What are your views on the evolution of Employer Branding in India?
I think it’s still on it’s baby steps. There are only a handful organizations who are truly investing in this journey of employer branding. There is also a challenge of availability of skill sets. It’s either the Corporate Communication person or the HR who works on building a brand image. For the former, there is no available background to Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and traditionally the latter (HR) do not have an expertise to manage it. The external facing communication is primarily handled by the PR agencies who do not understand the candidate market.
One needs a hybrid of HR/communications/marketing skill-sets to do justice to the whole concept of Employer Branding, which is not easy to find.
The orientation to employer branding has started in the last few years, when HR decided that it wanted to be an Employer of choice; before that there was no concentrated strategy for it. Over the last 3 years, Talent Brand has been taking a different view because of the evolution of social media. And HR teams are focusing critically on what talents they want to attract and what messaging works for them.
The need to also differentiate themselves as a talent brand and not a consumer brand is leading to focused talent strategies being implemented by organizations. For example, Microsoft could be great place where gaming and cloud computing skills are sought after. But as an engineer, how do I know if that’s the kind of place where I would want to work.
Do you think the investment in employer branding actually gives valuable returns to an organization?
Right now, nobody is tracking it. Once the investment in it increases, the rigour will also come in. Recently, in the LinkedIn report of most sought after companies, they used a lot of engagement level metrics to rank companies- applicants who saw job postings, applicants who applied on job postings, number of people following company page, number of people who stayed on the job etc. So that’s the new age method of figuring out how your employer is being perceived in the candidate market.
See, for a lot of HR Heads this is a new game, and hence they are also clueless with the concept of employer branding. 1-2 of the HR team members would be working on building an employer brand and that too in silos. Not even the complete HR team is aware what these couple of people are doing, forget the other functions.
Capgemini built communities around specific skill-sets on their Facebook page. They involved internal Subject Matter Experts to engage with the external talent market, who in turn gave projects, short term assignments to constantly work with the talent outside their own company. One needs to get into such kind of a partnership with the business because while HR can bring in the culture aspect, it’s only the domain experts who can bring in real meat that can really engage your prospective candidates.
We see organizations promoting themselves as an employer brand, but without having a EVP. How sustainable is this way of branding one’s employer?
The first step is to figure out how your employer is being perceived in the talent market. Is it positive, negative, doesn’t exist at all. The second is to know clearly the talent group that you are targeting. As a third step, you should also know the pulse of your internal employees: what gets them excited to come to work. Your external promotion should reflect your internal sentiments.
Depending on these two, one can strategize the actions. For example, if you are targeting mechanical engineers, then tap the existing communities of mechanical engineers on social media and plan your engagement with them.
One important thing that most employers don’t give much value to is when the rubber hits the road. Candidate experience is a critical factor which goes a long way in building an employer brand.
In Philips, irrespective of your final selection status, all candidates were asked to share how their recruitment experience was. Because it is important. All the hard-work that you put in to build a great employer story goes down the drain when you make a candidate to wait for 4 hours for one interview. As a branding specialist, you should educate the recruiters, the hiring managers on the importance of having a seamless candidate experience.
In US, there are awards given for companies who have had great candidate experience scores. Every step of the hiring process is measured and best employers are determined. We should also be able to reach that level soon.
What are some of the best employer branding strategies you have used or heard of?
In Philips, we realized that everyone knew of us as a lighting or consumer company, the part of business which we had divested. How do we differentiate Philips in campuses because we now into B2B segment as healthcare, lighting for government and B2C was majorly kept for traditional sake. In order to build a differentiated employer image in the minds of B-School students, we had to do something.
So, we devised and implemented a blog campaign. We invited students to share ideas around our theme campaign of light of my life. They could share audios, videos, photos on themes of Healthy Living (for health care business), It’s my style (for Consumer business) and Light a smile (for Lighting business). For the first four weeks of a first year student’s life at the campus, he was working on this contest and in turn knowing the difference between our various business segments. Every Monday, we would also post educative information about our business segments. Winners were given Philips goodies and it had a huge impact. We were engaging with top 20-30 B schools and had more than 800 entries in the first four weeks.
Due to the social nature of the activity (social buttons added, voting by friends in the network), there were more than 2 lacs views in that period. I remember my boss and his wife had visited a Godrej store and the saleslady on knowing that he is from Philips, started taking about this contest and shared how her daughter is excited to be participating in this.
This also became an internal best practice for Philips with a lot of global counter-parts asking us what is it that we are doing? It was also covered in the global Philips newsletter.
What are the potential challenges a company can face while promoting their employer brand via social media?
It depends on the kind of company and industry space you are in. In Flipkart, our social media will also have a lot of customer related issues being posted by customers. So internally, we had devised the system with our customer care team and for any customer related post, they would reply back within a defined time frame.
When you are the number one player, things will often be publicized much more than desired. The news of flipkart postponing joining dates was all over, so those kind of challenges are a given.
Also, when you have experts like Punit Soni joining and then exiting your company, that also determines your brand image in the market. He is a blogger, writes extensively and hence people will also make a perception about you as an employer with what he is writing.
Biggest challenge with brands is unknown, we need to figure that out. How different are you from your competitors? Why should this talent join you and not the others?
One shouldn’t refrain from controversies. You cant keep posting Happy Diwali, Happy New Year kind of messages and expect that the world will notice you. Take the example of Zomato. They have always been posting stuff that gets people’s attention. One of their post was on Why Delhi based start-ups are better than Bangalore based start-ups and it took the social media by storm.
Most companies play it safe when it comes to both branding themselves and hiring candidates. One should hire good candidates and not good backgrounds. Flipkart would hire generalists and not specialists. They want to hire people who can learn and adapt quickly because no one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. Something needed today, may not be required tomorrow.
Relevance is the key. HR needs to know what its successful talent profile is and then carve out communications for that target group.
Is social media really a low investment method of promoting one’s employer brand?
It depends on how smartly you use social media. Do we know who the talent group is? Is that talent group on social media? In the case of techies, a lot of competitors are also trying to attract them, how are you coming out as innovative and a great place to work? It’s important to know the sweet spot, to understand what will work.
One can’t outsource the branding completely. Only the internal teams can curate success stories from inside. I am reminded of an email which was internally shared within the leadership team at Flipkart. It was a customer’s birthday and our delivery boy, along with the delivery gave a bouquet of flowers to the customer. The customer was elated and he wrote a very nice email to the Customer Service Team.
I picked it up and posted it on the Flipkart company page. It received 500 comments and more than 10k views! It, of course is an example of successful low investment social media engagement. But what one needs to understand is what will be a good story to tell. Story-telling is also a skill and not everyone can do a good job of it.
Having stories is one part of the coin. The other is how to present it. One thing that worked beautifully for us at Flipkart were using infographics while telling everybody about our changed maternity policy. We could have just come out with a bullet point way of presenting the highlights but I asked my Corporate Communications team to make it different and use infographics. And it worked.
So, one needs to think smartly and not make your stories boring.
Gautam Ghosh is a consultant in HR and Social Media. He was earlier Director – Talent Branding at Flipkart – India’s number one ecommerce firm. Gautam’s blog has been listed by HRWorld amongst the top 25 HR blogs worldwide and also amongst the Career 100 – a list of the top 100 career related blogs globally in the English language.