Spoiler: You’ll Wear A Lot of Hats
What does it take to be a great employer brand professional?
As a rapidly growing and evolving role within companies, the concept of employer branding is often poorly scoped or defined before being tasked to someone like you, left holding the bag of high expectations and low resourcing to figure it out for yourself. So the Talent Brand Alliance reached out to its membership and came up with the 16 core competencies necessary to really understand in order to be successful in your job.
That said, no one is an expert in all these things. But all successful employer brand professionals will likely touch all these things in the course of their work. The goal of the list is to help you to see the job from a 30,000-foot perspective, but also identify your strengths and weaknesses, giving you a chance to plan accordingly and still make a deep impact on the business.
Employer brand often gets lost in the myriad of tactics it can leverage, but ultimately, its success relies on its ability to see the talent problem strategically. Strategic thinking isn’t about planning or looking things with fresh eyes, but understanding how all the pieces work together, to see untapped resources, to use the whole playing field and achieve the broader objective. And when based in a more transactional or tactic-driven space like recruiting (or at least often is), having a strong sense of strategy in the face of tactical thinking doesn’t just drive your own success, it is how you differentiate yourself.
Developing Positioning/EVP/Brand Promise/Narrative
Regardless of how you want to label the reason people might want to work for you, uncovering and defining the employer brand is often the first task to be undertaken. But there is no single or right way to do it. Each professional leverages their experiences and skills, frameworks and research to build their own process. That process isn’t just unique, it is designed around the person. I can’t give you my process because it won’t make sense to you and vice versa.
As an employer brand spans across the breadth of the candidate journey, understanding all the places and ways a candidate might interact with the brand is a huge part of the job. Finding new ways candidates interact at each element of the experience is a new opportunity to get your message across.
“The experience is the first impression that many have about your company. If your process is cumbersome, repetitive and overwhelming, what might candidates infer about your organization, your company culture, and your employees and leaders? Removing barriers in the hiring process shows that you are a company that puts people first, that “gets it” so to speak. Otherwise, you risk losing people who draw their own conclusions before you’ve gotten a chance to shine.” – K.C. Williams, Pizza Hut
This is a broad subject, to the best way to think about this might in developing information that’s valuable to the candidate as a means of attracting attention and encouraging action. The medium can be career sites, tweets, videos, podcasts, posters, Facebook, or ads, but understanding how people interact and digest information allows you to make the changes in candidate actions you want.
Creative (writing, designing, experience design user experience, et al)
The means by which you turn an EVP or brand promise into candidate-digestible collateral requires the ability to work in the creative fields. That might be in writing social posts or emails to leadership, selecting the swag and what goes on it, or in having enough of an eye to evaluating a poster or website.
The business of managing an employer brand is an art based on understanding people: what they want, what drives them, and how they look for new roles. That requires you stepping out of your shoes and a little bit and doing the necessary research to discover the insights that drive your tactics.
“Implementing a robust research process provides critical insights in understanding what the employee and candidate experience is, and builds the foundations for an honest and compelling EVP.” -Ian Moore, [email protected]
Stakeholder Management, Collaboration, and Consensus Building
Employer brand, when done well, impacts every aspect of the company, but it also relies on support from every aspect. The only person who has authority over everything needed by the talent brander is the CEO, so a skilled employer brand professional needs to know how to influence and manage people at any career level in the organization.. This might include writing, public speaking, working with executives, staff and business leaders. At the same time, you’ll use those skills to connect the dots with the company, possibly for the very first time. And as you have no real authority, you’ll be cajoling and influencing change far from where you are, requiring the ability to excite, motivate, direct and validate people without them feeling like they’ve been cajoled or manipulated.
“Depending on where you sit in an organization, you need to be able to work across teams, make connections and show why employer brand is important especially when what you do has both internal and external implications. A lot of what we do also relies on user-generated content (aka created by your employees) and you sometimes need to be the biggest influencer, using those career hashtags, sharing what it’s like to work at your company and building that sense of community.” Heather Leszczewicz, Gallagher
Rating sites are not unique to recruiting, but few other teams are as aware of their scores as employer branding. In fact, many employer brand programs start with a problem with their Glassdoor score. But fixing and maintaining that score requires persuading leadership to get involved, encouraging staff to leave reviews, and working with other teams in developing effective responses. Employer brand professionals should also be able to think through how to use awards and other channels to manage their overall employer reputation.
