issue. A word of warning – Having said that.Part 6: Making the case. you’ll be glad to learn. women and graduates from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities.’ Peter Absolom. By my somewhat shaky maths. the cost variables will be the time it takes to locate suitable participants and the size of the incentive you have to offer to persuade them to turn up. that represents a return on investment (ROI) of 290%. King’s College NHS Trust People’s estimates of what it actually costs to develop.000 in terms of its ability to attract better-quality engineering graduates. A few years ago. I seem to recall. asks relatively deep questions. technology makes it possible to factor qualitative questions into quantitative research – for example. A project for a major UK automotive brand (one of the very few.5 million per annum as a result of these changes. including full-scale creative development. for the first time in the company’s history. a value of £250. it’s something else to actually see their body language as they make those comments. explores more complex brand-related issues with relatively small numbers of people: think focus groups. The fundamental difference between any talent attraction or internal communications initiative that’s based on a brand and one that’s based on the traditional platforms of instinct and rule of thumb is research.000–£30. getting the cash ‘We estimate that we are saving £2. was £250. as well as ticking boxes and agreeing or disagreeing with certain statements. online surveys. For anyone contemplating developing an employer brand and wondering what the bill will come to. and to observe the dynamics between them and the other group participants. Admittedly. using outside specialists simply to recruit relevant participants).  Employer branding . If you’re thinking of running focus groups (and there’s nothing to stop you doing this yourself. One of the questions we asked was how much they supposed a full-scale employer brand development project would cost. it’s something else to actually see their body language as they make those comments.000 – a figure. a brand development project for a well-known. smart technology means lower costs. The average figure. More typical. there’s still no substitute for focus groups. Quantitative research does the opposite: think street or. and to observe the dynamics between them and the other group participants.

if you’re planning on running focus groups in mainland Europe or other parts of the world, the cost of incentives rises dramatically. Having said that it’s possible to give a reasonably detailed breakdown of the

main cost elements of research – and remember, these will almost certainly be the major cost elements of the whole brand development project.

Guide to research costs
The following guide is based on 2007 prices and is intended to illustrate the average costs you can expect to incur when commissioning a reputable research or communications business to deliver the research component of an employer brand programme. External focus groups A programme of focus groups made up of the kind of people that you want your employer brand to reach and influence will be made up of a number of components: Recruitment costs reflect how difficult it will be to find people who match your target profile and how much persuading and project management will be involved in getting a group of them together to discuss your issues. A relatively easy target profile, say people working in customer service jobs in the Leeds area, might cost as little as £250 per group to recruit. A more complex profile, such as senior female managers within major technology businesses, would present a much harder job for a recruiter and could take several days’ work to populate even a single session. So recruitment fees in this case could be £750 or more per group. It’s often the costs and practicality of group recruitment that dictate whether focus group work is the right approach for your project. Incentives are the rewards paid to the respondents themselves for turning up to your focus group. They range from around £10 per session for students, through to perhaps £25–£40 for contact centre and general staff, to £100 or more for professionals, managers and specialists. In some cases, respondents can be motivated by a non-cash incentive such as a box of wine, store vouchers or a donation to charity. Venue hire costs will depend on whether you use a community centre, a hotel conference room or a purpose-built viewing suite. A neutral venue is often essential if people are to feel comfortable talking about working for employers other than their own, so it’s worth the investment. Allow £150 for a mid-range hotel venue and perhaps another £30–£50 per group for refreshments. Moderation fees will usually be based on the day rate of the person who’s running the groups for you. An experienced moderator will be able to run up to four groups in a single working day (but remember to allow for travelling time, preparation, and so on), which can bring costs down, but in practice you should allow for up to a half-day per group. Day rates might range from £400 to £1,000 and more, depending on the moderator’s experience and speciality. Some groups (including those among people with disabilities, or longer workshop sessions) may require more than one person to run them properly. Analysis and reporting will often be done by the same person who moderated your focus groups and will probably be based on the same day rates outlined above. You can expect to receive a report of what respondents said at the groups (suitably anonymous to protect individual confidentiality), together with some conclusions and recommendations. This takes time and thought to put together, and for a programme of groups will usually take a few days to complete.

Employer branding 

Project management will involve discussing your objectives with you, developing your respondent profile, writing discussion guides, booking venues and so on. It might range from £100 to set up a small project to several thousand pounds over a large sampling programme. Internal focus groups Groups made up from among your current employees will obviously be cheaper to run, since you don’t have to recruit or incentivise your own people – or pay for a venue. If you’re using external help, though, you can expect moderation, analysis and project management charges to be calculated in the same way, although they can be minimised if you can provide administrative support. Other sampling methods If focus groups aren’t the way forward, there are a few other ways in which you can build insight into employee and potential candidate attitudes: Telephone interviews can allow you to reach a larger number of people than focus groups and can often be conducted more quickly, since people don’t have to be brought together. While a telephone sample is quicker and sometimes cheaper to conduct, researchers agree that it will provide less depth than focus groups – not a problem if you’re looking to get a snapshot of awareness and perception of your status as an employer, but less useful if you want to explore attitudes in more depth. One hundred straightforward interviews with fairly easy-to-reach people might cost around £4,000, including project management and a report. Online surveys are increasingly used to build insight within an organisation and are very quick and comparatively inexpensive to use. They can also be used among people outside the organisation, although the challenge then is to identify the right people and persuade them to complete the questionnaire. This is one of the easiest techniques for employers to use without external help. There are a number of proprietary online survey tools to choose from and some of these allow users a limited version of their package free of charge. If you’re using an agency, allow £1,500 for survey design and deployment plus any costs for finding a suitable external sample. Street surveys have become harder in the age of the mobile phone and iPod, but can still offer real insight into employer perception among local people. You’ll need to use qualified researchers and they’ll need permission to conduct the survey if it’s around a school, college, in a shopping centre or other private land. A good survey, conducted over a couple of days in a number of sampling locations might cost £3,000–£5,000. Omnibus research offers a way in which a number of different organisations can conduct market research at the same time, each asking a few questions of the same sample. Some omnibuses are done online, others by telephone and others in-home or on-street. Essentially, you buy space on the survey question by question, so if you only want a simple answer to a straightforward question, an omnibus could be the most cost-effective way in which to do it. Single questions on an omnibus reaching 2,000 people can cost from £300, while more complex question combinations could reach £5,000 or more.

That covers the inputs to your employer brand development (we’ll discuss the relationship between input and output and the whole structure of a brand development project later in this guide).

As for outputs, many of these will be activities that are ongoing, or initiatives you’re contemplating or that you may even have scheduled for action. And on that basis, any additional cost could well be minimal or even non-existent. 

Employer branding

For example, you will still need to recruit, and therefore to attract, applicants through one form of employment marketing communications or another. Your newly developed employer brand will obviously have a big and immediate impact on this. It’s not just a question of new messages, a new look and feel. The brand will probably change the whole relationship between the offline and online elements of your employment marketing. The other thing it will do – should do, must do – is to reduce your costs by reducing your dependence on traditional, reactive, ‘distress purchase’ recruitment advertising. The new brand will have to be applied to a broad range of other employment marketing or internal communications initiatives and materials – applicant information literature, campus marketing programmes, induction materials and programmes, the organisation’s intranet or staff magazine, and so on. It may be that your initial research, particularly a communications audit, reveals that there are glaring gaps in your communications armoury, or that the messaging and tone of certain items is in conflict with the new brand. If that’s the case, action needs to be taken, and the funding needs to be found to fix an urgent problem. But otherwise, you don’t need to scrap and replace

Only you can decide how much money you’ll need, and where it will come from. In essence, developing an employer brand is a business investment like any other, and as such will show a return on the original sum invested. But that still leaves the question of who will stump up the initial cash to pay for the research. Maybe you have adequate funding and sufficient budgetary control to allow you to do this unaided. It’s more likely that, like most of your colleagues in any business function, you’ll need to make a robust business case if the cash is to be forthcoming. In many organisations, likely sources of supplementary funding can include marketing, PR or internal communications. But irrespective of financial considerations, it’s essential to forge alliances with these and other business functions if your project is to succeed. It’s not a question of going to them cap in hand; money aside, you can do as much for them and help them meet their business goals as they can for you, and you need to make them understand that. Here are some of the arguments you could use: To corporate finance ‘I can save you serious money on recruitment, reduce the hidden but considerable costs of premature departures and demonstrate an attractive and measurable ROI.’ Of course, if you make that kind of claim, you’d better make sure that ROI really is measurable in ways that would impress the most sceptical accountant. Any

You need enough to enable you to compare how your organisation is perceived as an employer externally, and internally. That’s the bottom line.

your existing materials – just wait until Stationery tells you that existing stocks are running low. All this may still leave you wondering, ‘Yes, but how much money will I actually have to find? What’s the minimum I can get away with?’ Only you can determine the budget you need to set for the exact circumstances of your own organisation. But there’s a simple answer, a pretty accurate rule of thumb – enough to enable you to compare how your organisation is perceived as an employer externally, and internally. That’s the bottom line.

promised improvement begs the question, ‘improvement against what?’ – which is why the baseline metrics of your current performance in recruitment and retention is so important. We cover this issue later in this guide.

Employer branding 

What other functions (if any) were involved from your organisation? HR? Marketing? Other functions/disciplines? We had focus groups covering most staff groups in addition to working closely with our corporate communications department and our recruitment advertising partner. The basic stages of the project were to look at where we currently were. Bringing together all of this material and relating it to cultural and communication changes was key to improving both recruitment and retention. thus lowering those associated costs. Outline the basic stages of the project. While we did not follow a specific model. However. and there was no consistency between advertising and the material that applicants subsequently received. creating our vision and mission and. as with all of our projects. bringing about organisational cultural change. We continue this today. Was the employer brand developed as part of an overall HR or leadership strategy? Please describe.King’s College NHS Trust: clear demonstration of a return on investment What prompted you to develop an employer brand? The trust’s recruitment advertising was bitty and fragmented. we had a strategy to evolve our brand over time so it also looked fresh but was clearly still ‘us’. How did you measure your organisation’s status before taking action? We took measurements on a wide range of factors including our vacancy/turnover/applications for post rates together with staff surveys/exit questionnaires and focus groups at the point of induction. We had to work within some national guidelines as an NHS trust using the NHS brand. have a strategy and plan for future development. What did you hope that employer brand development would deliver for your organisation? The aim was to improve the quality and quantity of applications.  Employer branding . accept feedback from a wide range of staff. The aim was for this to play an important part in reducing staff vacancies and aiding retention. What risks were involved in embarking on the project? There were clearly financial risks. We built this into our brand in a partnership approach with our recruitment advertising agency and our corporate communications department. through our training and development strategy. we greatly involve staff groups to gain broader input and buy-in. consider the restraints. take professional advice upon some possible styles. Who had ownership over the project? The ownership was within HR through my lead as staff resourcing manager. to be recognised immediately whenever we placed advertisements but also to retain staff on the basis that we delivered the expectations they had of working for the trust. The employer brand was not just applied to recruitment. How did you develop your employer brand? Were any formal models or processes used? There were a couple of things we did. as the brand developed. but was also applied by formalising the standards of behaviour. as developing a brand with our partners was expensive. have management information as a baseline and then.

