Developing and activating an authentic, dynamic and beneficial employer brand takes time, work and support from stakeholder and cross-departmental collaboration. This is not a “side project” you can just take on, but instead needs to be something your company and team dedicate resources towards and are committed to maintaining.
With so much effort to get it “right”, your employer brand needs to be useful for years to come, through potential (and unknown) company, job market and world changes.
Recently we hosted a webinar, How to Build a Strong Employer Brand that Lasts, featuring 2 experienced, Rally Award-winning employer brand experts: Susie Billingsley, Director of Candidate Experience and Early Talent at Bright Horizons, and Liz Kempinski, Director of Global Employer Brand and Marketing at ADP.
Susie and Liz wrapped up the webinar each sharing their top 3 pro tips for creating an employer brand that lasts. Today, we’re highlighting these pro tips for you along with examples and insights to help you develop your own enduring employer brand.
You’ll notice that the pro tips below are focused around the people and relationships within your organization. Don’t get too distracted by colors, imagery and taglines. While they may seem like they’re the fun parts of employer branding, what matters (and allows your brand to be long lasting) comes from doing the hard work. And the hard work that ensures an authentic and resonant employee value proposition comes from bringing a variety of viewpoints together, building consensus among your collaborators and listening to differing opinions.
But, before we get to the pro tips, let’s meet our experts!
Meet the Experts
Susie Billingsley, Director of Candidate Experience and Early Talent at Bright Horizons, has been part of talent acquisition at the company for over 20 years. Starting as a recruiter and evolving through various roles, she now concentrates on talent attraction, Recruitment Marketing and Bright Horizons’ employer brand. Originating in Boston in 1986, Bright Horizons initially emphasized high-quality childcare and early education but has expanded to include backup care for both children and elderly adults, as well as workforce education services such as education advising, tuition program management, student loan repayment, and more.
Liz Kempinski has been at ADP for over 11 years, and is now the Director of Global Employer Brand and Marketing. She began in a more traditional B2B marketing role in digital sales, transitioning into sales ops before being invited to join the global employer brand and marketing team. For 70 years, ADP has focused on HR and payroll services. The company now works with more than a million businesses worldwide offering data-driven, tech-forward HR solutions to impact the ever changing world of work.
Your Employee Value Proposition: the heart of an employer brand
Before we detail the pro tips, it’s important to stop for a moment and discuss the employee value proposition (EVP). The EVP is the heart of your employer brand and the more accurate and clear you can make it, the better the chances that your brand will last. Both of our experts explained the process they went through to create their company’s EVP.
For Susie and Bright Horizons, they were lucky to start the development process with an outside agency who managed a research project. Through employee surveys, focus groups and a competitive review of other education companies they were able to put together a picture of what made them a unique and special employer.
At ADP, Liz explained, “We developed our employer value proposition using an employer attractiveness framework that synthesized both external talent research with our internal associate and executive research. We did this with external surveys among target professionals, internal surveys, management interviews with the senior executives across ADP globally and a multi-day workshop to review all the data and come to a consensus about the ADP EVP. It was a really data-driven approach.”
The pro tips below synthesize both Liz and Susie’s experience and their belief of what’s required to create a strong and authentic employer brand. And, the more thoughtful and true the brand is, the longer it will last, through any internal or external changes.
Now, let’s move on to the pro tips!
1. Establish Organizational Alignment: Everyone needs to be on the same page
For her first pro tip, Liz explained, “There’s really no substitute for organizational alignment, focus and execution. Before getting started, get that leadership buy-in, stay aligned with your company’s larger marketing and talent acquisition’s initiatives. Making your employer brand resonate with top candidates for your company and your employees is an investment, and so you need to be aligned with other organizational priorities and goals.”
At ADP, as they shifted to becoming a technology company, their Chief Product and Technology Officer engaged the Recruitment Marketing team to develop a unified tech talent brand, complementary to their company-wide employer brand. This additional brand ended up having its own EVP, career site and marketing campaign targeted specifically at tech talent.
That the Chief Product and Technology Officer understood the role of an employer brand and the work of the Recruitment Marketing team shows how aligned the company is. This leader empowered Liz and her team to lead this project, and thus create a tech talent brand that could be effective.
2. Build Collaborative Relationships: Become besties with marketing
An employer brand project is one of the most strategic initiatives you’ll work on in Recruitment Marketing, so of course working with the corporate marketing team is crucial.
Susie shared, “Become besties with marketing. Especially if you’re structured in a way where marketing has a big say in the corporate brand, you need to have a strong collaborative relationship. Start by building a common vocabulary and work to become a united front so that when you’re presenting to company leaders and stakeholders, you’re really able to influence the change that you’re undertaking.”
