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BW Businessworld

Brand Or Employer Brand

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The top priority for any organisation is maximizing productivity and efficiency of the corporate work environment. Most prefer to take a comprehensive view from the point of cost savings, increased efficiencies, cultural impacts, human resource benefits and challenges. However, individuals and employees view the workplace as an extension of themselves; it mirrors a considerable part of the life they live. Therefore they also look for support and enrichment from the organisation at every step. Considering that happy and satisfied employees translate into successful companies, it would be detrimental for an organisation not to focus on Employer Branding.

The young workforce of today brings in a brand new set of values to the workplace. Generation Y (those born between 1980-2000) and Generation Z (those born after 2000) are confident, driven, dedicated and academically bright with high expectations from their employers. They just do not look for higher salaries for a successful career but also scout for more intangible assets that can be associated with their organisation. For them, life and work are inseparably entwined and they are on a life-changing quest for purpose termed as 'Life careerism' aptly.

In 2011, a study was conducted by a newspaper Metro International and a strategy consultancy, United Minds jointly. They quizzed 15,000 young city dwellers all over the world about their work life along with their relationship and expectation from their organisations. A majority of the respondents, an average six out of ten, claimed that work is a part of who they are and not just a way of making money. The decision to work for an organisation was usually backed by a reason for questions posed to self like; why should I work here? How does it fit into what I want to do with my life? So it is pretty evident that life careerism continues to emerge as a raging concept. And therefore, for employers too eventually it will bethe right employer branding that will come to their rescue to help them grow not just big and successful but also reputable.

Employer branding essentially seeks to achieve differentiation and build distinctiveness. A practical reality is that no organisation can be all things to all people as different types of people are right for different kinds of companies. So organisations need to focus on building and sustaining an employer reputation that attracts andbinds the 'right' kind of talent.

Two things that will fundamentally help organisations in building their employer branding to perfection are; first, how connected is an organisation is in its approach towards its employees and secondly,in reality how it actually plays out inside the organisation. More often than not, employer branding lives in a silo called 'recruitment'. But the hard fact is that employer branding is just not a human resource function. Rather,it is a complete organisational responsibility and opportunity which needs specific attention. Primarily, the CEO should be championing it. The real difference is made only when the idea percolates down from the top across all hierarchical levels.

Also, a point that organisations often miss is that employer branding is not just a one time project or program. Rather, it is a way of business life. Understanding it means that an organisation is more likely to recruit and retain the right kind people for itself. Take Google's example, where seekers go through as many as six to twelve rounds of interviews. The company strongly justifies this as a part of their process to ensure that the company recruits for employee-employer success. Considering their attrition rate, a mere 3 per cent in the digital sector, they seem to be doing their employer branding right.

Keeping both the employer and external brand in sync are also crucial to be really effective and consistent. If there is any disconnect it immediately conveysa confusing message thus failing to engage both external and internal stakeholders. Always remember, employees can either be your strongest brand ambassadors or yourbiggest critics. The choice is yours.

Achieving the right employer branding is broadly a five-step process. The first is to do research to determine your position in the market in order to create an appropriate action plan. Self-analyses with some critical questions like these could help, "What are the most attractive and compelling attributes of this organisation to both current and potential employees? What roles within the company are most critical to its success? What is needed to attract and retain the best talent in these areas?" etc. This helps one in in positioning; where is one standing now and what steps are needed to form the basis for an employer branding strategy.

Next is figuring out the unique employer offer. It basically is the employee value proposition which will provide current and future employees a reason to work for an organisation. This reflects immensely in a company's advantage. Third is the communication plan which needs to be based on the research findings and the already defined employee value proposition. Fourth is expressingthe employee value proposition using the right words and images so that it is consistent with the brand and its corporate identity. And finally, nurturing the employer branding as it continues to grow and develop over time.

It is seen that the best employer brands recognize the changing needs of their workforce and shifttheir perceptions to adapt accordingly. Tools like employee satisfaction surveys, employee workshops and exit interviews always provide invaluable insight.

In the war for talent in the years to come, if organizations fail to recognise the importance employer branding they may soon find themselves at a disadvantage. Increased spends on recruitment campaigns only help in the short-term with employers losing out to firms with stronger employer brands. The underlining truthis that the right employer branding automatically reflects the ability of an organisationto attract and retain the besttalent pool.

The author is managing director of (India/Middle East/ Southeast Asia/Hong Kong)