Organisations around the globe are facing similar business challenges; the difficulty of attracting talent and retaining quality employees, a lack of employee loyalty, increased overseas competition, enhanced generational change and a shortage of skilled candidates.
In turn, companies are increasingly being forced to compete on a global scale for human resources and are struggling to understand how to position themselves and make themselves desirable to future employees.
"The last bastion of competitive advantage is really, how many better people do you have than your competitors? So it makes sense that the next big thing that organisations should be focusing on is how to be better at attracting the right people, making sure you retain them and then better developing those people to deliver on your business objectives and goals." James Wiggins, Employer Branding Practice Manager, TMP Worldwide Australia.
Therefore, many organisations are focusing considerable attention and resources on developing a strong employer brand.
"Recruitment should be viewed as an extension of marketing and organisations must have clear strategies to market the brand to employees." David Jones, Managing Director, Robert Half UK.
"If your employees love working for your company and buy into your employer brand, they will be your best advertising." Nigel Barcham, Managing Director, Robert Half ANZ.
What is an employer brand? What are the major factors at play that are influencing the increased necessity for companies to develop and maintain employer brands? How does an effective employer brand assist in the attraction and retention of quality staff, particularly Generation Y? How do organisations research and develop an employer brand that delivers results?
This White Paper will explore the evolution of employer branding and human resources around the globe, and draws upon research conducted by Robert Half offices in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the UK and North America.
What is an employer brand?
An employer brand is a collection of ideas and beliefs that influence the way current and potential employees view an organisation and the employment experience that organisation is offering. It communicates the company's culture and values and helps to ensure employees are passionate about, and fit in with, the organisational culture to help move the company forward.
"You can pretty much say that anything an organisation does will influence how people view its employer brand, the employment experience that it is offering. Anywhere from the way that jobs are designed, the way that tasks and activities are allocated, the way that managers and supervisors deal with and communicate with their people, through to the way their product or service brand is actually perceived by the wider market, ...and the way their friends or families see the organisation they are working with." James Wiggins, Employer Branding Practice Manager, TMP Worldwide Australia.
Therefore, the corporate brand supports and enhances the employer brand. For an employer brand to be successful, it needs to incorporate more than just an enhancement of recruitment communications or improved internal communications. It should focus on the entire employment experience, organisational personality, goals and values and reflect a true understanding of what motivates current employees and the candidate market.
"I think it is really a case of most organisations not recognising the fact that a whole range of activity - from the way they communicate externally to the way they communicate internally to the way they behave internally in developing an organisational culture - actually does result in brand perceptions." James Wiggins, Employer Branding Practice Manager, TMP Worldwide Australia. "If you are not living the brand values internally then it is very hard to build the brand externally." Tim Pethick, Founder, Nudie Juice.
There is a keen awareness in today's marketplace that talented individuals have more career choice than ever before, and that finance professionals are demanding more career progression, greater salary advancement, excitement and new challenges, and will hold their employers to account on promises and commitment.
In this way employer branding is more than a rational idea, it is an emotional relationship between an organisation and its employees. Therefore, successful employer branding reflects an organisation's aspirations but is firmly based on the ability to deliver on the promise.
"If you can sell people the opportunity and show that you can deliver on that opportunity, then they are willing to take that risk and join you. People are really striving for challenges and opportunities today." Stephen Taylor, Director of Financial Support Services, Smiths Aerospace.
Employer branding & skills shortage
Every company must compete globally if they are to thrive in today's interconnected economies. The competition for talent in finance departments has gone global and businesses are struggling to fill key roles as staff demand new horizons and new challenges. Employer branding provides organisations with a strong employment promise to new candidates as well as points of difference against competitors.
"It's definitely become more important. One of our objectives (in developing our employer brand) is to become an employer of choice. It's becoming harder and harder for any company in the market out there to attract great people. Unemployment is at record lows so we need to compete against other companies to draw people in but also draw the right people in and get the right fit." Katherine Fitzgerald, People Direct Advisor -Sales & Marketing, Lion Nathan.
