Who should own the employer brand?
I hosted an event a few years ago on employer branding and it was an interesting discussion. I think that what made it particularly interesting is that there were attendees from different organisations working in HR, Recruitment (in-house and agency side) and there was also someone from Marketing. Clearly, this is a topic that appeals to people working across the business.
The short answer to the question around who should take ownership of an organisation’s employer brand is all three of those departments. They should all have a vested interested in making sure that they are joined up in their approach to it.
I have worked with a variety of clients over the years and have seen first-hand the impact that an employer brand has on a business’ ability to hire the very best talent available. In my experience, the lack of an employer brand is much better than a bad one. We can help our clients to get candidates to engage with their business if they are not that well-known, but it is harder if they are well-known for the wrong reasons.
I don’t want to draw attention to who they are but I used to do quite a lot of work for a very well-known business that had a strong business brand in the market that they operate in. They had outsourced their recruitment function to an RPO and their employer brand was horrific. Feedback was never given to people, candidates used to feel like their application had disappeared into a black hole and this occurred on pretty much every vacancy. One of the first questions I would have to ask candidates when recruiting for them was not whether they were interested in the role but if they were willing to work for that business. It was usually a 50/50 response. I stopped doing work for them fairly quickly as it became very hard to recruit for them.
If you don’t provide candidates that are also potential customers with a positive experience regardless of whether they get the job or not, they will take their business elsewhere. A large supermarket chain will get vast quantities of applications for the roles they advertise. They can’t hire everyone that applies and the unsuccessful candidates may take the view that if they are not good enough to work there then perhaps they are not good enough to shop there either.
The Marketing team hold a key role to play in making sure that the values of a business come across in any job advertising that is placed. It should also make sure that candidates are treated as the potential future customers that they are. If you espouse the virtues of being an ethical business but don’t look after your own employees or job applicants then this will impact negatively both on you as an employer and your brand as a whole.
HR have a responsibility to ensure that a business’ employees feel valued and that their needs are met as they progress through the organisation. I regularly brief candidates on a role that are keen on the opportunity after we have spoken. They then go away and do a bit of homework on the business only to withdraw interest after reviewing Glassdoor. If employees do not get the reward, development and leadership that they expect, then they will shout about it when they leave. This is why outplacement can be so important when a business is making redundancies. It is important to do the right thing and HR play a key part in this.
Of course, an internal recruitment function plays a key part in enhancing the employer brand. They are the ones trying to attract people into the business and by extension so are the recruitment agents that they work with. You should pick your external partners carefully and make sure that you entrust your employer brand to partners that get your business and what you stand for. The candidate experience that is provided by your recruitment function will play a massive part in your reputation as a business.
In different organisations, the employer brand is often owned by different departments and that is fine. From the discussions that I have had with people working across the business, the most notable point that was made was that when it comes to this subject, there should be consensus across the organisation. Everyone should be singing from the same hymn sheet so that there is no disconnect.
Who owns the employer brand in your organisation? How do you ensure buy-in across the organisation to make sure that you all pull in the same direction?