How do you bring an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) to life? How do you differentiate between a very popular consumer brand and your employer brand? What does “a great saga needs all sorts of heroes” actually mean?
To get some answers, I’ve had a chat with fellow Swede Natalie Mellin, Global Employer Brand Project Manager at King. You can listen to the podcast at SoundCloud or iTunes, or keep reading for a summary of our conversation.
Tell us about King and your employer brand?
We are a games company. We create games for Facebook, mobile, and web. Candy Crush Saga is one of the games ones that everyone will know. But people don’t know is that we have over 200 games that we’ve developed. So it would’ve been Farm Heroes Saga, the sister title to Candy Crush, which is called Candy Crush Soda Saga. We also have one of our most recent release which is Paradise Bay, which is a resource management game.
We’ve been around since 2003. Over the last two years, we’ve been in a hyper growth phase. So we’ve literally been working hard on our EVP (Employee Value Proposition) and employer brand strategy in the last two years.
We work really hard on our culture. We think this is important. This is how we move forward. And this is us, what we are. We’re King. So when we look at the culture, you can see the values we have, one of our values being fast and fluent. So we trial a lot of things, see what works, and we will discard the ones that doesn’t work and we move forward with the ones that do work.
On social media, for instance, we have been struggling a little bit around the IPO when we had a quiet period around how much can we talk about because of the regulations, and what you have to do and can’t do around that.
And we’ve also had a bit of a challenge in the beginning to find that perfect mix between our EVP as Seriously Playful. So we were a little bit too playful on social media, which could be okay on social. But we still wanted to showcase how tech savvy we are, so that’s something that we’re focusing on now. How can we bring that in.
How did you establish a strong EVP and what are the core messages?
We put in a lot of research. We worked together with our creative agency Pink Squid. And we put in hours and hours of research working with everyone in the business. It wasn’t just the leadership, although leadership and management it’s really important to get their support. But working with people who’ve been in the company for a very long time, developers, artists, finance, et cetera.
And out of that, we looked at what was it that was unique with us. So how do we define ourselves as different to any other company, gaming company or tech company. And from that, we came up with our EVP and our communication concept which is Seriously Playful.
Our core messages work as equalisers. We use them to tweak our message, the way we need to talk about who we are. So to a developer, we will talk a little bit differently in Bucharest to when we are in the U.S., for instance.
How do you bring an EVP to life?
Again, it’s about aligning yourself to the business strategy. So what are the important priorities from the business right now? When we started out and we were integrating this, it’s all about recruitment. We were needing to recruit a huge amount of people.
To do that, we then looked at the employee life cycle to keep that as a frame to look at where were the biggest processes and touchpoints. What did we have to do to hit the most amount of people internally as well as externally. But we also focus on the culture. So you can trust your employees or you can put in regulations and their policies, and we choose the former. We trust our employees. We focus on how do we bring the culture to life, the EVP to life, and enable our employees to do the right thing.
— King (@King_Games) November 17, 2015
How is your consumer brand different to your employer brand?
We’re one King. We are our games. It’s our people who created all of these games. But what we didn’t have when we started out with this was the connection. So back two years ago or so, when you opened up one of our games you didn’t see the King logo anywhere. So you saw only the game’s logo. So that was actually an easy start, to make sure that when you’re opening up the game, there is a connection to the King brand. And that was one of the first things that we did.
Do you ever target gamers for jobs inside the actual games?
Yes. We looked at that. It doesn’t always translate that way, obviously, that the people playing our games will be the ones working for us. But we do constantly look at how are we going to utilise those. And right now, we probably couldn’t talk too much about the details. But we’re look at a new way of targeting our huge network in how to bring information about our career opportunities to them. King had 340 million monthly average users in the last quarter. That’s almost as big as the U.S. and Canada’s population combined.
What are the most important recruiting channels?
LinkedIn is key, and I don’t say that just because we’re here at the LinkedIn conference [Talent Connect London 2015]. It is actually a really big one. But referrals is also really important. Again, it goes back to our employees are so important. They’re our ambassadors. We’re lucky that when we look at our social media channels, we see all of our employees being very active without being asked for it. So you can see them carrying our brand out, but also actively recruiting for us.
