Employer branding requires strong leadership

The biggest influence on an employer branding programme is the strength of the leadership behind the strategy, says Brett Minchington, chairman and CEO of Employer Brand International.

The role of an employer brand manager is increasing in scope as the discipline evolves. As the line continues to blur between the roles of HR, marketing and communication professionals in talent attraction and retention, employer brand managers are being empowered to handle responsibilities covering all three functions.

Today, companies including Nike, Ernst & Young, Google, Amazon, UnitedHealth Group, Vestas Wind Systems, Starbucks, IBM, Ahold, E.ON, Deloitte, Nordea, DONG Energy, HP and Deutsche Bank have dedicated employer brand managers in place.

Building employer brand leadership capabilities

Employer brand leaders can better manage their cross functional responsibilities by using this employer brand leadership capability framework, to ensure a consistent approach to employer brand management.

Employer brand leadership capability framework

Key functions:

The key functions contained in the employer brand leadership capability framework include:

Employee lifecycle management

This segments the employee lifecycle and develops policies, systems and practices that reflect the changing needs of employees.

Employee lifecycle management is a relatively new concept for HR and creates an excellent opportunity for the HR function to learn from the marketing function and vice-versa.

Brand portfolio management

Corporate, consumer and employer brand strategies are usually managed separately. However, it is important to realise you have one “master brand”, which has subsets. The segmentation of the master brand into corporate, consumer and employer brand segments simply ensures each segment has a focused strategy to ensure outcomes are optimised.

Community management

Brett Minchington

Brett Minchington, chairman and CEO of Employer Brand International.

Advances in technology have led to an acceleration in, and adoption of, social media. It has the potential to create a truly globalised society, where goods, services and knowledge are transferred freely. The community management function develops strategies for harnessing the power networks to tap into best practice and to connect employees with customers, creating a two-way dialogue that benefits the company and its customers. Companies such as Procter & Gamble, Starbucks and Dell have been successful in harnessing the wisdom of crowds to develop better products and services at a fraction of the cost previously possible.

Change management

Strong change management must underpin any effort to embed employer brand management principles and practices. Failure to engage line managers will result in your employer brand strategy becoming just another project that gets a “tick in the box” but creates no lasting value.

Key levers:

The key levers for driving the functions of the employer brand leadership capability framework include:


Strong, capable leadership that works collaboratively to engage managers across functions is the key to a successful employer brand strategy. Despite the ongoing debate as to whether or not “leaders are born, not made”, most organisations will have an opinion on the strength of their leadership. The issue is that many companies do nothing to address the deficiencies in leadership that end up making it difficult to recruit the leaders required to turn things around. Companies recognised as having a strong employer brand, such as Google, SAS, Starbucks and Chevron, have strong leadership at the top.


Relevant, engaging and timely communication can be rare in organisations where employees work in a fast-paced busy environment. Companies such as HP, Nokia and IBM have built their own internal social networks to connect employees across the organisation and to create an environment where knowledge flows freely.


A challenge for some managers is their inability to influence executive and line managers about the role of employer branding in building company value. The key to addressing this gap is for employer brand leaders to develop and implement training programmes to build employer branding capabilities across the organisations.

quotemarksAny company trying to compete must figure out a way to engage the mind of nearly every employee.”

Jack Welch,
former CEO,
General Electric


Your employer brand strategy must achieve outcomes and be performance-driven. Performance against objectives and targets must be an ongoing process throughout the development and delivery of your employer brand strategy.

Strong leadership is linked to financial results

When the Hay Group looked at how the top 20 organisations in their “Best Companies for Leadership” survey in 2012 compared to the S&P 500 in terms of shareholder returns, they found the top 20 outperformed in both the short term and the long term. Over a 10-year period, the top 20 companies had a 3% return compared to the S&P of -1.4%

<SUCCESSFUL employer brand management requires a new perspective, focus, and commitment at all levels of organisation, but it must start having leaders with capabilities required to effectively deliver the strategy.

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