When Your Employment Brand Doesn’t Match Your Market Brand – What Happens?

Now, more than ever, as the competition for top talent continues to increase, the intersection of your market brand and your employment brand in the workplace is critical. It is no longer sufficient to be a market brand superstar – especially when engaging in HR Executive Search or hiring a Chief Diversity Officer.

No one will argue the importance of delivering shareholder value, developing great products, and strategically marketing to your target customer base. However, I would contend that sustainable delivery in these areas is impossible without an equal commitment to building an employment brand and culture that attracts the best and the brightest minds in your industry. Given the hyper-transparency afforded by social media and “employee voice” platforms like Glassdoor, your organizational culture and employment brand are, in a matter of speaking, “public information.” And this level of transparency can work for or against your organization.

Here are some stats from an article in HR Magazine reported from a collection of studies:

  • 55% of job seekers who read a negative review of a company decided not to apply there (Talentnow)
  • A negative reputation costs companies at least 10% more per hire (LinkedIn)
  • 92% of people would consider changing jobs if it meant going to a company with an excellent reputation (Corporate Responsibility Magazine)
  • Companies rated as “great employers” can result in up to a 28% reduction in an organization’s turnover (LinkedIn)
  • Great employers get up to 50% more qualified applicants (LinkedIn)

 

The relationship between your market brand and your employment brand should best be described with adjectives like consistent, complimentary, values-centered, relevant, and innovative. When they are not, the talent marketplace responds definitively.

The ability to understand and respond to the needs of customers are hallmarks of great brands. Organizations that are proactive and innovative in responding to unmet market needs have enjoyed phenomenal success and, in some cases, created markets that did not exist. Therefore, organizations that have built great market brands inherently have the capacity to build great employment brands. It is truly a matter of will, not skill. Great employment brands start with an executive leadership team that actively seeks to understand and respond to their employees’ stated needs and foster an organizational culture of transparency, diversity, and belonging. While building a winning employment brand is championed by HR, it cannot be accomplished alone.

Regardless of where you are in your employment brand-building journey, the road to greatness starts with the willingness to honestly ask and answer the question: Does our customer experience match our employee experience?

 

When CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE ≠ EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE . . .

As the leader of Blue Rock’s HR Executive Search practice, I usually spend ten or more hours every week reading to stay abreast of industry trends and relevant news.

In December 2020, MoneyWise published the 22 Worst Companies to Work For. More recently a STAR brand in the CRM software space, Salesforce, has found itself in the negative spotlight as two African American managers resigned, and one publicly denounced her employment experience and the Salesforce culture. Vivianne Castillo was a manager for design research and innovation. Fast Company shared her story online, reporting on the open letter of resignation Castillo shared on LinkedIn. Her tenure was relatively short, her experience was not positive, and her letter was powerful.

In the 20th Century, unhappy employees complained to co-workers, friends, and family members. In the 21st Century, along with personal complaints, a subpar employment brand can lead to social postings warning candidates to avoid specific companies and negative reviews on employment sites.

When looking for best-in-class talent who can transform cultures, energize teams, and boost the bottom line, you need to be prepared to talk about your employment brand and address concerns, particularly when engaging in HR Executive or Chief Diversity Officer Search.

HR’s Role in Fixing the Problem   

HR leaders are CULTURE CHAMPIONS and behavioral role models. They are called upon to actively seek to understand and respond to their employees’ stated needs and foster an organizational culture of transparency, diversity, and belonging. When they recognize a misalignment between a market brand and an employment brand, they are also tasked to display LEADERSHIP COURAGE, drawing upon data, logic, and compassion to guide their leadership teams through the difficult process of “fixing the problem.”

Given the availability of easy-to-use, cost-effective platforms for gathering employee engagement information, a quick data exercise could be as simple as executing an anonymous one-question survey. You can ask, “Would you recommend that a friend, former co-worker, or family member consider applying for a job at our company?”

If “No, I would not recommend applying for a job,” trumps, “Yes, I would recommend working here,” you know there is a problem.

Low participation rates indicating a general sense of apathy or ambivalence is another reason for concern. Especially if a prediction we made in January 2021 comes true, stating that the economy will improve and many employers will be hit with a flurry of resignations.