- Asia-Pacific companies are more aware of employer branding than the rest of the world due to increased competition for talent in the region - 48% of companies were aware of employer branding in Asia-Pacific compared to 42% in USA, 38% in Europe
- 74% of companies in Asia-Pacific believe that developing an employer brand leads to higher staff retention
- 54% of companies in Asia-Pacific believe that developing an employer brand reduces recruitment costs
- Globally, 32% of companies currently have an employer branding strategy in place. The United Kingdom (44%) and Japan (42%) currently lead the world while Germany lags behind with 47% having no plans to implement an employer branding strategy in the future.
- 25% of companies globally believe HR policies are the best way to reinforce employer branding, followed by word of mouth (21%).
Source: Employer Branding Survey, The Economist 2006 & Robert Half Workplace Survey Q1 2007
Attracting staff - the employer brand magnet
The battle for the 'first interview' is often the most important battle to win. An organisation's employer brand and reputation go a long way in attracting people and this is particularly beneficial for many larger companies. Smaller companies, however, need to better communicate their culture, philosophy and vision to potential candidates through a strong employer brand.
"The first interview is absolutely crucial and it is surprising how little emphasis is put on it by most organisations. Consideration should be given to whether a HR person tasked with 'getting through the numbers' can communicate the correct culture and vision at this critical stage." David Jones, Managing Director, Robert Half UK. Potential employees make decisions about accepting positions with new companies based on more than just remuneration. The skills shortage has enabled candidates to be increasingly selective about their employment experiences. The ability to communicate your employer brand externally is vital to attracting talented staff that also fit in with your company culture.
"Businesses should work harder on their employer brand and promote their image through public relations, advertising and word of mouth. If your employees love working for your company and buy into your employer brand they will be your best advertising. They will refer quality staff with the right cultural fit, making staff attraction much easier." Nigel Barcham, Managing Director, Robert Half ANZ.
"One of the great things about brands is that they are beacons not just for customers but for employees. If you get a strong vision for a brand that has promise and personality pushed through an organisation you overcome many of the cultural issues in terms of bringing people on board. The brand icon is one of the ways we could go from zero to 86 employees in 12 months, because so many of them self selected us." Tim Pethick, Founder, Nudie Juice.
- 64% of global finance and HR managers say on average, approximately half of all candidates ask questions about the values of the company before being recruited
- 59% of finance and HR managers surveyed say their company will invest additional funds in Corporate. Social Responsibility over the next decade.
Source: Robert Half Workplace Survey Q1 2006
Retaining staff - positive employees are part of your employer brand
The skills shortage is also posing challenges for staff retention. There is a shortage of top quality accountants in the marketplace and a key challenge is how you keep hold of the intellect and talent that exists within your organisation.
"Today's finance professionals want change and want to spread their wings. The question is how you can help them achieve that within your own organisation." Tony Timberlake, Deputy Chairman, Secantor Ltd.
Aspects of the organisation's culture impact both on initial recruiting success and also on retention rates. If the employer brand is right it will attract staff with a solid cultural fit who integrate easily with the organisation.
"If we're clear about our employer brand and are confident that it portrays an accurate impression of our company then we're likely to hire people who are reliant on our culture and values. So if we get the right fit, this will in turn help with retention." Katherine Fitzgerald, People Direct Advisor - Sales & Marketing, Lion Nathan.
If the employer brand delivers on its promise, these staff members will be more willing to stay with an organisation.
The effectiveness of internal communication, the extent to which employees are motivated to perform well, and the quality of the leadership given by management, all play an important role in retaining staff. All these factors relate to the strength of the organisation's employer brand and the way that it is perceived internally by current employees and externally by potential future recruits.
"The main challenge for most companies is about creating a culture in which people enjoy working. The hard part isn't about salary levels, it's about getting the culture right." Mark Penny, Finance Director, Fuller Peiser.
- Globally, over half (58%) of the companies surveyed by Robert Half say in order to optimise their employee retention, they have offered more training and development opportunities
- Globally, 32% of organisations believe the most important reason to develop a strong employer brand is to attract and retain staff, while 26% thought it was more important to use employer branding to ensure employee commitment is tied in with the organisational goals.
Source: Robert Half Workplace Survey Q4 2006 & Q1 2007
The importance of employer branding for Generation Y
The demographics of the workforce are changing and businesses need to be sensitive to the different values and expectations of Generation Y. Companies will need to manage changing workplace motivations and expectations through their employer brand.
