Branding and Communities: Finding Your Starting Point

blahblahblahLately, I’ve had the opportunity to work on multiple projects that deal with employment branding and talent communities. I’ve come across some fantastic examples while performing research on successful and unsuccessful companies. I’ve been able to consult companies on their current state and provide suggestions for a better strategy. I’ve even had the chance to implement a few initiatives for my own company. It’s been a great learning experience from both research and hands-on experience, however, during this time I’ve also come across a lot of misconceptions regarding this. This simple misconceptions are what’s causing many companies to fail when it comes to maximizing their efforts.

In my time, I’ve seen companies with amazing branding, such as Adobe. I’ve also discovered some unique and fun talent communities, such as Zappos, GE and Accenture. I’ve even had the pleasure of demoing technology such as Work4, which has really added something appealing to social media recruitment and social media talent communities. And tech companies like Ascendify work well when it comes to having the functionality to truly make a talent community work in the way that it has been theorized. All of these things are examples that companies should look to when envisioning their strategy. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Some companies think that creating an email list to blast out their job agents is a talent community. Some companies think that throwing together a little fluff piece about their company culture or a job is employment branding. Neither are the case and, unfortunately, these scenarios are usually run by the same companies who curse communities and branding months down the line when they’ve gained no traction. To have a robust, valuable and engaging community, you not only need the manpower to run it but you also need the content to share. Content can’t only focus on sharing company news, jobs and employment branding, but also educational or informative pieces regarding the industry or job from other sources.

To have a functional employment brand, you need to go beyond the surface and really dig deep. When investigating this for my clients lately, I’ve noticed a lot of the issues seemed to revolve around the fact that they lacked an engaging or defined employee value proposition (EVP) that helped differentiate them from other companies. There were some companies that really didn’t even have one established at all. In my opinion, this is the first thing companies should focus on before they get to branding content and communities. The EVP is the backbone of all of these activities for so many reasons.

The EVP is a way a company defines itself to its employees and candidates. It’s a way of attracting new talent and a reminder as to why current employees would want to stay there. It also acts as the basis of all branding content. It gives branding a purpose, a focus and helps ensure consistency. It establishes a company’s personality and voice. And it helps branders understand what point they’re trying to make when they create content. This should be the starting point and companies should scale back to work on this before anything else.

To have a strong brand and community, companies need to know what they’re promoting. So many companies fail at this or create confusing messages because they haven’t established the consistent voice and message. Without a defined starting point (the EVP), your community messaging will be empty and provide no value. Starting at this point can also make it tremendously easier when moving forward with other parts of the development.

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Employee Value Proposition: Building a Stronger Employer Brand from the Inside Out

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While I was in talent acquisition and HR roles, I was often involved in strategy development for candidate attraction and retention. I would help my team come up with creative ways to attract talent, which could be especially tricky depending on the type of candidates we were aiming for. Once I started in HR and recruitment marketing, I realized that these were also hot topics when it came to developing copy for employer branding initiatives. Regardless of the role I was in, I knew the importance of brand marketing, effective recruiter communications and reputation damage control. Although these are all exceptional ways to help a company become an employer of choice, I believed that companies missed a step in the process. Sure, employer branding is great but you can’t truly make it strong if you have nothing behind it. To be an employer of choice, you must start from the inside and develop your employee value proposition (EVP).

Having an employer brand isn’t going to be nearly as effective if your employee value proposition isn’t robust. Companies need to focus on developing this first before they can brand themselves in good conscious. If your previous or current employees were to give a testimonial, what do you think they would say? What about the candidates that already interviewed with your organization? With technology making it easier for people to find news and reviews about your company or social media allowing candidates to communicate with employees, companies need to realize that they can’t just “fake it until you make it.” People will see right through it.

To build or revamp your current EVP, consider the following:

  • Surveys: Give the people what they want! Getting candid feedback from your employees can help you understand what retains them, what things they value over others and what they’d like to see for future offerings. Also, get additional feedback from candidates. Learn more about what attracted them to your company to begin with and why or why not they decided to move forward with the interview process. Accumulating distinct details about attraction and retention can aid in the development of new offerings and nix the ones that make no impact.
  • Competitors: Look at direct competitors within your industry to see what you’re up against. If a candidate is interviewing at multiple organizations, having this competitor intelligence can make it easier to seal the deal and help make your organization present itself as a stronger choice.
  • Voluntary Turnover/Exit interviews: If an employee is leaving your company voluntarily, it’s in your best interest to find out why. Any information you gather from their exit interviews can be invaluable when it comes to knowing where your company is falling short. For example, did the employee leave because of the long commute? Incorporate telecommunication opportunities. Did they leave because lack of growth potential? Work with HR about career succession. Every exit interview can be an opportunity for improvement.
  • Forecasting and continuous revamping: The world is fast changing, which means the landscape of employment, candidates and offerings will change quickly too. Employers need to focus on correcting or revamping their EVP for the here and now and they also need to stay on the forefront of what employees or candidates could want in the future. Staying ahead of the curve can limit any risk and make your talent acquisition strategy proactive. Revamping the EVP can keep it fresh and engaging.
  • And, of course, branding: Once you get all the details of the EVP squared away, you then have a really strong backing to help with your employer branding initiatives. Your brand can speak to things you’ve already implemented and employees can give their testimonials to confirm that your company practices what it preaches. Showcasing your future initiatives and how you value employee and candidate opinions can make those researching your company more engaged and excited to see what’s to come.

Your brand has to start from the inside. Before you can catch up with the trend of building a brand, social media recruitment, video branding and candidate experience, you have to make your employee value proposition into something worth talking about.

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