Five steps to building your ’employer brand’

Are you putting your best face forward when recruiting and hiring? Are you letting potential employees know your strengths? Here’s how to turn your public profile into a talent magnet.

One often hears talk from businesses about improving the reputation of their brands—the sneakers or corn flakes or cologne they market.

Often overlooked, however, is the topic of one’s “employer brand”—an organization’s reputation as a place to work.

That’s strange, given the importance of recruiting. If you haven’t branded your organization as an appealing place to work, how are you going to compete for talent?

In a Ragan Training session titled “Employment branding: From beginning strategies to excellence,” General Mills communicators Lisa Bormann and Britta Dihel explain how the $17.6 billion food company-one of the world’s largest-rebranded its hiring face.

The session is drawn from the Ragan conference, “The Role of Communications in Creating Best Places to Work.”

Bormann and Dihel discuss how to create and enliven an employer brand not only on a website, but through print, TV, video and recruiting. Here are the steps Bormann and Dihel outline for creating a top-flight brand:

1. Educate the bigwigs on employer brand.

Perhaps you have experienced it, says Bormann, senior manager of HR communications. You tell your bosses, “We want to have an employer brand,” and they respond, “Well, what is an employer brand?” or, “We already have that. We have a corporate brand.”

When facing that, Bormann explains her company thus: “Think of this as a solar system where the middle sun is the company brand, your corporate brand.”

Orbiting this star are matters such as investor confidence, consumer satisfaction and, yes, the employer brand. All are necessary for a healthy reputation.

2. Ask your employees.

In designing its employer brand, General Mills started out interviewing 20 executives, including the CEO, to find out what they thought the brand was all about.

“We also interviewed our manufacturing employees, our employees in supply chain and sales … our mid-level employees all around the world,” Bormann says.

To make sure answers were candid, General Mills had an outside firm conduct the interviews. They asked employees worldwide such questions as, “Why did you stay here at General Mills?” and took note of the things they liked about the company.

3. Finalize and brainstorm.

Bormann and Dihel took the research and worked together with team managers and directors. The two explained what they had done and detailed their conclusions.

“Along the way we’re building ambassadors of our new employment brand,” Bormann says. “The key for us was getting a lot of opinions and not letting someone have too loud a voice, because sometimes that can sway.”

4. Activate.

An employer brand is more than a logo and tagline. General Mills created a toolkit for recruiters and made it accessible to its worldwide staff: job description templates, nametag templates, videos, PowerPoints and other information.

“There’s so many people that will want to help you really bring your brand forward,” Dihel says. “You just need to give them the tools and resources.”

This is important because often someone who is, say, a financial analyst will visit college campuses to interview candidates. The company provided training on how to use the toolkit, saving everything in a universally available site under the heading, “Global Inclusion & Staffing.”

For prospective employers, the goal was to drive them to the website to apply through employee referrals, social media, mobile campaigns, on-campus presences, and relationship marketing and talent pools.

“We’re really trying to integrate it into everything,” Dihel says.

5. Sustain it.

It would be ideal to use the employer brand for three to five years, Dihel says, but you must be willing to tweak things to keep them relevant. Watch what’s going on with other brands and employees—as, for example, when Apple decided to create a more subtle, all-white logo.

“We started to look at the trends that are going on around us, and we started to make changes,” Dihel says

The key thing to watch for, she says, is “thinking you are done. There is always opportunity to do more.”

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan Communications’ distance-learning portal Ragan Training. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations and interactive courses.


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