Expectations management – employer brand success key factor

I said in a blog post I wrote last week that I would elaborate more on how you build a focused employer brand. Naturally this is no one-way-street. There are as many ways as there are employers and we all have our unique opportunities which we must identify and utilize. One thing remains the same no matter the organization: It starts from the inside.

I said already in my previous post that it is useless to communicate that you care for diversity if you truly don’t. It will be discovered directly by new hires as they enter the door the first time and with today’s fast moving communication through social media, probably even earlier than that. Clearly some employers, communication managers and HR-managers have been trained that communicating certain things, builds a strong employer brand. Some still believe they need to be “visible” in certain forums and talk of topics where they would like to make an impact. Well, the reality is not that simple. Obviously you must communicate what you want to be known for but it has to be true, it has to be genuine and authentic. ¬†Facial masks are noticed quickly and then it gets embarrassing.

If you truly want to be recognized as a caring citizen of society and for CSR for example, then do so by example. Launch your ideas, show them to the world, market them, involve your employees, reward those for being part of it and tell the world of your results. Then you have a storyline, for real. The problem always starts in the same corner. A line manager say to the HR-manager they are in need of new hires and The HR-manager often helps them to look into it. Sometimes an advert is placed onto a job board or search agents are contacted. If the need is more long-term the HR-manager might decide upon buying a report to understand what those talents are looking for. And as soon as they know, they want to communicate this to the talent market. Later they find themselves surprised that the hires coming from these recruitments were seldom those who referred other new colleagues the most, nor came most loyal or stayed longest with the company. Sometimes they didn’t even do a very good job while employed.

How bizarre? How can this be?

Everything has to do with who you are and what you led new hires to believe you are. Was there a gap? Here you have it. The larger the gap, the bigger the disappointment for those hires. The bigger the disappointment, the greater the loss of loyalty, respect, devotion and commitment at work, interest in over achieving or referring new employees to tag along on the journey and eventually people looking to leave for another company. Ironically that means one could say you are actually not investing for the future by communicating false things to talent groups. You rather pay a price (to appear in media) and then not only wasting that money but also decreasing the strength of your employer brand.

According to Universum research 2009, an entire 33% of young professionals said they could imagine changing employer within the coming year. Research also said that 50% out of those mentioned “looking for a more suitable company culture” as one of the main reasons. This tells me that the situation I described above is not a rare one, unfortunately.

In short, it is all about expectations management. The better someone knows what to expect, the bigger the chance of a happy, confident and committed employee ready to give their all for the company.

1. Recruitment target group sample: Firstly, the reports are important. You need data to understand the behavior and the attitudes of your talent groups. I would say understanding the behavior is far more important than their preferences. HOW they act is what they actually will do, what they would like to do is less important unless they are willing to choose employer based on it. Study the data closely on a specific recruitment target group which takes geographical location, age, experience, nationality and cultural differences and skills as a base for the analysis. From here you will find a good sample of talents and then you need to understand their behavior.

2. Behavioral understanding: As you have defined and identified the preferred talent group to employ it is time to understand what they want and how they act. Look at the preferences which describe a majority of them and then make interviews or focus groups to understand their behaviors.

3. Your employer brand identity: As the research part is done the real challenge commences. Now it is time to look at three main things: a) Check your competitors to understand their strengths and identity. b) Check your own corporate brand profile and c) benchmark the findings from your research phase with what you believe you have got / what you are, today.

It is quite obvious that you can not state things which is not in line with corporate brand policies. The employer brand must be parallell if not the same as the corporate brand. It is also quite obvious that you can not communicate the same things which your competitors do, unless you truly are better than they are in this area. And remember, even if you are better than your competitors in this area, the talents won’t know and neither will they find out if employed by your competitor and not becoming disappointed. The final third step means you have to look at what remains after going through corporate brand policies and competitor positioning, plus the openings your research findings provide you with.

In an ideal world the conclusion will look like this: “Apparently, our recruitment target group have a great desire to work for an international company who have great parental benefits but who can offer a flexible, entrepreneurial work culture and who has great tradition of research and development. That is great cause that is us spot on and no competitors are currently marketing themselves this way. Also, it is very close to how the marketing department describes us in our sales materials.”

That is ideal as said. Rarely reality is exactly like that. But you get the idea. That is what we strive for.

“Ok cool. So now when this is done, it is time to advertise right?”

Nope. Not yet, sorry.

Now it is time to win your employees. Precisely as a ship runs only as smooth at the seas as the crew are linked together, committed to the cause and to their captain, your recruitment campaigns and efforts must start from them. What good is it to have done the research and have all the data if you have not launched and managed the process internally first. It is important that everyone internally raise their hands and agree on what you’ve discovered and decided upon from the first three steps. And wake up call again. It is not enough to have one seminar where you inform your employees of your new profile. You must engage with them the entire project. You must make them feel they are part of deciding and identifying this “soul” of your company. And in the end you must thank them for making this happen. There are many ways to win this engagement. I will dedicate other blog posts about that.

As this is done, the gaps are minimized and new hires who have seen, become interested into and bought into your profile – will recognize the communicated soul at interviews and when meeting your staff. This is how you want it. And remember, having won commitment of your employees to your identity, you will be much stronger when it comes to using referral solutions. That will also decrease your recruitment costs.

Sounds complicated? Believe me, it is not. It is far more complicated to do it wrong. Wrong is to not start on the inside.

Good luck and thanks for reading.


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