Branding Magazine’s Employer Branding Roundtable (Part 2)


[excerpt from full roundtable ebook]

In this Branding Roundtable we hear from leaders of three agencies as to the nature, benefits, challenges and future of Employer Branding:

Ed Barzilaij, CEO of Maximum Employment Marketing Group, based in Rotterdam, with offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Carolyn Ray, Managing Director, Interbrand Canada and former leader of that worldwide brand consultancy’s Global Brand Engagement Practice.

Michael Savage, Director of Employer Brand at JWT INSIDE, part of JWT Worldwide.

Read the full roundtable ebook to see how they each have strong, distinct perspectives – and we invite you to add yours, or respond to theirs, in the comments section. Here are some of the roundtable responses from our very own Director of Employer Branding, Michael Savage.


What do you see as the primary benefits of investing in employee branding, to employer, employee and other stakeholders?

In today’s job market, companies are overloaded with applicants. Google gets one applicant every 25 seconds. On the employee engagement front, disengagement at companies is at an all time high. Companies are searching for top talent that fit their specific culture.

We have recently seen data that claims 70 percent of the workforce is dissatisfied in their current job. This is costing the US economy $450 – $550 billion dollars per year. Employer branding helps to address these challenges and more.

The top employer brands encourage employee ambassadorship. They create opportunities for content co-creation. They host management workshops to align leadership. They encourage specific behaviors through rewards and recognition programs. An effective employer brand ensures the highest levels of productivity, innovation, morale, participation, pride and retention. Applied more holistically, you’ll find the benefits are endless and an invaluable return on investment.



As the natural flip side of benefit, or reward, in business is risk, what risks (if any) do you see in employee branding – perhaps even along the lines of those explored in the legal analysis “Managing Identity: Buying in to the Brand at Work.”

Changes in leadership, a merger or acquisition, transition to a new line of business, all can potentially change the direction and culture of the organization requiring you to revisit and refine the employer brand accordingly.

The risk is entirely financial, as the organization would need to reinvest in re-alignment. But these are risks beyond your control. T-Mobile recognized this and waited until the right moment to define its employer brand. With the dark days of the failed AT&T merger behind them and with a new CEO in place, there was no risk, just opportunity.

Additionally, the activation of an employer brand should not be forced or dictated to your employee population. Instead, it should be co-created by the employees who work there – enabling them to take ownership of its development and participate in its implementation. Make it participatory and respect cultural and geographic nuances and you will limit the risk of any “organ rejection” by your workforce.


According to recent reports, this is not a happy time in the general workforce, with large percentages of employees dissatisfied, disengaged and disbelieving of their organizations’ branding claims – witness Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace,” detailing lack of employee engagement, The New York Times article “Why You Hate Work,” citing even more current research on employee stress and dissatisfaction, or Deloitte’s “2014 Core Beliefs and Culture” which reports that relatively few employees buy-in to their organizations claims of purpose, one of the key drivers of satisfaction. Where does employee branding fit into what one might call this difficult, if not dismal, current picture, either as part of the problem, solution, or both?

Employees feel they have – for far too long – accepted limited career and compensation growth as their employers limited their capital investment during challenging times. Following the great-recession, many employees have taken stock of their personal brand, and prefer to work somewhere with a clear purpose and vision that aligns with their own personal values. A job or career is no longer enough, especially when reflecting on the most recent difficult years. Employers who have taken the time to craft their employer brand have a clear competitive advantage as their culture, purpose and career opportunity are well articulated. Candidates can immerse themselves in understanding these organizations online and off and truly envision themselves being part of the story.


Branding Magazine’s Employer Branding Roundtable (Part 1)


[excerpt from full roundtable ebook]

In this Branding Roundtable we hear from leaders of three agencies as to the nature, benefits, challenges and future of Employer Branding:

Ed Barzilaij, CEO of Maximum Employment Marketing Group, based in Rotterdam, with offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Carolyn Ray, Managing Director, Interbrand Canada and former leader of that worldwide brand consultancy’s Global Brand Engagement Practice.