this has been an ongoing project for the past six years and it continues to develop. albeit we learned that within a short time people would value the change. What do you regard as the most successful aspects of the project? Our success has been evident from the dramatic improvements we have seen in our vacancy and turnover rates. We estimate that we are saving some £2. The brand has played its part in reducing our expenditure and improving our staff performance. We were also highly commended at an awards ceremony. Also. And the least successful? What problems did you encounter? One of the problems we faced while evolving our brand was that some of our staff preferred our previous style. The most successful aspect. both of which are reflected in our front-line delivery. What were the project timescales? While there was a lot of concentrated work within the first 12 months. assessment and development processes? Yes. This kept the project team one step ahead. is the bottom line. competency frameworks. Looking back on the project. What budget did you have? In one sense there was no budget. You have to have faith in what you’re doing to keep moving forward. Staff appraisals and personal development plans were also used. What were the key learning points from the project? Leadership. lower vacancy rates and reduced turnover. partnership working.King’s College NHS Trust (continued) Does your solution encompass changes to management behaviours. Perhaps anticipating and developing our website quicker would have helped. as each new style emerged they always said the one before was best. Information supplied by Peter Absolom Employer branding  . Today we’re more overwhelmed than ‘underwhelmed’ with people who wish to join us.5 million per annum as a result of these changes. and that brings a whole new set of problems. In what ways did the project differ from your original expectations? As recruitment advertising was a key part of this project. what would you have done differently? We’re quite satisfied with what we have achieved so far. though. The cultural change stage was part of a wider trust project (called First Choice) but built behaviour standards into every job and assessed through our competency framework tools. our staff surveys give positive feedback that our brand works well. However. although a five-figure sum was used in developing material and leading the work – this had to be reflected in reductions to recruitment advertising spend. How are you measuring the effectiveness of the brand – the return it yields on its original investment? We can clearly see from our key measurements that developing our brand has been a significant factor in returning a far greater yield than the original investment. the significant and quick changes to online recruitment were not in our original expectation. consultation and using management information to measure success.

in whatever medium. measurable impact on employee engagement and customer-facing performance. The profession seems to have been pretty successful in fending off this attack. strategic HR issues was a task best left to management consultancy.Case study learning points ‘We estimate that we are saving some £2. It will prove that we’re making a big contribution to overall HR strategy. deep HR strategy – and even. provides hard-pressed managers with templates. But one still encounters a great many organisations where HR is simply not represented at the same level as. will generate response from the right kind of candidate (it’s that ‘affinity’ thing again) and build the profile of the brand among key target audiences. seemed to suggest that dealing with the big. probably on cost grounds or. gives the rationale behind the new brand. In my experience. HR practitioners themselves would. I’m not suggesting that developing an employer brand will win you a seat on the board. Some people. very senior managers and directors absolutely love being involved in developing the employer brand for an organisation over which they not only exercise strategic control. really. to be blunt. but emotional as well as literal ownership. there seemed to be a debate or even an unseemly struggle over the ownership of true. They’ll either welcome the idea or oppose it. Your HR colleagues ‘This project will establish our team as the driving force behind a project of strategic business value. say. it can be a hard. You wish you didn’t have to spend so much time rewriting that recruitment agency’s copy. It will also have a positive. And that last ad you had to repeat cost how much? One of the earliest and most valuable outputs of the brand development process will be a brand toolkit. But it is a great way to prove that big. It helps them see the organisation – their organisation – with greater clarity and deeper insight.5 million per annum as a result of these changes’ – says it all. It will show the world that we manage our human capital as efficiently and to as much good effect as we manage any other class of asset or any other part of our business. along with the view from less exalted tiers of the organisation. Line managers and front-line recruiters ‘The new brand will make your lives easier and deliver better candidates for less. style guides and even a library of images – all the tools needed to ensure that every ad. you need to involve them as deeply as possible and as early as possible. and enhance our reputation in the eyes of colleagues in other disciplines. be reduced to administrative functionaries. It will impact the bottom line. at times. lonely business recruiting for your own team.’ A few years ago. over the status and future of the HR profession itself. probably management consultants. complex issues are safe in your hands. Available online or in physical form. and the view from the external talent market. Later in this guide we outline a very specific and effective way to secure that involvement and its natural end-product – powerful advocacy throughout the organisation for what you’re trying to achieve. No matter which way you suspect they’ll jump. To the top management team ‘An employer brand will enhance our overall reputation. just aren’t going to be right for the organisation. from the first two minutes of the interview. marketing or finance. Even simpler but equally effective is a brand briefing document that can be sent to all the recruitment  Employer branding . and to demonstrate the value of what you and your colleagues bring to the party. headlines. And it ensures that any closed doors you may encounter as the project progresses won’t stay closed for long. on the assumption that disciplines other than HR are best equipped to handle the task. If only those consultants didn’t keep sending you candidates who look great on paper but who you know. by implication.’ Your top management cadre – right up to board level – are unlikely to be neutral about your desire to develop an employer brand. sexy. But just remember that the view from the top is one of three layers of perception you need to capture and measure.’ For a line manager. it introduces the brand attributes and associate messages.

particularly recruitment consultants. potential employees are also potential customers. it became clear that many consultants were frustrated by presenting candidates who looked great on paper. I don’t believe in using jargon for its own sake.’ Classic PR is arguably the most underused weapon in the employer brand armoury. tribal nature of the organisation – and therefore one of the biggest problems the brand would have to fix. But a simple briefing document for consultants outlined the core qualities. Your marketing or PR team organisation as an employer send out good messages about the organisation per se: wouldn’t you feel better buying an airline ticket.’ The research revealed the dangerously fragmented. Remember. values and even personality traits that the new brand had established. Good messages about an PR people working together is one smart organisation. and prompted consultants to look for those same qualities – that brand affinity – in future candidates. a skinny latte or even a burger from an organisation that has a reputation for looking after its people? And an organisation that gets its employer brand and its ‘I can create thousands of additional OTS (opportunities to see – a measure of the number of chances an average member of key target audiences have of being exposed to your story) and help build the organisation’s profile and reputation among many different audiences. As one consultant ruefully put it: ‘I always feel I’m recruiting to the culture of a particular manager’s own team. As the interviews progressed. and add up to a communications and brand positioning whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. ‘Talking the talk’ can be an important way to enhance your credibility with a different business ‘tribe’. but that OTS acronym is something you might like to casually drop into any conversation with your PR colleagues.consultants on the organisation’s supplier list. Recruiting for the company. It will help them decide which candidates with seemingly identical CVs will be right – will have that elusive but essential cultural ‘fit’ with the organisation – and which won’t. not the local chieftain Research that fed into employer brand development for a major UK and European retailer included telephone interviews with a lengthy list of suppliers. but were ultimately rejected on the grounds that ‘they just wouldn’t fit in’. for whom both activities support each other. not the business as a whole. Employer branding  .

and that its value can be – and. since a brand will go on evolving. and that was pushing it. that it applies to much. I know what works for me.’ There’s no denying that developing. and any objections are minor irritations rather than serious roadblocks. It may modify it. and delivering its value for years. if you have anything to do with it. The initial research may yield some insights that can be fed directly into at least the messaging of your ongoing recruitment activity. Operations Director. much more than just recruitment advertising. The objections you’re likely to encounter – and the arguments with which you can effectively demolish them – look like this: ‘Never mind about your precious brand – I’ve got vacancies to fill. if not its style and tone. ‘No one’s consulted me about the new brand. 0 Employer branding . It’s all a question of managing expectations – if you consult extensively during the brand development process. while the start of the project is obvious. with a load of rules and regulations that I’m quite sure I’ll unwittingly break. launching and running your brand development project should be plain sailing. much bigger than the physical manifestation of what your recruitment looks like.’ Glyn House. and if any new recruitment toolkit is presented with a robust. And it won’t stop hard-pressed recruiters or line managers recruiting. there’s an assumption in some slightly sceptical quarters that it’s just a new way of approaching recruitment advertising. implementing and communicating an employer brand takes time.’ That’s a reaction anyone trying to launch a new brand internally is likely to hear. irritations are things you can well do without. common-sense rationale. When sceptics become cynics. You need to defuse this situation by making it clear that a brand is a long-term investment. ‘That looks like an awful lot of money for a recruitment advertising campaign. defensive response) will melt away. that objection (which is largely a knee-jerk. improve it slightly – but it won’t stop it happening.’ Largely because so much of the debate surrounding employer brands and its actual practice has focused exclusively on talent attraction. there may well be the assumption that employer brands are also a new way of enabling ad agencies to charge more and to compensate for the long-term downward trend in traditional advertising revenue.’ The objector would actually love someone to come along and give them a brand-based toolkit that makes good sense. there’s really no end-point. that’s easy to use and that will work in the talent market. will be – substantial and measurable. In my experience. It’s an end-to-end way of thinking about why people choose to work for you. the shortest time from switching on the tape recorder for the first focus group to rolling out the new creative work was six weeks.Part 7: Overcoming objections ‘The employment brand is much. a robust business case and investing the time and effort to make your case and forge alliances with interested parties. Nevertheless. as you confront the real challenges that are present in any brand development project. But that doesn’t mean you have to put all the activities the brand will affect – particularly day-to-day recruitment – on hold. It needs paraphrasing: what the objector really means is. You could argue that. ‘I’ve been handling my own recruitment for years. adapting to change. wagamama That title presupposes you’ll actually receive some: with careful preparation. It’s been presented as a fait accompli.

benefits. the sequential gearbox all work perfectly and meet the market’s expectations. and are determined to make it work for them. to wrestle with some serious and deep-seated image problems. And they do have plenty to offer. you’d need a good reputation as an employer to attract and retain the services of your latter-day Jeeves. they’re the engineers making sure that the suspension. One of the categories we seriously thought of including was ‘domestic households’. a congruence. and know just what it demands of them and offers them in return. apparently. particularly when the advent of patient choice makes marketing an increasingly important corporate function. reputation will be all-important if you’re a new. the braking system. You need to attract good people – disproportionately good people bearing in mind the modest scale of your enterprise – on the basis of what working with your team and its distinctive. It’s not as crazy or fanciful as it seems: if you’re a Russian oligarch seeking to employ a full-time butler on a salary in excess of £100. But the product isn’t the brand. nurture and protect their brands (in the case of Nestlé. ‘Shouldn’t we be giving this to some strategic HR consultancy?’ From well-known management consultancies to strategically focused actuarial practices. and the impact the brand can have on broader. Employer branding  . Mars or Nestlé work hard to develop. reward and recognition. Big organisations recognise that there’s a relationship. there’s no shortage of them waiting for the plum projects to fall into their laps. Defining that experience – fixing and communicating that vision so it becomes one of the reasons your people come to work and that will help them over the inevitable choppy waters that all small enterprises experience – couldn’t be easier.’ The techniques and methodologies by which employer brands are developed are the same as those that create and sustain great consumer and corporate brands.‘We’re not Mars or Nestlé – we’re an NHS trust.000 (and. between their brands as suppliers of goods or services and as employers: the more forward-looking NHS trusts (and indeed a great many public sector and third-sector organisations) are waking up to the same connection. The terminology is much the same (although anyone involved in developing employer brands should strive to keep that discipline a jargon-free zone). passionately held vision for the enterprise will actually feel like. the whole basis of assessment.’ When we were putting together the online survey that provided such valuable insight into this guide. defining or managing the employment product itself – the issues such as compensation. The whole issue of the relationship between employer brand and employment product. The only real difference is the number of noughts on the price tag. particularly in fixing. this is yet another employment category where demand far outstrips supply). ‘We’re simply too small. let alone use it as the basis for some amazing marketing communications and the creation of a powerful brand identity and personality. Simple. ambitious small or medium-sized enterprise or start-up operation that’s grown out of some cutting-edge scientific research. On a slightly more realistic level. and ensure that everyone in your top team shares it totally. To use an automotive analogy. A simple senior management workshop (one of the classic brand research techniques we describe more fully in a later section) will help you resolve your distinctive vision in colour and depth. and those talented engineers wouldn’t for one second claim their ability to articulate and communicate a brand proposition like ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’. brand-based communications will ensure that everyone joining you will share that vision from day one. one of the questions asked respondents to select from a lengthy list the most appropriate descriptor for their type of organisation. more strategic HR issues is something we cover in greater detail later in this guide. It’s no different for a typical NHS trust. particularly in the eyes of the student audience) and to give themselves competitive advantage.

