10 Questions with Allison Kruse, Global Employer Brand Leader at Baxter

Allison Kruse is one of the most passionate contributors to the employer brand space and here at exaqueo, we’ve had the good fortune to partner with her this past year to build the new employer brand for Baxter. Allison has a keen talent for storytelling and a real drive to create meaningful connections for candidates and employees.

Allison and I chat regularly about all things employer branding. Recently, we took some time to reflect on her experience building and launching the Baxter employer brand and what it means for her personally.

1. Where have you been and how did it bring you to Baxter?

I started my career pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology before deciding it was no longer what I wanted to do. I knew my career needed to involve making a positive difference for others, so I tried my hand at recruiting and fell in love with it! 

As a recruiter at Walgreens, I became fascinated with the power of social media and the intersection between recruiting and marketing was where I knew I belonged. From Walgreens, I joined Aon Hewitt—consulting with large, global clients on digital strategy—before I moved to Kforce and added content marketing to my list of passions. After six years, my path continued to Baxter, where I now oversee our global employer brand.

Baxter is a multinational healthcare company that creates products and therapies that save and sustain lives. We help people around the world get access to the care they need, when they need it most. It was this mission that initially attracted me to the company and by studying, evolving, nurturing, and expressing Baxter’s employer brand, I can help attract others and reinforce to current employees why we are a great place to work. I am grateful for the opportunity to leverage my past experiences, interests, career aspirations, and talent to give my all to this role.

2. Do you have a favorite quote that you always go back to and reference?

“So, your story is not about why will everyone like us and want to work for us, but why would ‘you’ like us and want to work with us. Does your crazy match our crazy?”
—Tim Sackett

This quote from Tim resonates with me because I believe the best content prioritizes the needs of your audience. If it’s content geared toward job seekers, it needs to be candidate-centric. If it’s internal-facing content, it should be employee-centric. Like Ann Handley says, “Good writing serves the reader, not the writer.” Ann teaches us to have “relentless, pathological empathy” for our readers, which is just as critical for employer branding and recruitment marketing as it is for B2B and B2C marketing.

3. In your view, what is the importance of an employer brand?

Every organization has an employer brand—a reputation as a place to work. Whether they are paying it any heed or not, it exists. Yet, not all companies have embraced employer branding—the discipline of creating a distinctively great place to work and then reinforcing it internally and promoting it externally to the talent whose knowledge and skills are needed by the organization.

Employer branding positively impacts an organization in several ways: from strengthening its ability to hire the right people; to cost savings by implementing inbound marketing and employee advocacy; to creating a fulfilling work environment that builds affinity and increases retention. This provides a competitive advantage among similar employers and opportunities. 

4. Baxter recently launched its new employer brandline, “Where your purpose accelerates our mission.” Describe the journey you took to build your employer brand.

We launched Baxter’s global employer brand on January 21, 2021, with the help of our fantastic employer brand partner, exaqueo. The employer brand is based on research. It isn’t something that was thought of in a conference room by a small group of people. exaqueo collaborated with us on a global research project to discover our unique employment narrative, uncovering how employees felt about Baxter as a place to work. What we uncovered already existed but we then put structure, creative expression, and strategy around it.

Because our employer brand is grounded in research—real stories from real employees—it has been embraced and validated by people around the world. When we launched our employer brand, I heard so many comments like, “I’ve worked at Baxter for over 30 years, and this is exactly how I feel about it.” There have been countless moments that I have been in awe of the reactions to our employer brand from people around the world.

At this stage in our brand activation journey, I’m focused on continuing to socialize our brand internally, teaching others how to best express the brand, and incorporating the brand into content and channels throughout the employment lifecycle across our internal and external digital ecosystem. We are also well underway personalizing the brand—tailoring our content and messaging to best resonate for each geographic region and talent segment. This work is meaningful, and I feel I am contributing to something so much bigger than myself. I’ll never forget the experiences I’m having here.

5. What does authenticity mean to you and why is it so important for your employer brand?

Employer brand should be rooted firmly in truth. Making career decisions are some of the most important choices we make in our lifetime. I believe we are responsible for painting the most complete, accurate picture for a candidate that we can. We need to provide the information needed for a candidate to opt in—and just as importantly, opt out.

6. How did you inform and educate stakeholders throughout your brand journey?

There have been a few different avenues to building a culture of buy-in for the employer brand. As we were launching the brand, we went on a “roadshow,” hosting numerous discussions about the brand with various stakeholder groups. We also established “The Hub,” which houses our employer brand guidelines, shareable content, resources, and provides templates to create employer brand content. Creating a culture of buy-in never truly ends; it’s always a priority for me.

7. How are you creating a culture of advocacy for the employer brand?

My colleague recently said it best: “Win the hearts. Fill the minds. Equip the hands.” For every employer brand initiative, this “mantra” inspires me and helps focus my efforts on the tasks, materials, programs, and strategies required to make this happen.

8. Baxter’s current employer brand campaign is centered around the headline, “This is where…” What does this mean to you personally?

The statement, “This is where...,” and the design element of the “X” overlay are meaningful as indicators that something important is happening in this place. Some significant moment, or opportunity, or lesson learned. You’ve heard the expression “X marks the spot?” This is where it happens. In my short time here so far, there have been several such moments that I will never forget.

“This is where...” gives us a platform to tell our story. I’m floored by how many people are openly sharing their perspectives, using “This is where...” as a springboard.

I also love that “This is where...” is a clever nod to our corporate brand. The “X” and the Intersection are key components of our corporate brand, which exists in harmony with our employer brand.

9. How does this play out at Baxter every day?

In the beginning, it was used mostly in recruitment marketing or employer branding campaigns. Over the last couple of months, I’ve seen people move away from exclusively using “This is where…” when sharing stories and testimonials around the employee experience and job postings. Now, they also use it when sharing stories around all sorts of topics. I’ve seen it used when sharing news about our corporate responsibility efforts, when praising another colleague on LinkedIn, and for welcoming a new joiner.

A new hashtag #ThisIsWhere has also sprouted up, without any push or involvement from me! I found that so engaging—that people loved “This is where…” so much that they turned it into a hashtag, which quickly caught on! I’ve seen it used almost as much as our “official” employer brand hashtag #LifeAtBaxter.

These interactions are sign posts that our employer brand resonates with people. It is being embraced and validated across the world, and evokes a feeling that I haven’t quite felt before in my career. 

10. What or who inspires you the most when it comes to your work?

My husband, who is my biggest fan. He’s always agreed with my family that I am a storyteller. And now, I have found a career where I get to do that for a living!

The exaqueo team wants to give a big ‘thank you’ to Allison for sharing her time and story with all of us. We encourage you to check out jobs.baxter.com and connect with her on LinkedIn. If you’re interested in learning more from other employer brand professionals, check out this post with Jennifer Beyer at Fannie Mae, Anthony Chidoro at Lyft, and this one with Kerry Noone at CVS Health.

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