Media, Channel, and Tool Evaluation
One of the most common questions in employer brand forums is “should I choose X or Y?” With thousands of different platforms and tools to use to clarify or extend your brand, learning how to understand, evaluate and choose solutions relative to your specific context is the difference between making an impact on the budget or on the business.
The purpose of the employer brand is to support a company’s hiring, which means integrating with and supporting your recruiting teams. And you can’t help them if you don’t understand how they do their jobs, what their metrics are, what their bosses care about, or what their clients care about.
There’s a case to be made that this could be seen as living in the “Creative” competency, but job postings the most-seen first impression to most people’s brands and require something deeper than “just” creativity. It can set the frame on how to perceive the employer brand throughout the rest of the candidate journey. A great job posting is a marketing document requiring education, information, and inspiration about a future that could be, wrapped in a box that hiring managers, HR, and candidates will embrace. “Job postings are the yes or no moment. They can change the entire perception of your brand and the role.” – Katrina Kibben, Three Ears Media
Metrics and Analytics
One of the daunting challenges within the employer brand is that it can be hard to measure it’s a direct impact. While it makes all hiring better and smarter, there’s no obvious way to quantify that direct impact. Which means you need to be comfortable looking at and thinking through metrics. The picture you want to paint for leadership won’t be given to you, you’ll need to tap into metrics to paint your own. This problem becomes exponentially more complicated when you realize that your metrics are reflecting actions across multiple imperfectly-integrated platforms, so the numbers will never be simple.
Perhaps in a different world, you could do it all yourself. But in modern recruiting, you are going to need resources to do your job, which means knowing how to budget well. This skill is contextual, requiring knowledge of how your company thinks about budgets (timing, fluidity, centralization, etc), procurement, legal, its P&L, and individual business leaders who ultimately approve spending. This also requires planning, building appropriate justifications, as well as the ability to be creative when you don’t get everything you asked for.
Events, Program and Project Management
Details, details, details. You could almost see the management of a million little details in service of a vision of the future as a microcosm of what it means to be an employer brand professional. Maddeningly, this means an employer brand is expected to be big picture-focused and strategically-minded, but also able to manage details on details, which are very different skills and mindsets.
Internal and External Advocacy
The fastest way to extend your brand reach and amplify your voice is to add more voices. Thus, getting more people to volunteer to share your content, to tell their story, to leave good reviews, to add the hashtag, to wear the shirt, to speak up, or even just take more pride in working at the company is how to achieve brand clarity across channels you don’t directly control.
The secret to making an impact is in talking the business’ language, which means being to see how the other parts of the business see the world. Commonly, the recruiting, human resources and employer brand teams have a very different perspective on what constitutes success relative to development or sales. This doesn’t mean having an MBA, but the more you understand how your clients see the world, the more likely you’ll be in influencing leadership.
“Understanding business/enterprise acumen and your “big picture” organizational goals will go a long way in building your credibility with internal clients. You are expected to bring the HR expertise, but when you can align your employment branding strategies and tactics with their business goals, a true partnership and consulting relationship will ensue.” – Stephanie Scher, Vanguard
A lot of people added their voices to this article, but it isn’t done. What other core competencies are necessary for anyone’s employer brand success?
It's very possible that the rumors are true and that James Ellis was a mild-mannered digital marketer who was bitten by a radioactive recruiter six years ago and now has strange new powers. But what we do know is that James is a leading voice in employer branding, developing and activating dozens of brands of every size, running The Talent Cast podcast for more than three years, writing the Employer Brand Headlines newsletter and writing for a number of industry publications. His mission is to evolve the conversation around recruiting and hiring. He is currently the Director of Employer Brand at Universum. He lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter.
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