By Craig Fisher
In 2009 I was asked by international employer branding company, Universum, to be a guest writer for one of their quarterly magazine editions. The article captures my core philosophy on employer brand: It’s about your people, not just your marketing.
Organic Branding for Employers
by Craig Fisher, Courtesy of Universum Quarterly
An employer brand should be built from the inside out. Just as part of an organization’s marketing message should come from its customers, the employer brand should be championed by its employees. For better or worse, they are the vehicles by which the message will be conveyed on blogs and social networks. Smart employers will take advantage of this tremendous PR opportunity and embrace social networking, encouraging intercompany collaboration, and communication with those outside the corporate walls by their employees acting as their brand champions in social media. The brand message itself must be authentic, unique and attractive. Job seekers today do not care about boiler plate HR selling points. Sure, the message should be stated clearly on an effective recruiting Web site. But if it is not first conveyed to the internal employees and reinforced by meeting or surpassing their expectations, the organization will not have the brand champions it needs to convey that message online to job seekers.
Social networking at work
Organizations that place broad restrictions on the use of social media at work will soon feel the backlash in lower employee recruitment and retention. Workers at many levels these days are used to communicating and receiving information at a speed that is difficult to achieve with standard email and corporate intranets. In economic times such as these, where cutbacks are common, communication with your workforce is vital to maintain morale. Social networking cannot only expedite communication, but also improve employees’ sense of belonging and worth.
Top firms like IBM and Sun Microsystems have successfully incorporated social networking in the workplace. IBM created a wildly successful internal social network for communication and collaboration. Sun hosts a Twitter account that is automatically updated by Sun Microsystems’ employee blogs worldwide. Both companies have very clear employee guidelines about the use of social networking encouraging responsible engagement, communication, learning, and contribution.
Reach new talent Web 2.0 style
Jobseekers regularly google a prospective employer to find out what current and past employees are saying about working at that company. How do companies encourage a positive online portrayal by its workers? Social networking best practices should be taught in the workplace. Employees should be empowered to feel they are part of the positive message an employer wants to communicate. Your HR team can double as community managers by setting up employee group pages on sites like LinkedIn, Ning, or Facebook. Companies need to encourage employees to join and share knowledge. They should post helpful tips for new employees to get them integrated and productive quickly by networking with their peers and managers.
Prospective employees should be exposed to such networks to get a sense of the people with whom they will work and a feel for the corporate culture. Your new community managers can even use services like Twitter to announce updates, further promoting the brand. With such an effort, your social collaboration will become an attractive feature to future employees.
Control vs. respect
Companies cannot completely control what is said about them on blogs or social networks. But viewing social media as a potential liability will not help matters. Companies who rely on simply a corporate blog or Web site to convey their message to customers or potential employees will miss the mark. Individual brand advocates within your ranks can be trained to effectively relate any message to the masses on social sites. Zappos.com is a company known for excellent customer service. However, Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, has said that their main focus is not customer service, but rather their internal people. That is a powerful branding statement. One can easily ask Zappos.com’s employees how they feel about it, as many of them have Twitter accounts with names like Zappos_Alfred or Zappos_Lynn.
It is natural to be concerned about what may be said by employees who are laid off by their former employer. Company policies of surprising workers with news that their job has been eliminated, locking them out of their offices, and ordering them off the premises are common place. Smart organizations can avoid this PR disaster with better communication and by assisting their displaced workers. Instead, companies should set up a network for those who are laid off and post advice and leads to assist in job searching and outplacement. Taking this a step further, they can even organize a “pink slip” party. Set it up on Facebook and invite local recruiters and career coaches to come and offer assistance to those outgoing workers. Word gets around fast about companies who treat their people well, even in the wake of layoffs.
Reinforce the message
A company’s employer brand must be authentic, unique, and attractive. To consistently have the company message positively reflected in the external comments of workers, a company must clearly convey that brand to current and new employees and work to meet the expectations set by that message. From the perspective of new recruits, there must also be a strong employer recruiting site that clearly states the message and gives a good picture of what work-life at your company is like. Many of the top corporate career sites use recruiting videos that can be viewed on site, as well as on social spaces, like YouTube. These are particularly effective when utilizing current employees rather than actors.
Creating a positive atmosphere of trust and empowerment within a workforce will help to assure that the right message is communicated online. If employers remain true to their message, the brand is built naturally from the inside out. Social media becomes less of a liability and more of a recruiting tool. Empowered employees will be the best employer brand champions.
Growing your brand with social media
. Determine your authentic, unique and attractive brand message.
. Convey the message to employees and on an effective recruiting web site. Meet the expectations it sets.
. Embrace social networking in the workplace.
. Empower your people to champion your brand through social media