How to attract good professionals and what is the significance of the HR brand?

Interview with Vanya Babanin, Reputation and Brand Management Consultant

What is an HR brand from an employer point of view and what are the elements?

An HR brand is part of the corporate brand with a specific focus on the current, future and ex-employees. I usually include in the target group also all service providers that are part of project teams, like freelancers in marketing for example. 

The HR brand co-exists together with the investors’ and financial community’s brand, SCM’s brand (considering both suppliers and distributors) and in close interfere with the customers’ brand. When using one and the same brand and logo the tricky responsibility of the brand-in-charge-person is to set the associations’ sets for the specific target audiences in their right balance. One and the same brand should be identical, consistent but also specific and targeted at the same time. 

Real owners of the HR brand are the employees. Having a consistent, understandable, adorable HR brand in their minds is a result of but also an approach to “translate” and spread the corporate brand awareness among all internal (now and in the future) publics of the organisation. 

The elements here are both physical (name, logo, colours, CI/CD guidelines, tone of voice, URL…) and psychological (such as corporate culture, leadership styles, means of communication and cooperation etc.).

What influences the HR brand? Which actions of the company? When did he suffer and fall apart and when did he strengthen and start working for the company?

The HR brand lives in the minds of the employees and candidates – their attitude towards what the organisations does or does not create the accepted brand image. Meaning that most of the HR brand value is related to the expectations of the employees and candidates. This is why the management of the expectations – like in all other types of brands – should reflect the real soul of the brand, neither more nor less. 

As a brand, you have to be attractive to attract. But you also have to keep your promises to retain. HR brand should deliver what is promised, and this cannot be other than meaningful employee experience. 

In the challenging times of COVID-19, the greatest concern of the leaders are their employees. (see more in the recent study of Mercer). I do not expect it to be very different in the future. So providing purpose will lead the organisations and care for sustainable development. 

For an HR brand to fall apart there are two most probable scenario – the HR brand to be set contradictive to or out of the corporate brand scope (this creates big gaps in the key values and brand mantra and leads to cognitive dissonance) or to fail in delivering the brand promise. Of course, a combination of both is also possible, even though not for a long time 🙂 

How to build an HR brand and how to manage it? In general.

Every organisation creates an HR brand, no matter if conscious and strategically focused or without any structured management. Because the brands exist in the mind of the target groups, they are not owned by the companies. And all actions, or the absence of adequate ones, is perceived by the employees thus creating a certain image. 

The brand management aims to steer the brand perception in the most favourable for the organisation way – corresponding the Points-of-parity and Points-of-Difference strategic positioning and the brand promise. The main goal of the management is to create powerful, unique and positive brand associations. In order to achieve this goal, specific internal structure and processes should be established. The usual assignment of the direct HR brand responsibility is either with the HR department, or with Communications (PR, Corporate communications or otherwise named) and there are good reasons for it: the first puts the focus on the target group, the second – on the overall organisations’ perception and consistency. As more successful approach I recommend the formal responsibility for all brands and branding strategies to stay in Comms because this is where the whole information and strategic direction of the organisation are coordinated. But it can only work well when both divisions’ leaders are involved and dedicated.

The operative steering of the HR brand in best case scenario is deployed with project management approaches – not necessarily complicated and professional if the scale is small, but with the agile mind-set when it comes for planning, conducting and resources allocation. The teams should be mixed – employees from both HR and Comms, external team members, internal project-based part-time advisors etc.

Are there any things that help build your HR brand? Suppose the individual characteristics of the company, the technological image, the expert image, the personal brand of the manager or top executives?

The perception is a mix, melted accepted interpretation of all available presence pieces of evidence and the HR brand does not make an exception. All brand touchpoints and the whole candidate journey and employee experience affect the HR brand, where leadership, corporate culture and means of communication and cooperation interpreted in the public image of the brand/organisation fame have the biggest impact. 

But here we should keep in mind one more aspect, namely if the messages are clear and consistent across the whole brand presence – and here not only the HR brand, but the corporate brand, customer’s brand, financial community’s brand – the brand perception will be also clear and powerful. So definitely there has to be a dedicated process owner to assure all resources (human and financial) are effectively distributed and well-orchestrated to achieve this strategic goal.

How important in our country is the company’s HR brand-objectively? And how relevant is the recruitment of specialists through social networks?

The importance of the HR brand is the same everywhere, the perception of the added-value differs from company to company. I believe in our country the significance of HR branding is well acknowledged by the companies in the most competitive sectors such as IT, for example. But there are still many other industries – or more precisely, there are still many companies, where the development of the branding has not reached these levels yet. 

By this, I do not mean the money spent on programs to assure the type of fruits for the employees corresponds to their expectations. Because even though the benefits are extremely important for the perception of the employer, the HR brand is far more than just this. I mean the branding as a managerial focus area, affected by and affecting the business guiding principles and processes as well. Development, heading into the purpose-led organisation, for which the brand represents the central point of meaning. 

As for the role of social media for recruitment, we can differentiate between two areas. The first is the direct openings posts and clustered search of candidates. This I see as the more technical aspect, but the social media have their strengths in reaching specific audiences, even though more in mid- and senior levels. The second aspect the social media plays a role in recruitment is the HR-brand presence, often incorporated in the corporate brand’s one. This is both connected to the value-of-the-brand perception (attractiveness) and the ability to reach bigger candidates base if the social media profiles are well-developed. And there is, of course, the other side of the story, where the company can research the candidates easier thanks to the social media presence (keep in mind though that being aware of this, the presence can be easily shaped in a favourable for the candidate form.

How does a strong HR brand work for the company?

Every manager is aware of the increased productivity due to the higher grades of employee satisfaction. This explains in pure economic figures the need to research your employees’ expectations and the proper design of the measures to meet them. Many studies during the years have stressed the multiplication of the added-value when moving up the scale of the employees’ dedication. 

Another aspect of the strong HR brand is the availability of more high-quality candidates to choose from and the lower rates to bring them on board.

But treating your employees well is now also affecting the customers’ decisions. The brand is the same, no matter we split it to HR brand, customer brand etc. This is our artificial way to deal with the extremely high degree of complexity when speaking of the branding. 

Recent studies show that due to the Corona-Pandemic the importance of the HR brand has gained additional importance not only towards the employees of the organisations but also towards their customers (see for example Kelton COVID-19’s report: Consumer Pulse #3:

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Marry S.

I love, dream and believe in miracles. The miracle of hard work, the right actions and the path to the goal.
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