Friday, December 03, 2004

Linking the corporate and employment brand

There has been much discussion recently about developing the employment brand, ranging from the superficial - 'what style / colour / layout our recruitment advertising is going to be' - to the insightful - considering employment brand in all its components from compensation, work environment, non-financial benefits (eg work-life balance), company culture, how the candidate views the recruitment process to the company's or its products' brand positioning. I will be discussing some of these issues in the future but what few have discussed, or researched in great detail is the linkage between the Company's brand positioning and it's employment brand.

I have been fortunate to be able to look at some of these issues in a variety of firms and my anecdotal evidence to date suggests that for many firms the corporate brand is possibly the major element of the employment brand, especially in the early stages of job search.

With hindsight this is not so surprising - we all would ideally like to work for companies we believe in - but what the data suggests is that for 'consumer facing firms' (as opposed to strict Business to business providers) it is highly likely that your job applicants will have decided to buy from you, and will probably do so in the future.

Let's take the example of a major UK retail bank. With the competition for retail banking in the UK one would expect somewhere in the region of 20% of job applicants to be customers. In fact the actual figure was more like 50%, though this depends on grade / position. There was also a 100% increase in speculative applications after generic corporate advertising, such as TV adverts.

Extending this it suggests that those brands who target certain groups in society will find it easier to source those employees who fit within these groups. A retail bank seen as 'approachable and fun' will find it easier to attract candidates than one seen as 'serious', at least at the cashier level. Aspirational brands find it easier to recruit.

Of course, this relation between the two brands is two way. How you treat your candidates will directly affect your corporate brand reputation, and given the number of job applicants a big firm gets (100,000 per year?) think of all the opportunities to damage the corporate reputation. Given that job seeking is an emotional experience then bad experiences (and great ones) are going to be magnified.

Unfortunately HR departments aren't, on average, the best brand ambassadors. Too many recruitment departments are inwardly focussed rather than 'customer focussed'. Many do far more to damage the corporate brand than they do to build it.

There are a few firms I know who understand this linkage. It is hardly surprising that employment brand in these firms often sits in the marketing department.