#185 Discussing Employer Branding Career Path Triumphs and Challenges with Guest Maiju Karppinen

Blog header #185 Discussing Employer Branding Career Path Triumphs and Challenges with Guest Maiju Karppinen  - Building a modern, magnetic employer brand podcast with Susanna Rantanen

If you are growing an appetite for an employer branding career path, this episode continues to tickle your fancy!

In this week’s Building a Modern Employer Branding podcast episode, Nora and I speak with Maiju Karppinen about her employer branding career path, what inspires her and how she juggles her HR Business Partner role aside from working weekly in employer branding.

Maiju works for one of our clients, Airbus Defence and Space Finland, and the three of us have worked together closely since early 2023 when we created their employer branding strategy based on the Magnetic Employer Branding Method™️.

In August 2023, the three of us formed an employer branding team and Nora and I have supported Maiju in building, learning and maintaining a consistent employer brand marketing process with pretty outstanding results and impact.

We discuss Maiju’s career path into employer branding, how she juggles all her responsibilities while maintaining weekly employer brand marketing chores and what it feels like working so closely with an external employer branding agency.

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Who is Maiju Karppinen, and how did she end up on an employer brand career path?

Maiju Karppinen works as an HR Business Partner at Airbus Defence and Space in Finland. For the past four years already, Maiju has been working in an in-house HR role in a multinational work environment within the IT-sector.

Aside from employer branding for Airbus, Maiju is also responsible for supporting managers and employees with many practical HR matters during the employee life cycle, employee engagement and performance management.

A big chunk of Maiju’s time goes now also on employer branding, more specifically on executing their Magnetic Employer Branding strategy through content and social media marketing and following their specific employer brand marketing KPIs.

Maiju has a Master of Social Sciences in social psychology. But she tells us she didn’t really know what to specialise in until her path led her to study HR at Stockholm University. After returning to her native Finland, she soon started to work in HR and communications at Airbus Finland.

Her employer branding career path started as a ‘ bit of an accident’ as the opportunity presented itself. She then started to dig and dive more information about employer branding and got really excited to learn more.

Maiju’s most important lessons so far during her employer branding career path

We asked Maiju if her view on employer branding has changed as she’s dived deeper and deeper into employer branding collaborating with us.

#1 Building the employer brand strategically and systematically

“It’s safe to say I’ve learned a lot. So it has also shaped my perception of employer branding, and working with you has taught me many things. However, maybe the most important lesson I’ve learned is how to build an employer brand strategically and systematically. So that’s my number one highlight of our journey with you”, Maiju says.

#2 Learning employer branding more from the marketing and communications side

“Because you can approach employer branding from so many different aspects, like you can see it as marketing, you can see it as communications. And I had, obviously, because of my background and my role, I had a really typical HR focus. So now to get to learn from you also more from the marketing and communication side.”

“It’s something that has been new to me, and it has changed the way that I see employer branding. It has been really, really interesting”, Maiju says.

#3 Learning how to work with and utilize data

Another key takeaway for Maiju has been working with employer brand marketing data.

“One additional key takeaway is that with you, we work a lot with employer branding, like the data. That was something I did not utilise to the extent that we do nowadays. So that’s also one very important factor of this journey and the key lessons”, Maiju adds.

And, Maiju loves her data!

“I do like the data to the point that it’s almost a bit problematic because I go into LinkedIn and Instagram a bit too often to see how the posts are performing! I keep a very close eye on the reactions, engagements, and impressions that we get. But it’s also good because I can sell it forward in the company”, Maiju explains.

We often discuss how rewarding it is to work with employer branding data because employer branding is like a marathon; marketing data is the only way to get regular feedback and know that you are doing the right things that keep you on the path towards your employer branding goals and objectives.

“It’s really rewarding. Obviously, we’ve had really great numbers, very exceptional numbers, maybe even. So yeah, it gets you hooked”, Maiju says.

#4 Seeing how data can reveal target audience behaviour and interests

We also discuss the importance of getting to know about your target audience, their interests and behaviour through data and conversations on posts.

