Ambassadors & endorsement
Employer branding and employee engagement are the subject of much discussion in the HR world. But according to the results of a recent IPA survey, just half of organisations in the UK are doing anything in these areas. Attracting new people based on a strong reputation is no longer enough, especially if they don’t stay and fulfil their potential within your organisation.
If you watch the TV programme Top Gear, have you ever wondered why manufacturers willingly give over their latest cars – on which they have spent countless hours and R&D funds – to scrutiny and criticism? The answer, of course, is that it’s the most effective way of generating word of mouth and endorsement.
Car manufacturers spend millions of pounds ensuring their stories are told because they know that, when considering which model to purchase, we listen to our friends, family and expert critics far more than advertising campaigns. By creating talking points, they get people to do their marketing for them. It might be more time consuming and risky but you can’t deny it delivers the most impact. Similarly, in engaging employees, the most important ambassadors are those sitting right at the heart of your business – your people.
Using narrative for engagement and branding
Bear these key points in mind when building your brand and connecting with potential candidates.
- A good story makes a great brand: Strong branding has to come from the heart if your people and consumers are to really buy into it.
- Learn from mainstream consumer-facing businesses: These organisations make every effort to understand and talk to their customers in an engaging way.
- Flip the rules: Try to be less functional. Consider your business and what emotion you are trying to elicit from your customers, employees or consumers. Think about what needs they have and tap into these.
- Be clear on your personality: If your company were a person who would it be? Having clarity on who you are and are not really helps people ‘get it’. Ask yourself how you surprise and excite your customer, consumer or employees, what people are saying about you and what you need to work on changing.
Source: Jim Cregan, Jimmy’s Iced Coffee
Top tips: how to embrace innovation
Be an entrepreneur: Be curious, insightful and playful every day; help nurture and grow new ideas. Ask ‘what if?’ instead of ‘why should we?’ and encourage others to do the same.
Feed inspiration: Set aside creative time, take your team somewhere new to inspire them and give them a brief to interrogate while they’re out. Schedule in a monthly inspiration breakfast where you task a different team to provide the stimulus.
Greatness takes time: Ideas are rarely formed in brainstorms, but through everyday stimulus. Set a challenge or a brief every quarter for a team or the whole company to work on so they have a framework from which to develop ideas.
Nurture and encourage: Ideas are fragile. If you’re not careful, some of the best ones can be discarded before they have been developed enough. Write down your first 10 ideas and challenge yourself to come up with more – beyond this point is where the genius idea lies.
Preparation, preparation, preparation: Set homework before a creative session; this will allow people time to bring thoughts together from wherever they have their best ideas. Provide a clear brief and stimulus.
Ban boardroom boredom: Set the right tone for 'idea generating' meetings with these ground rules:
- Every idea goes: build on them and don’t judge until a later date.
- Act fast: discuss thoughts, land ideas and move on. Take time to distill later.
- Get closer: break into groups of no more than four to allow the conversation to flow.
- Remove barriers: you don’t have to sit on the floor, but taking away the physical and mental obstacle of a table can make a big difference.
Imogen Pudduck & Carla Cringle
founders of FIzzPopBANG
Imogen and Carla are brand employee engage¬ment specialists who run consultancy FizzPopBANG. They advise companies across all industries who are passionate about uniting the development of their brand and people to maximise business performance.
Finding employees that fit its company culture is an important aspect of recruitment for taxi firm Addison Lee. Clare Mitchell explains.
Addison Lee is a London-based minicab and chauffeur business with 800 employees. These are based in its head office, three garages and a training school and in 2012 we recruited for about 250 roles. Our 4,500 drivers are self-employed.
Our employer brand highlights how different we are to other minicab companies. We’re more like a technology company and the breadth of career paths and opportunities sets us apart, so we talk a lot about our scale and success. We’re also specific about the type of person we’re looking for – we’ve worked hard to foster a positive, family-orientated working environment and it’s important we attract employees that are a good cultural fit.
The challenge for us is getting candidates past their preconceptions and through the door. As soon as they see the scale of our operations, witness the working environment and meet our people, they’re sold.
Digitally engaging – talent solution
We have found LinkedIn’s Talent Solution to be an effective platform to promote employer brand and identify talent for harder to recruit roles. Although the audience is less focused, we also find Twitter useful for promoting harder to fill management-level and creative vacancies as these tend to get re-tweeted more.
We’re encouraging each of our staff to create a positively written LinkedIn profile which, as a minimum, includes a professional photograph, a link to our company page and a description of their responsibilities and achievements. Placing LinkedIn job adverts on our employees pages reinforces our branding by showing the scale of our business and increases the reach of our advertising.
Employees that fit the brand
We recruit people that are a good cultural fit and possess qualities representative of our brand. Skills can be taught but the culture of an organisation is harder to change. When managing the brand we look inside the company first, engaging employees through surveys and focus groups to ensure that our employer branding is reflective of our organisation.
- Hire candidates who match the culture of your organisation
- Collaborate with marketing
- Ensure employer branding is aligned with the company’s overall positioning
- Use LinkedIn’s talent solution to promote your brand to reach a large network
Clare Mitchell, head of HR, Addison Lee
Clare manages a team of nine people and supports managers and directors throughout the business on any HR related issues. She implemented the UK's first scheme allowing parents to bring their babies into the workplace.
Showcasing your brand globally
How is JTI (Japan Tobacco International) using social media to maximise its employer brand globally and using the voices of its people to seed career discussions from employees to attract new recruits?
In 2012, JTI recruited 2,861 staff and had a turnover of 11%. We employ 25,000 people in 90 offices, 22 factories, six R&D centres and five tobacco processing facilities in 69 countries. Our headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland.
As JTI was formed in 1999, we see ourselves as an organisation that is young enough to allow people to make a big difference, yet big enough to offer long-term careers. This is reflected in our employer brand: ‘growing together – both as individuals and as a business’.
Sharing the employee experience
Our product brands are better known than the company itself, so we focus strongly on building employer brand. Our global recruitment campaign features real conversations between our people – candidates can put themselves in their shoes and decide if JTI is right for them.
In our HR strategies, most activity happens at local level by drawing on the regional insights of HR colleagues. But we ensure these are supported at a global level. This could take the form of our careers page on jti.com or professional and multimedia social networks.
Seeding career discussions online
We encourage careers related discussions through several channels. We have global profiles on LinkedIn and YouTube and three of our markets are running careers pages on Facebook as part of a pilot project. We’re planning to extend their usage.
Our LinkedIn recruiter licence opened up a world of opportunity for us but it wasn’t until we hired a researcher from an executive search company that we were able to make best use of it. She now acts as a global recruiter on projects from all over the world. In two months we’ve made some successful placements and considerable cost savings.
Taking brand outwards
Once we’d defined our employee value proposition (EVP), we delivered the experience internally before communicating it externally. We ran a series of workshops with our HR leads around the world; they defined the focus areas and developed the action plans and we started executing them. Our global engagement survey gave us invaluable information about our progress around the EVP and showed the areas that were credible or needed improvement.
We involved people at all levels of the business to define, validate and develop our EVP and their input was invaluable in creating it.
- Make your employer brand consistent yet flexible
- Put the right measurements in place, as well as clear objectives
- Deliver it internally before starting to promise externally.
employee engagement and branding manager, JTI
Linda is responsible for global employer brand strategy and activation, recruitment campaigns, HR social media projects and global engagement study.