The cigarette and tobacco giant’s commitment to moving to smoke-free products involved a transformation in branding to enable it to attract and develop the requisite talent. We look at its achievement and those of the runners-up in this hotly contested category.
Philip Morris International
More than a decade ago, the cigarette giant set itself the goal of creating less harmful alternatives to cigarettes. It decided to build its future on smoke-free products that, while not risk-free, are a far better choice than cigarette smoking. To deliver this dramatic transformation, PMI focused on talent with the aim of developing an employer brand to help it hire and retain the talent needed to deliver its vision of a smoke-free future. Retaining and attracting great talent and addressing the gender and diversity balance were chief among its objectives.
The solution saw it listen to more than 1,000 colleagues and 2,000 external market research participants, spanning every region, function, market, gender and experience. It also analysed more than a million data points via Universum and other industry reports, thrive data, exit surveys and employee opinion surveys. From all this, four powerful pillars were created, forming its new employee deal: revolutionary change, shape the future, stronger together and endless experiences.
PMI decided it didn’t want to “tell” colleagues about its new employer brand it wanted them to experience it. It developed a 360-degree virtual reality regional experience to cover all offices, stores and factories in all regional markets. But the pandemic meant events were scaled back for safety reasons.
Following the launch of the new brand, the following metrics were achieved or exceeded: LinkedIn followers grew from 700,000 in 2019 to 820,000 followers for 2020 post-launch; Glassdoor ratings increased from 3.6 in 2019 to 3.9 in 2020; the number of women applying for roles nearly doubled to reach 66,000 in August 2020; and PMI was recertified as a Top Employer for 2020 in all regions by the Top Employers Institute.
DWP Digital (which works within the Department of Work and Pensions) needed to stand out among high-profile brands that were more typical destinations for top tech talent. And, they needed to stand out from the overarching Department of Work and Pensions brand, which had negative connotations.
It set itself the goal of attracting at least 900 technology specialists in order to build sustainable internal digital capability and reduce reliance on third-party suppliers.
Due to the UK IT skills shortage, it couldn’t rely on traditional vacancy advertising or head-hunting techniques to meet this huge target.
The first step was exploring what digital specialists are looking for in an employer and comparing this with DWP Digital’s offering. This involved an in-depth research project, spanning internal and external digital specialists. After identifying themes from the research, DWP Digital could see the importance its audience placed on doing work that mattered. It also saw that the chance to use the latest tech to solve complex problems and deliver career-defining projects was hugely appealing to candidates.
The service then set about creating a set of creative and fun brand pillars that defined the opportunities that came with a career at DWP Digital. This has proved a huge success and since January 2020 it has attracted 930 new hires, and substantial increases in click-through rates and LinkedIn followers.
Integrated Care 24
In early 2019 social enterprise healthcare provider Integrated Care 24 set about a project to develop a best in class employer
brand that engaged an internal audience while inspiring and attracting the highest quality candidates. It saw its mission as being to stand out from the crowd, building an awareness of IC24 as an employer of choice, to challenge perceptions around primary care and to promote the attractive factors of working for a social enterprise that would be attractive to potential candidates.
The project started with engaging leading agency Pink Squid as a partner on the project, and then moved to a research phase. This involved desktop research, competitor analysis, and then a host of interviews with leaders within the organisation, senior GPs, use of the organisation-wide employee survey data and mixed focus groups with a broad range of roles. It created the employee value proposition Made to be Brave, with the ambition to attract and retain people, express new ideas and take initiative.
The decision was taken to re-brand the organisation and change its logo, and a brand toolkit was created to ensure there was consistency across internal and external communications to ensure the brand was professionally implemented and maintained.
Made to be Brave proved a prophetic choice of phrase, as within six months of the launch of the brand the world faced a
global pandemic and IC24, as a provider of healthcare services and specifically the NHS 111 service in three counties, was on the frontline fighting against a new and unknown disease.
Since launching the new employer brand IC24 has continued to see month-on-month increases to its social media following. Its LinkedIn following, for example, has increased by over 600 followers since the launch of its new brand.
From a recruitment point of view, since it launched Made to be Brave its employer brand and career site in Sept 2019 it has seen a 48% increase in applications. By reducing vacancy rates it was able in 2019-20 to reduce agency spend by
Telegraph Media Group
A challenge for the Telegraph, it says, is that the consumers of their product are not their typical employees. After all, The Telegraph is politically a right of centre publisher, whereas the media and creative job seeking market is traditionally left of centre. Even more, the corporate image of The Telegraph is of a white, middle-class, stuffy, dusty and privileged England. Not particularly helpful for a business looking to increase the diversity of its workforce.
As their business continues to evolve, The Telegraph and That Little Agency worked together to define what it is that makes them a great place to work. The Telegraph employer proposition was confused, didn’t successfully articulate the fantastic personality of the business and it wasn’t clear on what its unique selling points were.
The result was a top to tail review of what it is that makes The Telegraph a great place to work. Surveys, focus groups and executive interviews took place across employment groups (editorial, commercial/sales, business enablement, technical and digital) and the UK. The research enabled it to define their employer brand personality and the key themes that makes it a great employer. This all then fed into the creative brief as it looked to articulate this through an instantly recognisable and strong look and feel, combined with a compelling messaging framework.
What came out of this exercise, says The Telegraph, was the new You Make the Story creative concept. A proposition that all internal and external people communication could make use of. A proposition that has been embraced by current Telegraph employees (see #youmakethestory) and that is helping attract talented people to the business. What’s more the whole exercise, including the associated careers website, cost just £39,000.
Having launched in January 2020 the You Make the Story employer proposition is still very much in its infancy. But there are already very encouraging trends. So far there has been a 44% increase in job applications, 44% increase in hires made through referral scheme, 47% increase in applications from BAME candidates and a 55% decrease in the cost per hire.
ViacomCBS in partnership with The Surgery
Multimedia giant ViacomCBS decided its UK career site was tired and corporate and had fallen behind those of its direct competitors. It felt its job ads were off the pace too and that although it was an employee-led business it hadn’t been showing it.
To improve matters it created a skeleton team from HR and talent acquisition and reached out to The Surgery for support – building expertise through a branding expert, a comms director and a web designer. Together it was decided it was time for ViacomCBS to showcase who it was as an employer, reduce attrition and improve time to hire, align with existing business and people strategies and build a pragmatic brand that can be maintained with no extra resource.
The solution entailed company-wide surveys, employee focus groups, senior leader interviews, HR workshops, and competitor analysis.
The company developed a human-feeling brand through colourful and inclusive visuals and a friendly tone (tested again with its steering group, and an external group of would-be candidates). An extensive brand book and website was created, and importantly a branding cheat-sheet and simple assets to help the team maintain it.
The new career website was launched internally, with an invite to review and feedback, so employees could feel a part of what they helped create.
The project took five months to deliver, uncovering frustrations and providing a forum for discussing them. However, the project has lifted ViacomCBS’ employer brand dramatically. 100% of employees said they felt it was a strong showcase of what the company does and 84% said the brand was an accurate reflection of the company.
It was only launched in May 2021 so it’s too soon to see an impact on these metrics but new joiners have been extremely positive about the branding. Meanwhile, 86% of employees have a better understanding of who the company is and what it offers while 42% said they learned something new. But above all, the branding had helped the company understand itself better. “Now, we can showcase our human side, engage our existing workforce and attract the talent of tomorrow,” it says.