“We can learn from how our audiences behave on our posts. That really reflects our decisions as we go forward and decide what we are going to post; how are we going to plan the post, what are the messages, are they [the messages] working and what’s not working”, Susanna explains.

And continues: “And those comments also have a lot of information for us. It’s important to look at the comments, read them, encourage people to comment more, comment back, and have those conversations. Those conversations in the comments are the most important way on LinkedIn to boost the algorithm to show it [the post] organically even more. And I think that we’ve been very successful in that, thanks to your Airbus Finland employees.”

#5 How to get employees engage with the employer branding posts and content

One of the most common challenges in employer branding is getting employees to engage with and contribute to employer branding. One of the biggest reasons employees are not engaging with employer branding is because it isn’t based on their authentic experiences or there is no clear strategy and plan to contribute to.

With Airbus Finland, we’ve experienced how the consistency of work and the marketing pattern we have implemented have resulted in the employees seeing more clearly how they can participate. Now, more and more employees are asking Maiju how they can become part of employer branding stories.

“Going back to the comments that we see on especially LinkedIn. It’s so rewarding because, on an emotional level, the people like the posts, and they want to engage. And that gives me the feeling that we are really successful in what we do because they want to interact with us through the posts”, Maiju says.

Going back to Maiju’s experiences on how we started building the employer brand for Airbus Finland

Our collaboration began in early 2023 with the creation of Airbus Finland’s employer branding strategy, which followed our Magnetic Employer Branding Method™️. Now, the day-to-day work is focused on implementing the systematic employer branding routines and the process and executing the employer brand communications plan every week.

Susanna: “Can you remember what you expected the execution, this day-to-day work that we do to be like? Were you scared about how you’re going to fit this into your schedule of all your other commitments at work?”

Maiju: “Yeah, for sure. I can maybe answer this question from two different angles. First of all, I came to this whole collaboration with the mindset of having an empty canvas because I heard earlier that you guys at Emine are the best there is in Finland. So, I also wanted to absorb all the knowledge I could get from you.”

“So, it was a bit intentional, not having that many expectations going into it, because I was just curious to see what happens, what we actually do, and so on. But yeah, when we started the implementation, I was a bit worried about how much time it would require for me. I was a bit nervous about how I would find the time for it, among other responsibilities. So yeah, you’re completely right there.”

Surprising angles discovered so far

“But it came as a positive surprise that the implementation and the content creation don’t need to be that time-consuming. So obviously, it comes down to the strategy, and we have a plan in place. So, it helps us a lot with the time we need to invest in the actual implementation phase. So yeah, it has been a bit easier than I first thought if you think about it”, Maiju says.

Maiju: “I was really interested in the implementation phase, but I was also positively surprised by how fun it is, like how much I actually enjoy it. I love that I get to be so creative. I love that I get to work with our colleagues or my colleagues internally at Airbus. So it doesn’t feel like work. And that’s something that I’m like super, super excited and happy about!”

Does following the employer branding plan limit Maiju or the company?

Susanna: “Talk to us about your personal views and experiences of working with the plan [the Magnetic Employer Branding Method’s content and communication plan]. Is it limiting you or what do you think?”

Maiju: “No, I think that because the plan that we have as a base is so comprehensive. We have a huge backlog of content ideas. So I think it’s actually not limiting, but more inspiring. You can go to our communication plan, start scrolling, and start seeing, like, okay, what would I like to do next? What would be nice to implement today?”

“So I really haven’t thought that the plan would be limiting in any way. Obviously, during this journey, so we have been posting or doing the implementation phase for approximately nine months now. So obviously, at times, we have been a bit flexible. We have also come up with ideas outside of the plan. So it’s not like they would be entirely off the radar, so to say”, Maiju explains.

“But with every post we’ve done outside the actual content plan, we’ve still still found a way to link it to the strategy, and I think that’s the key, and that’s something that you guys are really, really good at, and you guys have been helping me a lot with that. And then at times, I have been taking, like maybe with Instagram stories, I have been taking some freedom and posting something not asking from you in advance, so at times, I do go a little bit, you know, outside the box in terms of that”, she adds.

