CoffeeEarlier this year, employer branding firm Universum released a four-part study, “2020 Outlook: the Future of Employer Branding.” Based on a survey of more than 2000 HR professionals and CEOs from around the world, the study looks at where employer branding is today and how employer branding may evolve over the next five years. In the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring each piece in this study in a series of posts. Today, we take a look at part two of the study: “The Employer Brand Misalignment.”

In the previous installment of this series, we surveyed the general employer branding situation – and found it to be a pretty bleak landscape. We had more questions than answers, more problems than solutions. 

Here, we’ll start to talk about how employers can begin the difficult – but necessary – work of building stronger employer brands – employer brands that actively attract qualified candidates who will thrive at a given organization.

The Call to Action Has to Come From the Top

No problem can be solved without first being owned. When it comes to employer branding, however, figuring out who owns the problem – and, subsequently, the solution – has proven to be rather difficult. 

This is because HR and the C-suite can’t seem to agree on who should own employer branding, with 60 percent of CEOs saying it’s their job and 58 percent of HR executives saying it’s theirs.    

This deep divide has led to a stalemate of sorts: there needs to be a call to action; employer branding efforts need to be improved at companies around the globe; but no one has issued a call to action – because no one is totally sure whose job it is to issue that call.

“Since there seems to be a misalignment on who is accountable on both a strategic and operative level, no one has a good answer on how to increase internal engagement on the employer branding topic,” says Jonna Sjövall, vice president of talent strategy and employer branding for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at Universum.

In the previous article in this series, we came to the conclusion that the divide between HR and the C-suite need not exist, and that CEOs should be the ones to own employer branding efforts. And if CEOs need to own employer branding efforts, they also need to be the ones to issue the call to action.

But what should that call to action be, exactly?

Bike“It would demand organizations to work together and tie the employer branding tactics to the overall talent attraction strategy and link it more closely to the business goals,” says Sjövall. “The driving force behind all employer branding work should always be the business – what do we need in order to outperform competition, to be more efficient and to drive our growth? Without a strong business driver for employer branding activities, there is no point in putting effort on them at all.”

This is not to say, of course, that CEOs need to go it alone when it comes to improving employer branding efforts. According to Sjövall, “the whole management team should drive the topic together – as [is the case with] any strategic decision — and HR, marketing, and communications have to work closely with top managers to execute [employer branding efforts] efficiently.”

Next Steps: How to Start Building a Better Employer Brand

A call to action is all well and good, but it’s meaningless if it doesn’t ask people to commit to clear, achievable steps for success. Once CEOs have issued a call to action, the question becomes, “What, exactly, can our organization do to improve our employer brand?”

Universum’s report identifies two key starting points: refining and communicating employer value propositions (EVPs) and choosing the right key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure employer branding success.

1. Refining and Communicating the EVP:

“The employer value proposition is the heart of the brand, from a talent perspective,” Sjövall says. “The EVP should be seamlessly aligned with and driving the overall business strategy forward. [It should be] linked to values and winning behaviors, but [also] take into consideration what truly matters for current and future star [employee] profiles in the organization.”

A company’s EVP should differentiate the organization from its competitors in the talent market by building a strong emotional connection with the desired candidate audience. Sjövall says that, in order to achieve this goal, employers should “be bolder in stating who they are and what they stand for, so that the right talent out there will react.”

2. Choosing the Right KPIs:

CliffAs for choosing the right KPIs, Sjövall says that “less is more”: “pick 3-4 key indicators that are clear and have clear accountables.” 

Sjövall notes that two “common pitfalls [are] having KPIs that no one is in charge of, or having KPIs [that] only focus on recruitment activities. HR alone cannot be responsible for the results.”

Some great example KPIs that employers can use to track their employer branding efforts, according to Sjövall, include:

  • measuring their progress vis-à-vis relevant competitors among the preferred talent group;
  • measuring employee willingness to recommend the organization to their networks and keeping track of the reasons why employees do (or don’t) recommend the organization;
  • and analyzing the gap between the internal and external perception of the employer.

There are also a few common KPIs that Sjövall feels employers should ditch altogether. 

“[Get rid of any KPIs] related to quantity instead of quality,” Sjövall says. “Number of applications, etc., will not tell [you anything meaningful] about the strength of the employer brand.”

In the next installment, we look at persona-based recruiting as a method for attracting candidates who fit with your organizational culture.

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