How to Navigate Your Organization to Build Its Employer Brand

Every organization needs an employer brand that connects the dots for candidates and employees, introducing and reinforcing the relationship they have with their employer. And a great employer brand manager enables that successful brand. While the function may sit in human resources, communications, or marketing, it always requires relationship building and cross-functional collaboration to be truly effective. But the most successful employer brand (EB) practitioners go beyond that. 

“Successful relationships are built out of mutually beneficial experiences and an authentic employer brand,” shares Jaclyn Wollett, employer brand strategist at exaqueo. “Being able to articulate the unique value of the brand to those within your network—or not yet in your network—creates a space for conversation where you can uncover how a partnership benefits you both.”

Because the employer brand transcends individual aspects of an organization, the skillful EB professional has the ability to impact and influence parts of the organization beyond team and role. Employer brand practitioners must be Enterprise Contributors—a term coined by CEB, now Gartner—those individuals who excel at their own tasks, but also contribute to others’ performance and use others’ contributions to improve their own performance. This requires interconnectivity. Just as your employer brand is the connective tissue for how you communicate, you must be a connector inside your organization. By building and aligning with a broad network of collaborators across multiple functions and locations, you enable more people to communicate about the employment experience in authentic and attractive ways.

Our team at exaqueo has a collective of almost 100 years of experience leading and supporting employer brand functions across industries. Here, we give you a peek inside our strategy toolbox to share the top ways effective employer brand practitioners can navigate their organizations to build employer brands:

Build trust with your business partners.

There are so many teams and partners in an organization that can help amplify the employer brand message. They can be your champions, influencers, advocates. It’s up to you to create those connections and build strategic, mutually beneficial relationships with cross-functional stakeholders. Everything starts with a conversation. Schedule time to meet with the following key teams to establish a regular cadence of communication and understand how you can support one another:

  • External-facing: Talent Acquisition, Marketing, Investor Relations, Public Relations, Community Relations
  • Internal-facing:  Internal Communications, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), Human Resource Business Partners, Legal, Information Technology 

“When I was in-house, one of the challenges I faced was communicating our employer brand to employees and showing them internal mobility opportunities, while not having ownership of the internal communications channels,” recalls Alyssa Bani, employer brand strategist at exaqueo. “I had to build trust and rapport with my internal comms counterpart, and over time, I was able to get employer brand content shared via those channels. I had to be selective about what type of messaging and content would be most likely to get approved. Eventually, the relationship I built helped build an advocate within the internal comms team, and my counterpart helped me cut through the red tape and get more exposure for our share of voice.”

Manage key stakeholder relationships thoughtfully.

It’s important to be strategic as you develop working relationships with key partners. Be clear about your expectations of cross-functional projects—are you looking for approval, feedback, or simply informing them of what you’re doing (and not asking for permission)? Get the right people on board early on, too. For example, if building out an employer brand from scratch, ensure you bring key stakeholders (Recruiting, Marketing, Communications, HR Business Unit leaders) on the journey from the beginning, and keep them updated as key milestones progress so there are no surprises.

It’s also important to anticipate where and with whom there may be pushback for your employer branding initiatives. For example, Marketing may not be keen that you’re developing employer brand lines because they think it may dilute corporate messages. That’s OK—explain the inherent differences between and value of distinct employer and consumer brands, the importance of defining a competitive employer brand strategy (when so many companies boast the same messages), and identify ways to address the pushback.

Organize a recurring communications meeting.

Now that you know WHO to connect with, you may be wondering HOW to approach these groups. An effective way is through a recurrent editorial meeting with key stakeholders. Monthly should suffice. Use this time to identify and align on content opportunities, as well as understand how your various channels of communication can support one another. Make an effort to promote your employer brand content by sharing future planned projects or stories.

Identify areas where your team can support another’s efforts, and similarly where you can repurpose an internal content piece externally. Timing of these meetings is key—there has to be enough ramp up time to create relevant content, while also making it through the approval queues to ensure you publish and share on schedule.

Elevate metrics to get buy-in and resources.

Effective employer brand professionals demonstrate the value of their function with meaningful metrics. When you have the data to support your decisions, it’s much harder for naysayers or gatekeepers to argue against the case you’re making. And, decision-makers above you are more willing to allocate resources (think budget, additional team members, agency support) to productive, high-performing EB functions.

It’s important to align your key measures to your unique employer branding objectives. Then, understand the key drivers that help achieve your goals, put measurements in place around them, evaluate progress against your baseline measures. Scorecards are a useful tool to help elevate your metrics and circulate your headway to various stakeholders.

Connect, contribute, and consume.

Successful Enterprise Contributors possess key traits—“The Three Cs”:

  • Connector: enabling and encouraging formal and informal collaboration between colleagues
  • Contributor: willingly providing feedback and assistance to others
  • Consumer: actively seeking out ideas and input from others in the organization

An employer brand can influence so many parts of an organization, so such a mindset is essential to create and foster the connections that will champion your brand. It will also challenge you to constantly network—to continually build your network of advocates, share best practices, and learn from others. You can always start small, and let one function or business unit’s success help convince others to get on board.

Don’t be afraid to fail. Test a new idea and share what you learned.

Employer brand professionals are notoriously resourceful, scrappy, and creative. Oftentimes, it’s the idea or proposal that started as a long-shot that ends up becoming your magnum opus and best-performing deliverable. Employer brand best practices are constantly evolving, and so too should you as a practitioner. Be bold, imaginative, and fearless.

Advocate for your function relentlessly.

Effective employer brands require a level of buy-in from key stakeholders in your organization. Without it, you may run into trouble securing budget or personnel, earning a seat at the table in key branding decisions, or obtaining a share of voice in your company’s communications both internal and external.

You must constantly champion your efforts and the efficacy of a functioning employer brand. Regularly meet and greet with new colleagues to identify mutually beneficial partnerships. Make a splash by re-envisioning the candidate experience. Announce new hiring efforts through a PR update (like Zillow did). There are so many ways to make your voice heard and advocate for your team—jump at opportunities that make sense for your brand and business.

Employer brands aren’t built in silos. They require alignment and cooperation from all corners of the organization, working concurrently to share the employee experience across numerous touch points. Says exaqueo CEO, Susan LaMotte: “When you position the employer brand as a way to achieve the goals of your colleagues, they’ll automatically get on board.”

You, as champion of your employer brand, must be a connector, a motivator, and a visionary. Part of your role is to direct multiple parts of your organization towards a common objective. When you do, you’ll witness your employer brand pulled through across your business, improving not just talent attraction but the candidate and employee experience.

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