this reactive approach did not always achieve results and there was a heavy reliance on using agencies to fill vacancies. gets results The British Library is the national library of the UK and 16.’ ‘The library is at the cutting edge. recruitment and retention are trouble-free. Recruitment Strategy Consultant Anne Spearman joined in an interim role and admits she would not have considered this as an intuitive career choice. If you viewed five items a day it would take you 80. since she was not aware of the library as an employer. which were either a challenge to or advantageous to attraction. ‘Clearly we have a journey to make to challenge these perceptions as an employer. This was a real wake-up call. From the feedback it was clear that this was letting the library down and reinforcing a negative image of what it would be like to work there. This commenced in early 2007 to help us better understand how the potential employment market in our “difficult to fill” areas perceived us. ‘Our aim. While in some academic roles.’ ‘This was not a case of sitting back contemplating what to do and getting all the boxes ticked: it was about taking the necessary steps for immediate action. The feedback confirmed both positive and negative perceptions. ‘Therefore attraction was where we started and the new site will be launched in September 2007 together with refreshed advertising templates. so having little to offer by the way of wider careers. ‘In reviewing the recruitment strategy we decided it was important to undertake some internal and external research.000 years’ worth of knowledge we hold. ensuring more and more people have access to the 3.000 years to see the whole collection. It employs over 2. Anne says. with a second site at Boston Spa in Yorkshire and over the web. attracting other staff in customer-facing and commercial operational infrastructure roles is a real difficulty.’ said Anne.000 people use its services every day from a stunning marble and brick building in St Pancras. ‘was to build on the positive and address negative perceptions of a bureaucratic.’ says Anne. boring and static organisation which only employed librarians.’ Early in 2007 participants were invited to comment on media adverts and the website and share their thoughts about the library as an employer.British Library: step by step. Last year the library restructured its HR team and moved its recruitment online with an integrated candidate management system to streamline the recruitment process. The library traditionally attracted potential employees at the point of need to specific advertised roles in the press or professional journals.’ ‘It was recognised that a key “window on the library” for potential employees was the recruitment website and our adverts. leading the way in providing information in the digital era.000 people and receives a copy of every item of printed material published in the UK as well as much digital material.’ says Anne. London.’ ‘We needed to understand that some people are aware of the library and others are not and their first impressions of the library as an employer are informed by what they see in the media adverts and on our website. A website was developed as part of the front-end access.’  Employer branding .

the team have to recognise the reality that the pace of change cannot be forced. Engaging with the marketing function to make the business case is seen as an essential step in reviewing the employer brand to create reach and understanding among a broader candidate community. As for timing. the HR team has created a world-class well-being offer that helps to retain staff at all levels and provides a new dimension for advocacy and satisfaction from existing employees. with limited resources and complex talent pools to deal with – working with the public purse. articulate academic people to see the value of developing the brand and to adopt an approach of festina lente – ‘make haste slowly’. and only exceptional creative advertising backed by big budgets has started to address this. For a long time. Recruitment Strategy Consultant Case study learning points What strikes me is the way one employer’s image has been tarnished by the image of an entire employment category: the prison service has suffered the same fate. Working with public money. Achieving change is a gradual process that depends on building trust and understanding. While gradual progress across the key dimensions of employer branding is being made – and recognised at top team level. Internally. Information supplied by Anne Spearman. Organisation development is increasingly seen as part of the ’great place to work’ message and all staff have wide access to training and development opportunities and personal development planning. the team have to recognise the realities in achieving change. Some positions in the British Library are so specialist that there may be ‘only a dozen people in the world who could be right’. with individual managers advertising roles and communicating to their teams in their own ways – and with their own budgets. HR are starting to have conversations and discussions with their marketing colleagues to understand and build a common understanding of the employer value proposition. Employer branding  . Here the team are working on a talent management and succession planning framework to address skill gaps and retain key talent. the HR team clearly understands the need for sensitivity in persuading exceptionally bright. the library also has to grow its own people in developing specialisms and retain them in the face of strong international competition for scarce skills and knowledge. effective marketing and advocacy among existing staff and stakeholders. with the material aspects of the ‘deal’ now looking anything but staid and stuffy. so while headhunting is important.British Library (continued) The HR team is engaged in a long-term strategy to challenge and change those perceptions through improved understanding. to develop a realistic perspective of what it is like to work in the library and further develop the attraction strategy. Equally significant is the work that’s clearly been done on the product itself. the library’s employer brand has evolved organically. These activities reinforce this message in building and maintaining employer reputation. showing how things can be done without upsetting long-held beliefs and preferences.

you really should listen. of course. authentic ROI. but what people told us was very different. You’ll encounter triumphs and disappointment. they’ve impressed you (presumably) with their brave and innovative creative work and their depth of thinking. If you have any reservations about your current agency. they’ll probably have been pestering you for ages to get serious about developing your employer brand. to deliver clear recommendations for the key elements of the brand. you select any partner at all. you need to think carefully about who you’d like as your partner or guide – assuming. a rather ungenerous but inescapable thought enters my mind. the challenges and opportunities. Having said that. One approach is to act as your own project manager. There’s also the question of adherence to the Market Research Society’s rules and protocols. The journey can also be long.’ Senior HR practitioner at first discovery day Starting to develop an employer brand is like setting out on a journey. If they’ve been doing their job properly. The results came back and scared us to death. So if appointing yourself as your own project manager or at least ‘clerk of works’ seems a little daunting. They know your business. including the absolute confidentiality of any comments participants make and any data that the group delivers. In the CIPD’s 2007 guide to  Employer branding . of employer brands. But they won’t necessarily understand. there’s nothing to stop you conducting your own focus groups. We thought we were quite cool. do the donkey work like arranging external research. How big is their research department? Will you have a dedicated brand consultant to drive the project? If so. the very specific issues. periods where the going is easy and those where it feels like the gradient’s against you. But a word of warning needs to be injected here. or even be sufficiently interested in. But make sure you select on the right criteria and ask the most searching questions as you make up your short-list. driving the project yourself and selecting just those external suppliers to handle functions that are beyond your normal experience or competence – like recruiting the right kind of participants to external focus groups – using the services of research fieldwork companies to do so. There are many excellent brand consultants with impeccable credentials in brand development for fast-moving consumer goods. This time. At this point. The DIY approach to developing your own brand is a bit like the equivalent approach to building your own house – something only those blessed with limitless energy. unflagging enthusiasm and nerves of steel should contemplate. You can entrust the project to your current employment marketing agency.Part 8: Choosing your partner ‘We did some focus groups among our competitors’ staff. using the classic combination of a managed discussion and some of the projective techniques commonly used in many forms of marketing research and which yield profound insights at the same time as injecting an element of unabashed fun into the proceedings. there’s a definite skill to moderating a group – the delicate balancing act of keeping the discussion on track while allowing it to veer off down sidetracks that can yield some unexpected insights. and to help you derive the maximum value from your investment. you can always choose an independent brand consultant to lead the project. what is their experience? What’s the agency’s definition of employer brands and employer brand development? They’ll presumably show you case studies: ask for the detailed metrics that demonstrate the real. For internal research. For all these reasons and more. you can always hold a beauty parade to see who and what is out there.

I work for (the name of the organisation in question). yet relevant.’ Every picture tells a story The images people choose to express their perception of an organisation as an employer can be very revealing – as these real-life examples show: Staff and management seen as locked in confrontation Dictatorial/hierarchical management approach The service is seen as avoiding issues – people expect support from management but feel they don’t get it Employer branding  . One happens to mention (the way one does). For example. the frequently chosen image of a little rowing boat bobbing haplessly in the wake of a giant supertanker suggested to an external audience of graduates (inaccurately as it happens). ‘Me? Oh. or even revealing issues (‘Why can’t my mum get her hip replaced sooner?’) that can militate against brand advocacy. would they be male or female? What would they wear? What would their taste in music be? Some are more specific to employer brands. creative expression of a brand. in their minds. the image of a drop-dead-gorgeous fashion shoe suggested an unexpected element of creativity in the authority’s culture. particularly those that can drive the most original.’ The participants fill in the other person’s ‘thinks’ bubble – giving a real insight into that organisation’s reputation as an employer. ‘That’s poor little Land Rover. struggling to keep up with the Japanese competition. Another technique that yields some telling and memorable results is image association. I’ve always found it very revealing to give participants a sheet of paper with the image of two people at a party talking to each other. participants are asked to select one that. what would it be? If it were a person. From an eclectic collection of several hundred images.Every employer brand project needs its projectives People’s relationships with the organisations they work for or might consider working for are highly complex. Asking people to agree or disagree on a scale of 1–10 that organisation X ‘would look good on my CV’ only tells part of the story. we need to look deeper – and that’s where projective techniques come in. For real insights. For a London local authority. They get respondents to speak about something indirectly by ‘projecting’ their thoughts and emotional responses onto something else. For Land Rover. seems to symbolise the organisation in question. Some are the typical techniques that many people are at least aware of – if the organisation in question was a car.

truly creative organisation. You do it because it improves your organisation’s performance in the key business areas of recruitment. so are the people who handle them. engagement and ultimately the bottom line. Those functions are key to the success of your brand. arguably even more so. Their actual remit will depend on the …before you set out.nature. and the potentially synergistic relationship between employer and consumer or corporate brands. It’s an investment. I wonder… can they all be doing it? Building internal partnerships and alliances is at least as important as their external counterparts. Hewlett-Packard (HP) decided to get back inside its founder’s legendary garage to rediscover its roots as an innovative. just about every agency lists employer branding as one of the many services it offers. and the set of behaviours it expected of its people to deliver the promise of its corporate brand. HP identified seven brand attributes that it felt expressed the core concept of ‘invent’. They’ll be the people who help you get the brand firmly established. talk to them. involve them at an early stage. but as something that defines ‘the way we do things around here’ – a readily accepted. The answer was an unequivocal ‘yes’. not just as a set of messages. fully understood and instinctively practised set of behaviours that define the experience of working for your organisation. robust business plan that clearly shows how and where the new brand is expected to create value. Hewlett-Packard: growing an employer brand out of a new corporate brand A few years ago. scale and structure of your organisation. Tell them you need their support to achieve optimum exposure for the new brand. But… If you have a dedicated PR function. it will win you awards or make your recruitment advertising (and you yourself) look great (it might be or do all these things). involve them. and emphasise the all-round value of being seen as a great place to work. retention. flatter them with your acknowledgement of their importance to the success of your project (but let them know the value of your contribution to their objectives). you will need to develop a coherent. The other people you need to involve as early as possible (assuming they play a different role to mainstream HR) are your internal communications team. Emphasise the mutual benefit of developing an employer brand. Developing its new corporate brand. but is Building internal partnerships and alliances is at least as important as their external counterparts. as well as for you and your team. your management style and the political dynamics of your organisation.  Employer branding . likely to include such brand-critical tasks as induction and day-to-day employee communication. check your position… The whole point of developing and communicating an employer brand is not because it’s just a nice thing to do. If you have a marketing function. the employment marketing industry. with one exception: the agency selected the attributes or values of the new corporate brand as the basis for a new employer brand. The attributes of ‘invent’ defined the experience HP was promising its customers. arguably even more so. and that persuades your colleagues that there’s going to be plenty in it for them. HP then asked its global employment marketing agency if they felt the new corporate brand could have any relevance or resonance in the talent market. But to succeed. engage with them. translating and using them as the basis of specific messages defined the employment experience HP was offering. a new look and feel to your external employment marketing communications. How you open and conduct these various dialogues is up to you.

