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Employer Brand Strategy Sprint Series


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To Mars and Back



Employer Branding, Talent Attraction

Did you know it takes six months to travel to Mars?

And did you also know it takes twelve months to build an EVP with a conventional ‘industry standard’ timeline? So you could get to Mars and back in the time it takes to get your EVP nailed down. The last time I checked, building an employer brand isn’t rocket science. Why take so long?

To Mars and Back

Keep Up The Tempo To Keep Up The Interest

Picture the scene. At your team meeting, you make the big announcement. “We’re ready to share the results of the employer brand project that you all contributed to at the start of 2017”. Your team exchanged puzzled looks. They’ve forgotten all about it. They’re busy people, and time has moved on.

Sound familiar? Nobody cares about the results of a project that he or she contributed towards nine or twelve months ago and then heard nothing about. Internal engagement is vital, that goes without saying, but it’s much harder to maintain enthusiasm the longer the project goes on. Irrespective of how good your internal communications may be at keeping everyone informed on progress, interest will wane as time drags on. The project will become stale, and fatigue will soon follow.

Keeping the tempo up ensures you can keep high interest and engagement throughout your project. In turn, that means key stakeholders and a high percentage of contributors are still highly energised to help you launch and see the work they contributed towards come to fruition.

Charlotte Marshall is Vice President of Digital/Social Media & Employer Brand at Magellan Health and completed an employer brand project in under 100 days. She comments, “Continuity, pace and momentum are essential ingredients needed to deliver everything you are tasked with achieving as an Employer Brand leader, especially justifying the investment to get started and finding yourself with a world-class result at the end.”

“Continuity, pace and momentum are essential ingredients needed to deliver everything you are tasked with achieving as an Employer Brand leader, especially justifying the investment to get started and finding yourself with a world-class result at the end. ”

By Charlotte Marshall

A Little Pressure Can Work Wonders

Remember when you had to study for that exam or the homework that was due in a couple of days’ time. What about the time when if you didn’t sort out the parking ticket before it was going to double in cost or the time you had a presentation to deliver with only 24 hours’ notice? People perform well, teams and partnerships band together and experts have the ability to step up under pressure if they’re confident in what they’re doing. Working to a pacey schedule allows you to develop a momentum and rhythm to your work that spaced out lethargic and bloated projects cannot command. If your project lead knows what they’re doing and they’ve done it a number of times before with great success, why the hell should it take a year to complete. If you want something doing, give it to a busy person.

When it comes to an employer brand project, it is important to include some “System 1” thinking. This concept, developed by the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, discusses how in his opinion decision-making is not entirely based on conscious, rational thought. Kahneman’s book “Thinking Fast and Slow”, identifies two modes of thinking: “System 1” is driven by our instincts and our prior learning, such as making a purchase of a particular item by a particular manufacturer because we trust the brand and consider them the best. “System 2” is a slower decision-making process, driven by consideration, deliberation and logic. And even in the case of System 2 thinking a lot of what we perceive to be our more thoughtful decisions are still being driven by our system 1 preferences.

Keep On Keeping On

Throughout the project, the agency, consultant or project lead needs to maintain a consistent train of thought throughout the project. Otherwise, key inspiration, ideas, threads and coherence get lost as the project is picked up and put down again and again over a longer period of time.

Concentration and Coordination Delivers

By sprinting through a neatly co-ordinated schedule, it allows the key stakeholder (agency, consultant, project lead) to work uninterrupted on the project. This allows for ‘deep work’ - consistent energy and effort levels as well as added passion and interest for the project. It allows natural ownership and pride to shine through to the end result without being juggled amongst several other projects that are all just as important. How do you feel when you get to work on something from start to finish without interruption? It feels good right?

