The ownership of the employer brand has become somewhat of a power struggle inside organizations.
It’s no longer just a debate.
In some organizations, marketing and HR are going on it like cats and dogs.
I addressed this topic earlier in my podcast when I spoke about who gets to decide how the employer branding budget is used.
Who owns employer brand?
When I ask around who owns employer brand, many people respond: “Everyone”.
Which is kind of quite right, but then it isn’t.
When someone says “everyone in the organization”, they actually mean:
Everyone in the organization is expected to contribute to the delivery of the brand promise.
However, not everyone can take the ownership of what the brand is.
Simply because not everyone has the required knowledge, relevant experience, or motivation to own the employer brand.
Nor is it written in everyone’s job descriptions or defined as the goals of their work.
How do you expect someone to care about the employer brand if it isn’t their primary job?
Furthermore, what if the organization is not contributing to the successful delivery of the employer brand?
Who is expected to step in to lead the change?
There is always a specific person who has the reigns on the employer brand: the employer brand manager.
The role of the employer brand manager
Employer brand manager is an actual role.
Employer brand manager is responsible for the overall employer brand perceptions of the organization.
And just like any managerial role, it comes with plenty of expectations and responsibilities.
- In the more junior role, the management responsibility concerns developing and sustaining a specific employer brand image.
- The more experienced employer brand managers work in more demanding talent markets with very challenging goals. Their managerial responsibility covers also employer brand team or talent marketing team leadership role.
The basic expectation for someone owning the employer brand is that they know what is the purpose of employer branding and how to deliver sustainable employer branding value to the business.
And not just any perceptions, but specific perceptions that strengthen the business and grow competitive advantage.
Why businesses need an employer brand manager?
The key value of clear employer brand ownership is having a plan.
Plan gives the business and the contributors clarity for what we need to achieve with the available resources.
When we have a plan, we know when to say yes and when we kindly refuse even if it was a fun idea. It’s just not an idea that helps deliver the expected employer brand value.
This plan is the blueprint to delivering the kind of employer brand value that grows the company’s competitive advantage and helps the company to deliver the business goals.
Unless someone owns employer branding, no one is responsible for it.Susanna Rantanen
When no one owns employer branding, there is no plan. Without a plan you don’t know what you are aiming to achieve.
Employer branding without a plan is a waste of businesses time and other resources
Employer branding without a plan is a bunch of ad hoc and random acts of marketing.
The problem with random acts is that entire marketing turns into illogical activities confusing the audience and leading nowhere. There is no key message that binds all the messages together.
Unfortunately, that kind of marketing costs the same but delivers no value. Simply, because it doesn’t work.
Lack of employer brand ownership burns out contributors
Employer branding without a clear purpose has another problem too. It leads to contributors burning out,
We all know how everyone has an opinion, request, idea and an expectation for employer branding and every single one of them is also “a priority”.
When no one owns the employer brand, contributors cannot really decline, organize or manage these requests in any sound manner.
Ask the marketing department how much work it takes to create a marketing strategy, plan the implementation and then lead the delivery of marketing goals and objectives.
The person who owns your company’s marketing strategy will tell you it is a full time job they were hired to ace. If they don’t succeed in delivering the job, company management will replace the marketing lead.
That’s why marketing doesn’t have the time to immerse themselves in employer branding.
If no one has time, you don’t have a clear idea of what you are supposed to achieve. Not do, to achieve.
Without a clear idea of the expected employer brand value, working on the operative level gets quite stressful.
I’m sure many of us are familiar with how difficult it is to regularly come up with new content ideas if you don’t know what your employer brand is supposed to be.
What exactly are the responsibilities of an employer brand manager?
The purpose of this role is to build, establish and manage a distinct, memorable employer brand image that attracts relevant talents at a systematic pace closer to the business.
Employer branding is like planting the seeds, growing the plant and nurturing it until starts blooming and is ready to be picked.
When your employer brand marketing audience start blooming, employer brand marketing moves them to your recruitment team.
The value of the overall employer branding work is quantified, measured and delivered in economically meaningful returns to the business.
Creating campaigns to help recruiting is not employer branding. Marketing is probably a more useful help when you need a good promotional recruitment campaign, but brand marketing is very different kind of marketing.
