r26Should HR lead on Employer Brand management?

Increasingly, employees are no longer happy to accept jobs on the basis of salary alone. Additional benefits such as employer image, a balanced home/work life and a positive working environment are now considered equally as important.

Therefore in recent years, employer branding has become a very popular focus. It is accepted that an employee’s perception of their employer and the way it positions itself within the job market is strongly linked to the way the company brand as a whole is established and maintained. As such, employer branding becomes an integral part of the company’s marketing strategy. The lines between marketing and HR become blurred within this definition and therefore, there is confusion as to where responsibility for employer branding should ultimately rest.

Research by the CRF Institute has suggested that 51% of employers see employee brand management as a vital element of their HR strategy. The way employees perceive the company should reflect and match up to recruitment messages, as well as those communicated by the company through social media and professional networks.

It is the behaviour and actions of current employees that presents the true brand culture, positive or negative, to potential candidates. Therefore, careful management of employee branding could be best carried out with HR at the very centre. HR managers must begin to think more like marketers when defining and manipulating brand identity, while also recognising the need to engage employees as an important part of the process. Developing strategies to make employment attractive to the employee, for example designing jobs, around individuals as opposed to the other way round, is one way to ensure positive brand messages are communicated.

Conversely, there is an argument for employee branding to be marketing lead. Instead of viewing employer branding as a separate element to overall company branding, many consider it important to develop a multifaceted approach. Including any employer branding strategies as an extension of and heavily interrelated to, the company marketing plan, ensures that all brand messages, internal or external, match up.

Internal marketing aims to communicate the company brand and consumer promises to employees. In doing so employees are able to better understand any overall company objective and their role in its delivery. This can only be achieved successfully if an employee’s own experiences of the company are in line with the values communicated as part of the external brand image.
It seems inevitable, therefore, that the employee will take on a new role of ‘internal customer’ and the use of tried and tested marketing tools, such as satisfaction surveys and those used in customer relationship marketing, will become an important part of attracting and retaining the top employees.

In conclusion, we can see that responsibility for employee actions may rest with HR, while communication of the company brand and monitoring employee satisfaction, is undertaken by marketing. In reality, the two strategies are tightly interlinked and as such, each is dependent upon the other.

As such, it is clear that HR and Marketing departments must begin to develop a strong operational relationship. The development of forums and additional platforms through which to communicate will ensure a mutual understanding of the brand and the strategies employed to establish and uphold it. It seems the success of the brand and ultimately the company itself, is dependent upon the ability for marketing and HR divisions to achieve this.

Therefore, rather than arguing the case for which department should lead with employer branding, perhaps a more realistic solution would be to consider creating a cross functional group of people who can take on this role together. This team may include representatives from marketing and HR, but also finance and top management, for a more cohesive approach to delivering an effective employer branding strategy.

November 16, 2013 in Resource Centre