Get Creative From Day One

To be able to produce world-class employer branding with consistency, our philosophy at Ph.Creative is that it’s essential to have a creative mind present throughout the entire process. Therefore there’s no big baton being passed between research, insights, strategy and then finally, creative output. As a creative, if you have no buy-in, context, or involvement in a project at all before you’re handed a cold brief to perform against there’s no soul in the work that follows. With Chinese whispers in play, something is lost that’s impossible to communicate after the fact. This is a major factor for employer brand projects dragging on for months on end. The project has to be explained and briefed by new people at every stage rather than have a consistent team working on it efficiently and effectively throughout - delivering the magic discovered all along the way.

Stay Nimble and Stay Relevant

If employer brand is a reflection of who you truly are, the EVP is a current snapshot of why people should care about who you are. The why can change - should change, must change - as the wants, needs, desires and marketplace changes and evolves over time. The research you gather has a half-life that will vary in length depending on the pace of your market, but if it takes you twelve months to realise the research and insights you’ve gathered, they’re probably already somewhat out of date. To be relevant and current, the time it takes you to conduct your research to executing on what the research is telling you must be less than six months or it’s not an accurate reflection of the optimum environmental conditions you’re trying to compete within. The employer brand may remain the same for four or five years, however, the EVP should be refreshed and sense checked annually. Therefore how can it take a year to complete? You’d never get anything done.

Graeme Johnson is Global Head of Employer Brand & Talent Acquisition Strategy for BT, and knows the value of a strong employer brand. He also knows the value of regularly reviewing the brand and amending it when necessary. “

“Employer Brand management is real-time and has to evolve with changes in the business strategy and external market you operate in, and the shifts in the market for talent. It’s no longer good enough to think you can develop an EVP, wait 3 years then revise it. It’s a constant evolution. Success is measured in business metrics, not industry award entries and internal back-slapping. ”

By Graeme Johnson

Keeping Up The Pace Helps The Budget

Hands up if you want to commit all of your annual budgets on something that’s not going to provide any return in this financial year? If you plan to take twelve months to complete an employer branding and EVP project, insight from our clients and close network suggests an estimate of it being up to five times harder to get an appropriate budget signed off internally. The year later, when you’re asking for new money to try different talent attraction and engagement tactics from your newly produced strategy, your boss is going to be sceptical.

Your boss is going to want to know what ROI was achieved with the money you were given in 2017. Your boss doesn't care that 2017 was all about building the new employer brand. You had great ROI in 2016. So your boss wants to know how you can do more of what you did in 2016 because that worked so well. Awkward.

Charlotte Marshall at Magellan had a better experience. “When we presented building an EB in 100 days for under $100K, the business case became immensely more appealing to my senior stakeholder team, and the financial investment was secured on the spot.” Not so awkward.

Postscript: Caveats to keep in mind

  1. You can’t build on anything other than a solid foundation of fact, true perspective and alignment to the overall company objectives. So you don’t pass go until a solid representative sample of data and intelligence has been gathered to best reflect the entire feelings, thoughts, facts, aspirations, plans and perceptions of the organisation. However, get yourself organised, use a solid routine and process that’s worked for you time and time again in the past and there’s nothing you can’t find out about an organisation in 10 weeks or less.
  2. You must have access to all areas. If the CEO and top team don’t buy-in, contribute and advocate the initiative you’re wasting everyone’s time and it will take twice as long as to get anything done. What you end up with will be wrong anyway. Graeme Johnson puts it like this, “If you do the groundwork on the key influencers in the teams you need to have onboard (Brand, Comms, Exec Leadership, HR), and you have a clear, compelling need for an employer brand that everyone understands (e.g. to help with retention, perception, reputation, future talent pipeline, internal engagement – whatever your goals)… then it will succeed.”
  3. Working at pace and at scale simultaneously is a skill developed through experience. Being able to distil data into meaningful common themes, real insights and then articulate the essence of your discovery using appropriately positioned language, tone and balance requires expertise and can’t be rushed. Our approach only works under the assumption that you’re good at what you do.
  4. The objective of the project is clearly defined before anything begins. Many times in the past, we’ve learned the hard way that if you’re not all 100% clear on what and why you’re undertaking the project, you’re doomed to go round in circles, bowing to the whims and opinions of busy people who only have half an eye on what you’re doing. You’re doomed.
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