How to

How to ensure HR influences organisational brand

Branding traditionally sat with marketing and the leadership but HR efforts can boost the brand – with some benefits for HR processes too. Here’s how the people function can get a say...

Words by Dan Cave | Design by Matt Bonnar

Words by Dan Cave

Design by Matt Bonnar

Traditionally, it might not have been thought that HR should get a say in company brand-making. It would’ve been a key area for marketeers and executives – with HR merely crossing the Ts and dotting the Is on job adverts and not worrying about corporate and consumer image and how it might impact their area. Fortunately, times have moved on and many of the tasks and skillsets that were the sole preserve of marketing are now considered central to HR, too – with brand-building seen as a crucial part of recruitment strategy, employee retention and keeping staff happy.

The HR function needs to push itself forwards in areas where traditionally it has not contributed

In fact, according to Fabrik, a brand building agency, employer brand, everything from internal comms to brand advocacy in professional networks, can drive a higher number of applicants when hiring, reduce cost per higher and can act as a key talent hook when it works well and is good. And a good employer reputation can even boost the consumer brand. Chris Bleakley, Director of Resourcing at Nationwide, tells HR Grapevine that every potential candidate is a potential customer and if they have good interactions with the organisation at the recruitment stage they could potentially become a good advocate for the company and its products as a whole.

Yet, not everyone believes HR should get a say in company branding. BT’s Head of Comms, Helen Willets, told HR Grapevine for the January 2021 Magazine Cover Feature Interview, that when it comes to brand, HR shouldn’t own it. “The employer brand shouldn’t sit in HR as you end up designing a recruitment brand,” she said, quite vehemently. Others feel that HR should get involved but hasn’t traditionally stuck its head above the parapet to ensure that HR insight helps form what the brand looks like. This is the view of Pamela Shoesmith, Senior HR Business Partner at Gazprom Energy, who adds: “The HR function needs to push itself forwards in areas where traditionally it has not contributed."

This is despite many seeing the benefits of HR when it gets involved in branding – even outside the function. Adam Shay, Global Marketing Director at Resource Solutions, believes that when HR does get a say in branding it can galvanise employees behind the company mission. “Great brands have one thing in common,” he shares. “Their people believe in them!” Not forgetting the previous benefits outlined by Nationwide’s Resourcing lead and Fabrik’s brand nous.

The question is, to get these benefits, how can HR ensure it gets a voice in branding. Below, HR Grapevine speaks to the experts to find out.

1. Positioning HR as representative of the employee

Resource Solutions’ Shay states that HR must promote its expertise early on, when branding is coming up for debate within the company, and show that it is the true representatives of the employee voice. “Work with brand and marketing to engage employees in launch activities, help employees feel like they’ve had a part to play in building the brand, and you will build long term employee advocacy,” he adds.

Beth Rowlands, Head of Talent & Skills at Fujitsu, also believes acting as the bridge between employee voice – allowing autonomy in how employees talk about the brand – and the brand. “The existing employees of any organisation can be a powerful allies to the corporate brand via employee advocacy activity, sharing corporate brand messaging and sharing via social media channels. HR teams can help to unlock this opportunity,” she explains.

Getting strategic about brand

It is never a bad thing, when wanting to get involved in any strategic discussion, to be able to advocate why your function’s skillset and experience can help push the conversation further. Whether it’s about improving the bottom line, working more productively, or improving the brand. To help do this, Robert Ordever, Managing Director at O.C. Tanner Europe, says that HR should look at where it can add value, at which point in the brand lifecycle it can most effectively share expertise and show it can drive results.

He concludes: “Providing quantitative and qualitative evidence of the impact HR can have on the brand is key to being heard and taken seriously. And HR must track what it does, its progress and results and feed this back to prove its value. Whether HR is implementing a new recognition programme or investing in more wellbeing initiatives, this must be done with the employer brand in mind with demonstrable evidence of how it is enhancing the brand and in doing so improving recruitment, engagement, motivation, connection and loyalty.” employees feel like they’ve had a part to play in building the brand...

2. Working closely with marketing and branding teams

Rowlands also thinks that creating a close partnership with marketing can help HR get a say in branding efforts. “A close partnership with marketing colleagues is important, as is understanding and respecting the differences between corporate vs employer brands,” she continues. “Additionally, by working together to understand upcoming corporate marketing campaigns or employer brand campaigns, opportunities where overlap occurs and where the two can combine to support both ‘target markets’ can be planned.”

Alex Arundale, Chief People Officer at Advanced, a computer software firm, also believes the relationship between marketing and HR is crucial – as well as stating that HR should be bold in leading this partnership. “This relationship is often centred around internal communications, but HR teams should feel emboldened to use their insight and knowledge to support the wider brand creation process,” she says.

3. Be pushy!

For Gazprom’s Shoesmith, HR has got to be a bit more forthright to ensure the function is included in branding efforts. “Simply put it’s about asking to be involved,” she adds. “At Gazprom Energy we are very fortunate that all the key aspects of the business are consulted in major business decisions. But I am very aware that it is not always this way.

“The HR function needs to push itself forwards in areas where traditionally it has not contributed. This results in a much more cohesive approach to the brand. Nominating an individual to be involved in all of the discussions is a good way to create ownership in the HR team. It means that HR is represented, the insight they have working with people across the business is shared with the people who will be delivering the brand and there is more successful alignment of people processes from the start of the branding process.”

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