But the whole notion of improvement begs the question: ‘improvement against what?’ I can’t overemphasise the need to establish a robust set of baseline metrics for your brand as it is now (remember. You can run an online survey. brand-based creative brief to your agency. Getting the measure of your current performance may not be as exciting as running your first internal focus group or delivering the new. if you’re due to run one in the near future. tell them that they’re making a real contribution to the development of a new brand. What’s the mood like among current employees? Do you discern any trends in current perceptions – either downwards or upwards? Getting the measure of your current performance may not be as exciting as running your first internal focus group… but it needs to be done and done well. If you’re unsure that you have enough information to really give you a handle on these and similar issues. just not the one they need. want or deserve) compared with how it will be after you and your team have done their stuff. and finally to maintenance and measurement. but it needs to be done and done well. …then set your course In the opening paragraph of this guide. since it shows the degree to which candidates have started to experience the alignment – or lack of it – between promise and reality. We’d now like to extend that metaphor: the plates are warming in the oven. and what is still based on print media? Do you have results for specific titles/recruitment sites? • the prevalence and full cost of premature resignations (typically 150% of first-year salary). The areas of performance you need to fix some robust numbers on include: • recruitment advertising spend – is it increasing or You also need to measure softer issues like employees’ own perceptions of working for the organisation. and taking ‘premature’ to mean any departure before the individual concerned has delivered the kind of performance that repays your investment in their training and development • your expenditure on recruitment consultants – do they feature on your preferred suppliers list? Or are they chosen on an ad hoc basis by hiring managers? Do you even know? • the volume of spontaneous applications and employment enquiries you receive – how many are there? What happens to them? • the ratio of acceptances to offers – I always regard this as one of the absolutely critical metrics. Employer branding  . Manage respondents’ expectations. Without it. I’m always amazed by just how sparse the data is that many organisations hold to give a true picture of their performance – and that includes financial performance – in recruitment and retention. But remember that staff surveys create the expectation (or at least a forlorn hope) that something will actually be done about the issues they raise. and that their concerns. comments and observations will be a key part of its development. we used the metaphor of a cookery book. you can include some brand-related questions. every organisation has one. And any gaps that your quest reveals can be quickly and relatively easily plugged. some research will provide the reassurance you seek. decreasing? What proportion has migrated online. the whole brand development project will be seriously compromised. they’ll be more likely to open up to a third party than to a member of your own team). Time to get moving In this section we show the basic shape and structure of a brand development project – the sequence of events that starts with research and discovery. if you want to know how people really feel about their organisation. You can quickly commission some internal focus groups (but remember that. The required data is almost certainly there somewhere. that modest little Beaujolais is gradually reaching room temperature. then to the initial creative expression. leads to analysis and interpretation. it just needs a little digging to bring it to light. your guests arrive in an hour. expectation and early experience. to internal and external launch and ongoing communication. You can delve more deeply into your most recent staff surveys or.

a crystal-clear sense of what their organisation is and adds up to. It will give you loads of valuable. Communications audit What is it? A detailed examination of all the materials that come into play during the journey an applicant makes from initial interest to induction and beyond. deep insights – and some very valuable allies. informal influence as exemplars of the brand will be just as valuable. When that happens. or at least have a colleague take copious notes while you manage and moderate the proceedings. ‘it all becomes clear’. whether online or paper-based • the physical surroundings applicants encounter on their first actual visit to the organisation • the timing of the whole applicant journey. and you might be better handing the activity to an external consultant. personification.The list of actions and activities is full and all-embracing. what it offers in terms of a distinctive employment experience. It will typically cover: • all forms of external employment marketing. you’ll be able to look at it and say (particularly of the research and discovery elements).  Employer branding . and that combines managed discussion with a range of exercises that make extensive use of projective techniques – word association. Try to record the discussion (you’ll hear and want to capture some brilliant. and so on. it will hopefully help you set your own priorities. we’ve already done that. from What does it achieve? A lot in a short time. as the saying goes. because they will have worked through it themselves – sometimes reaching a kind of epiphany. Creating ‘committed visionaries’ In the CIPD’s research report Working Life: Employee attitudes and engagement 2006. The report then goes on to say: ‘This suggests there may be problems of strategy in many organisations and in the communication of strategic vision. they’ll be more likely to become sponsors of formal initiatives to articulate and communicate the brand internally. Make sure you’re really confident to act as moderator. It will also give them. Expectations will be high. image association. press ads to website • applicant information material • your recruitment website (or the recruitment pages of your corporate website) • the application process. But their spontaneous. It may be more difficult for employees to feel engaged with their work when they do not have a clear understanding of what it is their organisation is trying to achieve. It gives a very important and influential group of people a real sense of involvement and ownership and recognition that what you’re doing is important and valuable. maybe for the first time. the rejection letter. But to begin at the beginning… Senior management workshop What is it? A half-day event that’s really like an extended focus group. what its unique character and personality is. ‘Yep. Limit participants to 8–10. identifying any gaps or bottlenecks • the tone of the offer letter – and.’ On the assumption that no organisation in the real world will either need or be able to afford every single activity we list. with only 38% being accorded the title ‘committed visionaries’. many employees claimed that their senior managers lacked vision. Points to watch. equally or even more importantly. telling sound bites). a moment when. in reality.’ One of the most valuable outputs of senior management workshops is that they help the organisation’s movers and shakers acquire that vision. It gives you one of three layers of perception you need to fix where your brand is at present and how far that is from where and what you want it to be. any doubts.

The audit will discover those reasons. both internal and external. An extensive series of groups for one of the UK’s most prominent public organisations put its finger bang on the huge cultural divide that was bedevilling the organisation. and those who had joined the organisation just as another job (‘My wife stuck an ad under my nose. yielded insights and value in their own right. for whatever reason. but the insights can be very deep. engaged newcomers ready to put in their own fair share of discretionary effort. What do they achieve? A spontaneous. and you need to find a good fieldwork company to source relevant people. not willing to change and they have a negative attitude. The issue was the conflict between the motivated. and of the applicant journey. They made a huge contribution to the development of the brand and. External groups only work if the participants have some familiarity with your organisation. The numbers won’t be high. graphic picture of how your people feel about working for your organisation. listening to focus group participants give their honest. ‘My face doesn’t fit any more’ complained one long-serving employee ruefully. or do too much. Employer branding  . They’re set in their ways. The groups can also include some of the exercises and projective techniques we described in the senior management workshop. Recruitment costs can be high. Focus groups. as with most aspects of the brand development process. make sure that all the necessary material really is forthcoming. can also come into their own to test the initial creative expression of the brand. Internal focus groups What are they? Carefully managed discussions among employees representing different roles and locations. You need an objective view of your application process and materials. didn’t complete the process. comprehensive picture of how it actually feels to make the journey towards becoming an employee of your organisation – the formative stages of an individual’s relationship with your employer brand. Incentives can range from around £40 per person to £80 or more. while a more recent arrival had this to say of the old guard: ‘The dinosaurs are still around – they’ve been here for 20 or 30 years.’ Another recent arrival (‘I’m proud of what I do and I don’t mind admitting it’) complained: ‘If you look like you want to help.’ Those two opposing descriptors – ‘care bears’ and ‘dinosaurs’ came to summarise the whole battle for the soul of the organisation. What does it achieve? A graphic. the audit will include some telephone conversations with recent starters and some applicants who. it’s like you’re the class swot – a “care bear”.Ideally. In their own words It’s a fascinating and invaluable experience. If you’re giving the task to an outside consultant. and encourage participants to say what they really feel. Very senior people will have neither the time nor the inclination to attend. Emphasise absolute confidentiality. External focus groups What are they? (Should be obvious!) What do they achieve? External focus groups can yield deep insights into how your organisation is perceived as an employer among key target audiences – anyone from graduates to people in specific professions or business or technical disciplines. Points to watch. Limit numbers to around eight and remember that most people’s attention runs into the buffers after about an hour. Focus groups are classic qualitative research tools and it’s the quality of insight they yield that makes them so valuable. you and your own people might be too close. off-the-cuff responses to questions. Points to watch.’ was how one participant described his initial contact). Points to watch.

Off-the-shelf tools include Zoomerang (which gives you the option of using preset templates to customise your own survey) and the wonderfully named Brainjuicer are typical of the latest generation of research tools that have a particular relevance to employer band development. There are a number of graphic devices you can use to express the current brand positioning. and to establish how far and in what direction you need to move the brand to meet your objectives for it. Closing that gap may mean a long. What do they achieve? A detailed. Interviews typically last 30–40 minutes. Figure 6: Expressing the current brand positioning – an example Creative Inclusive Competitive Fun External perception Democratic Senior management perception Internal perception 0 Employer branding . proprietary online research tools. and their ability to combine both qualitative and quantitative elements makes the data they provide particularly valuable. but at least you’ll know. partners or influencers. they can equally – and equally valuably – come from an indirect audience of suppliers. You’re now in a good position to map the brand in its current state. and who will be important in determining its reputation. What do they achieve? They’re quick. Points to watch. considered response to a range of brand-related issues and an objective assessment of the organisation’s reputation as an employer. using sophisticated but user-friendly. they usually achieve a good response. and the one you want. Identifying the right kind of respondents and booking time slots with them can be time-consuming. to measure the gaps in perception between the three key audiences. one of the clearest is shown in Figure 6. Online surveys What are they? Surveys conducted among relatively large numbers of people (typically 100+). You’ll know just how big the gap is between the brand you currently have.Telephone depth interviews What are they? Structured. hard slog or a quick fix. intelligent view of the organisation in question. one-to-one interviews with carefully identified individuals who will have a detailed. These individuals can be senior representatives from key employment markets.

with acronyms like DNA and phrases like ‘stem cells’ entering the discourse. and any promises you make for the brand externally won’t be sabotaged by internal sentiment and perception. bearing in mind the nature of your organisation and its business. we’ll take the oft-quoted ‘customer focus’ as read. language of genetics. ‘plonky’ way. the strengths for which you want your organisation to be known. clearly. You need to ensure that all creative expression through every channel is fresh and sparky – but still anchored firmly in what the research is saying. very graphic expression of where your brand is now. the identity features around which you want to construct your brand on the basis of those that are relevant to your particular activity or industry sector. potential employees didn’t really rate the bank’s chances against the giants of the sector such as Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch. the social dimension of its jobs may need to be mapped and measured.) For a newly merged NHS trust. creative as much as analytical. A small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) will surely want entrepreneurial spirit to be very much to the fore. For a major retailer. and the likely scale of that task. particularly among a global graduate audience. Most significant of all is the issue of competitiveness. a retailer would be crazy not to include competitiveness or commercial focus. But the analogy’s a sound one. Getting biological: creating your brand’s stem cells We’re now at the most critical point in the whole brand development process – the gap (which may appear seductively small) between the two funnels. commercial awareness is clearly important – the sense of ownership over the organisation’s sales and profit performance. For example. current employees.The classic spider diagram is a great way to map how your organisation is perceived as an employer by three key audiences – potential employees in the big wide world outside. It’s that bit in the middle that’s the real challenge. That’s a strong position to be in. Only you can decide the issues on which you want to be measured. How do you choose and label the nodes around which you build your diagram of the brand? There’s no absolute logic to this – it’s a process that’s partly intuitive. any more than six nodes could start to get a bit unwieldy. literal. (In this context. For example. But they certainly give you a clear. when I developed the Land Rover employer brand. Around how many nodes should you conduct this extremely valuable exercise? And how should you label them? The simple answer is: it’s up to you. between input and output. You need to make sure the research insights really do drive the expression of the brand – but not in a boring. and it may help to explain and rationalise a process that’s both right. Across the great divide It’s helpful to see the whole brand development/ communication chain as two opposing funnels – input and output. As for how many… well. and the perception of those analysts. because it means you can present a united front to the talent market. the direction you have to take it in. It’s at this stage I find myself unavoidably using the This is not a quantitative exercise. while an NHS trust may well want the extent to which it’s perceived as having a learning culture to be part of the equation.and left-brain. You’ll notice that on virtually all points. diversity was a really big issue for an organisation that was seen as being (and probably was) as chauvinistic and ‘blokey’ as Jeremy Clarkson. The example shown here is an investment bank that wanted to develop its brand and significantly raise its profile. traders and associates down on the trading floor or dashing off to a client meeting. may be particularly important. for a call centre operation. But you will know the issues that are particularly important to your brand. Employer branding  . and the results are not scientific in the traditional sense. Only you can choose the issues. the issue of teamwork But notice something else: there’s a high degree of alignment between how senior management perceive their organisation. and the people at the top who run the show. external perception lagged way behind internal reality.

