The topic of Employer Branding is new, massive and misunderstood. That’s why so many companies end up with the HR and PR departments throwing the Employer Branding topic between themselves as the proverbial hot potato no one wants on its plate. Why is that happening?
Before moving forward, let me just get a bit specific about my understanding of PR. In the post below I use the shortcut PR (Public Relations) as a substitute for what I believe to be a much better, yet way least understood concept: Integrated Communications, which includes marketing, advertising, digital, social media and media relations under one roof. Which is where the whole problem starts.
Many large companies still have separated marketing, advertising, digital and PR / media relations departments. Sometimes these very departments meant to serve effective communications don’t communicate among themselves. What these departments have in common, though, is that they provide external communications – from new business development to client communications, customer care and retention. The Cinderella of corporate communications – internal communications – falls usually under HR.
So where, in this complicated landscape, does Employer Branding belong? That’s one big dilemma. As long as internal communications belong to HR and external communications belong to PR / integrated communications, who should adopt this poor new orphan Employer Branding, without which companies seem to be quite stuck in their hiring, retention and ultimately business growth plans?
Employer Branding is not a new discipline. It is only the consistent process of understanding, building, leveraging, measuring and building again the desired company reputation in the eyes of the desired job candidates. On a candidate-driven market, suitable job candidates become a new target audience. This requires a new process in the company: Employer Branding.
Who should own this process? Should it be a new position: Employer Branding Manager? Should it be a whole new department, merging expertize from both communications and HR? Should it be just a role assigned to someone specific, yet accountable for moving the whole Employer Branding agenda forward?
I guess each company will find its own answer to this question. What I can suggest, however, is that, in an ideal world, your Employer Branding process owner should have (at least) these qualities:
1. Experience with HR processes (at least with conducting assessments or hiring interviews)
2. Experience with corporate communications processes (overall branding, corporate messaging and storytelling, social media management)
3. Emotional intelligence. As this role is, essentially, a bridge between two departments, it needs to know whom, when and how to serve gently, respectfully, yet firmly and in full consciousness of its own importance.
4. Integrity. The person should understand, live and guard the company values in all activities related to Employer Branding.
5. Humbleness. You might be surprised by seeing this quality on my list. Yet my experience shows that candidates have already enough experience with failed interviews to feel companies that are trying to fool them from a mile away.
So, may you assign Employer Branding as a role, position or new department, just make sure it’s strongly connected to the overall business strategy and that its KPIs are genuinely SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound). Then go back and align your vision, mission, values, strategy and processes with the overall reputation you would like to achieve. Because the thing is: you already have an employer brand. You just might not like what it reflects and how it serves your business purposes.