Yesterday, June 27, 2017 was a historic day in the world of HR in Canada. The inaugural HR Tech Summit Canada happened, and I had the privileged opportunity to participate as an attendee and speaker. Over 500 people attended, and the day was jam packed with amazing sessions, speakers, HR/Recruitment software vendors, learning and conversations. The official event hashtag was #HRTechCanada (see hashtag analytics snapshot and real-time stream below), and although we didn’t trend on Twitter it was a pretty strong showing for a first-time event and I’m truly honoured to have been a part of it.
Aside from sharing the love on social media, reconnecting with my network peers, meeting new HR professionals and checking out some new software tools, I led a session on the Tech Talk Stage about how to leverage technology to maximize employer brand equity. Check out my slides below that I posted this morning on my Slideshare account. It’s a topic that I am deeply passionate about and have done quite a bit of work during my career. I hope those that attended this session found value and walked away with some useful and actionable insights.
I truly believe that to no fault of their own many HR professionals find the concept of employer branding confusing. After all the internet is riddled with content about employer branding and how to do it, what to do, what not to do, so-called best practices, and so on. Where can you possibly start if the community in general is not clear about what employer branding is and how an HR professional can get started with it?
I asked the audience how many have an employer brand strategy in their organizations. Only a handful of people put up their hands. I then asked this group if technology is embedded into their strategies, and a couple of people kept their hands up. I’m actually not surprised by this low number because not only is employer branding confusing, technology is a whole other ballgame. So, I attempted to break it all down in the 30 minutes I was allotted for my talk.
The key take-aways of the talk were as follows:
First, “information asymmetry is dead”. This means that the balance of power between the buyer (employee or prospect) and the seller (the organization) is equal, and technology is the reason for this. We as consumers, whether we are in the market for a new car, mobile device, furniture, job, or anything else, know more about the seller and everything it stands for, sells, promises and portrays than ever before. We go to product and peer review sites, career sites, social media channels and anything that Google can drum up to find insights and intelligence that will help us make a decision on whether to buy something or apply for a job at a particular organization. Because of information “symmetry” organizations needs to be on top of their employer brand.
Second, employer branding starts on the inside of your organization with your employees, and not externally. A great quote that I shared by HR thought-leader, Josh Bersin” was:
You can’t market something you don’t have. If your people are not happy and engaged, selling your company will be difficult”.
The inside of an organization means the employee experience. My personal model is 3 stages: talent attraction, talent engagement and talent retention. Everything an organization does revolves around these 3 stages of the employee experience. I argued that not only does HR need to build their strategy around these 3 stages, the technology (a.k.a. HR Tech Stack) needs to support these stages so that the employee experience is maximized and heightened.
I shared a personal story from my career where I was asked to critique the final output of a brand refresh project. It was visually appealing and I connected emotionally to what I saw. The problem was that they did not involve the employees in the process, and what they were promising as the employee value proposition was not real. It did not represent the truth of what it was like to work there. What happened? They achieved their first objective of attracting more people to the organization but failed miserably on improving employee engagement and retention. Over the long-term their brand suffered and ended up in a worse position than when they started.
Third, for any employer brand to be successful in today’s world you need to integrate and leverage technology, both inside and outside the organization. Technology is “communication on steroids”. To present my argument I profiled Vancouver-based Nurse Next Door, a rapidly growing senior home care services company. They have creatively and successfully leveraged technology to boost their employer brand, and they did it the right way. They clearly understood the business challenges they were facing and they worked hard to create a best-in-class workplace where employees were engaged and felt a great sense of fulfillment and purpose in their jobs. They started on the inside of their organization but needed to share their amazing workplace externally. There was a misperception in the market that the homecare industry was not an interesting one that Nurse Next Door only hired nurses and caregivers. They decided to focus on video to solve this problem by sharing employee stories and tapping into the emotional impact and connection that video enabled. They also ran targeted digital marketing campaigns using Facebook and used Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram to share their stores and build their audience. The majority of the audience yesterday had never heard of Nurse Next Door but after showing the video their perception of what it’s like to work at Nurse Next Door drastically changed.
Fourth, you need to figure out your HR Tech Stack; your internal tech tools that you and your employees will use. People want to be able to use the same type of tools that they use in their personal lives at work. Gone are the days where everyone works under 1 roof or works the same hours. How in the world can you possibly keep this transient workforce connected and engaged? Technology is the answer, and you need to be on top of it. The tools you use inside your organization to support employee success and engagement is paramount to your sucess and the strength of your employer brand. I focused on specific categories for the audience to think about:
Of course there are other functions within HR but these are the key ones that drive employee engagement and brand strength.
It really doesn’t matter what your organization does, what markets they serve or how big it is. Every single organization has an employer brand that needs to be understood and nurtured. Every single organization is different by virtue of the employees that work there and how the leadership group runs it. Technology is NOT the starting point. It never will be. Start on the inside of the organization and work hard to build a highly engaged workplace where people are successful, feel valued and appreciated. Infiltrate your mission, vision and values into everything you do and identify your unique employee value proposition. Integrate the right HR Tech Stack, and once you have the inside figured out, tell everyone about it. Leverage social tools and the right external brand strategy to share what it’s like to work at your organization. Take cues from leading companies like Nurse Next Door, Adidas, Airbnb, Sodexo, BuildDirect and Shopify.
Until the next HR Tech Summit Canada in 2018 I look forward to following and working with growing companies to build their employer brands.