Attention vs. intrinsic value in employer branding
My old Kindle got broken this weekend. It served me well for 9 years but decided to retire unexpectedly. I went and bought a new kindle hours after this one stopped working. I did not try to research about some new and possibly better e-readers. I was like a zombie and went to the store to get a new one.. „Must have new kindle, do you have some..
Minutes later I was already reading my new book: „How Jeff Bezos tricked me into buying a new kindle.. twice..“ Not quite, I was not tricked, I enjoy the product. I guess the tricky part would be to make product or service which we enjoy. That is brand perception at work, influencing my buying decision and brand loyalty.
If there is a company which products or services you admire and can't live without, you have a certain perception of that company. That perception makes you engaged with that brand, product, service. That perception is sometimes based on your experience when using that product or just based on marketing communication and unique value proposition that brand offers. And brand can be influenced on many ways, but it works the best if all the channels and interactions with the brand and company are aligned and consistent – we call that a clear message.
The concept of branding is to create a certain perception which will be well understood and clearly communicated on the market. You can manage that perception, influence, change, amplify, or weaken it's position in customer's minds and hearts. So brand is the entire experience that your customers have with your business, product or service. If you do not manage that perception, people will still have a certain idea about you.
The tricky part about employer branding is that it can not be managed only having an impact on the external communication – messages which should engage future job applicants. Your job is not only to create company videos and blog posts about awesome work culture your company has. Employer brand has to be managed internally, catering to your employees needs and making sure there are significant improvements in employee experience. You can not promise something (influence perception about you) if this promise is not a part of real work-life experiences.
Why is it so important to manage how employees feel these days?
Are people more sensitive than before? Might be.
If people are happier they will respond with positive attitude toward our clients? Might be.
If employees feel valued and appreciated they are willing to go the extra mile. Pay is important.
Benefits are important. But pay and benefits are also expected; what makes employees go the extra mile is the feeling of belonging to a team, of pursuing a higher purpose, of working with people who care about them as people, not as employees. When that happens, employees want to come to work. Work is more fun and more rewarding.
But why is it so important? Because employees are biggest, most important and most valuable segment of your business model. They are just more valuable then ever before, especially before the days when customer expectations were lower and lack of transparency was a name of the game.
I'm 36 but I remember the days when employees were treated with much less care. It was so much easier for companies to hire and fire someone, we had no Facebook or Linkedin to share our stories. No Glassdoor to make recommendations and less opportunities to change jobs.
It is a major shift from 20-30 years ago, when majority of employees rarely changed jobs and if you managed to pull them in, you would probably slightly ignore them. You knew changing jobs very often is not a highly likely event and there was a little cold-hearted approach towards employees – they should just accept this is how things are done in your company. Who cares about touch-points and feelings at each employee journey.
It should be quite clear that achieving strong employer brand is not only marketing gimmick. Building strong employer brand means to create strong fundamental value as an employer. So it's attention vs intrinsic value. Having in mind employer branding covers the whole employee life cycle from first contact with your company through to leaving and beyond – it is a necessity to make an impact on employee journey on every interaction. Your perception and feelings are influenced throughout the use of your favorite brand – every time you go to favorite restaurant, use a phone or computer you like, interact with your new gadget or decide to move on to a newer and improved version – perception is constantly under attack. Put a little more simply, perception is how consumers think, feel, and react to a brand based on their experiences with it.
For example, an experience with a brand can entail everything from a conversation with a friend, reading an online review, to watching an advertisement.
Why is perception important? – Perception of your brand, in addition to perception of your competitor's brand – can heavily influence buying decisions. It is how you win customers and employees.
Employer branding as a concept can be very confusing as it covers a lot of segments and it has many pieces in this huge organizational puzzle, a puzzle which is sometimes blurry even when all the pieces are in place.
Why is it so confusing? Again due to its many layers
Firstly – there is a responsibility confusion – is it an HR topic, marketing or PR topic? Who should manage it and why, who has the resources to execute employer branding strategy? I'll talk about this in a second episode.
Then we have process confusion – where to start, what should we do first and how, what can we do and what makes sense..
Then we have strategy confusion – where should we aim our efforts? Internally, externally, which workforce segments should we address and with what content?
Then there is content management confusion? Especially challenging if there is no strategy around which you should align your messages and communication.
These are some of the reasons why employer branding is often misinterpreted in companies as well. Being confused is usually not the best place to be at if you're required to do a lot of meaningful work and create activities which have an impact on your workplace.
Why is internal employer branding more important than external? Because of the basic logic of successful branding – if you promise something to job candidate – he or she has to have that promise delivered internally – when it joins your company. If not, you have made the biggest branding mistake and you fooled him into believing your workplace is something which is not. There is a very high risk this employee will not only be engaged and happy, he will not have a positive impact on your employer brand when talking about his experiences at your company. Be careful what you promise.
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