12 employer branding best practices for 2012

Brett Minchington, chairman and CEO of Employer Brand International, advises on employer branding strategy and practice for the coming year.

In 2011, I had the good fortune to travel to 11 countries to chair events on employer branding. During this time, I was able to speak with business leaders about global trends affecting their employer brand strategy and how they were addressing these challenges and opportunities.

Based on their feedback and my experiences, I have compiled an action list of 12 key areas for companies to focus on in 2012 when developing or evolving their employer brand strategy.

1. Consider the bigger picture

It is difficult to optimise the benefits of your strategy in isolation from other key functions required for managing a successful business. The employer branding ecosystem detailed in figure 1 outlines the scope of what is involved in building a strong employer brand and considers the diversity of stakeholders and functions that need to be engaged in your strategy.

Figure 1: Employer branding eco-system (click on image to enlarge).Employer branding ecosystem

2. Involve marketers in your employer brand strategy

Marketers need to realise that it is time to take more of an interest in employer branding and its role in building brand strength that will then boost shareholder value. Most of the job advertisements for employer brand managers in 2011 were seeking leaders with a marketing background – a clear indication for marketers to engage.

3. Learn how to use the pockets of talent excellence in the global labour pool

Great talent exists everywhere among the seven billion people on our planet. If the talent doesn’t exist to deliver the skills required to deliver the service, it is likely that your business model is wrong. Combined with the rate of change driven by innovation, competition and technology, the race to wealth creation will be met with a mismatch of the talent required to meet growth targets. Companies will need to start tapping labour pools outside their borders.

4. Invest in the strategic thinking capabilities of emerging leaders

Clare Morley

Brett Minchington, chairman and CEO of Employer Brand International.

Strategic thinking is one of the most under-developed skills in the workplace. Building strategic thinking capabilities within your workforce will stimulate innovation and creativity and lead to a workforce ready and able to confront the challenges of an ever-changing landscape.

5. Support accelerated skill and capability development

Education systems around the world are not preparing workers adequately for the demands of today’s workplace. Develop an accelerated capability development programme that is linked to the employee’s career development plan and supported by their immediate manager and managers from across the business.

6. Focus on systems integration across borders

I am still amazed by the number of leaders I meet on my travels from companies I know have a global employer brand strategy and, when I mention it to them, they have no idea it even exists. The traditional head-office, top-down strategy requires a different approach if companies are to engage leaders and employees outside their home country.

7. Integrate formal and informal learning and enable mobile access

I have found the best learning comes from “on the ground” experiences combined with formal teaching. Too much learning still occurs in a training-group environment, which is costly and can lack relevance to individual employees and have little impact on behavioural change.

8. Focus on the experience and engagement will follow

It has been widely reported that employee engagement is in decline in many companies, particularly following the global financial crisis of 2008, when companies were laying off thousands of workers, freezing wages and focusing on cost-cutting at the expense of investment in employee engagement and development initiatives. Train leaders to deliver positive work experiences for staff every day.

9. Use technology to enable employees to work “smarter”

There are two types of leaders, those that have no time and those that appear to have all the time in the world at their disposal. The first category is on a never-ending search for the next best thing. The latter’s thinking is guided by models, frameworks and experiences. For those with access to the internet, there is more information online to build knowledge and capabilities than you could ever realistically consume in your lifetime. Teach employees how to use the data at their disposal in a value-added way.

10. Encourage employees to grow their global network and online profile

Leaders should aim for the “triple 1000” social media footprint on the world’s largest networks (1000 friends on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, or the top three equivalents in their region). If built strategically, this market reach will provide you with an opportunity to connect globally with others in a manner that will benefit you, your connections and your company.

11. Don’t be obsessed with metrics

Most of you will be familiar with the quote by management guru Peter Drucker: “What can’t be measured can’t be managed.” It started a trend by leaders to measure everything in business. In the process, it caused disengagement, loss of brand equity and a generation of leaders who wouldn’t (or couldn’t) make a decision without first consulting the data. Identify the metrics that have most effect on the company’s productivity and performance, and make employees accountable to these.

12. Identify and release your brand ambassadors

Understand that your brand is made up of the sum of the intangible and tangible assets of your company. Today, a company’s competitive advantage resides more in its intangible assets such as its people, intellectual property, brand, reputation and experience. Appoint employees to act as ambassadors to represent your brand and provide them with the time and flexibility to fulfil their responsibilities.

It would seem that we still have a lot to do in 2012 – we should embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.

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