Building an attractive and desirable employment brand requires the same degree of discipline and often many of the same methodologies used to capitalize on market product opportunities. To fix the problem, you will need executive-level alignment on your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) to address multiple factors, including the following:

Internally

  • Demographics & Data: What do the numbers tell you? Taking the time to gather and analyze critical employee demographic data is vital (i.e., employee population, gender mix, location/region mix, employee growth, employee turnover, etc.).
  • Affiliation: Do your employees take pride in, and feel connected to, your organization? Are they passionate brand ambassadors? Do they see the organization as socially responsible? Do they feel that you live up to your market brand?
  • Culture: Are core values established, communicated, and modeled by organizational leaders? Do your employees feel that they matter to others in the organization? Do they feel heard?
  • Job & Career: Do your employees feel challenged in their roles? Do they believe their work makes an impact? Do they feel there is an opportunity for continued growth, development, and career advancement?
  • Total Rewards: Are your Total Rewards competitive and relevant to your talent market? Are they perceived as fair and equitable by your employees?
  • Work Environment: Do your employees feel safe physically and emotionally in the workplace? Do they have what they need to perform and be successful? Is your remote/non-remote work strategy relevant in today’s environment? Is the strategy clearly communicated and understood?

 

Externally

  • Who are you looking to hire?
  • What is the availability of the employees you are looking to hire in your target markets?
  • What are the relevant/competitive Total Rewards packages for this talent?
  • Who are your competitors for this same talent?

 

Building a market-relevant employment brand will require both a holistic and a data-driven approach. In a contemporary HR organization with established COE’s, this work will require a robust intra-functional partnership, inclusive of the Talent Acquisition, Total Rewards, HR Technology, HR Analytics, and Employee Relations functions – all with the expectation that applied methodology, technology, and solution sets are agile so they can readily adapt and respond to changes in the marketplace.

 

The Business Case for Alignment Between Employment and Marketing Brands

Social media marketing strategist and branding expert Ted Rubin said, “Your brand is what you do; your reputation is what people remember and share.” In an article published in the MIT SLOAN Management Review titled, “How much Does a Company’s Reputation Matter in Recruiting?” the authors state a company’s reputation is a multidimensional construct encompassing:

  • Corporate reputation
  • Workplace reputation
  • Social reputation

 

At Blue Rock Search, we think of corporate reputation as encompassing what you stand for as a company in consumers’ minds. Workplace reputation is how you are viewed by current and past employees. Social reputation is how you are positioned in the mind of external stakeholders. It is built around factors such as giving back to your community, where you stand on DEI issues, and value-focused positions, such as your stand on sustainability. These reputational factors intertwine and create your employment brand, which is critical when economic times are good, and the best candidates have no problem finding a position.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, many economists predict a coming expansion. “Forecasters have always expected the pandemic to be followed by a period of strong growth as businesses reopen and Americans resume their normal activities. But in recent weeks, economists have begun to talk of something stronger: a supercharged rebound that brings down unemployment, drives up wages and may foster years of stronger growth.”

Booming economies mean increased competition for employees at all levels, but it can be particularly challenging when seeking star performers. In-demand star performers have choices, options, and the skills to create sustainable transformation. In the world of HR Executive Search, I talk to these people almost every day. Again and again, stars share stories of organizational arrogance (“We are a high-performing global company and everyone wants to work for us.”) and executives who choose to remain in denial regarding the negative press circulating about their employment brand.

When your employment and market brand are aligned and positive, they create a competitive advantage in multiple ways. You attract more candidates and often better candidates. Top talent applies for openings, returns your phone calls, and commits for the long haul once hired.

Top talent takes you beyond incremental innovations. Star performers help you stand apart in your market, transform your organization, and rapidly move the organization forward during an economic boom, creating value and competitive advantage for years to come.

Your organization is already investing in a market brand. An equal commitment to building a winning EMPLOYMENT BRAND, supported by a compelling EMPLOYEE VALUE PROPOSITION, will deliver sustained growth and is an investment that will always pay off. As I mentioned earlier, if you already have a strong market brand, you inherently have the capacity to build a great employment brand. It is truly a matter of will, not skill!

By Ruben Moreno

About the Author

After a 25-year career in Corporate Human Resources and HR Executive Search, Ruben Moreno and his two partners co-founded Blue Rock Search based on a simple but ambitious vision of creating a firm that would “Change Lives and Organizations One Relationship at a Time.”  Ruben leads the Blue Rock HR Executive Search practice specializing in the identification, assessment, recruitment, and onboarding of Chief HR Officers and Chief Diversity Officers and their respective teams — inclusive of leaders in Talent Acquisition, Total Rewards, HRBP’s, Learning & OD, HR Technology, HR Operations, and HR Analytics. Ruben has helped place hundreds of HR Executives and built deep relationships within the CHRO community across multiple industry verticals. His clients consider him a trusted partner who takes the time to understand their business and add value beyond executive search.

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