Rethinking Employer Values and Brands

Some interesting points about employer value propositions and employer brands in this recent piece by Susan LaMotte that I came 514648428 -- megaphoneacross on the HR Examiner website.

As her title makes clear, she’d like us all to start Rethinking EVP and Employer Brand Like You Never Have Before.

“We tweet, post and chat about our culture and employment experience,” she writes. “We worry about job descriptions and [applicant-tracking-system] branding. We choose just the right images for our careers site and collateral. But what exactly are we talking about?”

Here are some of her favorite descriptions, none of which really capture what makes any particular employer unique: “It’s a great place to work,” “We’ve got a great culture,”  “For me it means … ,” and “I love to work here because … .” As she puts it,

“We tend to talk in generalities and personal choices because we’re not sure what else to say sometimes. And that’s where the EVP comes in. EVPs are so often used to explain why employees work for a company. We often interchange it with employer brand. But over the years, it’s become a muddled mess. Maybe it’s time for a reset?”

First, she says, when you ask your employees what they value in their employment experience, your EVP is the sum of those common themes. Second, an employer brand is a subset of the EVP.

“If the EVP is all the things employees value,” according to LaMotte, “the employer brand is what you choose as an organization to hang your hat on when you market your employment experience.” As she describes it:

“Think about it like a new car. There are a ton of great things customers may value in the car. And things the car’s engineers think are worth touting. But the marketers at the car company know you can’t sell everything. So they have to choose. How do they choose? The same way the engineers decided what should go in the car: research. Let research be your base, then use marketing to sell.”

She goes on to lay out the best steps to take to find out what employees value most in the organization and what candidates want. Next on the list is narrowing the focus, she says:

“There are likely 10, 12, 20 themes that may comprise your EVP. Don’t try to sell a laundry list. Use your company’s core values and business strategy to narrow down your focus. And consider two key things marketers know well: You have to sell the reality [and] you have to consider what your audience wants.”

“Finally, build that brand. Once you decide what to hang your hat on, sell it over and over and over again. Weave the messages in varying ways through all those channels you’ve spent so much time on — social media, websites, job descriptions and branded platforms. Pull those messages through to job fairs, recruiter conversations and on campus. Whatever you do, just take the time to think it through.”

I ran LaMotte’s premise by the folks at the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), the Seattle-based human capital research and data firm, because much has come from that organization over the years pertaining to employer brand and EVP. Got some interesting and very thorough comments from Jay Jamrog, i4cp’s senior vice president of research:

LaMotte, he says, “correctly points out that there is a lot of confusion around the differences between employer brand, employee [and employer] value proposition and talent brand; and, they are often used interchangeably, as the article does when it trie[s] to articulate what needs to be done.”

So what does Jamrog suggest? “I believe the first step is to clearly define each term and then determine how to develop a strategy to leverage each one’s potential.” With that in mind, he says, here goes:

Employer brand:  How a business builds and packages its identity, origins and values, and what it promises to deliver to emotionally connect employees so that they, in turn, deliver what the business promises to customers.  Some of the ingredients that make up the employer brand are:

  • Company culture and history,
  • What a company stands for,
  • Work/life balance,
  • Rewards: compensation and benefits
  • Leadership and employee behaviors
  • Work environment

What to consider when developing an employer brand:

  • What employer brand you have already built?
  • How does your employer brand support your business strategy, and your talent strategy?
  • How well do your employees understand and believe in your customer brand?
  • How committed are your employees to deliver the brand to customers?

Employee [or employer] value proposition:  Articulation of the value proposition is a shorter version of the employer brand that helps potential and current workers answer the question, ‘What’s in it for me?’ In many cases, the EVP is part of the employer brand and contains many of the same characteristics.

Talent brand:  Marketing of the employer brand and/or EVP to critical talent segments of the potential and current workforce, to become known as a magnet for talent.  It’s purpose is to create demand that attracts, retains and engages the right people to do the right work at the right time with the right results.  To do this, you need to segment the workforce and determine which roles are 1) critical to the business’ success and 2) difficult skills to acquire.  Then you need to treat the talent in these critical roles as “consumers of work.” To attract consumers of work, you need a compelling brand proposition as a place to work for that special critical role/skill.

To create a talent brand you need to:

  • Have a talent strategy,
  • Develop marketing strategy,
  • Segment the workforce, and
  • Articulate your employer brand.

There you have it. Lots of definitions, descriptions and bullets in this post, but just in case it helps … or at least adds to the discussion … it’s all yours.