Employer branding is different from product branding. Though just as product branding creates a favourable impression with a customer, employer branding should make a favourable connection with current and potential employees. An employer’s branding exercise has to be targeted to both external and internal audience. External audience comprises vendors, potential hires, customers etc., whereas internal audience is the serving employee. Creating a favourable employer brand is a long-term exercise and not the responsibility of any particular department. Even though the primary beneficiary is HR department, the benefits accrue to the whole company. To analyse the contribution of various processes in a company that help in employer brand building. the best is to adopt a serial approach and dissect various PoC (Points of Contact) of the company’s personnel with the outside world.
Employer branding must start with the security personnel at the entrance. They can create the first positive impression on the employee or the prospective employee. Since this is generally an outsourced function, imparting training to the security personnel on courtesy and etiquette is no one’s KRA (key result area) and is definitely not part of any SLA (service level agreement). This is the first and the weakest link. A small conscious investment by the company in training its security personnel is the first step to employer branding.
One of the organisations I have helped had the same set of security personnel for the last eight years. We made sure the same team was manning the security and parking, even though the vendor may have changed. This was made part of the initial contract with each of the vendors. This subtly led to stability. The security staff have now become familiar with most visitors and know the importance of any guest. During their long tenure, they have experienced different situations and hence the company does not have to subsequently invest in retraining these people. Even though they are contract employees, they are treated like any other regular employee.
However, I have observed that more than 70 per cent of the companies treat their security staff shabbily and the frustration of these people kills any good branding the company might have created internally. How many times have you observed the security personnel in different companies asking you about the purpose of your visit? They will not be satisfied with the answer ‘official’, and you cannot shout at them.
There are companies which believe that asking visitors for a cup of tea or coffee by guard is a wonderful gesture, little realising that the visitor has not come to a fast-food joint. They have a couple of dedicated pantry staff for this chore. The offer should be made by the host himself and not by the receptionist as a hollow formality. Though these are insignificant gestures, they contribute to the brand building exercise.
The other important stop for most candidates is staff room, to meet staff members. Job seekers at the junior levels when called for interview or test are generally treated as ‘cattle class’ at most companies. One can clearly see a distinction in the approaches adopted in product companies and service companies. Product companies are used to concepts like packaging, product life cycle and product management. This development approach also reflects in the treatment of human resource. Product companies are far more organised and structured, and with volumes being manageable, they communicate the expectations far more clearly to the incumbent. This is in contrast to the treatment meted out by many IT service companies to individuals as a billable resource.
Spending money on large recruitment advertisements does not help in branding. What was considered novel at one time is a given in the current scenario. Examples of these include providing laptops, bags, t-shirts. Some of these may have at one time actually helped companies with increased productivity, but what ultimately matters now is the word of mouth experiences of current and former employees.
Incorporating initiatives by employees for company brand building under the KRA will make them more aware. No doubt, it is difficult to measure but there are some open source plug-ins available that can monitor the response time. Imagine a situation where you have sent an email to some senior employee in a company. If you get at least some form of an acknowledgement, your impression is far more positive about the company than when you get a delayed reply after a lot of follow-ups. Many times, one does not get any reply. Minor initiatives like this have to be embedded in the DNA of the company and these small ground rules are the pillars on which strong brands are built.
Company values have to be explained during induction training at the time of on-boarding. The behaviour of employees in a group, especially at public places, is also important. Many times they are boisterous and lose sense of their surroundings while discussing their organisation, and that does not help in company brand building exercise. Even though these cannot be strictly implemented, guidelines and explanations can be given at the time of induction.
Many companies also do not provide visiting cards to all employees. Usually, this facility is provided only to those dealing with external clients. This small expense is a great morale booster and makes every employee an ambassador of the company.
The finance and accounts department of a company are also its brand builders. While they should be firm in implementing the company policies, they need not be rude or arrogant. However, in a number of organisations, the F&A department interprets the policies strictly and narrowly to save costs. Time spent in explaining politely their perspective to their internal and external customers would go a long way in strengthening the employer brand.
Brand building is an ongoing exercise and innovative processes become de-facto standards over a period of time. Hence, it is important that there is always some uniqueness which helps you recall and strengthen the brand.
Lastly, the most important advise would be that the employer should only do what is right and not what is convenient in the short-term. Right things done in right manner always have long-term consequences and prove beneficial for the organisation.