There's No Difference Between Your "Brand" and Your "Employer Brand"

May 21, 2014 Leslie Carter

s an employer, does your company offer a competitive compensation package and opportunities for career advancement? Are you looking for bright and talented individuals who want to make a difference in your customers’ lives and in the communities where you live and work? Do you support diversity, work/life balance and out-of-the-box thinking?

If so, here’s my question: how does that make you different than every other employer out there? 

Since Simon Barrow first introduced the concept of “employer branding” back in 1990, HR professionals have been trying to define what he called the “functional, economic and psychological benefits provided by employment.” Here’s the trouble: many companies, especially competitors of similar size or in similar industries, have similar functional and economic benefits—from compensation packages to career progression paths. As a result, employer brands often end up looking and sounding the same.

To avoid that trap, you need to differentiate your employer brand by clearly identifying the psychological benefits your company offers. And you can’t pull those types of benefits out of a hat. Instead, they must be directly tied to your company’s culture and leadership, and they must align with your external brand. For instance, if your corporate brand hinges on your company’s reputation as a leader in its industry, or your company is known for its quality, innovation or expertise, your employment brand must reflect those realities.

Here are some tips to make that happen:

  1. Identify your organization’s cultural and leadership strengths and weaknesses. To do this, you may need to ask some hard questions. Do you have a culture that values sales over service, or one that might sacrifice sales to win customer loyalty? Do your leaders take a hands-on approach to training and development, or encourage employees to learn on-the-job by tackling stretch goals? Keep in mind that the only “right” answers to these questions are the honest ones; answers that truly reflect your organization’s culture and leadership approach.
  2. Determine which of those competencies are celebrated by your external brand. Because employees and customers are often considered two different target groups, some HR teams are tempted to create internal employer brands without taking the external corporate brand into account. This is a mistake, especially in an era where social media enables customers and employees to share and influence one other’s perceptions. Job applicants today come armed with reams of information about your company that they cull not only through the corporate website, but through “employer rating” sites like Glassdoor. As a result of this social media spotlight, I believe companies have only a single brand shaped by the perceptions of all their stakeholders. If there’s a disconnect between your employer brand and your corporate brand, or between the way you say you treat staff and the way staff say they’re treated by you, prospective employees will take note—and not in a positive way.
  3. Ensure there is strong alignment and planning between the Marketing and HR teams. Once you’ve determined how your cultural and leadership strengths dovetail with your external brand, it’s important to work with the Marketing team to ensure your employer brand aligns with the company’s external brand. By working together, you can create a cohesive message designed to resonate across all your target markets, not just for employees.
  4. Develop an Integrated Brand Value Proposition (IBVP). The intent of the IBVP is to demonstrate to both customers and employees how your brand, where the target is customers or employees is shaped and influenced by your organization’s cultural approach and leadership style. In this way, your IBVP will be a true reflection of your company’s strengths, differentiating you from your competitors.
  5. Communicate your IBVP both internally and externally. Once you have an IBVP that identifies your strengths as both an employer and a business, you need to equip your staff to communicate this message consistently to the marketplace—not only in corporate marketing materials and HR communications, but through personal conversations and on social media sites.

By developing an IBVP that takes your cultural and leadership strengths into account, you can do more than align your employer and external brand. You can also explain your value proposition to the market in a way that resonates not only with prospective employees but with customers, suppliers and your entire universe of stakeholders.

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