"Generation Y really focus on the ethical stance of companies when considering potential employers. They look at things like annual reports to assess the gender and age make up of the board members to form an opinion of the corporate culture. In terms of attracting these people, they will want to work for organisations that are socially responsible. This should be demonstrated in the various channels that potential employees come into contact with an organisation if you are going to be best placed to attract these people." Nigel Barcham, Managing Director, Robert Half ANZ.
When developing an employer brand, organisations must take these new generational realities into account, or risk alienating this group of employees.
"We make sure we manage the careers of the finance staff, ensuring they obtain the experiences, qualifications and challenges they want...so they are meeting their own career goals." Simon Jones, CFO, AgriQuality.
This new demographic tends to be more career loyal and less company loyal. They want to know what the organisation will offer them. Work is something that fits into their lives, rather than the other way around as in previous generations. Cross-functional training, strong provision for career development, work-life balance and opportunities for overseas travel are all top priorities for Generation Y. "Gen Y's are sending the message to the corporate and public sector: If you're not willing to have good leadership...challenging work, not willing to mentor me, then I'm not coming to work for you."
Avril Henry , Executive Director, AH Revelations.
Incorporating corporate social responsibility (CSR) into an employer brand will become increasingly important when attempting to attract Generation Y employees who will assess an organisation's ethics and CSR policy when choosing an employer.
Employer branding must also take into account the realities of managing Generation Y, providing greater transparency, job flexibility and opportunities.
"Have a weekly meeting that you invite Gen Y's to, tell them what is happening in the organisation. Tell them how what you are doing in your department feeds into that, tell them about how the work they are doing feeds into that. Tell them what is coming up in the future. Allow people to job share or rotate through jobs or to try new things they haven't tried before. Invest in training and developing, not only the skills of the Gen Y's but the skills of the people who are managing them. The challenge for organisations means that they have to change the way they think and behave." Avril Henry, Executive Director, AH Revelations.
- 95% of companies surveyed believe that a cross section of ages has a positive impact on company culture
- Companies were surveyed globally about what motivates Generation Y in the workplace. 36% of organisations responded that flexible hours is a motivator in their workplace. 32% believe career development is a key motivator, while 33% stated regular performance appraisals. 50% of organisations surveyed believe Generation Y would leave a company that did not provide them with sufficient career development.
Source: Robert Half Workplace Survey Q4 2005 & 2006.
How do you create a successful employer brand?
To develop a successful employer brand, you must first understand what perceptions and beliefs current employees and the candidate market already have about your organisation's culture and brand promise. This requires research.
"It is really important to understand why potential candidates either want to join your organisation or wouldn't even consider you as a potential employer. It is equally important to understand what your employees in all departments, at all seniority levels and in all of your office locations understand to be your employee brand, what the 'value add' of being an employee with your company is. If these perceptions don't match up to your business goals then it is time to begin looking at readdressing your employer brand." Kim Smith, Division Director, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, Auckland.
Organisations can utilise focus groups, interviews, employee surveys, external surveys and many other research tools across a wide range of stakeholders to bring their current employer brand into focus.
Once this is achieved, it is important to create a brand development team that encompasses a wide range of stakeholders to ensure the final product truly reflects the ideas and beliefs of the entire organisation.
"Creating or changing an employer brand does need the support of at least one C-level executive, but remember that leaders see the world very differently to the way that most employees do. A lot of leaders in organisations will act only on their own assumptions about what their employer brand is and what they think employees want that brand to be." James Wiggins, Employer Branding Practice Manager, TMP Worldwide Australia.
Determine, based upon the research, what steps need to be taken to change your current reality into the employer brand your organisation wants to embrace and reflect. Begin implementing policies and procedures that encompass your employer brand and begin to deliver on the promise.
Once your employer brand has been defined and implemented, consistency is key. All communications, both internal and external, policies, actions, goals, business plans - everything you say and do - must be consistent with your employer brand promise.
"Consistency; that relationship between talking about what your culture is and actually delivering on it, is my interpretation of organisations that are actually doing employer branding well." James Wiggins, Employer Branding Practice Manager, TMP Worldwide Australia.
Finally, just as a business is not static, neither is an employer brand. It is important to periodically measure the success of the employer brand and its continued relevancy to employees through ongoing research.
