It is not very often I find myself swimming against the tide of popular, management opinion but in the case of the employer brand I will make an exception.
I read a lot about the importance of the employer brand, and in HR circles it has been and still is a hot topic. Conferences discuss how to create one, companies try to build them and consultants help develop them.
Is it important to be able to attract and retain talent? Of course it is. Should you be setting out to create an employer brand? I think not.
What you need is a commercial brand that is capable of attracting and retaining talent. It is impossible to ignore the influence of the ‘market facing’ brand on prospective employees. If you ask anyone to think what it would be like to work for Apple, Waitrose, Volvo or Disney, I guarantee they will immediately conjure up an image based on their view of the commercial brand. Try it yourself.
The way to tackle the issue is to first recognise that all major brands will typically have multiple audiences, e.g. end users and distributors, parents and children, families and empty nesters etc.
The smart brands will clarify a focused proposition for each audience driven by the ‘market facing’ brand and dial up or dial down the brand values to support that proposition. Talent is just another (very important) audience, so you should develop a focused proposition in exactly the same way interpreting the values for that audience.
Of course the real challenge is then alignment. How to you define, create and implement an irresistible experience for new and existing talent that is driven by the proposition and values. This will involve a thorough evaluation of the talent journey, the processes and behaviours that deliver that experience and align them all to the brand.
Of course, I could be accused of splitting hairs but I don’t think so. If we believe we have to create an employer brand then we are arguing that two brands exist and they don’t. The only exception is where companies have a ‘house of brands’ structure, where you have one holding organisation and a number of different and distinct brands.
For the majority there is one parent brand that has to appeal to different audiences.
Talent just happens to be one of them.