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BRAND

Although it was a cold day in winter, I had a warm and fuzzy feeling.  The CEO of the company where I worked pulled me aside during his annual Christmas meet and greet employee meeting, looked me straight in the face and said, “Thank you so much for all the great work you do for us, Camille.  We really value and appreciate your contribution.”  And for a few seconds after he said this, I felt as if I could have given the company back the bonus cheque I received a week earlier.  Personal recognition from the CEO was priceless.

So several years later, with most of them spent leading cross-functional teams and direct reports, I finally nailed down the real reasons why I entertained the absurd thought of refunding a hard-earned bonus cheque.

  • Essential alignment of personal values and corporate values

After a particularly unpleasant experience with a previous employer, I vowed never to work anywhere where management did not walk the talk of their corporate values.  More importantly, there should be no conflict between my core values of truth, integrity and respect and those of my employer.

Respect was listed among the company’s values.

Pulling me aside to say how much my contribution was valued was in my view, a genuine act of respect coming from the CEO, not just for my work, but for my personal and professional commitment to the success of the company.   I didn’t feel that he was being politically correct or doing his duty to be polite.

In later years when I did have to manage a department, I learned a very hard lesson.  If the personal values of a highly competent employee are not aligned with corporate values, the best designed bonus compensation plan is ineffective.

  • Personal recognition of a job well done is more impactful than a formal recognition program

The company had a formal recognition program, governed by a process of nomination and specific selection criteria.  Exceptional actions and contributions to special projects were recognized in the formal program.  The consistent delivery of good work was not.

Very often, the employee doing the most critical work is several steps away from the front line.  In my case, I was the one preparing the quotation and response to the request for proposal, and the data required for the finalist presentation.  This was my job.  My work was reviewed and approved through a long chain of command.  I felt honoured that the CEO had taken the time to find out who were the behind the scenes contributors.  His personal statement of appreciation meant more to me than seeing my name among the crowded list on the Recognition Program roster in the quarterly employee bulletin.

  • Fitting in & contributing to something larger than oneself

People need to feel that they are contributing to something larger than themselves, and that their contribution really makes a difference.  The CEO clearly made me feel that the company needed and valued my contribution.

Employee recognition and the employer brand

And this last point leads me, as a marketer, to make the connection between employee recognition and the employer brand.  The employer brand defines for employees, why the organization is a great place to work and sets expectations for employees’ experience throughout their career there.

Employee buy-in to the employer brand creates engagement, encourages discretionary effort and results in committed and outstanding performance, which is the basis for employee recognition programmes.  To be meaningful, the employer brand has to be brought to life, and if not, it remains an empty set of words.   

Bringing the employer brand to life is all about equipping employees to do their jobs with enthusiasm and building commitment to the company’s values.  To do this, I have three suggestions:

  1. Human Resources and Marketing should work together in the on-going management of the employer brand. When there are changes to business strategies, the employer brand must also be adjusted and communicated to employees.
  2. Business leaders and managers should commit to an on-going programme of internal, bi-directional communication activities so that employees understand the importance of the role they play in the success of the company.
  3. A mix of formal recognition programs and opportunities for leaders to give employees personal recognition goes a long way to motivate employees.

 

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

@Camille21162

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Attracting and retaining the employees who are a good ‘fit’ has become as important as the skills and professional experience presented on the CVs of prospective employees. Many organizations are investing time and resources to develop compelling reasons why potential employees should work for them. Corporate values, benefits packages and special incentives are communicated in job descriptions, hiring advertisements and on career portals.

The term “employer brand” has become almost a buzzword in the language of HR professionals, brand specialists and marketers.

But what really is the employer brand?
In a nutshell, the employer brand defines what the company offers to its employees. It’s the identity of the company as an employer. More specifically, the employer brand conveys the reasons why the organization is a great place to work and sets expectations for employees’ experience throughout his or her career.

A good example of a company with a strong employer brand is Google. Google is renowned as a great place to work because the company offers a fun, energetic place to work that encourages new ideas and innovation. An astounding number of prospective employees from around the world know this and want to participate in Google’s international internship programme and apply for jobs in their Silicon-Valley operations. According to global employer branding firm Universum’s global talent attraction index “The World’s Most Attractive Employers 2012”, Google has retained the top position in both categories — business and engineering — for the fourth year in a row.

