If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that a static, unidimensional employer brand is no longer enough – we all need to more actively manage employer brands over time.
Throughout 2020 and into 2021, changes that impact how you manage employer brand became apparent fast. Faster than ever before.
From dramatic shifts in WHO is applying to your company, to shifts in WHAT is important to them, to WHERE they’d rather work, to HOW concerned they are with health and safety and social/professional equity, even big dog employer brands grasped for straws trying to understand and react to these changes.
And there is every reason to believe that the underlying psychological, sociological and technological foundations for those changes will continue to drive accelerated shifts in attitudes and expectations in the future. Are you managing your employer brand to absorb these changes?
Defining vs. Building vs. Managing Employer Brand
Having an employer brand is just one piece of the puzzle and it starts with defining the brand.
Of course, you don’t own your brand. You don’t even define it. It lives in the mind of your talent. It is the sum total of all the experiences a potential employee has with your people, products, collateral and jobs. Your job is to understand what it is, amplify its positive aspects and try to correct and mitigate any negative aspects of it that may arise.
The process of identifying your brand involves surveying talent, auditing practices, researching external attitudes and visualizing how you’d like to be defined in terms of what employees can expect from you and what you expect from employees.
Historically, this has manifested itself as a point in time project that ends once the brand strategy is launched with only initial analysis of effectiveness.
Next you build that brand. This is the process of using the tools at your disposal to amplify the positive aspects of your brand. It’s built through interactions with people, technology, job ads, social media and the like. Creatively expressing your best organizational self to the world and repeating that expression over and over again.
Finally, managing that employer brand is the part that you wish you had done when things like a global pandemic or shifting attitudes pull the rug out from under you. Managing an employer brand is all about listening and adapting. Constantly listening to talent for harmony and dissonance. Eavesdropping on interactions and understanding the dynamics of good and bad experiences better than your competitors.
Brands are managed through the day to day wins and losses as employees and potential employees experience your organization through various interfaces. The following “Three P’s” of employer brand are where the rubber meets the road for effective brand management:
- People. Do leaders, managers and interviewers embody the best aspects of your brand?
- Processes. Do your processes and technologies reflect the best that your organization can muster? Or do they complicate experiences?
- Policies. Do your policies support your brand or do they kill it? Are your policies structured and communicated in a way that not only pleases corporate counsel, but also supports your employer brand?
The Agile Employer Brand
In the wake of 2020, it’s obvious that few brands were well positioned for the drastic change in workforce expectations and desires unearthed by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, restrictions and civil unrest. That’s because our brands weren’t Agile.
The term Agile was applied to a software development process designed to include cross functional input (internal and external) and be as flexible and adaptable as possible, while speeding the time between releases. Kind of a living “discover, build, release, and iterate” process.
Since then it has been haphazardly championed for just about every business process. But when it comes to employer brand, Agile processes put organizations in touch with what talent expects from an employer and provide a framework for updating the brand in a continuous fashion.
Agile brand management begins by operationalizing a way to listen to talent. Understanding how talent feels about your brand after key interactions during the talent lifecycle is a perfect way to start.
Survale clients measure brand satisfaction with pre-hire talent on their career site, as well as after application, interview, offer, and throughout the onboarding process.
Agile employer brands continuously listen, analyze, refine and adjust their brand in defined stages. This allows them to understand how their branding strategies are being executed and received across the three P’s as well as react to shifts in talent expectations in real time.
Agile cycles can be tailored to each organization’s needs, but can easily be broken into quarterly “sprints” with an aim toward understanding and acting upon poor brand execution, changing talent dynamics, etc. It starts with listening cycles where organizations gather experiential data from their internal (employees) and external (job seekers) talent. This can be a series of manual surveys or, in the case of Survale clients, feedback can be gathered automatically year round.
These listening cycles are followed by an analysis cycle where data is analyzed and significant insights are identified and rolled into a planning cycle where they are ranked and prioritized, and any adjustments to brand attributes or service delivery are defined. Then these new strategies and initiatives are launched and the cycle begins again.
With Survale’s “always on” listening, the Agile approach to managing employer brand can result in up to four brand refinements cycles each year. This is because the listening phase can happen while organizations execute their strategies from the previous quarter. But the process is meant to be light and easy so organizations can choose to expand or reduce the number of cycles in a year based on the results of listening data.
Continuous listening also makes it possible to have fewer Agile cycles because you are receiving feedback from talent in real time and it becomes easy to follow benchmarks and quickly identify when your brand strengths or brand execution meet with push back.
The bottom line is that by using an Agile method to manage employer brand, your organization will spot and understand trends in talent pool characteristics and talent expectations well before they show up in typical recruiting metrics like higher cost per hire, slower time to hire and fewer candidates per open job.
So to have an agile employer brand, organizations should absolutely LIVE in the discovery phase of agile development. Always be learning about your internal and external talent and what they expect from you as an employer. Always be monitoring how well your brand strategies are being executed by the people, technology and processes that serve your talent.
Because who among us could have guessed that in just over a year there would be drastic changes in work from home expectations, an overwhelming shift in talent demand for diversity, labor shortages and a significant fear for workplace safety?
Those who actively manage employer brand the Agile way, that’s who.