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.

Ductus Exemplo: Leading by Example (Part 1)


Recruitment Lessons from the US Marines

Ductos ExemploOne of the most successful recruiting efforts of all time doesn’t belong to a Fortune 500 company, but rather the United States Marine Corps. Despite ongoing conflicts and being arguably the most demanding service in the armed forces, the Marines consistently meet their quantity and quality metrics for recruitment. That’s why we wanted to see what lessons we could learn from our nation’s expeditionary force and how one of the Marines’ values “Ductos Exemplo”  (to lead by example) rings true in the recruitment space.

Introducing the first of a series of blogs focusing on performance-based leadership, diversity in recruiting, and empowering employees. Their principles have made the Marines consistently successful at reaching their audience. Working with J. Walter Thompson (JWT) for more than 67 years, Marines have developed nuanced messaging strategies to appeal to recruits for decades.

With a yearly marketing and advertising budget of $70 to $100 million, Marines spend only about $2,500 per successful accession (a recruit who successfully completes basic training). Compare that with the $2.4 billion Nike spent last year just to market shoes. This is truly an incredible feat considering the difficult and potentially life-threatening nature of being a Marine.

Emphasizing a performance-based culture, the first post in the series will show how the Marines’ Principles of Leadership can improve employees’ attitudes. More than a corporate feel-good exercise, a culture based on transparency and accountability can really translate to better financial performance.

Our next post will focus on improving the diversity of the Corps – in both culture and creed. In 2013, the Marines saw their most diverse group of officer candidates ever – representing 24.3 percent of the officer accessions.

Finishing the series, our last post draws inspiration from the idea that regardless of a Marine’s specialization, he or she is a rifleman first – individually empowered to complete the mission. Metrics are everything when gauging success, and the Marines have got them – in terms of candidates’ diversity, skill level, and commitment to the Marines’ core values.

“This is the most diverse group of officers we’ve brought in. It’s part of an upward trend. We’ve nearly doubled the diversity of officer accessions over the past five years,” Lt. Col. Chester McMillon, head of officer programs, Marine Corps Recruiting Command, was quoted on the Marines official website. “Academically they are outstanding. On average they carry a 3.5 grade point average and 1200 SAT. They are also proven leaders in their schools, communities or churches.”

Those are the qualifications recruiters everywhere would like to see in their candidates. The courage of the Marines’ tactics and messaging helped them to consistently achieve their goals, without sacrificing their culture.

What are some ways your company has taken recruiting risks? Did it work? What kind of messaging did you use? Get ready for next week’s installment of our Ductos Exemplo series focused on Marines’ performance-based leadership culture.


Your Employer Brand: It’s Serious Business

Is your company or category going through a major transformation?
Are you in the midst of launching a new consumer brand promise?
Do you have trouble articulating your employment story to candidates?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, you may want to consider re-evaluating your current employer brand. Here’s why…

employer-brandingEmployer brands were once thought of as simply defining an expectation between employee and employer.  But today, the employer brand plays a much bigger and more vital role within organizations and in driving their futures. It informs the guest/customer experience, aligns employees and candidates with your purpose and business aspirations, and it distills your employment offering into simple, actionable and easily understood language so everyone can contribute. It’s inspirational, empowering, and unifying.

If you are going through a major transformation within your organization, a shift in mindset, behavior, culture and direction may be at play.  If that’s the case, employer brand can play a pivotal role in defining the new employee expectations and aligning them with the business focus. The employer brand can be used to enlist brand ambassadors contribute to building the new culture, engage customers, reward internal performance, share, and mentor others.

If you have a new consumer brand promise to launch, don’t forget that’s a promise to customers, not employees.  This consumer brand requires translation for your employees so they understand how to deliver on the customer experience. And you need to consider how that translation lives and breathes in the halls of your workplace, how employees treat each other, and the opportunity and potential that exists for them.

For those in talent acquisition and HR communications who are frustrated with their current careers website, social media, student recruitment communications and more as it doesn’t tell any clear story about “why candidates should work here,” you may want to to re-evaluate your current employer brand. A clear story should be at the top of the pyramid informing the channels, experiences, and programs you implement. By leading with your employer brand story and letting it drive the conversations and experiences you have online (and off), you’ll attract the candidates you want most. The story will resonate with their values, aspirations, backgrounds and desire to make a contribution.

No matter where you are in your employer brand journey, be sure to include your audience in everything you do. Involve them. Enlist them. Empower them. Give them the opportunity to participate, define, share, own.  Nothing makes employees feel more valued than being active contributors in your success and further believers in the cause.


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.