Michael Savage, Director of Employer Brand at JWT INSIDE, part of JWT Worldwide.

Read the full roundtable ebook to see how they each have strong, distinct perspectives – and we invite you to add yours, or respond to theirs, in the comments section. Here are some of the roundtable responses from our very own Director of Employer Branding, Michael Savage.


Employee branding can be difficult to categorize – is it a human resources/operational discipline, a marketing endeavor, or both? Please give your definition.

Employer branding is neither a Human Resources nor a Marketing initiative. It’s more than just marketing and recruiting. Employer brand is a tool that brings immeasurable value and substantially contributes to business performance. The last thing you want is for employer branding to be viewed as just another marketing or recruiting campaign.

Starting with the Executive Suite with the CEO, an employer brand is a clear articulation of how every employee will contribute to delivering on the business vision, strategy and objectives. You’ve also got to rally your workforce – especially in these times of constant transformation across industries.

The employer brand evolution has been a long, strange trip for sure, and it’s finally finding its place on corporate agendas and on the annual budget forecast. It’s gone from a recruitment initiative, to a business imperative with employee productivity

Michael Savage Employer Branding 1Who should own and drive Employer Branding within an organization?

The greatest employer branding successes are the result of strong CEO leadership and the participation and collaboration of HR and Marketing. Beyond the C-Suite, every employee should own and drive the employer brand within the organization, and employer branding initiatives should be designed with employee participation in mind.

The individuals who should lead this initiative should straddle the Human Resources and Marketing discipline. They are indeed a hybrid. That’s why you’ll notice the emergence of new job titles including: Chief Brand & Culture Officer, Employer Brand Managers, and Chief People Experience Officers.

Think about all the ways in which your employer brand lives and breathes and requires maintenance daily across peer-to-peer interaction/behavior, recruitment and selection, internal and leadership communications, rewards and recognition/reinforcement, work environment, meeting rituals, learning and development, and customer service. In this context, every manager and employee has a role to play in owning, maintaining and evolving the brand.

Employee Video Storytelling with 21st Century Fox

21CF1We recently came across the careers website for 21st Century Fox and found that there’s something with this careers site that stands out among many. [Who is 21st Century Fox, you may ask? In brief, 21st Century Fox owns a global portfolio of cable, broadcast, film, pay TV and satellite assets spanning six continents across the globe. They’re kind of a big deal.] While the site design and overall navigation experience could improve, we love that this careers site is so focused on their people and not as focused on getting candidates to search and apply for jobs. The whole careers site prioritizes employee videos right in the design, which nicely combats the typical candidate instinct to go to a careers site and skip important content about company culture, going straight to the job search.


21CF2When you first get to the 21st Century Fox Careers site you’re immediately greeted with a big, colorful box featuring a few employee videos. Watching these videos, dubbed “21 seconds with (Employee Name Here)” you get a feel for who 21st Century Fox is as an employer and the types of people that thrive in this company culture. [Not to mention, it’s also a nice play-on-words using the number “21” in the series title!] These short videos are fun, creative, and drive home the fact that 21st Century Fox employees love what they do, all in a 21-second video clip. We asked Tiffany LaBanca, SVP of Global Internal Communications, about these videos, and she replied, “I think the content and stories are really true to who we are and the people we employ.  This company is full of passionate, creative and amazingly talented people.  We have a lot of fun doing what we do and we aimed to bring all of that to life.”


21CF3We love these employee videos because it really allows 21st Century Fox to show a more human side to a large global company through employee storytelling. However, for being a content creation company at heart and for having about 26,000 employees, we’re asking, why aren’t there more employee stories?! There actually are additional employee stories than the homepage previews, but it takes some clicking around to find the “Meet Our People” section of the site.  Once you’re there you can watch longer format videos that give you a deeper understanding of an employee’s actual job.