every employee referral scheme. From my experience. these are the words you’ll want all your employees to respect. You can’t just pluck attributes out of thin air. please avoid the stilted. the colour of your corporate eyes. There may not be too many surprises in the attributes you choose – apart from the fact that probably no one has chosen and articulated them before. the totally debased linguistic currency that so many organisations  Employer branding . And. your individuality. I prefer to use the term ‘attributes’ rather than ‘brand values’: values are something you see objectively. Every other aspect of the brand – every piece of talent attraction material. there are two golden rules that come into play at this stage of the brand development. and choose to espouse and adhere to. Obviously. they have to be based on what your organisation actually is and stands for (Figure 8). But only you or your advisers can choose the actual form of words in which they’re expressed. What we’re really talking about is deciding what you want to be famous for. every induction programme. if you’ll forgive a brief excursion into metaphysics. The first is to keep the actual number of attributes to a minimum: remember. restricted vocabulary. a degree of realism needs to come into play. The research will give a clear indication of what these are (that’s its main purpose). Attributes are more fundamental – they’re what you are. your corporate ‘soul’.Figure 7: Brand development process Published information on strategy and direction Management workshop External focus groups Internal focus groups Interpretation and analysis BRAND DEFINITION AND CREATION Brand attributes or values Brand proposition or promise Subsidiary propositions or ‘brand muscles’ Brand-based overall creative brief Channel strategy The task you now face (or your brand consultant or employment marketing agency faces) is to identify and name the distinctive features that characterise your organisation as a place to work – the basic attributes of your employer brand. every campus presentation – will grow from and depend on these attributes or stem cells. whatever you do. the key to your uniqueness. remember and act on.

although some people seem to confuse the two. And you need to build the inference that each attribute leads to a specific behaviour – like this: REALISM usly optimistic Taking people as you find them Sceptical not cynical Nobody’s fool Happy to change a small part of the world HUMAN INSIGHT COURAGE Empathy Understanding Bridge-building ‘People not place’ Maturity Fairness Moral as much as physical Sense of justice Don’t ‘go with the flow’ Loyal to team. Employer branding  . the depth and detail of the picture of your brand that the research yields will open many more verbal choices to you. It therefore needs to be around and to work for a long time. it probably will never appear in recruitment or other brand-based communications. in any case. A proposition doesn’t have to be clever or snappy (but it should never be turgid or predictable). not to tribe deal in when they express their values. what makes working for your organisation different and special. so it’s worth taking the time to get it exactly right. Looking at that Prison Service example… that set of brand attributes led us to the initial proposition we proposed: ‘If you’re fascinated by people and can relate to At the heart of it all: the value proposition You’re now ready to write the few words that are right at the core of the new brand – its overall value proposition. in essence. Why just four? Because we wanted them to be easily remembered and acted on in an organisation where most employees are hard at it in busy stores. A brand proposition isn’t the same as a campaign strapline. them effectively.Figure 8: The key attributes of the Prison Service employer brand HUMAN INSIGHT HUMOUR OUGHTFULNESS COMPETENC COURAGE REALISM You have to be clear what each attribute actually means. But it’s a form of words that describes. we developed a quartet of brand attributes: • champions • commercial • committed • credible. You’ll know the words I mean – and. trying to respond to customers and react to the latest machinations of the competition.’ For a major retail chain. and to check that everyone who’s close to the development of the brand is happy with its final form. you’ll find long-term interest and satisfaction in a career with the Prison Service.

We’re passionate advocates of new ideas. it relates closely to some of the behaviours associated with the specific attributes.. You’ve developed an overall value proposition. . You’ve identified the attributes that define your brand’s individuality. accurate. Today’s successes are tomorrow’s challenges. Another analogy is a mixer desk..A proposition that grows naturally out of these attributes is: ‘Be the best. You’ve established your baseline metrics against which you will confidently demonstrate future improvement.and for professional staff Human insight Human insight Courage Thoughtfulness Realism Humour Competence Thoughtfulness Competence Realism Courage Humour  Employer branding . different emphasis – flexing the brand muscles For potential Prison Officers.. It’s aimed at attracting people who get a buzz from the cut and thrust of modern retailing. distinctive. together with the proposition. for example: Champions We love to beat our best. now a highly successful employer brand manager.. the one overarching answer to the ever-present ‘what’s in it for me?’ questions lurking in the minds of current and prospective employees. including our personal best. Your attributes are the different tracks. you can fade them up or fade them down depending on the audience you’re playing for. Flexing the brand muscles One of the questions people often ask about employer brands is: ‘How can I make sure the brand works for different categories of staff – for senior managers as much as call centre workers?’ The answer’s simple: you emphasise those brand attributes that will have most resonance and significance for the particular audience you’re talking to at any one time.’ It defines how it would feel to work for this organisation. The competition’s out there. The music remains the same. beat your best as you earn the trust of customers and the respect of colleagues. not in here. But it indicates some of what the organisation expects of you. and in this aspect. You’re not sacrificing consistency or compromising the brand. describes this as ‘flexing different brand muscles’ (see Figure 9). you can then build specific examples of ‘what this means in practice’ for each one. compelling description of what it means and feels like to work for your organisation. Ready? Figure 9: Different audiences. You can identify and articulate the behaviours that you want everyone to associate with each attribute. it’s just that different audiences will hear it slightly differently. you now have a complete. You have the inputs. It’s time for some action. Because. A former colleague. you can even use them as the basis for specific arguments you can deploy in future employment marketing initiatives. From attributes to arguments Once you’ve established the brand attributes.

You can send everyone an email introducing the new brand. So you’re now ready to launch the new brand with some spectacular. and it’s starting to impact the way they think and work. make sure everyone understands it. but the quality of the end result will depend on the quality of the relationship you establish with whoever handles your internal communications. The means of launching and embedding the brand within your organisation are quite specific. Simply presenting them with a fait accompli is to make them switch off or even to invite resistance. It’s nuts and bolts that make this work. ‘Is what they’re showing me an accurate expression of the brand?’ For additional reassurance. We sat back and thought: “Nice one!” ‘But the reality is that it should be 1% of the effort. It’s no longer a question of. what its purpose and value are. potentially award-winning. So the golden rule is: launch the brand internally. This is really a mix of external and internal communications. Then. alignment between expectation and reality is one of the key features of a successful. The candidate journey.’ David Roberts. where it’s come from. But you must make sure that everyone understands the thinking behind the new brand. can you think about launching it externally. And what we really focus on is shouting less about the strategy and more about aligning our processes to the employer brand. Whoever they are. external or both) as a means of testing the initial creative work to see if everyone else ‘gets it’ and that they can discern clear brand-based messages within it. agrees with it. Orange The brand launch: hold back on those whistles and bells You now have everything you need to brief whoever is responsible for developing the initial creative expression of the new brand. You can present the new brand to the senior management team (hopefully they’ll have been involved and supportive right from the start) – and give them the means to cascade the presentation down through the organisation. ‘Do I like what they’re showing me?’ but. You can hijack a slot at the next management conference. You can use any or all of the communications channels and techniques open to you. Whoa! Not so fast! As we’ve seen.Part 9: From plan to practice ‘We thought we were quite clever developing an employee value proposition and then segmenting it across different talent pools. and only then. effective employer brand. Activities you need to consider. The brand Employer branding  . and you’re in danger of setting external expectations without first making sure that the internal reality will actually live up to them. ‘Formal’ doesn’t mean stiff and starchy – it just means an internal communications initiative that’s fully thought through and that people will really notice and respond to. Employer Brand Manager. they’ll have the one thing that all creatives crave – a proposition! And you’ll have some objective criteria for reviewing their efforts. include: A formal announcement. you can use focus groups (internal. employment marketing. and which give you ample opportunity for demonstrating and expressing the new brand internally. The communications audit (assuming you’ve done one) will have revealed gaps or weaknesses in the process – points along the way where the potential employee may experience misgivings or even decide to go no further.

we looked at recruitment websites for a range of employers. how tough it is to ‘be the best’.gives you the means to plug them. messages and personality – everything from the letter inviting the candidate to interview (how about telling them how the brand has helped shape the questions?) to what they see and hear as they wait in reception. but its playful. The Army website was a classic case – a place where you learned what it feels like to make instant. A few internal focus groups among recent starters will help you check alignment – the degree to which they feel the brand has fulfilled its promises and met their expectations. Everyone felt that real opportunities for expressing the brand had been missed. from a brand perspective.  Employer branding . every email. just as with print-based advertising. gives a potential employee the chance to encounter and experience an employer brand in ways that no other medium can. for example. Imagine applying for a new job and discovering that every letter. to the tone and style of the post-interview follow-up. A quick online survey will test people’s recall of the brand attributes. A recruitment website. you can check the effectiveness of that launch. It can offer the means to apply there and then. while the initial surge of interest and excitement is still flowing. every telephone conversation. every brochure you receive. The overall reaction was disappointment. and the overall proposition. it’s the World Wide Web. stupid’ If any one phenomenon marks the watershed between the old and the new. After the brand has been launched internally. every personal contact confirms your biggest hopes and confounds any lingering suspicions. exceptionally talented maths graduates) by hiding lines of different code in its website. its attributes. It can introduce candidates to current employees. GCHQ sought potential code-breakers (in reality. life-or-death decisions and. few. two key features of an employer brand. fun aspects as well. In one of the discovery days that formed part of the development programme for this guide. A brochure can show and tell. It can offer a ‘test drive’ of the roles in question and what they will feel like in the context of that organisation. This is a sure way to introduce newcomers to ‘the way we do things around here’ – in other words. the extent to which it has been embedded. How impressive would that be! Factoring the brand into the induction process. A pity. Time to go public: ‘It’s the web. especially when. expressing not just the cerebral aspects of the brand. showed any individuality or personality. The brand is at the centre of the oft-quoted ‘psychological contract’ between employer and employee: the induction programme is a great way to give employees an idea of what their side of the bargain involves. to a clearly defined set of on-brand behaviours. or the recruitment pages on a corporate site. to decide between holding and selling a banana plantation as a hurricane threatened to head towards their precious investment. it costs no more to create something great than something average. and create the basis for an ongoing relationship. if any. It also gives you a unique opportunity to create a completely seamless experience where every touchpoint is a further demonstration of the brand. a website can demonstrate an organisation’s brand attributes and values in action. provides the catalyst that has transformed recruitment advertising into joined-up. Most were perfectly practical and functional (some weren’t). An HSBC graduate website subjected potential applicants to real tests in real time – asking them. grown-up employment marketing and moved employer branding from a concept waiting in the wings to its current position very much centre stage. Take your new career for a test drive Websites create the perfect opportunity for candidates to experience a particular role or field of employment – and for organisations to express their employer brands in experiential ways.