The BIG picture
Defining and communicating the employer brand to attract prospective employees is only one element that contributes to business success. A well-defined and well- managed employer brand has a much bigger role to play than attracting and recruiting employees. It is important for employers to understand that the definition and on-going management of the employer brand should not be treated as an after-thought or delegated to the Human Resources department.

To be meaningful and effective, all business leaders and people managers in the organization must buy in to the definition of the employer brand and understand its alignment with the business brand. Businesses cannot be successful unless employees see the connection between the roles they are expected to play in the business plan of the company. This, in my view, is the BIG picture.

Connecting the business brand and employer brand
One reason why companies fail to retain top talent is because employees don’t see the relevance of their role in the overall mission of the company. Far too often companies attempt to develop an employer brand without any reference to the mission and business brand of the company. The business brand gives expression to the mission of the organization so that it is perceived as having a competitive advantage. The aim of a well-defined business brand is to create interest and engagement among its target clients and to win their business and loyalty in the long-term. Companies do this by establishing a brand promise – what customers can expect when they do business with the company.

Like the business brand, the employer brand must aim to give the organization a competitive advantage by defining what employees can expect when they join the organization. Employees generally expect that their employer will enable them to successfully contribute to the delivery of the company’s business brand promise.

Google is able to attract employees who are a good fit because the company establishes a clear connection between its business brand promise and employer brand promise. Google’s brand promise is to provide access to the world’s information in one click – making simplicity out of complexity. Google succinctly weaves its business brand promise into its employer brand so that prospective employees join the company expecting that they will be enabled to solve complex problems every day to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible to Google users. And this is done in a fun, energetic, innovative work environment.

Defining the employer brand
The process of defining the employer brand is not dissimilar to the process of defining the business brand. Key steps include:

Clear understanding of the corporate goals and business strategy of the organization – develop a definition of the employee profiles required to execute the strategy

Qualitative and quantitative data gathering – on the internal experience of employees and external perceptions of the organization – its values, culture, image, performance management and rewards

Gap assessment and opportunity identification – comparison of strengths, weaknesses and differentiators with those of competing organizations

Understand target audiences – an understanding of the needs and values of the target recruits and existing employees

Connections – matching the organization’s values with those of the target employee audiences and constructing a clear definition of the employer brand.

Giving expression to the employer brand clearly requires the combined use of Marketing and Human Resource expertise to determine the appropriate messages and ensure that there is an obvious connection between the employer and business brands and that they are both aligned with the overall strategy and vision of the organization.

For example, an innovative company that chooses to base its business brand on its customer-centric focus, would do well in its employer brand definition to highlight its people-focused culture – how it enables its employees to develop their talents and encourage customer-focused innovations.

What’s more important….bringing the employer brand to life
Defining the business brand is a very important starting point. What’s even more important is bringing the employer brand to life by ensuring that employees are equipped to deliver the business brand in a workplace that is truly a great place to work.

 • Equip employees – for on-going employee training and development programmes, Marketing can and should be regarded as an important contributor to help non-Marketing staff understand and perform their tasks in ways that support the marketing strategy (e.g. cross selling and up-selling) and brand identity (e.g. style of communication).

Manage the employer and business brands in tandem – Human Resources must involve Marketing in the on-going management of the employer brand. When there are changes to business strategies and adjustments are made to the business brand, the employer brand must also be evolved and communicated to employees.

Communicate constantly– business leaders and managers must commit to an on-going programme of internal, bi-directional communication activities so that employees embrace the essence of the business brand and enthusiastically promote it.

A final word
To be successful, the communication of the employer brand should be genuine, persuasive, differentiated. The employer brand must be internally embraced, positioned appropriately to external audiences and most importantly, be consistently delivered by the organization during recruitment and on-boarding activities and throughout the employee’s career. In this age where social media platforms are accessible, it is very easy for potential employees to validate whether or not organizations are in fact being true to their employer brand and business brand.

See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.
www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

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Recruiting and retaining top talent continue to be  major, costly challenges for organizations that jeopardize business success. It’s been estimated that it costs up to 18 months’ salary to replace a manager and up to six months’ salary to replace an hourly-paid worker.  It can cost up to 3 times the salary if the employee departs in the first year of employment.

  • 22%  turnover occurs in first 45 days of employment.  This statistic is taken from a 2007 study.  The statistic may have changed since then.  In spite of  adverse economic conditions, a survey conducted in 2011 revealed that 59% of HR professionals in North America say turnover rates will get worse in the next 5 years!

