Why does brand matter? BMW Group Australia provides a clear example of the power of branding. Recent research from Australian universities on the top brands that IT and engineering graduates want to work for ranked BMW as ninth out of 500 companies. Ironically, BMW has not hired IT or engineering graduates for the past five years – but such is the power of the BMW brand.
Challenges for government departments and agencies
Businesses in these categories face unique challenges. How do they remain under the government umbrella but still stand out from the pack? The expertsHC contacted had several solutions:
* “For government, that’s where your culture becomes so important. How do you capture that culture in a way that attracts the people you want? That’s where you talk about the type ofplace it is, the type of people doing well and how does the culture delivers on the promise. Some of the government agencies that have done well on this are things like the TV show Border Security. That’s great brand work for customs. They’ve gone out of being cardigan-wearing folk out in the back rooms to the frontline of defence for Australia. That says something about their culture – it’s that culture of really doing something different and such an important job. Australia Post is thesame – the culture is so important because everyone knows what Australia Post does, but how do you attract people to something like that?” – Justin Papps
* “The first thing is they have the goal wrong. Why would you want to stand out from other government departments? Surely you should stick together and present a common face of government. As a single entity you’ve got a far more attractive proposition to put to people than individual outlets. “As to how they decide what it is they offer, Main Roads WA is a good example. You can say good things about most organisations – you’ve just got to find out what they are. You must remember you’re not going to appeal to everyone in the world. You won’t appeal to 17 years olds as well as a 35 year old guy with a family and mortgage. They all have different employment drivers. Through internal research we found the main reason why engineers chose to work at Main Roads was pride in building something of lasting value. They are building these icons around the state that improve people’s lives every day. They have a strong connection with the community. It’s higher purpose stuff that makes you proud; they’re not selling training or salaries, but rather an emotional connection with our environment as an EVP. Government can lay claim to these things that the private sector really can’t – the private sector is about making money; government is about improving people’s lives, and if we can tap into that there’s a much better emotional story to tell.”- Mike Beeley
1. Assess if you are in shape to compete in a tough market for the rare talent that you need to be competitive.
2. Develop an EVP that suits your organisation and its culture.
3. Define and articulate your EVP.
4. Maximise the marketing dollars that your company uses and leverage this into your employment brand.
5. Upgrade your website and ensure it truly reflects your EVP.
6. Start the alignment process ensuring strategies, policies and processes enable the alignment to occur.
7. Develop appropriate onboarding processes.
8.Ensure employee engagement can be sustained and that the workforce isone that harnesses commitment and creates innovation and success.
9. Get the right leaders in place.
10. Measure and monitor performance.
11. Have appropriate career and performance discussions.
12. Provide career and development opportunities.
13. Measure and monitor investments and initiatives.
14. Deliver on your promise.
Source: Chandler Macleod Workplace Barometer Report
Case study – Virgin Mobile
Human Capital talks to Angela Foskett, director of HR at Virgin Mobile Australia, about her company’s branding strategies
Human Capital: Virgin has such a successful consumer brand – has this translated to your employer brand?
Angela Foskett: Absolutely. The consumer and employer brand are directly linked.People’s perceptions are very much the reality when they come in so there isn’t a massive culture shock. In most cases it’s better than people expected.
Basically the two mirror each other and the culture and environment are the key focus to retaining that connection.We’re fortunate in that any brand research that we do can be used from a people perspective and from an internal brand perspective as well.It’s about the external brand and how that feeds back into organisational behaviour and how that feeds into individual behaviour.
HC: Does HR work closely with marketing?
AF:We work closely with marketing for the brand research perspective as well as internal comms for everything around engagement of staff, whether it’s a new product or driving communications for the quarterly review. Any company-wide initiative always has that Virgin spin on it.
HC: How is your employer branding used?
AF:We work it into every single touchpoint: job ads of course, recruitment interviews, reception, meeting rooms, presentations, screen savers,handbooks – everything. Every time we do a product launch or any time we’re doing something new externally it’s about how we will engage the business with all those products and events. We like to include something tangible – for example, we often leave things on people’s desks for when they start work in the morning that relates to whatever the new launch is. It’s in our comings and goings e-mail, it’s in our start out kits when someone joins.