effective access to the audiences I seek?’ The second is slightly more complex. The brand is ‘unique’. expressions of the brand?’ Being seen to be using certain channels will. there are some amazing opportunities out there. in themselves. Cinema advertising. their own deals. Diesel receives a lot of unsolicited interest. The opening of Diesel’s flagship store in Bond Street saw promotion in the London press and in-store flyers lead to some 3. Web banners can drive people to your own website. But when setting out to recruit people for the retail network. but equally important: ‘Which channels will not just give me access to the communities I seek but will also provide. It’s one of choice. targeting specific films in specific locations. Digital radio gives you affordable access to almost any minority community you can think of. (continued) Employer branding  . there is no separation of employer branding from consumer branding: there is just one. Using SMS text messaging will not just get your recruitment message through to a younger audience. screens and water gardens installed around ten separate interview areas to ensure the ultimate branded candidate experience. unified Diesel brand. where everything was themed in the season’s oriental style. stemming from the vision of founder Renzo Rosso. being seen to use radical. rather than utility and Tim Pointer. Diesel: communications channels to match the brand Diesel was founded in 1978 and has grown to become one of the world’s truly global fashion brands. If creativity is one of your brand attributes.000 people expressing an interest in retail roles. In design and merchandising disciplines. Clearly. for them. And owners of traditional media have responded to the digital challenge with their own innovations. rather than those who are simply looking for a good job in fashion retail. which means that the business is often recruiting from among its passionate consumers. with cushions. The tagline ‘For successful living’ encapsulates a single brand focus and people at Diesel are keen to spell out how. feels that the staff who choose to work at Diesel do so because of their strong affinity with the company’s clothes and attitude. say something – actually. is no longer the stuff of dreams. If you want to come across as a highly competitive. macho commercial enterprise. But how do you know which ones to take? And can the brand help you choose? The first question to ask as you survey the multifarious channels available to you is: ‘Which of these will give me affordable. recently appointed HR Director. it will help establish your brand as something credible and cool. as the firm is a natural destination for many people with these skillsets. the HR team works closely with the trade and retail marketing team to create in-store and advertised candidate generation campaigns that are seamlessly linked to the current collection and the theme (always current and sometimes controversial) that supports it. Podcasts put you and your brand in touch with people on the move. ipso facto. carry your recruitment message to your competitors by a deliberately provocative billboard right outside their offices. offbeat communications channels – like projecting your message on the side of a high-rise building – will convince people of your organisation’s creative credentials. Around 150 of these were invited to a branded event held in a premium London venue.The medium is the message Technology has resulted in an explosion of channels through which you can establish your brand and communicate its message. say plenty – about your brand.

But while staff in-store wear clothes from the latest range. including branded events and collection briefings. Case study learning points A stylish brand needs to come across stylishly and wow potential candidates from their first experience of the employer brand. validated applicants for other vacancies across the retail network in and around London. it remains an important priority to keep the founder’s vision central to employees’ understanding and behaviours. they’re encouraged to customise and accessorise – to show their individual relationships with the brand in a way that their marketing colleagues acknowledge is a critical dimension of Diesel’s brand identity. the event allowed Marketing and HR to collaborate in finding people who could truly deliver the Diesel brand and generated enough successful candidates to resource the Bond Street store and to provide a pool of high-quality. but for Diesel it was wholly appropriate – and the results speak for themselves.Diesel (continued) Applicants were invited to dress in the way that they felt best expressed their relationship with design and. Staff are encouraged to read the books by Rosso. Those flowers and cushions… a little over the top perhaps? For other brands. alongside frequent formal and informal communications. which are available in-store. Across the business.  Employer branding . yes. were challenged to accessorise their look with a flower or plant that described their personality. Perhaps unorthodox. as a final touch.

their heads are reeling with every latest edict. and described how so much of the latter just seemed to run into the sand. simple and contemporary. senior managers ruefully drew the distinction between information and communication. Their inboxes are overflowing. It started life as a pen nib (very old-style Parker 51. and they can speak volumes for you.Part 10: Every picture tells a story Although employer brands are about much. that will effectively make all your day-to-day. Maintaining impact A great many people in a great many organisations complain about information overload. tactical internal communications expressions of the brand – and contributors to its stature and recognition within the organisation. The employer brand can address this. diktat or communications initiative. very Sir Humphrey) but these days it’s more of an arrow – clean. Figure 10: Logos and symbols as part of the brand Employer branding  . hard and impersonal (very corporate. In research for a recent brand development programme for a major UK and European retailer. but it arguably has more currency and greater influence in the context of employment marketing than any other. consistency and focus to what would otherwise have been discrete initiatives. And look at the way the Unilever logo has morphed from something cold. They complained about an excess of the former. and provide the consistent look and feel. It can give continuity. It can become the driving force behind your organisation’s intranet. to send out the right messages and avoid sending out the wrong ones (see Figure 10). even the actual graphic templates. any hint of Whitehall cobwebs. And it neatly blows away any whiff of elitism. I know it’s the logo of a corporate brand. much more than just graphics and design. Get them right. I’ve always been impressed by the way the Civil Service Fast Stream brand logo has been intelligently tweaked and developed to keep it up to date. there’s no getting away from the fact that logos and symbols are integral elements of all brands. very 1980s) into something softer and more engaging.

nit-picky rules and stipulations that will enforce visual uniformity – but also engender resistance and hostility. It also provided a detailed rationale for the whole campaign and even sample copy. but also to offer a degree of flexibility to take account of local market conditions. So the new brand had to be flexible and sensitive to local market conditions if it was to have any chance of being accepted and adopted. stronger on examples and suggestions that ‘doing it this way might well work for you’. media habits and even cultures. Coca-Cola HBC: the tools for the job HBC stands for Hellenic Bottling Company – the business that bottles and markets Coca-Cola brands throughout the whole of Europe. but important. It will also explain the reasoning behind the new brand. of look and feel that will build awareness of the brand. The role of the brand in such a context is to provide the consistency of message. The toolkit (see Figure 11) provided that flexibility. ‘do it like this or else’. and ‘this is the way you really should do it because it will work best for you’. A toolkit. There was a subtle difference between saying. with A well-thought-out brand toolkit will achieve this for you.The tools for the job In many organisations. The latter will probably be full of detailed. We draw a distinction here between a toolkit and the more familiar visual identity manual. on the other hand. from Greece to Germany. giving them a real sense of ownership. and make it clear that using it will make the recruiter’s or line manager’s life easier. a range of images and headlines that participating local companies could choose from to suit their own local requirements. will be light on hard-and-fast rules. Subtle. recruitment is and will continue to be conducted through a wide range of people and locations. their recruitment efforts more effective. Figure 11: Coca-Cola HBC ‘toolkit’ 0 Employer branding .

• Internally – we run a twice-annual climate survey that goes to all staff to capture the reality of working at Orange. graduates. We used a mixture of in-house and agency expertise to research. marketing. At these sessions we investigated how Orange was perceived as an employer and what potential candidates wanted from an employer and how they saw us delivering that. and within our main geographic areas and spheres of influence (for example M4/M5 motorways). • Improved retention and engagement internally. HR. such as retail. Phase 2. segmenting it to our target audience and then implementing it in a consistent way internally and externally. (continued) Employer branding  . What did you hope that employer brand development would deliver for your organisation? • Improve recruitment – by making it easier to attract talented candidates. design and communicate our employer brand. desirable and consistent identity externally to ensure that we attracted great candidates. better fit (giving candidates a clear picture of what it is really like to work here). technical. We created a consistent identity for Orange the employer and then segmented it so that it was relevant and desirable for each of our talent pools. finance. Was the employer brand developed as part of an overall HR or leadership strategy? Please describe. reducing cost to hire and driving more speculative CVs. contact centres.Orange: a classic of its kind What prompted you to develop an employer brand? Phase 1 was to develop an external employer brand where the aim was to create a unique. which we are still working on. IT and engineering. finance. These three pieces of research gave us the information (perception and reality both internally and externally) to create our employer brand. Our employer brand was developed to assist one of our key UK corporate objectives and to fit with France Telecom’s wider HR strategy. Our model involved defining our offer. and so on. • Vision/company strategy – we spoke to our strategy team to get an idea of where we’re heading from a business strategy point of view. How did you develop your employer brand? Were any formal models or processes used? We took the best approaches from the marketing community around brand-building and segmentation and applied it to the HR world. is to join up our external and internal employer brand and to define and communicate our ‘employment offer’ internally so that it articulates what we offer and why staff should stay at Orange. The aim here is to use the employer brand to retain and engage staff and was driven by a tougher employment marketplace and a tougher business environment that we operate in. How did you measure your organisation’s status before taking action? We conducted three pieces of research: • Externally – we ran focus groups across our target talent pools in retail: contact centres.

brand. • Conduct research. What do you regard as the most successful aspects of the project? • using solid marketing techniques to develop our employer brand • flexibility to segment our offer to different groups • breadth of our employment offer – covering emotional and rational offers And the least successful? What problems did you encounter? The biggest issue is where does employer branding sit? HR. assessment and development processes? We’re using our employer brand to support the uptake of leadership development within Orange. physical environment. What other functions (if any) were involved from your organisation? HR? Marketing? Other functions/disciplines? Reward. internal communications. • Monitor the progress of the brand. marketing. The key sponsor is our HR vice-president. • Create the employment positioning/offer. • Build creative execution. Outline the basic stages of the project • Scope the project. engagement. Does your solution encompass changes to management behaviours. HR operations. brand.Orange (continued) Who had ownership over the project? The project sits within Orange HR with close co-operation with our colleagues in marketing. • Adapt as necessary. competency frameworks. PR and employee engagement teams. PR? What were the key learning points from the project? Buy-in is key as employer branding covers many directorates and functions. What were the project timescales? Phase 1 = six months build + two-year implementation Phase 2 = one-year build + projected two-year implementation  Employer branding . internal communications. • Gain buy-in across the company. • Launch the employer brand.