For Bright Horizons, their employer brand project launched after presenting data (from an external agency who conducted employee focus groups) to their senior leadership team. Once the project was green lit, they started working with the marketing team right away as they already had a strong, established B2C and B2B brand.
Susie explained that working this way allowed them to bounce ideas off each other, “We valued the marketing team’s insight, since they did have a really long history with the company. But this project gave us the opportunity to stretch things in a new direction.”
Since launching their employer brand and continuing to evolve it, Susie and her team have continued this cross-departmental collaboration. One example is their social media presence, since Bright Horizons’ social team sits within the marketing department. Recruitment Marketing is continually collaborating with the social team to make sure their content is being incorporated in those channels.
But while you want to work with your marketing team as collaborators, Susie feels strongly that you should make sure your knowledge and expertise in talent attraction isn’t ignored. In the Bright Horizons employer brand project, she explained, “Sometimes we went a bit toe-to-toe with marketing around things that they thought should be included in our EVP and employer brand that we just didn’t think were selling points for candidates.”
Both Susie and Liz made clear to us that, while others at the company will have their opinions, you need to remember that you’re the expert in this space.
3. Apply Change Management Principles: Everyone needs a voice
Creating or refreshing your employer brand can bring big changes for a company and you can’t expect everyone will be on board from the beginning. There are established principles for managing and implementing change, and it’s a good idea to employ them when pursuing a project of this scale. One specific change management principle is to give everyone a voice, not just your champions.
Susie recommends, “You want those people who are early adopters and forward thinkers to be involved because they’re going to understand the work that you’re trying to do, but you also need to hear from those who are slower to embrace change. They may be hesitant to some of your ideas, but listening to their concerns can offer some really good insight that might prove useful.”
Pitch your ideas to both of these groups of people and hear (and include) their feedback in the project. This is going to give your employer brand more longevity as you’re incorporating ideas and concerns from the people who are more hesitant for change. Susie added, “You’ll have a smoother road in getting this launched and activated, which will help your EVP and employer brand take root throughout the company.”
4. Live Up to Your EVP: Represent what employees can expect
An EVP represents what employees can expect once they join your organization. If this rings true, meeting the expectations of candidates and new hires, then your employer brand is doing its job and will continue to resonate with talent.
Liz shared, “At ADP, we aim to deliver an EVP that’s attractive, credible, true and distinct. So, if your EVP and the candidate’s expectations have aligned with the actual employee experience once they join the company, there are no surprises and expectations are met.” If there are major discrepancies between the experience you’ve promised and the lived experience, then your employer brand just won’t be successful and last.
5. Ensure Longevity with EVP: Dig your heels in
Going back to what both Susie and Liz made clear, you need to remind yourself that you are the expert in Recruitment Marketing. If you’re getting pushback from others on the project team, stakeholders or the company at-large, keep going back to what you’re hearing consistently from candidates. That’s what job seekers want.
Susie reminded us, “This is one time where being stubborn is a good thing. Your employer brand is a big investment in resources and creativity and your EVP needs to stand the test of time.”
Focus on what you’ve observed that piques candidates’ interests. If you’re getting pushback, be ready to dig your heels in and remind the skeptics that this is based on what candidates and new employees are saying. It will help to back up the decisions you’ve made, again proving that you’re the expert.
Liz added, “People always have opinions, but you have to remember that the data doesn’t lie. You can always lean heavily into the data and remind people that their gut feeling is not a valid measure of the truth. Perception may seem like reality, but it’s not.”
6. Leverage Employee Advocacy: Showcase your people!
Showcasing your people raises internal awareness and advocacy around your EVP brand promise. What’s on your career site, and what’s promoted through your social and digital channels, should inspire a connection with your brand. The more you highlight your people, the more your employer brand will reveal itself first hand.
Liz shared, “Several years ago, we started a brand ambassador program where we encourage employees who love working at ADP to promote the company online and offline. They’re building ADP’s brand for us as a great place to work along with building their own personal brand. But more than that, they’re a source of authentic uplifting stories that we can share through our Recruitment Marketing channels to highlight our EVP and brand promise.”
Encourage employee advocacy to build an authentic connection with the brand. This helps your EVP last because authenticity resonates.
It’s also a great way to continue to check that the employer brand is true. If employee content isn’t aligning anymore with your EVP, then it may be time to revisit this.
Thank you to Susie and Liz for sharing these important pro tips! To learn more and see all their examples, watch our Webinar On Demand, How to Build a Strong Employer Brand that Lasts.