Written by Charu Malhotra on 20 Oct 2016
With over twelve years’ experience under her belt, Charu Malhotra certainly knows what she’s talking about when it comes to employer branding.
In her current position, Charu heads up the global digital channels and employer brand development at Ferrero SA, owner of brands such as: Ferrero Roche, Tic Tac and Kinder Surprise. She has worked around the world at a range of organisations, including: Unilever, BP, Primark and Vodafone.
Charu has seen how organisations approach employer branding and carve out an effective attraction strategy. In this article, she shares her thoughts on employer branding activation and creation of an EVP. When it comes to companies building their own authentic employer brand, this must tie in with the Employee Value Proposition to attract, engage and retain the best candidates.
Charu describes employer branding as, “a mirror of what you stand for as a business. Purpose, values and environment are all reflected. (It’s) what individuals, social media and customers say about you when you’re not there and what people believe you stand for and are like culturally.”
So where should a company start when building the foundation of their own employer brand? The answers lie in a deep analysis of the current lay of the land.
Senior leaders should begin by digging deep and asking questions to current employees, middle managers, stakeholders and customers; not forgetting to also gather research garnered from employee engagement surveys and feedback forms. Charu insists that during this EVP process, the senior leadership team should be involved. They are the ones who need to hear a ‘warts and all’ analysis of the company, what the experience has been like for new starters and how attitudes differ for employees across the company.
Particular attention should be paid to those who have been employed in the past twelve months. These are the recruits who can remember what attracted them to the job in the first place and how they heard about it. Were they looking for a role specifically in your company or were they were just desperate for a role anywhere?
It’s true that the mirror Charu talks about might not reflect what you would like it to. “That’s when you get a glossy generic employer brand created, but it won’t be true.” That is why research is so important in the creation of a genuine EVP.
B: Be Real
Charu believes honesty really is the best policy. "There is no point having a very strong employer brand, i.e. saying you're an organisation that's great to work for from a career perspective, from a values perspective, from a rewards perspective, line management development, great leadership skills, if when someone joins the company their experience and their impression is completely the opposite," she says.
“Ten years ago I would have gone down the pub and told five people. Now I'll tell 5,000, so that mind-set and change needs to happen. It's not about controlling the message."
And it’s this potential reach, made possible by social media channels, that underlines the need for an authentic employer brand.
It’s no surprise that over the past five years, studies have shown that trust in CEOs is going down and down and down,” but trust in peers is in fact, increasing. Despite, “lots of CEOs stating talent is key and their best asset, unless it’s backed up by the data, and actual employees, it doesn’t feel real or authentic.”
According to Charu, nothing should be dismissed. Sometimes the little things can make the difference to a candidate.
"If you've got flexible working, birthdays as a day’s leave, free parking or a gym, then that's fabulous. Don't keep it hidden. Amplify what is good. Every company has good things about it, start using those ingredients before the person is hired, because that will be part of the attraction."
In the days of broadcast media, employers could shut the door on the outside world and keep the reality of their organisation hidden. Today, the smokescreen has been lifted, thanks to websites such as Glassdoor that allow the world to see into your organisation, hear what your people are saying and evaluate the authenticity of your employer brand. Charu thinks these developments in digital platforms should be embraced rather than feared.
“People are more likely to vocalise bad experiences than they are positive, but again with Glassdoor, if you have an engaged workforce, if you have great values, it's satisfying to have your employees saying good things about you. Nothing is more powerful than the employees saying that.”
But transparency doesn’t stop with Glassdoor.
Charu believes employers lack the confidence to trust their staff with social media. “We are used to working across digital platforms including communicating to friends, families and brands outside of work. To believe we will stop doing this the moment we enter ‘work’ is outdated and an indicator of a business that doesn’t trust its staff.
Companies will have to adopt this at philosophy or risk having unengaged employees, after all, who wants to work for a business that bans social because they don’t trust you!”
It’s a hard pill to swallow for companies that are reluctant to move with the times and embrace the ongoing digital evolution. Mobile technology has helped facilitate a digital and ‘always on’ workforce, enabling employees to be connected to their employer 24/7 and as Charu reminds us, "We are digital beings and companies will have to adopt that philosophy. The ones that don't will be obsolete."
Charu often hears recruiters say, ‘let’s post all jobs on LinkedIn’ or ‘we’ve heard all Millennials are on Snapchat, so let’s do something there.’ She explains you should never make assumptions about certain groups, unless you have the data and insights to back it up.
“It’s important to think about the messages. Ask yourself, ‘what is going to attract and keep a marketing manager, a HR director?” It’s based on lots of different factors; if you go generic, you end up talking to everyone and talking to no-one.
“It’s not (about) being a sheep and following everybody else.”
According to Charu, your employer brand is never finished. It’s a “living and breathing thing. It's really key that when you create an employer brand you're re-jigging it, you're looking at it from an intricate perspective, you're looking at it from what your business is like today so your employer brand will need to change as your business evolves."
"It's very much going back to that personalisation and when you've established that, go fishing where the fish are. How do you get that message out there? It's really about understanding what and where people are and where they spend their time. You could spend thousands setting up on LinkedIn when the talent you want to hire never goes on LinkedIn.”
"It's not about being obsessed with social. Social media is great, but if your target’s not hanging out on social media, you shouldn’t focus on that," she says, adding that, “if potential candidates are spending their time at conferences and networking, then that’s where you should be fishing.”
Charu touches on Google as the often-touted golden child of Employer Branding. Charu says not a week goes by without seeing an article about how many steps it takes to be hired by Google. "It's got a mythology behind it. Is it a good example of an employer brand? I think they use their technology and consumer brands really well but are they the best example? Probably not, but they are an interesting example."
She reinforces the need for organisations to focus on what makes them unique. “There is no point saying you’re Google, if you’re not. Focus on what makes your company different from the one down the road. The average job description doesn’t tell you that.”
Charu explains that employer brands are built effectively at unknown companies, all over the world. The trick isn’t to start with the all-singing, all-dancing social platforms, but from the inside instead.
“You start with employee value proposition, you start with inside first, talking to your employees and understanding what makes them stay, what makes them want to come in every day, what the culture is, what the values are and what the DNA is. You have to start inside out; research to find out what makes your culture great.”
So, what final takeaway does Charu have for companies that are finding it difficult to build a convincing employer brand, or embarking on building an employer brand from scratch?
“It’s not about glossing it up and attracting everybody. It’s not about a numbers game. It’s not about wanting to attract thousands of people to our jobs. We want to attract the right people; we want the people who visit our careers site to see a true reflection of what it’s like to be in that job. It helps candidates not waste their time. That’s what an authentic employer brand does.”
If you would like to know more about employer branding, you can contact Charu Malhotra on firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow her on Twitter, where she shares her views on all things talent attraction, EVP and social. (Not forgetting the occasional Bollywood tweet too!)