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HR Departments Need to Start Thinking Like Marketing Departments


Today’s organizations — be they B2B, non-profit, government or consumer – live and die by their ability to build and deliver a strong employer brand that earns the trust and loyalty of their employees.  If your external brand is the sum of all the experiences that someone has with your organization, then that is true of your employer brand too. 

Some organizations believe that their overall brand is sufficiently powerful that they don’t have to worry about building an employer brand.  Yet there are stats that clearly show the value of a strong employer brand.  According to LinkedIn, companies with strong employer brands receive 50% more qualified applicants, have a 50% lower cost per hire and fill positions twice as fast.  As well, 75% of job seekers say that they consider a potential employer’s brand first before they apply for a job, noting that not knowing what a company is like to work for is their major obstacle.   

Overall, organizations that think of their employees as customers reap similar benefits.  A strong employer brand:

  1. Reduces the cost of talent acquisition in the same way that your external brand can lower the cost of winning customers.
  2. It creates more durable and resilient relationships between employers and employees in the same way that external brands can help companies retain customers during challenging times.
  3. Improves employee retention in the same way that good external brands can improve customer loyalty.
  4. Encourages strong employee word-of-mouth, both for the employer brand but also for the external brand.

To gain those benefits, HR departments need to start thinking like marketing departments.  In fact, forward-thinking organizations are starting to combine HR and marketing together when it comes to brand strategy and management.  These organizations clearly understand the complementary relationship between employees as those who deliver the promised brand, customers as those who experience the promised brand and the reputation that builds across the entire ecosystem.

Aligning an employer brand with your external brand is not as difficult as it appears.  The important part is to recognize what really drives employees out of bed and onto the job every day.

  • Your organization must have a clear brand purpose.  And your employees’ purpose is to deliver that purpose.  Howard Schultz of Starbucks famously stated that people want to be part of something larger than themselves.  It’s not about profit or shareholder returns.  It’s about making a difference to customers, no matter how small that difference may be. 
  • Have a vision for the future and communicate it with conviction.  The kind of employee you need is one that wants to be part of something that will grow, evolve and generate value for themselves, your customers and your organization.
  • Your employee brand must be genuine. There is no point in promising growth and learning to potential hires, for example, and then denying them training or the ability to stretch their abilities once you sign them on.  Mean what you say and then do what you say.
  • Have values tied to your purpose and then practice them.  They are your employee’s guides for all decisions.  A set of spiffy values on your website or posted on your office walls will make no difference to your business at all if you don’t live them. Values must be consistently demonstrated by the leadership and expected of employees.  The truth will out and hypocrisy will kill an employer brand.
  • Actions are where the employer brand meets the external brand head-on. Actions are what your employees experience every day, and what your customers experience as a result every day.  Actions must be regular, predictable, consistent. 
  • Recognize that the hiring process is no longer local and potential employees are exposed to your brand in many different ways.  Your employer brand must be part of all your overall brand touchpoints, including:
    • Your website, not just your careers section.
    • Social media, not just recruitment social media.
    • Job boards and recruitment sites.
    • All content both inbound and outbound.
    • Stories that illustrate how employees realize the purpose, move into the future, make a difference and grow and learn.
    • Relationships with recruiters, colleges and universities, etc.

With good talent increasingly hard to recruit, it makes sense for companies to take their employer brand seriously. If you’re in marketing, it’s time to go talk to HR about their recruitment challenges and how the brand can help.  If you’re in HR, it’s time to go to marketing to find out how the company’s brand can translate to better recruitment and retention success.

A good place to start is engaging with your current employees to understand how they see your company as an employer.  This can be awkward, so using an outside firm that places a filter between employer and employee can help elicit honest answers and valuable insights. 

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