It’s got to be top of mind. We don’t doeverything perfectly but I think we do it very well. However, it’s aconstant challenge to maintain it on the agenda and ensure we’re doingit the Virgin way.
HC: How important is the Virgin culture in your employer brand?
AF:Extremely important. Our environment is certainly not corporate. Where the consumer brand translates to the employer brand is all about value,quality, innovation, challenging the status quo and having fun. When we think about what value means, it’s about thinking of new and better ways of doing things, delivering more than expected, attention to detail. It should also be known by what it isn’t – it’s not cheap, it’s not poor quality or poor delivery. It’s not about setting unrealistic targets. The whole innovative and challenging piece is about the lack of hierarchy, the freedom of expression, and the entrepreneurial culture. That’s reflected in the way we dress – it’s not just about jeans and thongs. There’s method to the madness – it’s about being who you want to be and not being forced to conform.
HC: Richard Branson has obviouslyplayed an important role in building that brand. How important is he inyour overall marketing strategies?
AF: He’s very important.He has said he’s determined to create the most respected brands in the world and let’s face it, he’s the face of Virgin and the culture is based on his philosophies. I always ask people when we’re recruiting, ‘what does Virgin mean to you?’ and 90% of people would say Richard.
HC: Will the brand suffer when he eventually retires?
AF:I think we’re strong enough to continue without him. There’s a lot ofwork going on globally to determine the strategy once Richard goes butas long as he’s around he will definitely be part of the brand.
HC: What benefits have you seen from a strong brand? Does it help with attraction of candidates?
AF: We recognise we’re not for everybody – that’s fine. The strength of the brand means we do get a lot of expressions of interest whether it’s ad-hoc or tied to an actual ad. People are really engaged in the ads we do write and they’re motivated by that. We’ve got a very successful referral program as well, and I guess our challenge is to ensure the cultural fit continues alongside our recruitment philosophy. When we have technical roles where we require a certain skills set they can be hard to fill because we don’t compromise on that cultural fit. It’s 60%about cultural fit and 40% about technical ability with the belief that we can up skill people.
HC: How about retention of existing staff?
AF: The brand and loyalty to the brand is very much a reason why people stay. People are driven by making the company succeed. We have people who are enthused about change and the fast-paced but fun environment we have here.
Parental companies with multiple brands under the umbrella face special challenges. Companies such as HBOS, which includes several high-end financial brands (Capital Finance, St Andrews) as well as the more ‘relaxed’ BankWest, typify the struggle of balancing multiple brands. A company needs to decide: are we a branded house or a house of brands? Mike Beeley, who has worked with HBOS on these challenges, explains:
“A brand is a signature or badge representing a group of people. A lot of companies take this ‘smear ourselves allover everything’ approach. They say ‘you are a part of us, you will abide by us and what we do’. They assume that they have a stronger employer brand than the separate entities do, and then people start to wonder if they want to work for them. They may decide to work somewhere where they can enjoy being part of a small team again. People are very loyal to brands – why would they suddenly feel loyalty to this huge oppressive company? It takes time for people to develop relationships with larger organisations.
“The key is to discover what unites people.It’s very easy to pick on the stuff that separates you and say, ‘you’re not like us; imagine putting us with them – that’s terrible!’ You also need to discover the reasons why people are better off under the parental brand than they were on their own. So in the HBOS/BankWest example, BankWest on their own is a great company – they’ve got massive engagement internally, they’re funded properly, they have great external brand image, young vibrant management team – so why do they need HBOS? We need to uncover why this is a positive for them and what the glue is that binds everyone. That’s not something you can dictate.
“Our role was to discover these connections and the things that people didn’t feel comfortable with. Some people felt the parental brand was going to be oppressive or stop them doing things. Other people were unaware of exactly which companies made up HBOS. Then you gather up these objections and questions and overcome them with communication. For example, people might say ‘you’re too bureaucratic’; you convert that to a positive by saying it means we’re considered about what we do – we don’t make mistakes.
Human Capital Magazine, June 2008.