Driving Growth Via Employer Branding 0

Driving Growth Via Employer Branding

With rapid evolution in technology and communication on the supply-side, and, in people generations on the demand-side, the ‘how’ of employer branding should provide digital solutions and concepts through various stages of the employee journey and beyond.

BY RACHITA BHATTAMISHRA

Companies across the globe are constantly focusing on how to be the market leader in this digital age. Towards this strategic and a somewhat loosely-defined goal, many organizations have embarked on a customer experience transformation journey, given the fact that emotionally engaged consumers are typically three times more likely to recommend a product or become repeat customers. One reason for companies to be unable to realize this goal is because as they focus increasingly on consumer experience and digital touch points, and, pay less attention to another critical dimension of success – internal employee engagement.

A study by Gallup shows that: –

  • Companies with an average of 9.3 engaged employees, for every actively disengaged employee experienced 147% higher EPS (Earnings per Share) as compared to their competition.
  • Contrastingly companies with an average of 2.6 engaged employees, for every actively disengaged employee experienced 2% lower EPS as compared to their competition.

Keeping this in context, we explore how digital transformation can help organizations in building their employer brand value, to attract and retain the best employees, and, create superior employee experience and engagement.

Redefining The Broader Boundaries

The traditional employee journey traces the activities and touch points that an individual typically goes through across two phases: –

  • As a candidate, from finding a suitable position to deciding whether to take the offer.
  • As an employee, from joining the company to their last working day, when they leave.

    The Traditional Employee Journey (image credit: Oracle)

The boundaries of this journey have blurred and organizations need to consider a stage prior to the traditional starting point – long before a potential candidate searches and applies for a specific position, and at the other end, when an employee has moved out of the organization. With digital channels and solutions, this broadening of boundaries, renders the global population as the ‘target market’.

The Double Helix of Employer Branding

Before diving into the digitization of employer branding, let us take a quick peek at how the concepts of corporate branding and employer branding are closely intertwined. For all practical purposes, the marketplace for both consumers and talent boils down to a common pool in the case of a B2C company. Even in the B2B world, the company ultimately gets to own a single brand image. Further, the principles of marketing associated with corporate brand strategy are being applied by HR and recruitment teams to attract and retain talent and vice versa.

Ultimately, both corporate and employer branding are a function of the organization’s vision, culture, core values and are driven by the same motivation – to engage the target individuals (as customers or as employees) and sell your proposition. In recent years, there has been an enhanced effort to align employer and consumer branding more closely. Companies like GE have poured massive resources into creating brand narratives that are attractive to both clients and potential employees – the idea being that there is a large overlap between those two groups. A study by LinkedIn and Lippincott looked at hundreds of global brands to better understand the benefits of aligning consumer and employer brands –and companies with strong marks in each showed a five-year cumulative growth in shareholder value of 36 percent.

Using innovative digital branding to create a buzz around the corporate brand, a company can potentially build on that foundation for their employer branding. This is especially true in the B2C industry, where the target market for consumers and employees intersect. Housing.com, a small, Mumbai-based real estate search portal for instance, allows customers to search for housing based on geography, number of rooms, and various other filters. In an already crowded market, the brand underwent a revamp with a new futuristic logo and optimistic brand identity and the tag ‘Look Up’ to drive their social media campaign. With energetic and vibrant colours, the brand’s mission was to create a persona of positive, cheerful, game changing and uncompromising – and who would not want to be associated with that? Their “lookupmoments” campaign became one of the top brands in Instagram. With simple and clean creatives throughout their social media platforms, the brand humanized hashtags and tracked conversations to reach across and attract users to its online platforms. Now, it is up to their leaders to leverage this opportunity and focus on their employer brand to help them through their growth trajectory.

Employer Branding In The Digital World

With rapid evolution in technology and communication on the supply-side, and, in people generations on the demand-side, the ‘how’ of employer branding should provide digital solutions and concepts through various stages of the employee journey and beyond.

Stage 1: Candidate Experience

This is an oft-overlooked touch point, where employers tend to neglect the experience and impact on candidates in the recruitment process. A study revealed that 82 percent of employers think there is little to no negative impact on the company when a candidate has a bad experience during the hiring process. The same study found that 58 percent of candidates are less likely to buy from a company that did not respond to their application, and, that 69 percent are less likely to buy if they had a bad experience in the interview. Add to that the influence of social media channels, a candidate’s negative feedback can amplify the impact on and potential losses for a company – 72 percent candidates with poor experience shared that with somebody directly or online. This implies that attempts to re-engage hundreds or thousands of candidates in a company’s ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) may end up being a waste of time; vice versa, a positive candidate experience can reduce both cost per hire and time to fill.

Enterprise HR and recruitment teams need to digitally transform the way they think and work to address this challenge. Firstly, leverage the power of digital marketing with focused campaigns to generate awareness. Whether your brand is relatively unknown or you already have an established brand, a digital campaign will help re-connect with the changing demography and/or redefine your offerings, positioning and target markets. A major transformation over the past few years has been with regards to the role of women in the corporate world, and, more companies are now focusing on inclusion and diversity in their hiring strategies and planning. If not directly via hiring channels, one can also observe this trend in the recent women-focused marketing campaigns such as Ariel’s #sharetheload, which highlights the latent gender inequalities in society and Nike India’s ‘da da ding’ – a campaign that encourages young women to take up sports.