A big opportunity we see to further improve how these videos are viewed and the relevancy to candidates could be to relate the videos to career path options. By adding content on the roles each employee plays, the companies that are a part of 21st Century Fox’s network, and how it all fits into the larger 21st Century Fox story, a deeper experience could be had. We asked Tiffany her thoughts on this and she said, “We’re just getting started telling the 21st Century Fox inside story. Stay tuned!”

Until then, we’ll be enjoying these unique employee stories from 21st Century Fox.


How Good Storytelling Can Help Guide Your EVP

Our most basic instinct is to share our stories. Debate our theories. Demonstrate our knowledge. And, every company tells a story whether they know it or not. So, the question becomes: Does a company own their story, or will they allow the marketplace to do it for them? The essence of every company’s story is expressed through its culture. A company’s culture is most effective when it can be reduced to its core – full of humanity, passion, and vitality. A message so filled with meaning that it speaks to future and current employees, regardless of their experience, position, or background. This message is guided by a North Star – an employer value proposition (EVP).

*Communicating Culture*

Corporate culture may take years to create, but with an EVP, it can be summed up in just a few words. A truly effective EVP can drive recruitment strategies, employee engagement, and even long-term business goals. An interview in Forbes magazine with CEO of MSLGROUP, Olivier Fleurot, talks about just how important a strong employee culture is:

“Business leaders need to make sure their employer brand is strong. That’s because Millennials respect organizations with clearly articulated visions, a strong purpose, shared values and clear career path options.”

Though Fleurot is speaking to his experience with Millennials, staff of all ages could be hobbled without a fully articulated EVP. In the vacuum created by the absence of a company’s cultural vision, employees will fill in the blanks for themselves. But, when employees’ disparate visions collide, it creates the kind of environment that makes businesses less effective.

*Not Just What You Say, But How You Say It*

A truly effective EVP should cut across generational boundaries to communicate a vision that speaks to every employee, regardless of age or experience. Though, maintaining culture is a reciprocal process, it’s up to senior management to constantly reinforce the character and passion of an EVP. Getting it right is essential. Well-known for the exemplary culture, CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, spoke to The New York Times about why he sold his first company, LinkExchange, to Microsoft in 1996:

“From the outside, it looked like it was a great acquisition, $265 million, but most people don’t know the real reason why we ended up selling the company. It was because the company culture just went completely downhill … I just dreaded getting out of bed in the morning and was hitting that snooze button over and over again.”

Zappos has since become the gold standard of corporate culture, even offering new hires $2,000 to quit if they don’t think they’re a good fit. Hsieh took a valuable lesson from his experiences at LinkExchange. If the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company can still dread coming to work, how can we expect front-line staff to be any different? Developing and sticking to an EVP can translate to more engagement and job satisfaction for all employees.

*From Front Office to the Front Line*

An EVP, regardless of its accuracy, only works in concert with an activation plan. Using the activation plan as the blueprint and the EVP as a foundation, teams can develop a strategy that more clearly defines a company’s culture, while developing the nuances that better explain their collective identity.

Activation through social responsibility programs, pro bono work, or employee giving programs breathes life into the EVP. This brand reputation can guide every facet of a business, empowering employees and improving the experience for consumers.

Corporate culture will always have an element of fluidity – full of factors beyond anyone’s control. But, when employees understand who they are together, companies are giving employees something bigger than themselves, a culture to believe in.

Does your company have difficulty articulating their culture? Are you struggling to find the right candidates for your company?


What Does Google Autocomplete Say About Your Employer Brand & Recruitment Strategies?

As JWT INSIDE’s Search Engine Marketing Analyst, I’m going to go a little Google-nerd on you here, but bear with me. It’s relevant; I promise.