Adopting the role of an Employer Branding news anchor and reporter

We also discuss how Maiju has felt about showing her own face in some of the employer branding posts and why she has sometimes felt her face is seen too often.

Susanna: “I have to tell our audience that Maiju, who deserves all the attention for her great work in employer branding for her organisation, is quite timid in showing her face. So, I have not always asked for your permission to post about you because we know you would say no, feeling your face has been there too much. Yet we knew it was the right time to do that kind of post about you, so we just posted without asking.”

Maiju: “I’ve been thinking a lot about the brand’s authenticity. And then I’ve been also thinking a lot about, okay, how often my face is visible on our pages and does it affect the authenticity in some way? So maybe that’s like the key problem, so to say that I have been facing with this”, Maiju wonders.

“But then you have been encouraging me a little bit that it’s fine and that our employer brand would not be too linked to me as a person even though I would be there every now and then with my voice on the post” she adds.

Susanna: “I don’t think there is anything to worry about as long as you are the actual hero of that post. But then it’s also about you being the broadcaster of your organisation, kind of like the news anchor for employer branding.”

“It’s your face, but it’s not about you. You are telling something about your organisation and letting your audience into your employer branding story in a way that you’re just being like a news reporter. I think that it’s important to differentiate that”, Susanna continues.

Maiju: “That’s very well phrased. So that’s precisely what it is about. But it doesn’t help that you’re modest; you also have a modest personality because at this work, you sometimes need to take the space and so on. So that’s also something we have been working on with you.”

Nora: “And you have developed in that massively during the year.”

Maiju’s experiences of working so closely and untypically with an employer branding agency

Susanna: “Let’s jump into a different kind of topic. I wanted to ask you about your experiences working so closely with us at our agency because I think the way we work is very untypical in the HR world. We’ve actually formed our little employer branding team together where we work side by side equally. Cn you talk to us about your experience on our collaboration?”

Maiju: “Yeah, sure. And maybe, the background to our listeners, I have an amazing team also internally and an amazing HR team. I have four amazing colleagues who I get to work with on a weekly basis. But I almost work more with you, Susanna and Nora than with my internal colleagues at times, especially since I have more contact with you.”

“I think that really tells how tight the collaboration between us is. So you can say that basically, on a daily basis, we work together, and if our listeners have been following any of us on social media, I’m sure that they have noticed that the collaboration between us three is just something really magical. So it has been really easy to work with you, and I think we work really well as a team”, Maiju says.

The back story to how everything began

Maiju: “About two years ago, we realised that we needed an external partner, and we really needed your expertise to succeed in crafting an employer brand. And one of the reasons why we work quite tightly and why you also take up a lot of my workload regarding this topic is that it makes it possible for me to focus on other areas internally.”

The benefits to Maiju’s employer branding career path of working like this

“But I’d still say that the biggest benefit I’ve received from our collaboration is related to the way you work. This is something that I’ve said many times before, and I’m going to say it many times in the future as well: You’re not only partnering with me to create a strategy for the company and create content. You’re like coaching, inspiring, and encouraging me to do better. There is no form of gatekeeping. You guys are so open and eager to share your knowledge. And it has really helped me to develop a lot as a professional”, Maiju adds.

“I would definitely say that it’s really, it has been really, really valuable to have the external partner, to have someone outside of the company with a different view and a different kind of expertise to work on the topic. So it has been really, really beneficial. And what I also like is that you really also challenge me, you push me in a very positive way. You can be a bit demanding. So it really helped me to reach those new levels in my work and in my role” Maiju says.

The agency view on why our collaboration has been so fruitful

Susanna: “We have a special collaboration. I would say that this would be possible with any of our clients. It’s not something we would only like to give you intentionally, but I think what makes this so special is you, to be honest.”

#1 You trust us without a doubt

“As the client, you give back, and you trust us. And in the beginning, when you said that you have this, that you came into this with this like an open canvas, I think that that is one of the key reasons why we have been so successful together, not just the three of us, but also your colleagues at the company”, Susanna explains.

