Employer Branding: Bridging the Gap Between HR and the Business.

In today’s competitive talent landscape, having a strategic and effective HR function is critical to ensuring a company’s success. And while HR departments are busier than ever, keeping up with a myriad of legislative, technological, and social changes that are changing the way we work, HR is sometimes accused of working in silos and being out of touch with the business, employees, or both. Having been an HR and Engagement professional for over 10 years, I’ve been there and have seen firsthand the challenges that HR leaders face. I’ve also seen firsthand that HR has the ability to profoundly impact the world of work, and that employer branding solutions can be a catalyst for change.

At Blu Ivy Group we partner with executives and HR leaders from global brands to solve their talent, culture, and employer branding challenges. And with our combined decades of experience, we’ve seen what works well. Here are our 4 favourite Employer Branding strategies that promote better alignment between HR and the business and, ultimately, build a best-in-class employer brand and culture. 

1. Conduct executive interviews to learn about their vision for your culture

A company’s executives not only help inform and drive business strategy, they also help shape corporate culture and your employer brand. Through their words and behaviours, they influence the people around them and, as a result, impact company culture. And while they have an incredible impact on culture and are instrumental in helping define and deliver on strategy, executives are rarely consulted about their vision for corporate culture. They’re consulted as subject matter experts in their domain but, when it comes to defining culture, that’s a task often left to HR. 

In order to better align HR and the business, we recommend conducting periodic interviews with executives to understand their vision for company culture. Not only does it make sense to ask, since they’re influencing culture through their words and actions anyway, but through these interviews, you can uncover the degree of alignment (or lack thereof) between executives on your team, and any gaps in culture that may be preventing your company from delivering on strategic objectives. Beyond that, it can be incredibly illuminating to compile the feedback from executive interviews and create a heat map that shows the difference between the current and aspirational state of your company’s culture. Armed with that information, HR can then fine-tune talent programs to drive key behaviours that impact organizational success. Best of all, HR can continue with their efforts, knowing that they’re completely in line with what the company’s senior leaders value most. 

2. Find out why your employees joined, stay, or might leave

Understand and manage your reputation as an employer. It goes without saying that understanding your employee base is essential, in order to craft impactful talent management programs that support business goals. Leading HR or your business without knowing what your people value most is like making moves in the dark and hoping you’ll stumble in the right direction. Nowadays, most organizations get that and have some way of measuring employee engagement and using that data to inform their talent programs. This is a great start, but whether you measure employee engagement or not, if you don’t know why your employees join, stay, or leave your organization, you’re missing critical information

It’s not enough to understand what your employees think about growth and development, company communication, compensation, or the hundreds of other engagement areas that are correlated with business outcomes. You need to learn what truly drives your people to join, stay, or leave your organization. Only then are you able to build talent programs that matter to your people and help you improve engagement, retention, and build a best-in-class culture. 

Where do you start? We recommend a balanced approach that leverages short pulse surveys, targeted focus groups, and 1:1 interviews with employer brand ambassadors. If you’re not ready for that and you have an engagement survey coming up, consider adding 3 simple questions to it to learn why people join, stay, or leave. Combine that information with the insights you’ve gathered from your executive interviews and you’re on your way to building a best-in-class employer brand and culture.

3. Understand and manage your reputation as an employer

Understanding what executives and internal talent value most about your culture is critical, but not enough. The other component that many organizations overlook is their external reputation as an employer. All organizations have an employer brand and reputation and, whether they realize it or not, it influences whether people will join, stay or leave your organization. The best and brightest want to work for (and remain at) the best companies – companies that are known for having a positive workplace culture and whose visions, missions and goals are aligned with theirs. 

Even if you are one of the best companies out there, if top talent doesn’t know it, your employer brand and reputation isn’t working for you – it’s working against you. You likely spend more time and dollars convincing talent to join your organization, as opposed to attracting them to you. So it’s important to not only understand your reputation as an employer, but to actively manage it so that it helps attract and retain the talent you need.

Where do you start? We recommend identifying the roles that you most commonly recruit for, as well as the ones that are most difficult to fill. Then go out and survey those talent segments to understand how they perceive you relative to your competitors, and learn what they look for in an employer. You can compare those insights to ratings and reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed, to get a sense of your reputation with internal and external talent. When you combine that information with the other insights you’ve gathered about what talent values most about working at your organization (your Employer Value Proposition), you’ve got the building blocks that you need to build an employer brand strategy that conveys the best of what you’ve got to offer. Leverage social and content marketing to tell your story and amplify its reach, and you’re poised to become a destination for top talent.

4. Prioritize and align your talent programs to what your leaders and talent value most

This is the hardest part. Now that you’ve got the information about what your leaders and talent value most, you’ve got to deliver. There will always be new tools, trends and priorities in HR and the world of work. Whether it’s AI, technology-related, compliance-related, or something else, there’s always going to be a new tool or trend to shift your focus. But if your talent programs and strategies aren’t aligned with what your leaders and people value most, it doesn’t matter what tools you put in place – you’re missing the mark. 

When it’s time to build out your people and culture strategy, narrow your focus. Start by carefully reviewing what matters most to your business and your people – what causes them to join, stay, or leave – and ensure your programs are aligned. Not only will that help, it’s at the heart of any successful employer brand. And of course, you want to put KPI’s and measurements in place. As we know from Pearson’s Law, “where performance is measured, performance improves”. Keeping a close eye on KPI’s will help to ensure your strategies are working as intended.

How to tell if there are critical culture gaps to close in your organization

No organization is perfect and there is always room for improvement. But are your gaps small in nature or are they mission-critical and impacting the overall health and success of your people, business, and culture? How can you tell?

Aside from people data and metrics on retention, turnover, and engagement, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you know why people join your organization. Does that match the reality of what you have to offer?
  • What keeps people at your organization? Is that what you want to be known for and is that the story you tell prospective candidates?
  • Are your executives aligned on what you want to be known for as an employer? Does that match your culture today?
  • And lastly, when people leave your organization, do they feel that you delivered on the employee experience you promised? Do they leave as employer brand ambassadors?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you’re doing something right! Get in touch to share your strategies for building executive and HR alignment – we’d love to hear from you. And if you answered no to any of the above questions, there may be an opportunity to do a deep dive to uncover what your leaders and talent value most about working at your organization. 

If you would like to learn more about employer branding and how we can help you build a best-in-class corporate culture, call Blu Ivy today at 647-308-2352.

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