How are you measuring the effectiveness of the brand – the return it yields on its original investment? • perception of Orange as an employer in the marketplace and brand pull (for example candidate CVs registered on our jobs website. what would you have done differently? More buy-in before starting the project.Orange (continued) In what ways did the project differ from your original expectations? Buy-in for an employer brand can take longer than expected due to the wide range of directorates it covers. The other impressive point is Orange’s realism about the time it takes to do the job properly: six months to build and two years for implementation is refreshingly realistic. Information supplied by David Roberts. Employer branding  . You can never have too much. It was probably the acceptance of these relatively long lead times that prompted Orange to apply the new brand to the issue of talent attraction first. Employer Brand Manager Case study learning points While we hope this guide makes it abundantly clear that employer brands are about much more than just recruitment. there’s no denying that ‘to ensure that we attracted great candidates’ is a pretty strong reason for going down the brand route in the first place. reduction of advertising costs) • internal perceptions through our annual climate survey and attrition levels Looking back on the project.

almost independent existence. relatively short-term focus and you’ll need to show some quick wins to confound the sceptics and win support for each successive phase of the project. Richard Branson’s burgeoning empire has been claiming to fight Joe Public’s corner against the vested interests of the commercial establishment since he sold his first cut-price 12-inch vinyl from a cramped.’ In the back of their minds may be the ghost of a thought about returning at some point in the future. Your brand development project will need a specific. modified their colour palette and inspired some great advertising campaigns along the way. Marks & Spencer’s reputation for quality has been passed down through successive generations – as has its reputation as a good company to work for. and automatically more favourably disposed to the  Employer branding . first-floor Oxford Street record store in 1970. still regard anyone who has the temerity to look for pastures new) but more as alumni – a valuable constituency of people who. Orange Employer Brand Manager Most truly great brands have been with us for a long time. But they’ll happily open up to a third party. creating brand equity ‘If you take your foot off research. You need to understand that one of the objectives of your brand project is to create long-term loyalty. you need to recognise that people’s relationship with their employer brand (or their employer’s brand. you’ll slip behind. fewer still will leave prematurely. to be more precise) doesn’t end when they pick up their P45 and head off to the pub. The brand to which you give birth will grow up to acquire its own. with the right treatment. If the brand is doing its job. thankfully. that thought should be in your mind. too. people are too evasive or simply too polite to dish the dirt on that bullying manager or to fulminate about that missed promotion. Traditional exit interviews don’t really do this. amazingly. But the overriding impression they create is one of permanence and the ability to change with changing times – but with each change only confirming their essential nature and identity. And for that. But this amazing job came up and I knew I’d be crazy to turn it down. there are things you can be planning and doing to ensure your organisation reaps maximum long-term benefit from the brand. Brand loyalty and the long good-bye People will leave your organisation as surely as night follows day. BMW has been promising the excitement of getting behind the wheel of the ‘the ultimate driving machine’ since the late 1970s.’ David Roberts. The first is to discover the real reasons why people leave. British Airways is still attracting spontaneous enquiries and applications from young men (and.Part 11: Building brand loyalty. They may have tweaked their logo. or at least dispense in-flight catering with ‘the world’s favourite airline’. and at their farewell party they’ll be saying things like: ‘Well. will act as informal but highly effective recruitment consultants and brand advocates for the organisation that still holds a place in their affections. they’ll be fewer in number. So get a research company or an independent consultant to conduct a series of short telephone interviews with recent leavers. They’ll feel flattered. You need to see them not as leavers (less still the traitors that some organisations. But remember this: the brand you create and communicate will be around long after you’ve left to take up the plum job that your prowess in brand development will qualify you for. women) who want to get behind the controls of a 757. So even while your initial focus is relatively short term. I’ve had a fantastic time here. There are two ways you can make this happen.

You may breathe a sigh of relief that your newly created brand seems to be finding its feet… and move swiftly on to the next item on your agenda.organisation. Books have been published on it. such as teachers and community leaders. Google throws up countless references to it. If the brand gives you the means – or at least identifies the need – to maintain a relationship and sustain loyalty with leavers. It was a struggle to get them to produce the key baseline metrics in the first place. while the changes and initiatives that help determine the distinctive employment experience your organisation offers may not seem terribly startling or newsworthy to you. And remember that. It’s done so by engaging staff in a new way – the right way – of thinking about the company and the whole way they Employer branding  . let them know the organisation is still around. One of my biggest frustrations in brand development The other thing to do is simply to maintain contact with leavers through newsletters or other classic communication tools. it was harder still to persuade them to make regular measurements against those original figures. Let them know what’s happening with the organisation and with the brand. Apart from anything else. it defines the distinctive employment experience you want those influencers to comprehend and buy into. hard feelings will be softened. though they may be indirect. Don’t forget to take measures The world of the HR practitioner never stands still. New challenges rush over the horizon. Depending on the nature of your organisation. You’ll discover if the grass really is greener on the other side (it seldom is) and you’ll discover a more objective. to get your recruitment activity off the back foot and to enable you to develop a relationship with future potential employees naturally depends on you maintaining good relationships with your PR or communications team. projects has been getting clients to put some accurate. You may even find people ready to come back. up to a point. That audience includes influencers and opinion-formers. repeat the telephone interviews with the same cohort of leavers a few months later. it can also be the basis of building relationships with audiences who. ‘building and sustaining those relationships is just good recruitment practice. But the employer brand helps you create the employment story you want to get across. At a very basic level. But it’s a task that must never be overlooked or underplayed. The whole issue of engagement begs the question ‘engagement with what?’ It’s the employer brand that can help create and communicate that ‘what’. the more ‘discretionary effort and time’ they’ll put into it. bruised egos will be mollified. you owe it to yourself to produce the numbers that prove to anyone who may still harbour doubts that your brand project is producing the goods and that you’re doing a great job. In the retail sector alone. they may well be just the stuff that editors will love to devote some valuable column centimetres to. strategic HR consultancies are rubbing their hands at the additional income it represents. Let’s get engaged Employee engagement is definitely the hot topic in the HR firmament right now. And to get real value from the exercise. Marks & Spencer hasn’t reversed its declining fortunes simply on some great advertising and high-profile models of a certain generation. it gives you something to talk about. Using the brand to think and plan ahead. can make a huge impact on your reputation as an employer. you may want to be selective in who you keep in touch with – but remember that even a Saturday morning student on the checkouts may be a potential future manager or a part-time call centre operative a future team leader. John Lewis has long known the bottom-line value of treating employees as partners: the more people feel it’s their business. and suddenly yesterday can seem like ancient history. robust metrics on the impact the brand was having and the value it was adding to the enterprise. And there’s overwhelming evidence that an organisation whose people are fully engaged is a successful organisation. balanced view of your organisation as a place to work.’ Yes. and hasn’t forgotten them.’ you may be thinking. ‘But surely.

do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?’ or. The whole issue of engagement begs the question. An NHS trust knows that a growth of employee engagement will show up in an improvement in how patients and referring GPs perceive the trust and the services it provides. it’s something else to be able to put a figure on the tangible. a 0. More succinctly.  Employer branding . Towers Perrin have claimed that.1% improvement in sales growth will surely follow. and that makes them want to give of their best. Of course. the brand is by no means the only driver of engagement. the CIPD simply talks about ‘a passion for work’. ‘Do you know what is expected of you at work?’ Gallup suggests that asking employees to rate their response to each question on a scale of 1 to 5 will give a detailed and accurate picture of the extent to which they feel engaged or disengaged. for every 1% improvement in engagement. It implies a combination of ownership and responsibility. But it’s one thing to measure the degree of engagement your people feel with their organisation. like: ‘Does the mission/ purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?’ or. has someone at work talked to you about your progress?’ But their list of 12 questions also includes several that are more directly brand-related. financial value of that engagement. memorable formula. ‘At work. And it won’t half impress your chief financial officer. It’s a neat. ‘Your M&S’ has an obvious resonance with customers. proved – to its own satisfaction at least – that employee engagement was the principal factor behind turning a $3 billion deficit in one of their key divisions into a healthy $752 million income. the link between employee engagement. Gallup’s useful research model for measuring engagement lists obvious issues like. ‘Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?’ or. beyond the required minimum to get the job done. 15 years ago. effort and brainpower’. in the form of extra time. For some organisations. But for a retailer. market share and sales performance is absolutely critical. But there’s no transaction. no sale – and therefore no bottom line in a conventional sense. ‘In the last six months. to quote Towers Perrin’s accurate and detailed definition. The issue we need to concern ourselves with is the role the employer brand can play in developing engagement – in persuading employees to ‘put discretionary effort into their work.approach their work. And he’ll be following in the footsteps of US retail giant Sears who. More recently. You can bet Stuart Rose will be looking closely at the figures that show his employees are signing up to his vision for the organisation. it has an equally strong resonance with employees. ‘engagement with what?’ It’s the employer brand that can help create and communicate that ‘what’ – the vision of an organisation that its people can recognise and believe in. any effort to do so is largely irrelevant.

their colleagues and the product range. The unique ethos at the heart of the business drives recruitment and training. charities and community initiatives. where everyone is treated fairly and with respect. Lakeland has become one of the leading kitchenware and homeware companies in the UK. training DVDs and even proof copies of the new catalogue make sure that ‘everyone knows everything’ and that ‘no one’s ever having to play catch-up’. ‘Do what’s right for you. email communications. Traditional methods. Despite having a strong online presence for its customer offering. while new retail managers spend two weeks in Windermere before even setting foot in their store location to ensure that they fully immerse themselves in the Lakeland way. Monthly staff meetings. but intuitively as a shared objective across HR. rather than spectacular. the business prefers not to use online recruitment channels and doesn’t contract out any part of its recruitment and assessment processes. HR Manager. family-run mail-order concern based in the Lake District. Look at what other companies are doing. staff feel that the business remains true to its roots as a family concern. but at Lakeland seven to ten years’ service is not unusual in these roles and many staff have friends and relatives working within the business on their recommendation. Despite its growth. but stick to your values and do what you think is right. Debbie Bullock. the company now operates a retail network of 35 stores alongside a thriving online and catalogue-based mail-order business. Retail and call centre employers often experience high staff attrition.’ Employer branding  .’ Lakeland has a history of involving all colleagues in product development and sampling and everyone from front-line customer service staff to the despatch team are encouraged to learn about new and established products. the company receives a big response to its recruitment ads. Wherever you work. closely managed by a team who live and breathe the brand. and employees are frequently visible in catalogues and customer communications. to suggest ideas and offer opinions in a flat structure in which everyone is on first-name terms. ‘There’s absolutely no separation. reveals that success has come out of a deeply rooted ethos that runs through the company. Community is clearly an important focus and the employer brand meets corporate citizenship in the way in which Lakeland supports local schools (where the children of many staff study). from the leadership team – the founder’s three sons – to the most junior trainee and from the head office location in Windermere to retail outlets across the country. you’re an ambassador – it’s the first thing you read in the handbook.’ counsels Debbie. Although the Lakeland package is competitive. fun events. leadership and staff at all levels.Lakeland: a model of engagement Over the last 40 years. whether in its Lake District heartland or retail locations (including some traditional hotspots). The employer brand has developed without any sort of formal model. Lakeland is often nominated as a great company to work for and spontaneously mentioned by job-seekers and HR professionals alike as an organisation that has got employer branding right. Staff targets are focused on customers’ enjoyment of their shopping experience rather than on sales. deliver consistent recruitment outcomes. The secret of Lakeland’s success seems to lie in consistency. where they are proud to represent the business. ‘Don’t rush it. Starting as a small.

Nicola Wilton recognises that ‘there’s loads more we could do. The business is rolling out a new ‘model store’ concept while continuing to open in new locations. mainline stations and concessions in partner stores. this study emphasises yet again the importance of a good relationship (albeit tinged with playfulness in this instance) with marketing. The business researches potential locations to find potential sources of labour.  Employer branding . migration online is working well for entry-level positions. Growth has been rapid and a small HR team has worked energetically to keep up – five years ago there was no HR team at all serving a business of some 500 people.’ Case study learning points Apart from highlighting the day-to-day pressures that HR teams in a high-growth retail environment have to contend with. Emphasis has been on getting the core processes right – recruitment to support the expansion. Personal contact and trust is key here: ‘There’s a running joke in our design team: “Just say ‘no’ to HR”. innovative and quirky.Paperchase: where product creates brand Paperchase. people just instinctively get it or they don’t. no mission statement.’ While some press advertising continues to feature in the recruitment strategy.’ There is no formal employer brand programme in place and the company is sceptical about management artefacts that are not central to the business – there are no formal values. but trust is built around commitment to the brand – we’re designer-led. The big issue is to move away from agencies – especially at store manager level – and to accommodate ‘next steps’ for emerging managers within a flat structure. describe themselves as an exciting and ‘must-have’ brand that has doubled in size in the last three years and has grown to over 100 stores in premium high-street locations. and the retention and development of managers. With a large number of students working at sales assistant level. But it also demonstrates that elusive quality of affinity – the hard-to-articulate sense that a particular organisation is somehow ‘for me’. Personality fit is central to recruitment and retention efforts and the customer-facing brand is inextricably connected to the employer brand: ‘they have to love our product if they’re going to work in the stores. We have to concentrate on the things that will bring results today and focus on what we can do to recruit and retain good people at all levels. Communicating as an employer depends on close working with Paperchase’s busy marketing team – the owners of the brand. no staff satisfaction survey and no formal referral scheme. staff turnover is built into the people dynamic and isn’t necessarily a bad thing. but we don’t have the time. the contemporary stationery retailer. building links with local colleges and tries to create advocacy through existing staff and customers.

