Employer branding - coworkers in focus

In line with increased difficulties recruiting new coworkers, especially in certain occupations and industries, many organizations have become increasingly interested in finding new solutions that put coworkers in focus. Employer branding has, over the past 10 years, successively become an established phenomenon that sheds light on the importance of communicating with potential, and sometimes even existing, coworkers.

Painting an attractive picture of the organization to attract the right talent has long been important, and organizations have spent a great deal of time and resources on finding just the coworkers they need. HR departments have long had more or less complete processes for recruiting new coworkers and supporting coworkers, in particular managers. For example, they have participated in work fairs and other activities to reach out to students and recent university graduates.

Consults and organizations that work with employer branding use well-known marketing concepts and methods to develop brands in general. In some cases, they claim to try to contribute to influencing existing coworkers' perceptions of the organization and their will and ability to act as ambassadors. Most often, however, they work on “packaging" and communicating the organization as an attractive workplace to potential new coworkers.

Friends and networks influence choosing an employer

Critics of the employer branding phenomenon argue that people do not make the decision to work for a particular organization based on a particular campaign, on advertisements in social media, or on a ranking of popular organizations conducted by consulting firms. There is also a clear risk that current coworkers will not recognize themselves in "advertising” for their employer.

Instead, many choose to listen carefully to friends and use their own contact networks to find an employer that they want to work for. We believe that one of the biggest pitfalls in working with employer branding is placing too much focus on one-way communication, tactical campaigns, concepts and positive messages.

Employer branding is not an internal communication strategy

Employer branding sometimes also spills over into the ambition to turn current coworkers into ambassadors - to make them want to help attract new coworkers. Though it is, in essence, good that communication with potential coworkers gets more attention, investments in the employer brand and its relationship to other communication are often too weak, and it is here that the concept of employer branding has major limitations. Coworkers’willingness and ability to be organizational ambassadors is a complex issue connected to internal communication in a broader context as well as to an understanding of communicative leadership and coworkership.

The driving force behind the question of the employer brand often comes from HR, which rarely has the necessary experience with or competence in branding. This means that there is a risk that ambitions and investments in the employer brand will not have the desired effects. In the worst-case scenario, the employer brand image does not match the brand at large or the image of existing coworkers. Organizations also often place more time and resources on developing recruitment campaigns than on communicating with and utilizing existing coworkers or developing their internal communication as a whole - this can be seen as a waste.

We would like to warn against using employer branding as a form of internal communication or spending significantly more time and money on employer brand campaigns than on developing an internal communication climate.

Working with the organization’s identity, image and profile, regardless of whether it concerns recruitment or finding new customers, requires relevant competence in communication and brand-building, as well as collaboration between several different actors. Employer branding is not something that can be separated from general work with developing internal communication or the brand at large.

Structure communication based on stakeholders

Decentralized responsibility for communications is a natural part of the communicative organization. Communication with customers, citizens or users often goes through different departments, depending on which channel they choose. If they choose to contact the organization through social media, they come in contact with marketing. If they instead choose to phone, they speak with customer service. In other words, organizations often fail to put their stakeholders in focus with planning and structuring communication and relationship management. Instead, customers face the bureaucratic structure when coming in contact with the organization. Zingmark encourages:

Structure the company's customer management from the customer’s perspective - not from your own bureaucracy.19

One way to better manage coworkers’ communication with stakeholders is to use an omni-channel strategy, which has been a buzzword in e-commerce for the past few years. Simply put, it can be explained as the opposite of a multi-channel strategy, which means that an organization offers stakeholders a variety of channels for communication, such as telephone, fax, website, blog, Facebook and Twitter.

An omni-channel strategy arranges the channels so that stakeholders get an integrated experience with the same messages and response.*0 Whether a customer is shopping online via their computer or phone, or is in a physical store, the experience should be seamless. One company that has succeeded with this is Peak Performance, where salespeople help and order goods on the online store if they are missing from the physical store. This strategy is most often used by companies with e-sales, but the strategy is also very useful for other organizations that put stakeholders at the center of value creation.

Close collaboration between several different departments to develop strategy and work is necessary to creating a successful omni-channel strategy. It may be the product, marketing, sales, customer service, quality, IT and communications departments that need to collaborate to work in accordance with the omni-chan- nel strategy. The omni-channel strategy is even useful inside the organization. Each of the various internal communications channels are often seen as part of a larger platform, where each channel has its own purpose. If all the channels are instead there to reinforce one another, then they can create synergetic effects. This does, however, require that all the messages are consistent and available throughout the entire communications platform.

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