2 Jun 2011
The Value of Insight: Do you know or just think you do?
The strongest brands in the world have been built carefully and deliberately on a foundation of research and insight. In most organisations, management and leadership think they understand employees and what’s important to them but there is often a disconnection discovered when research begins. Researching and understanding the ‘current reality’ of the brand experience and your reputation with both employees and the talent market are critical elements in developing an authentic, unique and distinctive employer brand. Do you know or just think you do?
The first step is to be clear on your objectives and strategic direction, along with organisational and brand values, and with the sort of people (skills, experience, attitude, etc) you need to resource your business with in order to fulfil your business plans. The 2008 PWC Clever Companies Insights Report showed that those companies that develop and measure against detailed business plans and strategies are significantly more profitable and sustainable than those that don’t plan or take a short term view.
Once you have clarity on your objectives, you need to know what your employees value about the experience of working in your business including their needs and aspirations; and you need to understand what your target talent market is seeking in their recruitment and employment experience, whether you can offer it and how to position yourself against your competition. Great brands are not created in a vacuum and you must undertake this investigation if you want to develop an employer brand that will effectively attract, recruit, retain and engage the talent you need to be all you can be.
So where do you begin? Work out what you need to know and what information gaps you have and then design internal and external surveys and focus groups in order to elicit the information you seek. For example, what do your people consider as special and distinctive about your organisation? Why did they choose to come to you and why do they stay? What are the talent market perceptions of your business as a place to work? What are the perceptions of your competitors (from your staff, the talent market, clients and suppliers)? What are the benefits of working for your business? What difference do people make in the world by being part of your business? Are you living your values?
There are simple tools and methodologies you can employ to canvas your people and the talent market, as well as listening to the voice of your customers and their experience of your people through customer service, etc. From there you can develop and trial meaningful purpose and EVP statements, along with testing your survey findings in focus group environments in order validate your thinking and direction.
Once you have identified your ‘current reality’ and developed your employer brand promise, purpose and EVPs you will have a clear view of where you are and where you want to be. They not be that far apart or they may be worlds away. Reviewing your attraction, recruitment and people management practices, processes, documents and communication is another step in gaining insight. How does what we do now (process, policy, communication and behaviour) create our employer brand? What do we need to change in order to create alignment?
In our experience many organisations simply don’t do enough research to gain valid insight. They then leap into creative campaign development before they are truly capable of delivering on the promise and expectations that work sets in the marketplace. In addition, they risk increasing ambivalence or disengagement with those already employed if they haven’t been authentic in their representation of the employment experience and taken their people with them on the journey.
There are often hard and soft changes required in the way you do things, particularly the key touch points in the employment life cycle (for example recruitment, induction, performance planning, internal communication) along with getting leadership and people managers on side and aligned in the way they create the employment brand experience for people every day.
This work isn’t a one hit wonder. Keeping it real and keeping in touch with internal and external perceptions is important, particularly as you want to measure and manage the ongoing shift in your employer brand perceptions and ensure you are delivering an experience that meets expectation. In addition, its important to measure against the business objectives you defined at the outset in your business case to satisfy the Executive and Board that the investment has been worthwhile and should continue.
You may want to use employee engagement surveys and talent market surveys; capture information from candidates and new recruits as part of the recruitment and induction process; build relationships with your key recruitment partners and have them gather information for you; analyse exit data for brand advocacy; and talk with clients and suppliers about their perceptions of your people and your business as a place to work.
As mentioned above, it’s also important to stay clear and measure against your strategic objectives. Do you want to increase engagement by moving up your ‘ambivalents’? Increase retention? Decrease recruitment agency spending? Build brand advocacy? Lift the perception of your brand in the talent market against key competitors? Increase productivity and profitability per employee? The old saying goes “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” and being clear on your objectives at the beginning will support development of a solid approach. Having appropriate measure in place to gain ongoing insight into your progress will also allow for identification and management of anything that isn’t working. Success if a process of constant correction and your employer brand initiative will be no exception.
What can you do?
- Be clear on your overall business strategy and the people plan that supports its achievement
- Get leadership buy in
- Engage a specialist organisation to support your work
- Review any existing employee survey, post recruitment and exit data
- Ensure surveys and focus groups are conducted by a third party to encourage honesty and openness
- Identify appropriate metrics that will allow you to measure and manage against your objectives
- Be prepared to do it right and not rush things – this is more than fancy ads, a Facebook page and a website with sexy strap lines. Racing to that may do more harm than good.