Future Talent Workshop: the DNA of employer brand

Written by
Mary Appleton

13 Nov 2015

13 Nov 2015 • by Mary Appleton

Getting a handle on a universal story – your culture, your organisational DNA, your offer – is challenge enough. How you communicate this is another matter. And being able to do it well, in an age where we’re all ‘broadcasters’, means making significant strategic, cultural, operational and commercial decisions.

On 2 July, Changeboard welcomed HR directors, heads of talent and resourcing to the first in
our new Future Talent Workshop series, to ask some big questions, provide a range of insights, and explore the possibilities of what a great employer brand might look like in the future.

Changeboard’s CEO Jim Carrick-Birtwell opened the event by sharing his vision for the new series. “Looking at systemic issues from different perspectives and being involved in pulling together thought leadership is a core role of these events,” he explained, before handing
over to Matthew Sinclair, creative director at event partners SMRS.

“We now live in a much more transparent world where organisations have become roadcasters,” Sinclair told delegates. “Organisational DNA is being unlocked for the world to see. And that’s the thing about employer branding in 2015 – just as organisations are all broadcasters now, we’re all brand-savvy, authenticity-seeking researchers.”

For Sinclair, just telling the world that people are your greatest asset doesn’t cut it anymore – you’ve got to show the world that you mean it.

And that’s not just about looking good, looking attractive, sounding exciting: creating
environments where talent thrives is a commercial imperative. 

In our evolving world full of people hard-wired to be resistant to change, we need help from our employers to understand, adapt to, and embrace its ever-changing nature. Those that show how they can help, do help, and will help, are those with winning employer brands
– and, it’s no coincidence, they’re the most successful and sustainable businesses too.

Stuart Woollard: the value motive

For Stuart Woollard, co-founder of the Maturity Institute, the most ‘mature’ organisations provide clarity of purpose and meaning to their people, which translates to the creation of sustained value, more stable organisations and long-term competitive differentiation.

Why does an organisation exist? Does it see its primary purpose to maximise profits for shareholders or to provide services for society’s benefit? Woollard said underlying purpose has a profound impact on value and risk through a company’s human capital. The actual purpose of a company also has a big impact on its employer brand – either supporting what the company says about who it is; or undermining it if a firm purports to be something it’s not.

He said the extent to which people contribute to value maximisation is dictated by the organisational context in which they work. It means companies need the right tools for analysing their context. The Organisation Maturity Index identified 10 ‘pillars of maturity’ which, when combined, present a picture of organisational maturity where human capital is
integrated into a whole system underpinned by a societal value motive.

Examples of more ‘mature’ organisations include Costco, Handelsbanken and Toyota, which give meaning to people by, for example, empowering them to make decisions. “Mature organisations have a sense of ‘we have to do better’ hardwired into their DNA,” Woollard added.

Stuart Woollard, co-founder, The Maturity Institute
Stuart has been international HRD and UK MD at E*Trade Financial and director of the
King’s & Cornell International HRM Academy.

Tom Crawford: starting inside out

If you want to sell your organisation as a great place to work, you need to start with your own people and build it from the inside out, urged Tom Crawford.

“Your employees need to be advocating for you everywhere,” he said. For Crawford, the key to a successful employer brand is creating a sense of belonging that makes people advocate
your brand. He said a sense of belief is largely missing in most companies, many of which have ‘brand passengers’.

Vital to this, he argued, is the creation of trust. “Too many organisations are still regulated by HR. We need an open feedback culture,” he said, adding that having an entrenched blame culture suppresses innovation.

“Performance management is farcical. If you want to build your employer brand, you must build a community that has open, coaching conversations all the time.”

From a leadership perspective, this means creating an individualised culture where there is a focus on what leaders are doing and where there are consequences for poor behaviour. “People are desperate to work in an organisation where they are respected, trusted and where they have a role to play in the organisation’s overall purpose.”

Tom Crawford, MD, The Brain Miner
In the past 20 years Tom has worked across the world with brands including UBS, British Airways and GSK as a consultant with Omnicom and The Brain Miner.

Kevin Hough: transforming the brand at LV=

Getting your message right and articulating it in an authentic way are key elements of employer branding, according to Kevin Hough, group head of resourcing at LV=.

Since the company transformed from Liverpool Victoria to LV= in 2008, the number of employees has grown from 1,800 to more than 6,000. Since then, Hough and his team have worked to ensure the employer brand is aligned to the consumer brand. “It’s sometimes
tough to get people to understand why an employer brand is so critical. But it underpins everything we do and is just as essential as a product brand,” said Hough, who shared his top 10 employer branding learnings with delegates.

While Hough says employer brand is “what people say about you when you’re not in the room”, he was keen to point out that it’s equally as important to have an employer brand that says something about you – what makes you different that would get candidates’ attention?

Authenticity is also key. “It’s no good selling an innovative organisation when that’s not the case,” he said. “It’s more powerful to hear about a real experience from someone who has lived and breathed it, than a shiny corporate video with no authenticity.”

Most importantly, you don’t need a huge budget for it – there is much you can do to drive employer branding, said Hough. “The biggest mistake people make is to take employer brand off the agenda – it’s a project that should be on your mind all the time,” he said.

Kevin Hough, group head of resourcing, LV=
Kevin has been group head of resourcing at LV= since 2011. He has led the transformation
of the team into a high-performing talent acquisition function.

About SMRS

SMRS is a recruitment communications business that helps clients attract, recruit and retain talent through developing engaging employer brand strategies.