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Rally ’Round the Brand Wagon


Last updated 8/5/2010

A corporate brand isn’t just for customers anymore. It’s a tool for connecting with employees. It should be felt at every touch point in the employment process—from the initial wooing of candidates to their career development and right through to the time when they leave the organization. Keith E. Lawrence (2007), a director of human resources with the beauty and health-care division of Procter & Gamble (P&G), calls these touch points “moments of truth.” Following are some of the opportunities an employer has to establish and reinforce its brand.

Early-stage branding
A firm’s brand as an employer is felt from the first moment a prospective employee makes contact. This may be on the company’s career Website, at a college recruiting fair, or even as a consumer. Brand communication must convey the employer’s value system and should touch workers on an emotional level as well as on a practical one, notes Mark Schumann (2006), a managing principal for Towers Perrin. And that same message must be consistently reinforced through recruiters, advertisements, the Website design and other applicant touch points. Brand is also influenced by word-of-mouth discussions about the company’s culture from current employees.

Once a candidate becomes an employee, it is time to demonstrate how the company lives up to its brand, and the new- employee orientation session is a critical opportunity for doing so. At this important juncture, the employee learns about the company’s history, its goals, its leadership, and the role the employee will play in the company’s future.

Midcareer branding
Organizations showcase their employer brand by helping employees develop new skills and knowledge. The firm’s
approach to training, its investments in worker development, and its passion for enabling employees to reach their full potential all play a role in establishing the brand.

Employers also burnish the brand through excellent management practices and techniques. Among the factors that influence a firm’s brand are the effectiveness of its performance management program, the quality and timeliness of worker feedback, the perceived fairness of its compensation plans, the attractiveness of its reward programs, its tolerance for risk taking, its openness to new ideas and its reputation for acting on such ideas.

Late-stage branding
Long-term employees can reinforce the brand with other, less-experienced employees. Mentors can effectively communicate the brand to new hires. Establishing personal relationships and trust brings home the branding message more convincingly than any written claims.

Even when employees exit the firm, the company’s brand is showing. How, when and by whom are exit interviews conducted? How are employees treated when they leave to join a competitor, when they retire, when they are downsized or when they are being released due to performance? Does the company stay in touch? Are those who left in good standing eligible for rehire and welcomed back?

Starting somewhere
Lawrence (2007) notes that P&G’s branding initiative began in 2002. The firm set out to build an HR brand by encouraging worker experiences that “create shared identity, inspire commitment, and meet both business and employee needs.” P&G’s goal was to ensure that each product or service contributed to the brand by being “high quality … informative … personal … accessible … simple … [and] engaging.” One example is P&G’s “FastStart” guide, a compilation of tips intended to aid employees’ integration into a new assignment. This guide is given to transitioning employees along with a personal note from the HR leader.

Not all firms put as much time or effort into branding as they’d like. In a survey of 1,400 HR professionals by UK publication Personnel Today, respondents were asked to designate which HR functions they considered most strategic as well as those HR functions to which they devoted most of their daily time. Employer branding was one of the HR functions that showed a notable gap (Dempsey 2006).

Creating a purposeful employer brand is not something that can be accomplished overnight, nor can it be done by HR alone. It requires coordination with the firm’s marketing department, both to take advantage of their expertise in branding and to coordinate the consistency needed in external communications. But firms can certainly undertake an immediate review of their current touch points and begin a methodical approach to examining their brand.

References:

Dempsey, Karen. “Getting in Tune with Business Goals.” Personnel Today. ABI/INFORM Global. May 16, 2006, pp. 22-25.

Lawrence, Keith E. “Winning at ‘Employee Moments of Truth’ Through HR Products and Services.” Organization Development Journal, Summer 2007, pp. 159–161, 236.

Schumann, Mark. “You Are How You Brand.” Communication World, July–August 2006, pp. 29–31.

“Senior Human Resource Executives 2007 Priorities Survey.” ORC Worldwide [www.orcworldwide.com]. Obtained June 12, 2007.