— King (@King_Games) October 26, 2015
Tell us about your new career site?
The new career site (jobs.king.com) had 56,000 applications last year. I guess everyone has to go through there, regardless of if they’re coming in through as a referral, or we’re headhunting someone, or they’re applying to us. It’s our main window. I don’t know about you, but if you ever been contacted for a job or looking for a job, even if you’re not applying through the career site, you will definitely go there and do the research. Right? As well as you would look at the company section of that company.
It was really important for us to do a little bit of a cleanup when we started with this, because we had so many different microsites. And they weren’t connected. They were maybe a little bit out of date when it came to the brands. And they weren’t really working for us. So we had to do a cleanup operation where we closed down a lot of websites, and we moved everything into one, but still leaving room to showcase the local adaptations. So that’s important.
What’s been the return on investment of this program?
We’ve done it in two phases. We went live with a website last year, which was just after we created our EVP. Just something that would get us to an okay stage. And then the big website came live in February this year. What we’ve seen since then is growth in terms of traffic. But also really important stuff, not the fun and sexy stuff, like the SEO and the mobile optimisation is now working, which maybe it wasn’t properly everywhere before that.
We won the best employer brand award by the RADs and CIPD this year. We also won best use of copywriting for our Life at King booklet, which is like our handbook at King. We also won Sweden’s best employer by Universum the last two years in a row, actually. And Great Place to Work, we’ve been in top spots across Europe as well.
What hard lessons can you share with us?
Do the prep work properly first. Get everyone on board. Get them to understand what an EVP is, what it will do for you as a company. I think that’s key. And sometimes you want to rush through that because you want to get into the research and the integration stage, but it’s really important getting that right because it will help you later down the line.
The other thing as well is communicating a quick win pretty early on when you’re starting to integrate it and launching your EVP, because people are inpatient and they want to see something happening quickly. We were lucky that we won Sweden’s best employer and that obviously helped us to be able to carry on.
And it’s not just us employer branding. It’s everyone who needs to celebrate that because we’re helping to enable this, but it’s not us doing all the work.
What companies inspire you on social media?
IKEA has focused a lot on culture, which I think is the right thing to do, so I look up to them for that. I think General Electric has been brilliant when it comes to marketing side. Not as well known on their employee branding side, but on the marketing side I think they’ve been really good. So I find bits and pieces from different companies and I put them together because I like things that they do on different platforms.
What does “a great saga needs all sorts of heroes” actually mean?
That’s, you can say, our tagline for diversity inclusion. This was an area where we hadn’t been strategic before. We’d done a lot of things, but we hadn’t been so strategic. And it was also funny that we didn’t need to be that strategic because it’s so much ingrained in our culture. But we started to feel that we needed to put words on it. And this just really fit within our EVP, within our culture. So that’s what we used, and we’ve built on that now for a year.
Most recently, we just redid our job posting guidelines. So that’s the guideline that our hiring managers from crews will use when they put together new job adverts, where we have a checklist. Look at making sure that you remove any unconscious bias or any kind of words that is more targeted to maybe the male population. And if we want to look at, we can maybe want to bring in more diverse workforce, what is it that we do and what words did we use to appeal to a larger audience?
What’s the next big thing in employer branding and for King?
Coming closer together. Brand PR marketing and employee brand needs to come closer together, and I think that’s the big thing. If you can get that right, you will do so much better as a company. And we need to start remembering, this is one story, it’s one company that we’re telling the world.
Any candidate of today will be interested in knowing about the stuff that we’re putting out to our investors, the stuff that we’re putting out to our players. They’re not just going to be set in the stuff that will be on the career site. So that’s important and we need to start working better and more closely together.
And I think marketing and PR, they are starting to understand that as well. Because players and consumers today, they want to know that the company is a responsible corporate citizen. They want to understand what their like to their employees. So it does help both ways. It’s not just a one way street.