#154 How to Get Stakeholders’ Buy-in to Avoid Roadblocks

Blog header #154 How to Get Stakeholders' Buy-in in Employer Branding - Building a modern, magnetic employer brand podcast with Susanna Rantanen

Stakeholders’ buy-in is probably one of the key drivers of employer branding success. 

Without it, employer branding efforts tend to hit roadblocks on the way. For many, I’ve seen all the strategic employer branding efforts disappear into thin air because they did not have or know how to get stakeholders’ buy-in early in the process.

Two weeks ago, in episode 152, my guest, an experienced talent branding lead, Claudia Nolan, addressed stakeholder management as their top skill to develop in their employer branding and talent marketing role. 

They mentioned they had no experience in stakeholder management before starting their talent marketing career seven years ago and had to learn how to get stakeholder buy-in through trial and error.

As an employer branding consultant myself, I have experienced the importance of stakeholder management multiple times in situations where I realised my client does not have the required buy-in, and it’s probably too late for me to step in to try to help them out.

As a result, I’m sure many of those strategy projects flopped at the execution, with clients taking over without the stakeholder buy-in.

How to navigate stakeholder management in employer branding?

In this episode of the Building a Modern Employer Brand podcast, I am bringing forward this compelling topic that touches all HR marketing and employer branding professionals sooner or later: How to navigate stakeholder management in employer branding.

My name is Susanna Rantanen, and I am a business coach specialising in people branding and talent marketing. I also work as a strategic employer branding consultant at Employer Branding Agency Emine.

This podcast is for those who want to learn how to build employer brands that attract and retain the talents the business needs for success.

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Four main stakeholders’ groups in employer branding

I understand that gaining buy-in from your management and marketing or communications departments for your employer branding plans can be daunting.

But fret not because today, I’ll share some strategies and insights to help you navigate this crucial aspect of your job.

Before we dive into the strategies I have in mind, let’s identify the key stakeholders expecting to be involved in your employer branding initiatives. 

Stakeholders’ Group 1: HR and Talent Acquisition

This includes you and your team or those in your team responsible for crafting and implementing employer branding strategies. Internally and externally.

Stakeholders’ Group 2: Management

Your top-level executives and leadership team must approve budget allocations and strategic direction. When you work strategically in employer branding, your employer branding strategy must align with those strategic business needs that tie in with talent attraction and retention. 

Knowing what strategic plans and focus areas the business has for the upcoming years is vital in employer branding, as we are talking about a long-term game and paving the way for future success much more than today’s recruitment campaigns. 

This is an area I cannot emphasise enough because most companies are going through changes, which may have a pivotal impact on what type of talent the business needs in the coming years. Many HR have been surprised about the significant changes those organisational and business strategic changes have had on the future talent profiles.

If you continue to build an employer brand based on outdated expectations and needs, you’ll be in trouble, and you won’t even find that out until it’s too late and changing the course may take another couple of years! Planning ahead is much more business-critical in employer branding than in talent acquisition.

Becoming known as your toplevel executives’ and leadership teams’ strategic advisor in employer branding might be the best career move you’ll ever make.

Stakeholders’ Group 3: Marketing and Communications Department

They play a pivotal role in translating your branding efforts into compelling narratives and visual content. 

In many cases, they also own the social media channels, company blogs and career site and gatekeep what content are going to be published and when.

Unfortunately, many marketing and communications departments are still almost clueless when it comes to employer branding and without a really good collaborative and respectful relationship, I have witnessed them turning into major roadblocks for employer branding.

Thankfully, we have plenty of really great examples as well.

For example, a client of ours, Rejlers Finland, has a really well-working employer branding collaboration between HR, talent acquisition, marketing and communications, with the VP of Marketing having also made sure top management is involved. I’m sure they will succeed in employer branding for years to come!

Another great example of a really successful marketing & employer branding collaboration is at Sweco Finland, which operates in the same market as Rejlers. These two organisations are wonderful examples of employer branding collaboration that is fun, effortless and successful.

And since, I am talking about these two wonderful organisations already, dropping in Granlund, another employer in the same industry, is a third striking example.

They all have positioned strongly as unique employers and organisations in the same industry with excellent stakeholder management and successful collaboration.

Stakeholders’ Group 4: Employees

One of the biggest mistakes in employer branding is either not to involve your people in the strategy process or not to have a strategy process at all and pushing all the responsibility on the people. Neither works.

Employees’ buy-in is also key even though they are not sitting on the budget or your social media channels. 

However, employer branding is a difficult job if you are not getting anyone else to contribute to it.  Your employees are not advocating because they don’t recognize your EVP, your messages and desired employer brand perceptions.

If they are not sharing their content ideas and expertise with you, what will you post about?

At best, they give you peer information, help promote your messages and grow your audience, and contribute to various tasks in the ways that suit them the best.

4 vital strategies for getting stakeholders’ buy-in in employer branding

#1 Building the business case for stakeholders’ buy-in

Let’s move on to the first strategy – building a robust business case for your employer branding initiatives. 

To gain buy-in from your management, marketing, and communications departments, you must demonstrate how the planned employer branding efforts directly align with the organisation’s goals and bottom line.

And this is precisely why you need to adopt an employer brand manager’s role in its truest sense. An employer branding manager is a managerial role in which strategic skills and a goal-driven working style are essential. It is impossible to get the management buy-in without a business-first approach. 

The only thing the management cares about is how this will help us win our business battles, deliver business success and provide for a healthy organisation.

They will also tell you we will not increase our costs unless you can deliver a return on that investment. Return on investment means that when they put in tenfold, they get more back instead of losing the 20.