- Brand management was created by Procter & Gamble in 1931. These principles were first used to market to employees by the US Army and the Body Shop in the 80's although the term 'employer brand' wasn't used until the early 1990's as a term to help organisations drive greater employee commitment and compete more effectively for talent.
Source: The Employer Brand, Simon Barrow, Richard Mosley 2005
The importance of fulfilling the employer brand promise - walk the walk
Organisations can benefit greatly from a well researched, strategically implemented employer brand that truly reflects the culture and realities of the organisation. It will assist in attracting new employees, retaining top talent and managing generational shift. Consistency is vital, as is delivering on the promises of the employer brand.
"The reality is that you can only fool people about what an organisation is really offering for a very short period of time and if you do try to fool people, and if you do try to paint an overly optimistic or aspirational fairy tale or if you lie, it doesn't just result in turnover but it also results in a pretty negative perception of your organisation in the marketplace so it's really not worth doing." James Wiggins, Employer Branding Practice Manager, TMP Worldwide Australia.
Developing and maintaining an employer brand requires organisational purpose and determination, realistic time frames for changing perception and buy-in from all levels of an organisation.
"If you have the resolve to invest time and effort across the business in defining and implementing a strong culture, a consistent employer brand, you will stand out from your competitors. Candidates will want to come work for you, employees will be motivated and stay longer with the company and you will weather ups and downs in the labour market." Nigel Barcham, Managing Director, Robert Half ANZ.
- The majority of companies (87%) around the globe do not believe it is necessary to involve employees in company decisions
- 25% of companies surveyed do not take their employees views into account when developing their company values or mission statement.
Source: Robert Half Workplace Survey Q1 2006
Employer branding - tips
1) Research your company's current attraction and retention performance:
- Ascertain for which departments or job titles you have problems hiring
- Assess whether your current employees represent the calibre of employees you would like to hire in the future
- Ensure the right people at your organisation are conducting candidate interviews; do they represent the image you would like to convey?
- If you make a job offer and it is declined, find out why the candidate wasn't interested in working for you
- Conduct exit interviews to establish why people are leaving.
2) Conduct an audit on your company's values and points of difference:
- List the reasons why someone may opt for employment with your organisation
- It may be worthwhile to conduct a survey and/or a focus group with internal and external stakeholders to compare your stated company values with the reality of internally and externally held perceptions and opinions about your organisation. Consistency between brand reality and the image you sell are critical for success
- Ensure current employees are aware of what the organisation represents in terms of culture and values
- Measure the consistency of your employer brand across all channels
- Speak to your Robert Half consultant: the finance, accounting and banking fields continue to experience a severe shortage of candidates and the media landscape is continually changing. Placing an advertisement in the paper is no longer sufficient. We use a very diverse range of print advertising, online and networking channels to attract candidates and our consultants can talk you through the merits of each one. Our consultants can also help you identify and highlight your organisational selling points based on what candidates are being offered in the market place.
3) Initiate your roll out plan:
- Establish an 'Employer Brand Team' which includes at least one C-level executive
- Ensure the values and attributes are conveyed in your hiring channels such as advertising, company websites and public relations programmes
- Review the messaging on a quarterly basis to ensure your organisation continues to adhere to the guidelines you have established
- Conduct an annual -brand health-check' to measure the perceptions of your internal and external stakeholders.
