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Employer Branding

Employee Brands are not the new Employer Brand

I’m writing this in something of a hurry but felt compelled to post based on a comment I saw from TruManchester that employer brands no longer exist and have been replaced by ’employee brands’. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this and well done for pushing the argument, but I get the sense the argument here may well be positioned by those who would argue against the existence of employer brands in the first place. I may well be wrong, but show me how one employee (and if we are talking employee brand we are acknowledging an individual point of view)  directly replaces an organisation’s Employee Value Proposition which whilst one might argue its interpretation is still an important part of what constitutes an organisation’s employer brand.

There’s nothing that new here. I’m bored of hearing how social media is taking over the world and therefore organisation’s no longer control their own employer brand etc. etc.. It’s like it’s some new revelationary epiphany pushed by those evangelising that social media for those that get it and everyone else still penning their employer branding strategies and articulating their EVPs are going to get left in the stone age. It’s absolute nonsense.

Employees have always been able to voice their opinion and we acknowledge the fact that an employers reputation can spread quickly through a variety of communication channels. Social media has undoubtedly made this a lot easier. But ultimately employees are not the ones running the organisation. Employers have a responsibility to listen and look at their interaction with employees and potential candidates alike. That is why research is so important – and always has been – in analyzing and understanding an organisation’s employer brand and how best to position and communication internally and externally.

Personal branding, on the other hand, is clearly an evolution from social media but still adopts old-fashioned principles of self-promotion. This is where I think the lines are being crossed when interpreting what an employer brand should achieve.

I acknowledge employees and ex-employees as a collective voice have an opinion which influences how an organisation is perceived in the talent market – and that is nothing new. But the organisation is the one that is ultimately in control of its direction, shaped by the people within its organisation. That is the key difference. It doesn’t mean they can control what people are saying about them, but it does mean they’re in a position to act.

Having worked on many employer branding projects, the most important component is the research. What are people saying about your organisation both internally and externally? So what’s the difference now?


About Nick Price

Employer branding and communications, insight and engagement, talent attraction and HR analytics


8 thoughts on “Employee Brands are not the new Employer Brand

  1. I agree with you Nick. While the views of employees, whether expressed on social networking sites or in site canteens, will always have some sort of an impact on an organisation’s reputation as an employer, a credible, properly defined, articulated and communicated employer brand will prove very resilient to individual attack.
    The problem is that so many organisations large and small have still to invest in the groundwork to determine precisely what the nature of their employer brand is.Twenty years on there is still considerable confusion about what employer branding actually means, and, more to the point, how you go about identifying and articulating it. It is perhaps the nature of an imperfect concept that it attracts so much theory and comment that often holds about as much credence as the emperor’s new clothes.

    Posted by Nick Holker | September 16, 2010, 1:04 pm
  2. Good point well made Nick. I didn’t want to tell you on Twitter, but you’d put the wrong link in your first tweet… 😉

    Posted by Ben Nunn | September 16, 2010, 1:30 pm
  3. Re employer brand and the like, this bit of research,with the article headline “UK near top of Europe’s employee dissatisfaction league”, suggests that almost half the UK workforce plan to change jobs within the next year.


    That figure sounds incredibly high – almost 9 million people at a rough guess, but if anywhere near true, it doesn’t say much for staff retention programmes, or maybe the attraction being offered by the potential new employer is just that little bit more alluring, even though the grass clearly doesn’t turn out to be any greener despite the promises.

    At the end of the day doesn’t employer branding really all boil down to a basic wish list that every sensible organisation has i.e. decent salaries and benefits, a pleasant working environment, training & development opportunities and a team that gels well together? And is it not true anyway that every survey under the sun shows that the only real ‘brands’ are the household names that so many aspire to work for, perceiving them to be great places to work purely because they are leaders in their field (I’m thinking BBC, Virgin, Microsoft, Google etc. – you know, the names that are always up there whilst AN Other & Co. don’t get a look in, even though they probably look after their staff wonderfully).