braking system and so on. However. To use our automotive analogy again. But because so many aspects of an enterprise impinge on the brand. In both these cases. alignment simply means: ‘This is pretty much how I expected and hoped it would feel like to work here. people in any organisation need to feel that their ultimate issues will deliver on their promises and. suspension layout. It doesn’t always happen: only 34% feel they can trust their senior management team and. perhaps returning to work after a break or changing career. There’s a close. And the same applies to employer brands. employer brands aren’t the philosopher’s stone that turns everything to 24-carat gold. supportive culture. Chairman. the research that’s part and parcel of any brand development project reveals issues that need dealing with irrespective of the way they relate to the brand. Employer branding  . they become more cynical about their senior managers. ‘as employees gain more work experience.’ Achieving this all-important alignment between expectations and reality depends on another kind of alignment – between the rhetoric an organisation employs and the reality of what it delivers. Your brand may promise a collegiate. The brand image you want to project may be of a thrusting. entrepreneurial enterprise where risk is actively encouraged and amply rewarded. Time and time again in any discussion about employer brands. But this may be totally at odds with a compensation structure that rewards tenure rather than tenacity. Any impression that they might be omni-competent and all-powerful probably comes from the fact that many of their exponents and practitioners are marketing people who are seldom lacking in enthusiasm and their ability to persuade.Part 12: The brand and broader HR issues ‘Tomorrow’s CEOs will spend more time on their organisation’s reputation as an employer than with the investment community (and fund managers will worry if they don’t). and vice versa.’ The implications for brand development are twofold. long service rather than long hours and that has little or no element of incentive to it. Someone joining your organisation. as the report makes startlingly clear. they can be a conduit through which other HR issues can be identified and addressed. First. do what they say they’ll do. functional relationship between brand and product.’ Simon Barrow. Employer brands aren’t the answer to every hard-pressed HR practitioner’s prayers. the issue of alignment comes to the surface. In other words. and its importance is borne out by the recent CIPD-sponsored research project we’ve referred to elsewhere in the guide. in general terms. if senior managers are involved at the outset. may find a frosty reception and support that’s only grudgingly given. The brand can’t fix those problems. The two may be in conflict: that soggy gear change or an engine that seems to be lacking in the ‘va-va-voom’ department will diminish the brand’s stature and tarnish its reputation. product means the basics such as engine type and size. Brand means the collection of intangible emotional responses that any encounter with the product provokes – from climbing eagerly behind the wheel to just clocking a sleek coupé on the street. In the context of employer brands. People in Business The HR profession increasingly sees the concept of the employer brand as important to HR strategy. but it can identify that they exist and need fixing. they’ll more readily appreciate the need for alignment.

You’ll get the people you need. And it provides a great pretext for beefing up your appraisal system and even extending the process to include full 360-degree appraisals. The brand has given you specific arguments (remember those ‘brand muscles’?) that will resonate with that audience. day-to-day pressures intrude too deeply into their work. already had. the results were almost literally off the scale – a result that gave the organisation consolation rather than consternation. Classic PR and the use of non-traditional channels (how about an ad or article in Saga magazine?) helps you make the connection. it also gives you valid reasons for telling that story to those constituencies of people you might want to directly attract at some stage in the future. so your costs will be lower. Measuring and rewarding ‘living the brand’ A fast-moving consumer goods multinational whose products feature in most kitchen cupboards or bathroom cabinets wanted to develop and implement an employer brand in the wake of an aggressive takeover. On the axis of ‘competitiveness’. I’d just like to leave the here and now and try to take a peep into the future. A new brand can make you review your whole approach to appraisal and promotion. opportunities to put one’s organisation on the radar of various audience groups from which future talent might be drawn were scarce or non-existent. and the behaviours it demanded. So when you eventually do need to recruit. One of the problems was that your recruitment advertising had relatively little to say other than ‘come and apply for this great job’. Your strategic business plan and marketing research indicates a growing need for older employees in customer-facing roles. but you will sometime. rather fewer make any strenuous attempts to inculcate on-brand behaviours and measure the extent to which they really do drive the way the organisation thinks and operates. they’ll know what your brand means to them and what it asks for in return.Second. They quickly realised that their compensation structure was at odds with what the brand promised. Resource planning is something many HR practitioners would love to be able to do. Before the advent of employer brands. you’ll be doing so against a background of awareness and favourability. Because you’re worth it Finally. You won’t just have caught up.) But because the brand gives you a coherent and compelling story about what working for your organisation might offer and feel like. to a large extent. but seldom seem able to – perhaps because reactive. 0 Employer branding . You don’t need them right now. Equally quickly. Many organisations these days talk about ‘living the brand’. you’ll have got ahead of the game. attributes like ‘competitiveness’ and ‘commerciality’ were very much to the fore. Just imagine how it would be if your organisation’s employer brand – the brand you developed – was seen as a measurable. were seldom articulated. they’ll realise that they’re the people who can deliver it. (The reasons why anyone should consider applying. they fixed the problem by making ‘living the brand’ a major factor in managers’ six-monthly appraisals – and an even bigger component of their remuneration. Research revealed that in the brand it wanted and. That measurement isn’t difficult. that is the employer brand. Recruitment will be easier.

substitute the measurable reduction an employer brand makes on the traditional costs of talent attraction.valuable asset – the kind that features in the balance sheet and all those densely packed pages of the annual report. successful defence. Already the world’s great brands have acquired a value as assets measured in terms other than straightforward sales performance or market share. They talk about ‘forecasted current and future revenue specifically attributable to the brand’. It’s interesting that Interbrand’s ‘brand strength analysis’ includes the words ‘loyalty’ and ‘retention’. the book value the accountants place on the employer brand boosts the organisation’s overall value and helps it mount a spirited.51 billion) are many and varied. recruitment and retention. has certain features that could. Suppose. McDonalds $27. but one particularly clear and robust approach. it could be another way for the HR community to prove the real value it adds to an enterprise. For revenue. but we are – and we can place a value on it. They’re not talking about employee retention. measurable) between employee engagement and sales revenue. Employer branding  . Puzzling over how to measure the financial value of the employer brand won’t yet be a priority for many.78 billion. Remember the formal relationship (again. developed by the global brand consultancy Interbrand. This guide is to help you get started on your employer branding journey. It’s not as fanciful as it may seem. with a little thought. be applied to employer brands. But in future. The methods for measuring their value (Accenture $6. if yours is the kind of organisation that’s likely to attract hostile bids from a rival or from a private equity partnership.

glamorous PLCs with their own high-profile consumer brands. They’re for every local authority. PR. 7 Employer brands can support corporate brands. 17 Probably the first commercial organisation to take the issue of employer brand seriously was British Airways way back in the late 1980s. and vice versa. strategic projects and issues. 9 To prove a brand’s effectiveness and demonstrate its ROI. well-defined reputation – is Civil Service Fast Stream. you need to accurately measure your current performance in recruitment and retention. 8 Every employer brand is an investment that should and must demonstrate a return comparable to other forms of business investment. 2 The tools and methodologies of employer brand development are substantially the same as those for consumer or corporate brand development. 4 Never trust anyone who tries to wrap employer brands in a cloak of mystique or jargon. 6 The basic difference between talent attraction the old way and the brand-based way is the introduction of research. 12 Developing an employer brand proves that HR can handle big. 13 The shortest realistic time to develop a brand is six to eight weeks: in reality. Its value will last and grow for as many years.Thirty things you need to remember about employer brands (or may never have known) 1 Like all brands. academic organisation that needs to recruit. government department. retain and engage good people.  Employer branding . because your organisation has a reputation as an employer. employer brands are essentially marketing concepts and constructs. your internal communications team. 5 They’re not just for the big. and every stage will yield its own value. 11 Starting a brand development project doesn’t commit you to completing it: you can walk away at any stage. and probably longer. SME. 18 You can’t develop a brand on your own – you need to involve marketing. charity. enabling potential applicants (and your own people) to see your values in action and experience the reality of working for your organisation. 16 One of the first employer brands – and one that still enjoys a strong. 14 The biggest cost element of an employer brand project will be research. 10 The highest ROI ever recorded by an employer brand was 290%. you should allow a lot longer. 15 You already have an employer brand. 19 Your recruitment website is one of the most potent expressions of your brand. 3 Employer brands are at least as much about retention and engagement as they are about recruitment. It may not be the brand you want or deserve. but it’s there just the same.

29 If employer brands are a big HR issue today. 26 A brand toolkit will give recruiters and line managers the flexibility they need. 21 One of the keys to a successful brand is to ensure that expectation is fully aligned with the reality of working for your organisation. 27 Without compromising consistency. make sure it’s fully communicated. 24 Brands breed engagement – the discretionary time and effort that people put into their jobs. 22 Before you’re tempted to launch your brand externally. 23 Research for the brand may show up weaknesses in your product – the basic features of working for your organisation. 28 Your employer brand can give new focus and consistency to your ongoing employee communications. a brand can be tailored to create the greatest resonance with a number of different audiences and talent market sectors. 30 Employer brand development is attracting managers from classic marketing backgrounds to move into HR. 25 Engagement – and the financial value of engagement – can be accurately measured. Employer branding  . understood and embedded internally. and the brand consistency you want. and that customers or service users notice. they’ll be even bigger tomorrow.20 The public sector has done as much to embrace the concept of employer brands as the commercial sector.

Universum • Professor Graeme Martin.Find out more. and Job Mensink.co. Operations Director. wagamama • Simon Barrow. Glasgow University Recruitment. Employer Branding: The latest fad or the future for HR? (00) www. The questions they consider include: What is employer branding? Where has it come from? Does it really work? How do you get started? And what is its future and the outlook for HR? Contributions from: Working Life: Employee attitudes and engagement (00) www.uk/surveys Annual CIPD survey looking at trends in recruitment. this report by Kingston University and Ipsos/MORI contains survey findings from a nationwide survey of 2.000 employees in the UK. Retention and Turnover (00) www. available from the CIPD.cipd.. retention and employee turnover. including HR and Marketing.co. CEO.cipd. Chairman. Manchester Metropolitan University Business School • Glyn House.co. Philips International • Dr Shirley Jenner and Stephen Taylor. Senior Director Recruitment Marketing.co.cipd. Country Manager. People in Business • Suneal Housley.uk/bookstore Available from the CIPD bookstore.uk/surveys Summary of the study of employee engagement and attitudes by Kingston University and Ipsos/MORI above.uk/researchinsights In this report eight leading commentators consider employer branding and its current and future role in people management.. This survey of resourcing practices includes a section on employer branding.  Employer branding .cipd. It gives you: • a picture of the experience of work in the UK today • an insight into the drivers of employee engagement • recommendations for improving employee engagement levels in your own organisation. Bernard Hodes Group www. How Engaged are British Employees? (00) • Helen Rosethorn.

books.We explore leading-edge people management and development issues through our research. Please visit www. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development 151 The Broadway London SW19 1JQ Tel: 020 8612 6200 Fax: 020 8612 6201 Email: cipd@cipd.uk Incorporated by Royal Charter Registered charity no. We also organise a number of conferences. practical tools.1079797 .co.cipd.uk to find out more. Our aim is to share knowledge.cipd. events and training courses. increase learning and understanding.co.co. Issued: February 2008 Reference: 4093 © Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development 2008 We produce many resources on employer issues including guides. and help our members make informed decisions about improving practice in their organisations. surveys and research reports.uk Website: www.