Nigel Barcham - Managing Director, Robert Half Australia & New Zealand
Nigel Barcham is Managing Director for Robert Half Australia and New Zealand. Nigel is a CPA and has more than 10 years' recruitment experience gained in Sydney, London and Melbourne. He has built business partnerships with some of the world's best known corporations. Nigel joined Robert Half in 2000 and started up the Melbourne office. It is consistently regarded as one of the best performing operations in the organisation worldwide. He has been Managing Director since January 2006 and looks after the ANZ region's six offices. David Jones - Managing Director, Robert Half United Kingdom
As Managing Director, David is responsible for all the operations across London and the South of the UK. David has been working in recruitment for over twelve years and has gained global recognition for his work. David initially worked for the UK business for seven years and later became the Managing Director for the Australian and New Zealand operations from 2003 until 2006. In April 2006 David returned to the UK to take on his current position as UK Managing Director. James Wiggins - Employer Branding Practice Manager, TMP Worldwide
James Wiggins founded TMP Worldwide's Asia Pacific Employer Brand Practice in 2003. His role combines two prior careers - one in corporate development & training and organisational development and the other in advertising, marketing and branding. James has worked with public and private sector organisations in the UK, Asia and Australia and gets real satisfaction from helping an organisation position itself as an employer of choice. Katherine Fitzgerald - People Direct Advisor Sales & Marketing, Lion Nathan
Katherine Fitzgerald was instrumental in the Lion Nathan employer branding project and provides a unique insight into the building of the Lion Nathan brand strategy. It was during a role as a Resourcing Executive that she started the employer branding project which they launched in October 2006 after starting the project at the beginning of the year. Kim Smith - Division Director, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, Auckland
Kim began her career in accounting in 1988 with KPMG where she worked as both an Auditor and as a Senior Consultant. Kim left KPMG to form her own chartered accounting firm and later accepted an opportunity to become the Financial Controller and subsequently the General Manager of a small services firm. Kim has held several positions with Robert Half including Division Director, Branch Manager and Area Manager for Austin and San Antonio, Texas. Pursuing a life-long desire to live overseas, Kim and her husband moved to New Zealand in early 2002 where she joined the Auckland office. Tim Pethick - Founder & Director, Nudie Juice
Tim started Nudie in early 2003 and in a little over two years, he built it into a business turning over $18m a year and recognised as one of the top 10 most influential brands in the Asia Pacific region. Prior to launching into the world of delicious fresh fruit drinks, Tim held positions as CEO of BTLookSmart, Marketing Director of the Microsoft Network (Australia) and General Manager at Village Roadshow. He has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of NSW, a Master of Economics from Macquarie University, an MBA from Deakin University and is a Chartered Accountant. Stephen Taylor - Director of Financial Support Services, Smiths Aerospace
Stephen has been Director of Financial Support Services for Smiths Aerospace for two years. His role involves establishing common finance processes, a single financial system and shared service centre operations in the UK and US to support Smiths Aeropace's strategy. His previous roles include three years as Finance Director for Smiths Aerospace's largest UK engineering development and manufacturing business and three years as Head of Group Audit for TI Group plc. Tony Timberlake - Deputy Chairman, Secantor Ltd
Tony Timberlake is an experienced non-executive Director, Finance Director, Financial Adviser and Manager. His recent experience has mainly involved working with owner managed businesses on strategic issues, but he is also a non-executive Director of a publicly quoted company and a building society. His services to owner managed businesses are provided through Secantor Limited, where he is Deputy Chairman. Mark Penny - Finance Director, Fuller Peiser
Mark is a Chartered Accountant and Chartered Secretary. He has spent the last 16 years in senior commercial finance roles with large corporates; BTR plc and its subsidiaries (1990-2000), five years as Regional Finance Director for Northern Europe with Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation (2000-2005) and subsequently as Finance Director of Fuller Peiser LLP. Avril Henry - Executive Director, AH Revelations
Avril Henry graduated from the University of Cape Town in Accounting and Economics and passionately embarked on a career which spanned senior roles in Finance, IT Project Management, Change Management and HR at companies including De Beers, Barclays Bank, Midland Bank, UBS Warburg, Westpac, Merrill Lynch, DMR Consulting and Clayton Utz. Avril was one of three finalists in the 2005 and 2004 Australian HR Awards for the Lifetime Achievement in HR Award; and in 2002, was one of the five finalists in the Australian HR Awards for Best HR Director. Avril was nominated in 1995 and 1996 for the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year. Currently she is Chairperson of the National Diversity Think Tank. Simon Jones - Chief Financial Officer, AgriQuality
Simon Jones is the Chief Financial Officer for AgriQuality Limited, the largest independent food and environmental testing organisation in the Southern Hemisphere. Prior to joining AgriQuality in 2004, Simon spent 11 years with Rayonier in a number of different roles, where his last position was Group Financial Controller based in Seattle, USA overseeing three business divisions with operations located in the USA, Canada, Chile and Russia. Before working for Rayonier, Simon spent ten years with Chartered Accountants Ernst & Young, working both locally in the Auckland office, and internationally in Ottawa, Canada and Stamford, Connecticut. Simon is a Chartered Accountant and has a Master of Business Administration, Master of Commerce with Honours and Bachelor of Commerce degrees from The University of Auckland. www.roberthalf.com.au