#2 There are zero gates or barries between the client and the agency

“If we’ve ever had any obstacles with other clients, it had to do with not being so open, not letting us in, not absorbing everything that we give to our clients and limiting the willingness to listen to what we recommend to work. And I think that has probably been some of the reasons why with some of our clients we haven’t been so successful. They have sort of put these barriers up and did not want to take in everything that we offered. But you haven’t done that. You have been so open and so motivated to work side by side with us”, Susanna adds.

“I’m not saying that you have done everything that we have recommended or suggested because there have been areas where it wasn’t possible or there was a company rule or something had to be changed. Which is totally normal and totally acceptable, but still, we’ve worked around those and made sure that whatever is not possible, we discuss how it could be made possible within your organisation’s boundaries”, Susanna says.

#3 Maiju is super motivated and committed to this work

“I think that [Maiju’s behaviour as a client] has been very exceptional. It is so open, transparent, and trusting in both ways. We’ve also had these experiences with some other clients. And those are always the times when we feel like the work becomes so meaningful for us, too, because we feel like we matter, we matter to you, and that’s equally important to us as it is for you”, she adds.

How Maiju fits such consistent employer branding work into her schedule

Susanna: “How do you fit everything [you are responsible for], and how much time would you say that you spend your week in Employer Branding?”

Maiju: “I have been very lucky in a way that my employer and my manager have allowed me to invest a lot of my time in this topic. So actually, my scope of responsibilities was a bit wider when we started this work, but we were able to reorganise our team a little bit which allowed me to invest more time on this [employer branding].”

Giving the for the inspiration

“It’s a bit difficult maybe to say how much time I spend on this weekly, because even though you recommend it, I haven’t scheduled specific time slots for this work, because I really try to build on those moments when I actually feel really inspired to do it, because I think that it’s then also visible in the work that I do”, Maiju explains.

Being flexible and prepared

“But I say that maybe one of the key things here is that working with you is pretty flexible. So whenever I have the time for it, some weeks I may put more effort into it. Meaning that during some weeks, we might prepare a little bit like a bigger social media publication backlog. And it carries us during those weeks when I have a lot of something else and my focus is elsewhere”, Maiju continues.

“And then, when the other topics ease up a little bit, then I’ll get back to the employer branding topic and then we start again. But there is that flexibility, and it [time spent on a weekly basis] fluctuates a little bit”, Maiju tells.

Finding the balance and keeping it fun

“For me, it has been about finding that kind of balance and thinking a bit beforehand or planning a bit in advance so that we are prepared when life throws something urgent onto my plate. So maybe that’s one of the key things. But if you really want a number, I don’t know what I would say on a weekly basis.. From one to two days a week.. But I also want to say that I don’t want this to sound like I underestimate the time or effort that it needs to be able to succeed with this. So it does take hours weekly, but somehow, I’ve managed to find that balance between this and other duties. And maybe partly because it’s so fun to do this. I truly enjoy it and I want to do it as well”, Maiju concludes.

The benefits of such a systematic method for planning the time spent

Susanna: “The purpose of having that plan and having this systematic process of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it helps save time.”

Maiju: “Exactly.”

Susanna: “So it’s very systematic, and the consistency is possible because we have a plan, and we have a structure, and we have this routine. We have scheduled slots every single week when we post. That helps each of us to keep this flow and this motion.”

“But, we wouldn’t be able to do this with you or your organisation, for our other clients, for our own brand, if we didn’t have that kind of a systematic approach to it that helps us. So that’s one of the values” Susanna says.

What about triumps and challenges in your employer branding career path?

Susanna: “Every journey has its triumphs and its challenges. Have you struggled or faced challenges while building the employer brand and your employer branding career path? Or, what are your key victories?

#1 Being awarded already

Maiju: “Maybe I’ll start with the victories. So, well, being awarded in the Magnet Awards this year was something that I didn’t even like there to wish for. However, I must say that the truly rewarding moments have been when I’ve been working with our internal employees and seeing how excited and engaged they are to participate.”