AEIR (Advanced Emotion Intelligence Research, a team of researchers, software engineers and business specialists that extract data regarding products, people and businesses) recently collected data on 100 brands using Google’s Suggest Queries API and autocompletion. In non-search terms, this research team searched for brand names plus the word “is” on Google to see what autocomplete options showed in the drop down. I included a screenshot of the autocomplete options I receive when I Google search “Apple is” for you, to give you an idea of how this works (keep in mind, AEIR took into consideration a number of other factors, too).

apple is screenshot

Then, AEIR created this lovely infographic to better explain the results they found. This infographic lays out the top 66 of the 100 brands researched and shows the top words associated with the autocompleted searches. Overall, 21% of these results associated the word “Evil” with the brands while 10% associated the phrase “the best.” (This probably shows that people with negative opinions are more likely to post something online about their experiences compared to those with positive feedback, but that’s a topic for another day.) But what do the Google autocomplete search results say about a company’s employer brand? Here are a few of the top brands with the autocompleted search terms that relate to employer branding and recruitment:

Amazon – “Hiring”
UPS – “Hiring”
Siemens – “A Good Company to Work For”
Citi – “Hiring”
Xerox – “A Horrible Place to Work”

Of these 66 brands, 5 show autocomplete search options related to hiring or whether a company is good or bad to work for (that’s about 8% of the brands – are you surprised by this number? I was!). This study shows that Amazon, UPS, and Citi have done a great job of creating awareness around their hiring needs and efforts. Siemens and Xerox likely have a lot of content online being indexed by Google from current or past employees in the form of company reviews, testimonials, and other feedback. This could be on channels like Glassdoor or Indeed, on social media like Twitter, or from other online content like blog posts and industry articles. However, this online content has proven positive for Siemens and negative for Xerox. Your employer branding efforts and recruitment advertising campaigns can portray your company culture and hiring needs all day long, but what your employees say online about your brand as an employer will undoubtedly affect how your brand is seen in the eyes of your candidates.



JWT INSIDE Responds to ‘PayPal Chief Reams Employees: Use Our App or Quit’

A recently published article“PayPal Chief Reams Employees: Use Our App or Quit,” really caught our eye here at JWT INSIDE. Just from the title, we could tell there was going to be an interesting story of passion for an employer and a potential internal challenge with employee engagement. Our first thought was: It sounds like PayPal’s CEO, David Marcus, could ask himself two big questions.

First, why aren’t our employees using the app? And second, are we hiring purpose-driven employees?

Answering these two questions could not only help improve the product in ways that may further encourage the use of the app internally and externally, but it would also support the discussion around hiring the right people to better the business overall.

Although, some may feel Marcus was a bit harsh. Expressing disappointment about employees’ participation with a major product launch shows his commitment and passion for the company, and really gives employees an insight into the human side of being a leader. Ultimately, using the app wasn’t the point, Marcus’s note to his employees was about joining the PayPal culture. An idea that we at JWT INSIDE whole-heartedly believe in – people join cultures, not companies.

A tough-love motivational speech to overcome lack of enthusiasm might have played well at a town hall, but missed the mark in the written word. It was fair of Marcus to acknowledge a growth opportunity and set expectations for his employees. The bigger issue is ensuring his company is hiring people who are passionate enough to be brand ambassadors. Ultimately, Marcus really squandered a chance to focus on their employer brand and use the EVP as a way to attract the type of people who want to download PayPal’s app – not made to feel guilty enough to do it.

In the words of Marcus, “We have much work to do to reach greatness. We’re not perfect by any stretch of imagination. But passion, and purpose will help us get there faster… A life devoid of purpose, and passion in what you do everyday is a waste of the precious time you have on this earth to make it better. Onward with passion, purpose, and gusto!”

We couldn’t agree more. After discussing with a number of INSIDErs, the consensus was unanimous – it’s key to have a defined EVP and a company culture that understands and believes in the business mission, no matter what the brand. We’d love to hear your thoughts, do you agree? As an employee, how would you react to a communication from your CEO like the one sent at PayPal?