Monday, 1 December 2008

Employees First. Always.

Well-meaning organisations have always strived to ensure that employees are broadly satisfied with their working conditions; somewhat reminiscent of a benevolent feudal set up, where employers are part of an extended family. However, leading organisations today realise that employees, like customers, have an array of options, to stay, commit, engage or move. To keep employees loyal and at their productive best, it is no longer enough to provide them with the regular set of compensation-driven packages. It is time to start afresh and put together a benefits-driven package, with HR managers treating employees the way businesses treat customers.

Once we are able to change our mindset from that of a benefactor to a service provider, there is much that we can learn and borrow from recent developments in marketing to create a ‘wow’ experience at the workplace. From a marketing perspective, branding involves the creation of values and perceptions that help the target audience to positively relate their knowledge with respect to a particular product, service or organisation. Branding, however, is not only an opportunity to shape customers’ perceptions, it is an opportunity to shape employee perceptions as well. A brand today represents the relationship an organisation has with its employees just as much as it represents the relationship that it has with its customers. The difference though is that an employee is engaged and involved with the organisation’s brand for a much longer time and in more ways than a customer is. The now oft quoted term “Employer Branding” is in most ways an extension of traditional branding, but we do need to realise that “employer branding” encompasses a much larger environment and is a rather delicate proposition, which by its very nature requires the brand building process to be more transparent and robust.

The need of the hour is to engage leaders from across functions to commit resources to this process. Successful employment branding develops a theme and establishes an image of the employment experience at an organisation (most often aligning with the company’s corporate brand), and attracts and retains the right employees to the organisation. It is not always necessary for the corporate and employment brands to be aligned, but it makes sense to do so for various reasons. Research shows that the more an organisation’s brand persona is internalised by the employees, the better employees communicate this to the external stakeholders; and in these times of turbulence you will always find it easier to garner resources if you show a synergistic relation with the bottomline. A number of organisations with strong employer brands like Google, Honeywell and Fedex have managed to keep attrition low while making significant improvements in employee productivity.

As we keep hearing whispers of “right-sizing” in the corporate corridors, it is even more important to build the “employer brand”. Employer branding is here to stay, and those of us who are not prepared will lose the very talent we want to retain. This is a market focused on keeping the best, and we need to keep improving in order to successfully retain and expand our market share.

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