According to the latest Global Human Capital Trends report from Deloitte, employee experience is a top priority for HR and business leaders in 2016, with 85 per cent of its 7,000 respondents rating employee engagement as ‘important’ or ‘very important’. However, at a time when digital technologies are shifting the balance of power, how can HR best manage messages to have a positive impact on EVP?    

While it has long been understood that employer brand is intrinsically linked to consumer brand, the large organisations that we work with are, now more than ever, basing candidate, and indeed employee, engagement strategies on approaches which have been successful with consumers. For example, at a time when consumers are given options like ‘One Click Checkout’ and ‘ApplePay’, a five-page online application form can be perceived as stale and outdated. As a result, 'Digital Destination' is one touchpoint that is currently in the spotlight as user experience strategists strive to make engagement easier to aid brand perception.

The power of brand should not be underestimated. Recent research by the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), has found that a company’s reputation is one of the top three most important factors for British people seeking new employment, with a third of respondents citing that employer reputation was more important in their choice making than flexibility at work, benefits, culture or location. Similarly, in its Winning Talent report, LinkedIn has revealed that 53 per cent of respondents said they would rule out a job offer from an organisation that was known for its poor job security, dysfunctional teams or poor leadership. More concerning still, a less-than-glowing reference from current or previous staff was also among the top five reasons for jobseekers to dismiss an organisation.

For this reason, the HR function – specifically the talent acquisition specialism – is increasingly working with the marketing team to synchronise and disseminate brand messages. Great brands are built from the inside out, and while some HR professionals have historically viewed their marketing colleagues as ‘brand police’, they are increasingly realising the value of collaboration. In the digital age, when audiences are continually bombarded with content from an ever expanding array of platforms, marketing can assist HR in finding and defining inspiring, authentic stories to share.

The sophistication of today’s audiences means that these stories must have an added edge of ‘rawness’ to their overall positive tone. For example, the story may be, “I progressed quickly… but sometimes I was answering international emails at midnight”.  The commercialism of online platforms also means that, in order to be credible, the channel of delivery should also be considered. One solution is to enable employees to share their own brand messages.

Allowing your teams to disseminate their own content takes a leap of faith, but arguably no story is more genuine, or compelling, than that which comes straight from the source. The challenge here is achieving a balance between authenticity and message, something that Deloitte Australia seems to have achieved when it defaulted to its key value ‘empower and trust’ and gave its people the freedom to share their own stories. The official line offered by Deloitte Australia in its marketing literature is: “The counsel given to employees is to understand the difference between the personal and the professional, to be open, honest and respectful, and as professionals, to be responsible for both their own and the organisation’s reputation”. Indeed, I am sure that many HR professionals will agree that your people need to know how to respond to questions about their organisation, whether they’re down the pub or on Twitter.

Employer brand has never been more business-critical. The aforementioned LinkedIn study showed that employers who fail to build a strong, positive employer brand risk losing more than half of their prospective job candidates. In addition, companies which don’t invest in their employer brand may be paying an additional £2,270 per hire. This could add as much as £4,080,000 to the annual wage bill for an organisation with 10,000 employees. In an age where social media could dilute the power of corporate messaging, HR must educate their people to become their greatest cheerleaders. As Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, once said: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. What stories do your people have to tell about your brand?