In employer branding, return on investment means measurable internal and external impact in the form of things like:

  • Decrease in overall recruitment costs because we are more well-known and more attractive than before and don’t have to advertise and source candidates like before.
  • A shorter time to hire getting those new employees in and also faster in productive work. Employer branding has generated a talent audience that trusts and is attracted to us as an employer. And as they actively follow us, they are not missing our recruitment posts.
  • When the recruitment processes are faster, we can get those employees faster to work, which means we can sell more or take in more work, and that positively impacts our cashflow.
  • When we advocate, clarify and storify our change process, the benefits of it and what the future will look like for our employees, we experience less retention and stop losing our key talents even if we are going through a lot of organisational changes at this time.

In my experience, it’s crucial to show management numbers. You can start with the current recruitment challenges, such as high turnover rates or difficulties in attracting top talent.

You can use data to highlight how a strong employer brand can mitigate these issues and save the organisation money in the long run.

Their key struggles and real pain points when it comes to people are retention and attraction.

When you can build a business case on employer branding, helping to eliminate those pain points, they will immediately become curious and interested. And most importantly, provides you with resources that deliver business value instead of meaningless vanity value.

Check out episode 149, where my guest Tammy Alvarez gives plenty of advice on stakeholder management!

This 18-page eBook will clarify six key roles in talent marketing, including the employer brand manager’s role. Hopefully, it helps you to develop in this role to support you in getting that buy-in and becoming their trusted employer branding advisor!

#2 Facilitating collaborative workshos for stakeholders’ buy-in

The next strategy involves hosting collaborative workshops with your marketing team. These workshops can help bridge the gap between HR and marketing, ensuring that your employer branding plans are understood and effectively communicated.

At Employer Branding Agency Emine, collaborative workshops play an important role in our offer as well, especially when we do strategy work for our clients.

The more you get your marketing, communications, talent acquisition, team leaders and employees representing the key target audiences involved, the easier it will be to collaborate and get their advocation later on with all of these parties.

People like to be involved and included and share their voices and not just that.

Such collaborative workshops are also an excellent learning experience. Everyone tends to look at things from their own perspectives and angles, but discussing shared topics from multiple perspectives teaches you a lot!

Collaboration is key.

By involving the marketing and communications teams, employees, and team leads in the planning process, they can help you define your strategic focus areas, ensure you have the accurate angles represented and media covered and help you create compelling content that resonates with your target audience. This collaboration not only ensures alignment but also sparks creativity.

#3 Providing clear communication and education in stakeholder management

The third strategy emphasises the importance of clear communication and education.

It’s essential to provide your management, marketing and communications departments with the information they need to comprehend the value of employer branding fully. 

Don’t assume everyone understands what employer branding is. Because they most likely don’t.

The management probably has no idea, even if they do recognise the term.

Also, don’t be fooled by marketing and communications knowing employer branding. Just because they are experts in some areas of marketing, advertising and communications does not mean they are the experts of employer branding. 

Your stakeholders are probably not experts in employer branding

Having worked in HR and talent marketing for over 20 years and having BA Hons in marketing management and PR, I’m still not an expert in, let’s say, media relations, investor relations or consumer marketing, not even Google advertising. 

I specialise in employer branding, recruitment marketing and internal communications early on. As an entrepreneur and business owner, I’m also very experienced in personal branding, content marketing, social media marketing and how to brand a service business.

Just like employer branding, these are all special areas of expertise in marketing and communication. Excelling in one does not make you automatically an expert in another. 

Becoming an expert needs lots of hours to be put in. That’s why it is very okay to share your own experiences and knowledge with your marketing and communication’s colleagues.

I have met many full-blown consumer brand experts who do not understand employer branding at all. And equally, I can say that I am not an expert in consumer brand marketing. But I am one of the best employer branding experts in the world.

Clear communication and education are crucial to stakeholder management success. Take the time to educate your stakeholders.

Susanna Rantanen

Clear communication and education are crucial to stakeholder management success. Take the time to educate your stakeholders. But I would not approach your marketing and communications colleagues, dissing their expected or potential lack of employer branding knowledge. It’s not going to sit well with them. And this I say based on a very long experience in operating in between HR and marketing.

Instead, approach them with wanting to share notes on what you have on employer branding and this unique target audience of job seekers and employees and what they have on multichannel marketing, content marketing and social media to come up with the best plan together.

Provide them with case studies and real-world examples of organisations that have benefited from strong employer branding. Many of my podcast episodes have been super helpful to my audience. 

#4 Measuring and reporting ROI for your stakeholders’ buy-in

Last but not least, we have measuring and reporting ROI. Once your employer branding initiatives are underway, it’s vital to track their impact and share the results with your stakeholders.

Having tangible data on the success of your employer branding efforts is a powerful tool.

Share metrics like improved application conversion rates, decreased time-to-hire and decreased overall cost of hire, increased employee engagement and improved retention as examples. These numbers speak for themselves.

In conclusion, successfully managing stakeholders in employer branding involves building a compelling business case, fostering collaboration, clear communication, educating your stakeholders, and measuring and reporting ROI.

Remember that this process is ongoing, and as your initiatives evolve, so will your strategies for gaining buy-in.

Ok, that’s all for this week, my friends! 

Thank you for tuning in. Don’t forget to subscribe, leave a review, and share this episode with your HR and employer branding colleagues. 

Stay tuned for more insightful episodes on mastering the employer branding edge!

My name is Susanna Rantanen, and I’m your guide to building the modern and Magnetic Employer Brand!

Until next week!

Moi moi!

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