Leaders Lead: Employer Brand

During our recent Praxi Alliance Global Summit in Boston, we hosted a panel discussion to address the challenges organizations face developing Leadership commitment to employer brand messaging. The panel included experts from great brands: The J.M. Smucker Company, HubSpot and our very own, GattiHR. We invited organizations with very different approaches to branding, but all three enjoy high marks for building strong talent brands. One thing became immediately clear: leadership support of a strong employer brand strategy can mean the difference between sustained employee engagement and brand growth vs a downward spiral toward talent mediocrity.

Blending Brands and Delivering Value

While J.M. Smucker Company is an established 7,000-employee 120-year old organization, globally known as the “jam and jelly” company, this 4th generation family-run company relies heavily on a lesser-known but no less powerful employer brand message. Built upon strong “family values” and a commitment to mutual respect and pride, Smucker’s employer brand helps to attract, retain, and engage people at all levels and across geographies, many of whom have been part of an acquisition and often, coming from an equally strong brand like, Folgers, JIF, Milk Bone, and Meow Mix

As with any firm of this size and maturity, Smucker’s moves carefully, and curates its employer brand cautiously. The Company’s Leaders understand the value of tradition and long-held core values in building an engaged workforce. They recognize that an employee base that is connected to the company purpose through these traditions and values is essential to their success. As our panelist noted, “If the employees are happy, impassioned and feel a connection to their colleagues and work, they become our brand ambassadors.”

The Leadership embraces the value of family and belonging and has implemented many initiatives in support of their motto, “creating memorable meals and moments for families” including, world-class wellness and fitness centers, a generous parental leave policy, invitations to bring family and friends to on-campus restaurants and stores, frequent internal feedback and, engagement surveys, all contributing to the company’s high ratings on Glassdoor.

Brand is easy. Employer Brand is hard work.

At less than 10 years old, HubSpot’s rapid rise to prominence has been well-documented. Today, the company includes nearly 3,000 employees operating in more than 120 countries. At an early point in its ascension, leadership recognized they had fallen into “a tech-bro culture,” and took quick action. Borrowing from Netflix, HubSpot Leaders developed and published it’s very own, Culture Code, ensuring all employees understood and were beholden to the new common beliefs. “Ultimately, our employees became our brand. And now, our hiring process ensures the people brought onboard fuel our brand message even more.”

To ensure the resiliency of Hubspot’s employer brand message, the Leadership team is committed to sharing content that supports the company culture. A tall task for any organization…so, Hubspot’s employer brand team was established originally to work closely with Leadership to facilitate content:

(1) Co-writing articles;

(2) Share prompts to generate weekly articles, posts, tweets and conversations;

(3) 45-minute writing sessions with the C-Suite;

(4) Aggregate media requests with a defined reporter-support outreach program;

(5) Proactively securing 1-2-line quotes from leadership on topics important to the Hubspot community

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Insight Leads to Leadership

HR Leaders globally have become increasingly challenged to develop and maintain strong employer brand strategies. The existence of multiple brands within an organization can lend to confusion and mis-alignment of employer commitments and effort. Many top organizations appreciate honest and open insight that illustrates the current state of both their employer AND consumer brand messages…ultimately, defining the buyer (or job seeker) journey through the consideration phase. An important point in the candidate journey because, more than 80% of all candidates make a decision about your company BEFORE ever contacting you.

Delivering a brutally honest depiction of an employer brand experience, one that includes content-driven insights (through pulse surveys, focus-groups, and interviews), and network driven insights through analysis and visualization of connections across the messaging ecosystem (through Organizational Network Analysis or ONA) often helps to evaluate the type of leaders an organization might need.

All of the recent research (and our own experience) indicates that we’re going to be in a talent-short market cycle for some time to come. Taking a hard look at your employer brand and taking direct, proactive, leadership-driven control of its messaging and delivery is going to be increasingly important.

Many thanks to Hannah Fleishman, Employer Brand Manager at Hubspot, and Marc Serrilli, Vice President, Total Rewards at J.M. Smucker for joining us at the Praxi Global Summit!