#2 Positive feedback internally

“I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback internally, and I always send you screenshots about it, so I share a lot of that with you as well. But really seeing like that the work we do is really meaningful for also for our employees that’s really rewarding, so I’ve been able to create a channel where I get to give the spotlight and the positive feedback and the moment of glory to our talent heroes. And I think that has been the most rewarding for me, like personally”, Maiju says.

#3 Keeping up with my part for you to do yours

“And then I must be maybe a bit boring to say that I don’t really come up with any major struggles. Like, obviously, at times you have that stress that, okay, I need to do my part for you to do yours. So there is, at times, this kind of a.. I wouldn’t say pressure or stress, but maybe that’s the most challenging thing. But I don’t see that as anything too major. I think it has been smooth sailing. Although, of course, I’ve needed to put in some effort to get even more internal buy-in. But yeah, as I said, smooth sailing. And I’ve been very lucky in terms of that as well. I think the time was quite right for us to start working on the brand considering the feedback.”

#4 The uniting role of employer branding during Airbus Finland’s business transformation

Susanna: “It looks to me like it [employer branding] has had some uniting role during the transformation that your business is going because, you know, transformation is always hard. All the changes that are going on and the uncertainties. I guess, during a transformation time, you can’t really communicate enough and still, some people feel like I have no idea why we’re transforming or what’s happening in my role next.”

“I kind of feel that this [work] has had some kind of a like a reminding effect to your people that even though you’re going through a massive change in the business, like look at everything that we’re doing together and what we’ve achieved.”

Maiju: “Thank you.”

Nora: “Since you mentioned the internal buy-in, I think that’s an important aspect of employer branding. And I think it’s the beauty of it that you can change the opinions and perspectives of people, even though you face resistance at first. That is very common that people might be a bit suspicious at first, but when they learn what employer branding is, what we are aiming for and why they are playing an important role in building the employer brand, the opinions often change.”

What are Maiju’s ambitions for her employer branding career path?

Susanna: “All right, last question before we set you all to your jobs. What ambitions do you have for your own employer branding career path, or career in general?”

Maiju: “That’s a tricky question. It’s a fun question. But yes, I do have ambitions. I do have aspirations. Obviously, I want to develop myself as an HR professional or even maybe a marketing or comms professional.”

“I want to take my career to new levels, but maybe circling back to where we started this podcast episode. My philosophy regarding this is also closely linked to what we already discussed. So, I believe that good things come and that you cannot plan or don’t need to plan for everything. So I’ll be happy to open doors to interesting opportunities whenever they present themselves. So I don’t plan too much in advance.”

“I’m eager to see what life has to offer. Obviously, for now, I’m really eager to continue building on the brand and making it even more intriguing to both our internal and external talent audiences. There’s still so much to learn in terms of employer branding. So, I surely hope that’s something I get to continue with in the future as well”, Maiju says.

How to connect with Maiju and follow our employer branding work for Airbus Finland

Susanna: “Wonderful. All right, if anybody in our audience wants to connect with you, what’s the best way to connect with you on social media?”

Maiju: “Yes, I would be happy to connect. So LinkedIn is probably the best channel. So you’ll find me there with my name, Maiju Karppinen. One humble wish is that maybe someday I will also get to pass forward the knowledge that I’ve received now during this work that we have been doing. So I would be very happy to, you know, connect, share more of my story, share more of Airbus’s story to help others in similar situations as well. So, yeah, feel free to send me a contact request.”

Susanna: “Thank you, Maiju, for sharing your employer branding career path so far! Thank you, Nora, for co-hosting with me! That’s all for this week. As a reminder, I’m going to go on a little hiatus with this podcast so that I can finish the book [on Magnetic Employer Branding Method™️ out later this autumn]. I hope not to make it too long. I should be back after the summer at the latest. But until then, keep listening and keep connecting and having conversations with the three of us on social media. Thank you, everybody, and moi moi!”

Connect with Maiju Karppinen on LinkedIn >

Follow Airbus Finland on LinkedIn >

Follow Life at Airbus Finland on Instagram >

Follow us at Emine on Instagram >

Learn about Nora’s employer branding career path here >

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