Key responsibilities when owning employer branding
Owning employer branding is the management of:
- desired perceptions accumulating through multiple touchpoint between the organization and target audience
- key messages turned into content, posts and collateral
- interactions online and offline
- budgeting and resourcing
- the value returned back to the business from the investment to employer brand marketing
The more experienced you become, the more you want to learn working strategically and with a plan. And the more you realize the power of strategic planning & implementation, the more you realize how that effects the resources.
When you start delivering business value from employer branding, the management of your company becomes interested. And that often leads to growing the team because the bosses get hungry for more employer brand value.
Why is it important to permanent the responsibility to someone specific?
If no one owns it, no one cares about it.
Like with everything in life, when you invest time and sweat into something, you expect results.
If you don’t own the whole process, you don’t take the responsibility over the outcome.
Not everyone has the knowledge how to run a business or how to build a brand.
And not everyone should.
If everyone spent their working hours studying how to run a business and build an employer brand, no one would actually be running the business, doing the work nor building the employer brand.
The general debate-turned-power-struggle tends to circle between marketing, HR and maybe communications.
I’m saying, it’s not that much about the department than it is about the person who has the motivation deliver the employer brand value.
And because the generation of the employer brand value is a long game, no project nor a campaign is going to deliver it. You have to commit. To a marathon.
Is this person working in the marketing department?
Does someone in the communications have the motivation?
Or is it HR and talent acquisition as they are closest to losing or at least hurting without a compelling employer brand?
Of course, anyone could have the motivation.
The specific knowledge and motivation required from the Employer brand manager
Let’s list what exactly are the special knowledge and the sources of motivation fueling this person.
Employer brand manager is required to:
- know the talent target audience by heart
- stay updated on their audiences’ behavior and needs driving their career related decision making
- keep taps on the talent market environment, the trends and current affairs, including key competition
- consistently return relevant employer brand value back to the business
To succeed in this role, this person needs to:
- understand what the business needs from these talents
- where the business is going and how that impacts the talent related needs and dialogue
- know what talent marketing strategy makes most sense for the business
- understand what employer brand value is and how to set the right goals for the employer brand marketing
- use effective communication and modern marketing techniques to build the employer brand image
- have time and motivation to build relationships with the target audience
Depending on the employer brand goals and expected ROI, this can be a full time job.
And if it isn’t, it still isn’t campaigns and projects. Ever.
Who in your organization is motivated, driven and committed enough to executing the strategic employer brand marketing plan?
I just don’t see this happening at most marketing or communication departments I’ve worked with in my career. And not so much because of the skills, but because of the lack of talent audience insight.
Furthermore, marketing and communication departments are rarely that excited about employer branding because they tend have more compelling challenges in the consumer or B2B side.
But I don’t see this happening either at most HR departments I know.
While HR sits on a massive pile of target audience insight, people who end up loving HR are seldom carved for strategic marketing and communication.
So who the heck should own the employer brand?
Definitely not marketing and communications.
Sorry to be so blunt, but if marketing or comms department owns employer branding, it will never become more than a project of creating collateral. And that as said, is not employer branding.
Employer brand value is never generated through some collateral, a campaign or any other little project.
Branding is not a synonym to advertising.
Marketing and communication are far too busy with their real responsibilities of helping the business to sell and take care of public relations and reputation.
They should not be even bothered with strategic or tactical employer branding because it takes away the time they could use for generating business marketing value.
New function: Talent Marketing & Communication
In my opinion, there should be a new function under HR in close collaboration with marketing and communications called talent marketing & communication.
Why under HR?
The answer is simple.
All marketing and communication are executed for the purpose of impacting specific audiences.
The most important element in all talent marketing and communications is the target audience: the talents as in the people the business needs to hire and retain.
No other motivation or a skill is more important than the utter interest in understanding what moves people when they view the world as a job seeker or an employee in different stages of life and phases of their career.
Knowing your audience comes first.
You can learn how to communicate and use various marketing means and techniques for distributing your message.
But unless you know your audience, you don’t know how to communicate your company’s key messages in ways that make the messages relevant to your audience.
And unless you are driven to influence the target audience beneath their surface it’s hard to get much value out of any marketing.
All marketing people know how important it is to know your audience. Ask anyone and they will tell you this.
What most marketing people don’t think about is that when the consumer or the B2B buyer puts on their career cap the decision making reasons change.
The person who owns employer branding must simply be compelled to figure out how.