    In short, I’ve always been sceptical of the term ’employer brand’ (as you know Nick). This latest survey doesn’t do anything to suggest that it makes much difference in the long run.

    Posted by Alconcalcia | September 16, 2010, 1:37 pm
  4. Great post Nick. I agree with many of your points but the one I agree with the most is having the ability to act. Yes, it is more difficult to CONTROL who is hearing what but if you pay attention to what is being said, you have the ability to take even a negative situation and make if positive thereby enforcing a positive employer brand. Those that choose to focus on the lack of control are missing huge opportunities in my opinion. I wrote a post geared towards HR that discusses using company values and embracing the current trends to manage the brand. Start internally and let it develop from there. You can take a look here if interested. http://www.careercurve.com/blog/page/3/ Thanks for the post!

    Posted by Jen Turi | September 16, 2010, 2:50 pm
  5. Thank you for taking time to read the post and the constructive comments. Picking up on Alasdair’s point on the People Management headline – I think we will see significant patterns in employee retention and employer’s do need to think about engagement in light of the economic and job climate. Attitudes will be different and not least because there will also be those who have taken jobs they didn’t particularly want in the first place, but there isn’t much choice.

    Jen – thanks for the link to your blog I will take a look!


    Posted by Nick Price | September 17, 2010, 10:10 am
  6. Hi Nick

    I like this discussion and your deeper exploration of the hype. From my perspective the term employee branding means different things to different people and my definition isn’t necessarily in alignment with yours.

    Nonetheless, most EVPs I come across, even where advertising agencies are used, don’t engage with employees or jobseekers (whether this be on the social web or not) – they may on a cognitive level but don’t connect on a personal level – nor do they tap into people’s true motivational drivers. Also, you could slap a different company logo on their brand collateral and it would be hard to tell the difference between companies/employers. The social web has enabled a platform for greater individual self expression – and I believe there is an enormous disconnect between personal brands and employer brands – partly because most employers don’t really care about creating an environment and culture that meets the personal and motivational needs of their audiences. I don’t believe traditional engagement surveys go far enough here and really uncover what’s really important to people. I believe employer / employee branding is so much more than overly engineered creative / graphics. People warm to authenticity.

    I’ve been working with Deloitte New Zealand on their social recruiting strategies. We’re living the employee brand mantra – we’re trying to humanise and personalise the employer brand – and let students connect with the people behind the corporate brand. Please check out some of the initiatives on our Facebook page http://bit.ly/1fRyHD like Live shows, personalised video responses to fan questions, grad blogs etc. We will be rolling out further initiatives that will tap into what’s important to the Facebook community. We can’t control jobseeker perceptions, but at least we can aim to provide people with a greater understanding of the brand and the types of people they may end up working with.

    There is definitely more mobility in the workforce these days. It is often hard to attract and retain top talent. I ask lots of employers / corporate HR/recruitment managers to explain their employer brand to me and many can’t articulate their elevator pitch. So social media is only part of this argument IMO. Though you may be getting tired of hearing about social media, participation is rapidly growing. It is a channel where many brands need to be participating in – and many are and are getting impressive ROI. I’m sick about hearing about online influencers, but one can’t escape the influence someone like Lady Ga Ga has every time she voices an opinion on her Facebook page. I agree that there is a lot of guff about employers losing control of their brand, but we can’t ignore the power of community – and I believe companies should be hard-wired into their communities – be it talent communities, consumer communities etc. In fact, many companies are becoming more like communities and enterprise 2.0 technologies will further reinforce this.

    Posted by Paul Jacobs | September 18, 2010, 2:03 am
  7. Interesting perspective and one with which I largely agree. I think the key challenge that most organisations face is around their ability to deliver the experience they articulate through their “Employer Brand”.

    Posted by Paul Ainley | September 22, 2010, 2:10 pm
  8. Thanks Paul (and Paul) for a great comment and the link to the Facebook work. Loads of good points and the argument around engagement I think is going to be absolutely key in the coming months too.

    Posted by Nick Price | September 23, 2010, 4:34 pm

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