Employer branding packs them in

Employer branding packs them in

The Recruitment Society's latest presentation featured an impressive trio of speakers who each took a different aspect of employer branding as their theme.  The event took place at PricewaterhouseCoopers' 1 Embankment Place offices, where Recruitment Society chairman Steve Huxham welcomed yet another "full house" to a branding event.

Focusing on engagement

A former employer branding guru at Hodes, Tom Crawford has since moved to the client side with, first, Deloitte and now e.on, so it was very appropriate that he chose to focus on ‘managing a brand to engage colleagues.'  Although based in marketing, his role as head of internal comms and engagement is effectively a bridge between that function and HR.  His brief includes exploring the links between employee engagement levels, customer satisfaction and business performance.

Having gravitated from the theoretical side to the "muck and bullets" of employer branding in practice, he outlined some of the challenges facing his present organisation, including cultural issues resulting from growth by acquisition and serial ownership, and the ongoing bad press and lack of differentiation experienced by energy companies generally.  A further topical theme for the business was ‘learning to love grey' - i.e. encouraging employees to be comfortable with uncertainty, as the simple black-and-white certainties of life were now a thing of the past.

He also stressed the need to replace old-fashioned ‘parent:child' communications with sensible ‘adult:adult' relationships that help to accelerate culture change and promote individual accountability and empowerment.  Naturally this has a major impact on how managers are expected to communicate, and Tom noted that the most expensive item in his comms budget for this year was training on ‘how to be a great communicator'.  He closed by stating that ‘communications' was no longer a function as such, but rather a skill set that every manager needed to have.  (It's now the ‘brand engagement' function, by the way.)

Applying traditional marketing expertise

Paul Maxin, global resourcing director at Unilever, spoke on ‘bringing marketing best practices to the employer brand.'  This was effectively a question of applying many of the company's traditional consumer brand marketing tools and techniques to the development of its employer brand and EVP.  Paul stressed that communication of the brand, though important in itself, was merely the ‘tip of the iceberg', and that the key focus should always be on delivering the experience.  The brand proposition is not just a promise, but a responsibility.

Sharing examples of corporate recruitment ads from a variety of sectors that utterly failed to provide any effective differentiation, he explained that Unilever had gone to a brand marketing agency to develop its new recruitment advertising.  This aimed to be ‘globally consistent but locally relevant'.  Different executions in different countries had already been successful in addressing specific recruitment problems, such as reducing the quantity but increasing the quality of applications in Argentina, doubling the rate of offer acceptances in South Africa, and boosting the volume of applications in the UK.

Paul's final observations were that everything should constantly be measured and reviewed, and that the employer brand "must start with, and be fully owned by, the leader."

Brand-building on campus

Sammie Stapleton, recruitment media manager of the evening's hosts PwC, then presented a case-study on ‘building a student brand'.  This involved working with agency ThirtyThree to develop different iterations of an existing message.  The campaign was designed to enable students to take part in the ‘PwC experience' and position the company as their ‘employability partner'.  Promoting and differentiating the brand on campus was a key part of the remit.

The ‘Take Five Tube' was a key element of the campaign.  This was an on-campus installation housing a number of different learning experiences, from the fun (balloon modelling, caricatures, massages) to the slightly more serious (communicating in sign language, learning to count to ten in a selection of oriental languages).  The campaign's overall aim was to provide students with an ‘employability toolkit' (also available online), and it was this concept that really provided the basis for the whole approach.

Sammie finished her session by stressing the benefits of doing something different and innovative on campus - adding that different doesn't have to mean expensive.  (Some of the most effective things that PwC has ever done were among the cheapest, apparently.)

Annual charity appeal

Steve Huxham closed the evening's formal proceedings with a plug for Photoplod - the annual South Downs charity walk in aid of Action Medical Research.  This is due to take place on the 5th and 6th June - and if you'd like to sponsor the Recruitment Society Ramblers team, led by the Guardian's Simon Cresswell, you can do so online.

Summer social

And don't forget that the Recruitment Society's summer social ("now an institution for those in recruitment") will be held at the City of London School (Queen Victoria Street, EC4V 3AL - near the north end of the Millennium Bridge) from 6:00 to 9:30pm on the evening of Thursday 16th July.

The event will again feature a ‘pub quiz' for teams of six or eight.  This will involve several rounds of questions, each separately themed and sponsored.  (And if you don't plan to come as part of a team, you'll be allocated to one on arrival.)

At £15 for members and £25 a head for guests, the evening is being billed as "an inexpensive opportunity for client entertainment".  You can book online - and if you're also interested in sponsoring a round of the quiz, please contact Richard Taylor at the Society's administration office via admin@recruitmentsociety.org.uk.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

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