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We have moved to Wordpress! Posted by Jason Links to this post The Recruiting Front Lines has evolved. At the beginning of the year, I changed jobs within my company, moving away from Outreach and Education, and into my new role as Director of Business Development. While I remain closely involved with our field activity, I am now more focused on strategic partnerships, social media, and the world of internet recruitment resources. As I have made this change, the focus of my blog content has also changed. Recently, I began to feel that many of the ideas I had for blog posts would not fit within the framework of The Recruiting Front Lines. This was a cause of some frustration, as I felt that I was either misrepresenting my content with the title of my blog, or that I was stifling my writing because I felt it didn't fit. To rectify this situation, I have created a new blog home, now on WordPress. I am still ironing out the wrinkles, but feel that it is far enough along that I can move all my past content, and begin posting all new content, at the new address. I would like to formally welcome everyone to come check out my new home at jasonblais.com. I can't wait to hear what you think! Best Regards, and Thank you for your time and attention over the past 18 months. Jason

May 7, 2009

Why HR Rarely Develops the Employment Brand

(Reprinted from the Employment Branding Best Practice Exchange on LinkedIn)
After speaking with more than 100 HR professionals over the last year, I've found that very few develop or feel they control the employment brand. At first, this appears to illuminate a broken system. It seems logical and intuitive that the people who spend the most time dealing with the employees, and focused on the employee/employer relationship, would be the exact right folks to build and manage an employment brand. So why isn't this the norm?

I have come to believe that there are three very common realities that take place once a company makes a thoughtful decision engage in employment branding. Each of these three, in my opinion, creates less than ideal situations which negatively impact the value and return your EB realizes. I'd be interested in thoughts from this group on whether or not these seem to be accurate representations of reality, or if you can share ideas on how to avoid this pitfalls.

Here are the three most common scenarios I've seen first hand, and the obstacles created by each:

1) INTERLOPERS:
Once the idea for an employment brand initiative gains support and agreement, senior managers (particularly CEO's, GMs, and Marketing Directors) feel compelled to guide and direct the brand- to put their stamp on it, if you will. The power and control is taken away from the HR professional, and too much emphasis gets placed on how the company will market the brand. This emphasis leads to a contamination of the brand, as efforts are made to make the brand "look good" and fit into a pre-determined definition. Of course, we all know that brand loyalty and penetration is directly related to brand integrity. This practice most often leads to a rift between the brand you use to attract candidates and the reality of your workplace.

2) DETACHMENT:
The decision is made to outsource this work entirely to an advertising/marketing agency who promotes an employment branding specialty, but who's experience is truly in the consumer branding realm. This is common with companies who lack one or more of: internal resources (labor hours and/or creative/design competencies), understanding of the process to build the brand, and confidence in internal ability to do the job right. My company is an HR vendor, so I will not bad mouth this world or the enormous level of talent and expertise in it. However, creating this disconnect between HR and the outside agency can demotivate internal experts to engage in the process and offer their best effort in supporting the agency. The other drawback to this practice is often that the agencies are unable (not unwilling) to really get to the heart and soul of your true employment experience. It has become second nature to managers and employees to say nice things to outside vendors, either because of fear of being caught saying anything negative, or out of a sense of duty to put on the best face possible.

3) SHORT ATTENTION SPAN (I should have listed this one first, right?):
While buy-in and engagement are promised by the management team, it is quickly swept aside, and the resource support is never provided. This happens more often than any other. After a compelling presentation and proposal to the management team, GM, or CEO, you are able to generate widespread understanding of the value of employment branding, and support. Then, when you need to fill a position or hire an outside consultant for some creative work or analysis or SEO, there are no funds provided, and the req's are denied. The expectation becomes that you, and you alone, will somehow take care of this initiative... in addition to all the other work you already do. This unrealistic circumstance makes it nearly impossible to put the time and effort in initially, and even more difficult to sustain it through completion. What began as a great initiative which you proposed and presented, has become an unmanageable burden to you. Can you spell frustration?

9 comments:

Recruiting Animal said...

I'm not qualified to comment. I'm not an internal recruiter so I don't know how corporations work.

I found the view you provided interesting. Here's a reader's critique.

It was a bit wordy esp Point 2.

You could make it more clear with an example or two.

You complain that the brand is contaminated. Pick one topic that would be handled by a branding campaign and show how HR would represent it and how it would come out mangled by an agency or by internal marketing.

Simon G said...

It might not be right, but the 'brand' is commonly thought as the responsibility of marketing, who need to integrated various aspects of the company to deliver a unified message. Maybe HR types need to work with the marketers.

Ben Yoskovitz said...

You've described 2 key challenges that companies (and HR people) face when dealing with employer brand:

- ownership
- commitment

Ownership - Who owns the process? Who drives the process? What resources do they command? What buy-in can they get?

Every company already has an employer brand, whether they know it or not. Their employees are talking. That brand may be "whatever" (i.e. When someone asks an employee, "What's it like there?" They get a shoulder shrug answer...) - but that still means the brand exists.

The brand is owned by everyone at the company. The key is getting HR and Management cultivating and harnessing the brand for value.

Commitment - I do see this as a big issue. It's the same with lots of initiatives - they make sense, you get buy-in, but there's no follow through.

I would add 1 more item to your list and that's ROI. HR needs to explain ROI clearly and (in a perfect world) demonstrate measurable, actionable metrics that they're going after. That might not always be possible, or easy - for example, it can be difficult to measure an increase in awareness, or positive feelings towards a company and directly correlate that to brand - but HR has to try.

Let me add 1 more item -- "dip a toe." In as much as there's value in initiating a huge, all-encompassing employment branding campaign within the company, it's that very "massive shift" that causes trouble with respect to ownership and commitment. Instead, I say dip a toe - start small, do something simple. Interview a handful of employees and publish their stories on your corporate blog / career site...etc.

johnrsumser said...

More than most, the HR department believes in approval as a way of getting things done. In other (more important and more strategic) functions, one gets forgiveness and avoids trying to get approval.

Getting 'approval' is easy. Getting approval with an adequate amount of resource is very hard. Most HR leaders are too inept to understand that getting to 'yes' without an immediate round of resource support is the equivalent of 'no'.

Your article is a good summary of the reason that HR folks are rarely considered strategic.

Eric Peterson said...

Jason,

I believe that point Number One should be: No Consistent Definition of "Brand". Some talk about it as if it's a verb. Something to be performed, maybe even in bite-sized chunks, in the form of a campaign. Others (and I'm in this camp) talk about Brand as if it's a noun. An essence and authenticity that is innate in an organization. Something that can't be created, but only understood and perhaps influenced.

When you embrace the latter definition, and consider role of HR, it is clear that Brand (the noun) belongs squarely in the realm of HR.

Your point about detachment is also an interesting one. It could be a post on its own merit. In the end, I feel that the best-case scenario is when the organization owns the process of brand discovery, internal alignment, and communications. Contracted agencies and specialists will come and go. Surrendered ownership is the death knell of a brand's momentum and continuity. Not every company can afford the luxury of a dedicated brand team, but at least at some level, the brand must be owned within the organization.

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