Every Employer Brand project is different. Getting the research right and producing a compelling proposition is only half the challenge. Companies come with baggage. There’s no such thing as a blank slate. Projects need to be designed to meet your circumstances. Cookie cutter methodology is simple and easy to buy, but difficult to implement in a complex organisation with a history, a culture and a lot of people to keep happy. The theory is simple. But a gram of experience is worth a ton of theory.

We saw an example of this in July when we pitched to a global company to help them develop their employer brand. The new Global Employer Brand Lead, a new arrival from marketing (a great advantage for any employer brand team), certainly understood the benefits of having a compelling employee value proposition and a consistent approach to attracting their target talent. That’s the theory.

However, a predecessor some years before had embarked on a similar journey and it had not been a resounding success. Some markets had adopted the global tools and messaging but many others had ignored them. The company had failed to grow a reputation beyond its home market.  

As we prepared our response we reflected on the typical points of failure and what how to mitigate them. We hope you find them thought provoking and helpful to put good theory into practice. The key principle is that employer brands are there to hire people, improve working experiences and improve your reputation. You need everyone to want to use it at the end of the project.

You will fail by: Not building momentum and enthusiasm

Traditionally, global employer brand projects take 6-12 months depending on the speed of the organisation. In the early stages, the project can often seem theoretical to business leaders. Over recent years, tolerance for a long process before tangible results appear has diminished as the pace of business has increased.

You will be more successful by: Leveraging existing insights

Many global companies have a significant stock of research – this can provide a firm foundation for the development of a prototype EVP. That can then be explored across markets and talent segments. This offers something tangible very quickly that will help stakeholders see the point.

You will fail by: Not building organisational support 

Lack of organisational support can be deadly. The most common issue is discovering unknown objections from business leaders or marketing in relation to the corporate brand and strategy – sadly, often at the stage when you have done great work and everybody is ready to go.

You will be more successful by: Engaging your stakeholders from the start

Get people involved early on. Manage their expectations. Incorporate their feedback, their opinions, even their language in what you do.

First, Establish a Core Project Team. At the least it should have people from the global TA and Marketing & Communications teams. We have been successful when we reached out to markets with critical needs: this is about solving their challenges. Second, establish a Steering Group with key business leaders. A global Marketing & Communications lead and key regional HR leaders are invaluable. Involving line managers can be a time problem; however, this can be mitigated through less time-intensive stakeholder interviews, EVP development workshops, validation meetings and sign-off presentations. Make sure you involve key decision makers and people who can effectively veto you later. Bain’s RAPID model is an excellent framework to make project governance decisions.

You will fail by: Not engaging local markets

This project will be a major global investment (both management time and consultancy costs). The biggest risk you face is a not engaging local markets. If they do not see the relevance of the global employer brand guidelines they will not use them and you will continue to have a patchwork brand. 

You will be more successful by: Reaching out to your global markets

Early regional representation is vital for arriving at the right proposition and getting local management acceptance. We have plan early inputs in the discovery stage through interviews and the opportunity to attend the employer brand workout session.

You will fail by: Thinking that one size fits all

Global companies are complex, with cultural differences and diverging lines of business. It is unlikely that a rigid set of employer brand guidelines will work for every market and talent segment. Failing to recognise this in the design is often be a key reason for lack of adoption. 

You will be more successful by: Providing a clear framework but offering flexibility

Your EVP is the essence of what is special about your organization. But the framework should allow for local variation, either in messaging or campaign elements. Increasingly we see successful deliverables operate more as a ‘playbook’ of approved employer brand materials that can fit different media and communication channels in global markets. This will easily be adopted and adapted by more mature markets with stronger capabilities but also provides a ‘plug-and-play’ approach for markets who do not have the time, skills and resources to adapt.

You will fail by: Allowing the EVP to be seen as an add on to the day to day

When people are busy they do not have time to make sense of new concepts that do not easily fit with the corporate brand messages, values and strategic mission of a company. In these cases EVP messaging becomes recruitment-only and is often forgotten when it should be front of mind for people who are thinking about and designing people management policies and processes.

You will be more successful by: Telling your employer brand story simply

Whatever we do needs to help people who represent the employer brand to tell a simple story. This means starting the story from the beginning with the core purpose, mission, vision, values, business strategy and talent profile – understanding all that helps to position why the experience that the EVP describes is so strategically critical. In the HR world, your EVP and your progress towards delivering an experience that matches the promise is what drives your People Strategy. 

You will fail by: Thinking you are done when you ‘launch’ the EVP

People loathe corporate speak – they are sophisticated consumers who can smell corporate jargon. They look for the experience people really have and, like consumers researching a holiday on TripAdvisor, they are more likely to apply if they read about positive experiences from others.

At best big bang launches to all employees achieve an initial sense of hope and excitement that is later dashed, as nothing changes, or are met with pure cynicism by punch-drunk employees. 

You will be more successful by: Only launching to the people who can make a change 

Your leaders, communicators HR and some other functional leader (e.g. IT or Facilities) should all have a key role in delivering an employee experience that will attract and engage talent. They need to understand the EVP and your employer brand story and to identify things that they can do to help. The launch needs to be aimed at them and equipping them with tools, ideas and practices that they can use to drive change. Internal communication should reinforce the change as it happens and relate it back to the employer brand story. 

You will fail by: Not demonstrating the benefits the project delivers

In the urgency to get going many companies fail to establish the business impacts and benefits they seek to deliver. It is quite reasonable for a CFO to challenge future investment.

You will be more successful by: Identifying the talent challenges you have at the outset and quantify where you can 

What is the cost of your current recruitment spend? Are you having to engage recruitment partners to search for junior talent? What does it cost the company to lose talent? As organisations get more savvy with HR data, an Employer Brand Lead needs to make friends with the HRIS and data management team!

Managing Director, AIA Worldwide Consulting

With more than 25 years’ experience as a HR professional under his belt, David works with global clients to help them engage effectively and meaningfully with their employees, enabling companies to grow and thrive. Before arriving to lead the agency’s consulting offering, David held senior HR roles with Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and Tesco.