Next, the company’s hiring team can improve the candidate experience with digital solutions to manage end-to-end logistics – from job listing to shortlisting candidates to rolling out the job offer. Job postings, for instance, can leverage a social medium such as LinkedIn, not only as a mere channel to share the opportunity details, but, also to allow for a semi-personalized communication via social messaging channels. Further, multiple applications and solutions are available to aid in the creation of opportunity descriptions – ensuring that all relevant information is captured and shared in a simple and clear format.

One of the most significant challenges that recruiters and hiring managers face today is with the ability to filter out the good candidates from hundreds, and at times, thousand applicants, on the basis of resumes. Today, there are several tools in the market that can parse resumes intelligently, but ultimately, data indicates that companies rely on keyword matching for all practical purposes of shortlisting resumes. The main problem here lies in the fact that the resume itself is rarely an accurate reflection of the candidate’s professional abilities, and, certainly does not capture elements such as the candidate’s attitude or cultural fit to the organization. Again, digital technologies can step in to address this to a very large extent, for instance video-resume solutions or snap-interview based shortlisting applications.

Finally, the biggest gap reflected in candidate experience is communication or the sheer lack of communication, and thereof, recruiters are unable to cope with the huge volumes of information from candidates and constant pressure from hiring managers for quick turnarounds, and therefore, simply ignore this key element in the process assuming it to be a nice-to-do (as against a must-do). However, from a candidate’s perspective, communication through the hiring process has a huge impact on their perception of the employer brand. To bridge this gap, companies can depend on digital assistants, which can help with any number of activities from scheduling and reminders, to managing the workflow through the various steps of the hiring process and enabling easy two-way communication at each step. Most of these solutions are mobile-integrated, helping stimulate the digital experience.

Employer branding at different stages

Stage 1: Candidate Experience

  • Reconnect with the changing demography, through social media.
  • Use digital solutions to manage end-to-end logistics.
  • Use Video resumes and snap interviews
  • Communicate to not only the selected but also to the non-selected candidates.

Stage 2: Employee Engagement

  • Communicate the corporate vision, values and market brand.
  • Digitally enrich experience through initiatives such as BYOD (bring your own device) and CYOD (choose your own device)

Stage 3: Alumni experience

  • Provide closed social media groups for alumni to stay connected and for networking.
  • Keep the alumni engaged through periodic newsbytes, invites to webinars and seminars.

A quick note to conclude this stage – as the selected candidate moves into the next stage (Employee), it is imperative for the hiring company to address and communicate with the candidates who did not make the final cut. Not only are they future potential employees, they are also ambassadors of the employer brand.

Stage 2: Employee Engagement

At a strategic level, employees are successfully engaged when their personal brand aligns with the corporate brand. Therefore, helping employees understand and define their personal brand becomes a very critical step. And, this is where the learning and development department can play a significant role viz. leveraging online personality assessments and digital coaching sessions via video and mobile applications. The next step is to communicate the corporate vision, values and market brand frequently in an apparently clear manner to the employees to internalize them. To this end, many companies today leverage digital options such as periodic leadership blogs, webinars and virtual town hall meetings, specifically to ‘talk to employees’.

At a more tactical level, employee experience can be digitally enriched through initiatives as BYOD (bring your own device) and CYOD (choose your own device), which, apart from productivity benefits, also offer employees the option to exercise their own preference, thus giving them a sense of acceptance and importance by the organization. For their day-to-day operations, employees should have the ability to use self-service mobile apps, which can deliver a more personalized user experience and incorporate new tools such as wearable technology.

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” –Stephen R. Covey

With technological progress and better security controls in place, newer solutions such as business-oriented virtual digital assistants can be deployed to help relieve employees from many mundane rule-based tasks such as filling timesheets, applying for leave, etc. As an extension to these digital assistants, virtual buddies can help new joinees navigate the typically complex and confusing policies and processes in large organizations. As the virtual assistants ‘learn’, they could potentially take over more complex tasks, for example, searching a social media channel such as LinkedIn for sales leads, putting together sales materials, and, initiating the first contact before the associate meets with prospects in person.

Stage 3: Alumni Experience

While most employee journey definitions come to an end with the stages mentioned above, it is essential that companies extend their focus to ex-employees or the alumni. Providing closed social media groups for alumni to stay connected and for networking is fundamental. In fact, HR and recruitment teams should regard them as a ‘preferential’ pool of potential future employees and keep the alumni engaged through periodic newsbytes, invites to webinars and seminars (on relevant subjects – using some basic analytics on their prior and current experience, skills and possible interest areas), and so on.

For the success of an organization and its brand, one needs brand ambassadors, and, the best ambassadors can be its very employees. There cannot be a more powerful form of branding than the employees experiencing the brand values. Owing to this, a specific focus on employer branding is a critical first step – to hire the right people and provide them the best experience within and outside the company and thus earn their endorsement. With the vast spectrum of digital tools and technologies available, it is possible for companies to improve their employer branding quickly and effectively, while optimizing the cost of investment. This indeed is a critical area of corporate strategy, for in the words of Jeff Bezos, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room” and you sure want it to be not just good but Great!

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Rachita Bhattamishra is an Associate Director for Digital Business Solutions with Cognizant Technology Solutions. A proven leader in digital automation, analytics and data management, she is also passionate about applying digital innovation for HR business process transformation. Rachita is a Fulbright Fellow (Leadership in Management) from Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon, and holds an MBA from the IIM, Indore.

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