If we put cost implications aside, low employee engagement is often cited as a major reason motivating employees to leave, regardless of tenure.

Employee engagement

Loosely defined, positive employee engagement may be considered as the personal (intellectual and emotional) commitment of the employee to work towards achieving the goals of the organization.  Determinants of positive employee engagement generally include alignment of personal goals and values with those of the organization, opportunities for personal and professional development, the nature of the job assigned and a sense of belonging and pride from being associated with the organization.  Low engagement results in dysfunctional work relationships, lower productivity, no discretionary effort.

The BIG picture

In my view, corporations need to see that employee engagement and loyalty are only two, albeit important, components of a much bigger issue – the need to engage employees to create and sustain business success. To reduce turnover rates and increase employee engagement, organizations must see the big picture:  the inspiration, motivation and effort of all employees, who understand the vision, mission and objectives of the organization, the relevance of their role and the benefits they derive from contributing to business success.  The development and on-going management of a well-defined employer brand is the key to creating a work environment where employees are engaged, loyal and working towards the common good of all stakeholders in the business.

Well-defined business brands give expression to “what’s in it for me, the customer” and offer value propositions to attract and retain customers. So too must the employer brand clearly express to potential and existing employees, why the organization is a great place to work, and bring its values to life in the experience of employees throughout their career.  A well-defined employer brand should consist of three components – the why, how and what’s being offered by the employer and what the employee can expect in return for performance and effort:

  1. Relevance: provides answers to Why? Why is the company doing what it’s doing?  What is the company’s business brand, mission, vision and values…  THEN why do you need me, the employee?? Why are you using my skills ? What’s the connection between my role and the business brand promise? Why am I here? How will my skills be used to bring value to the company – make its vision, mission and brand promises come alive, so that I contribute to the creation of conditions for sustainable business success? Why should I be loyal to the company?
  2. Relationships / Resources:  How?  How will you make me feel connected to the ‘why’? What’s the corporate culture like?  How do people work together? How can I access resources to make me contribute to the success of the company? How will I be supported to be the best I can be ?   Will my opinions be heard?  How will I be treated if I make a mistake?
  3. What’s in it for me the employee? What rewards / recognition do I get? What behaviours are rewarded?  In what ways will good performance and discretionary effort be recognized?  What can I expect in terms of promotions and opportunities for personal development and advancement?  In what ways am I being recognized as a parent, a human being, someone who has needs beyond a paycheck?

Walking the talk – putting the employer brand into action

Equipping employees to deliver on the business brand is at the core of employer brand management.    Beyond recruitment, on-boarding activities, compensation and employee benefits, organizations must demonstrate that that they are delivering on their employer brand promises through on-going career development programmes, mentorship, improvement of the work environment, staff-conferences and forums, team building and other activities that reinforce the organization’s values, culture and desired behaviours.

When these programmes equip employees to deliver the business brand promise, the conditions are created for alignment of employee behaviours with the organization’s vision, strategy, goals and objectives.  When these programmes are viewed by employees as convincing proof that the employer has delivered on the employer brand promise, the conditions are created for employee loyalty and engagement.

Capital One – a good case in point

In a recent presentation at Your Workplace Conference, Jenny Winter, Chief People Officer at Capital One highlighted how the company’s business and employer brands are aligned.  Captial One identifies its business brand values as ‘excellence’ and ‘do the right thing.’   They promise that they will meet customers’ needs and will challenge themselves to find better ways of serving customers.  These are the hallmarks of their business brand.  The employer brand promise is aligned to the business brand promise to employees as follows:

  • Why? Employees get to contribute to high-performing teams and create products that are relevant to customers – clearly in line with the business brand promise to meet customers’ needs and find better ways of serving them;
  • How does the company equip employees to do this?  Capital One provides them with opportunities to learn and grow in a fun work environment
  • What can employees expect to get in return for their efforts, beyond the paycheck?  Work-life balance and various rewards and recognition.

Check out what employees have to say about Capital One. 

A final word…

After all is said and done, the credibility of an organization’s business brand is proven when customers experience the brand promise in their interaction with the organization and its employees.  Employees who experience the employer brand promise in the workplace are motivated, engaged and loyal to the organization and its goals.  Engaged, loyal employees, regardless of their role, are the key to success in every organization.

See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.

Visit my website www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

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