How can your organisation use employer brand management to attract, recruit and retain the best talent? What social media channels work best for employer branding? Who single-handedly turned Britain’s fortunes around during the second world war?
I’ve had a chat with Richard Mosley, VP of Strategy at Universum, to get some answers. Have a listen to the interview below or keep reading for a transcript of of our conversation. Finally, don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast.
What’s your role at Universum?
I’m Global Head of Strategy and of course, when everybody says that they’re head of strategy, it sounds like you’re just sitting around in rooms and pointing at things or numbering things off in threes. There’s a fair bit of truth in that, but it’s a dual role really. With a number of Universum’s global clients there is a demand for bit more of a strategic relationship, not just helping them once year, you know, “Here’s the research,” but actually much more of an ongoing role, helping them through their employer brand strategy. And we have quite a number of multinational clients who are now looking for that, and that’s really one of the areas I’m helping on. So, it’s strategy for clients.
But it’s also strategy for Universum. We have a huge number of things going on at the moment. It’s a real organisation in transformation itself, with many new products and services coming through. And that’s my second role, strategy for Universum itself. So it is a good mix. I still have plenty of time with clients, but also I spend a bit of time with the actual strategy of the company I’m working for which is good.
Can you define employer brand management as opposed to employer branding?
Yes, these terms are often used interchangeably, but I think if I start with the employer branding piece first, I think if you are using employer branding in the way that branding is used within consumer marketing, it’s largely about the way you create the image through creative expression, communication and so on. And of course, this is a very important thing to be doing, and it’s an important part of employer brand management.
And one way of looking at brand management is simply, as in the corporate brand sense, making sure that you’re policing that identity and that branding to make sure it’s consistent, and you’re getting your message across in a consistent way.
But I think in the more advanced companies, those that are beginning to push beyond that, it’s also about managing the brand experience itself. So I guess you could describe employer brand management at its best, in terms of coordinating all of the parts that make up a positive brand experience. So that’s communication, but it’s also those elements of people management, where you’re designing processes and you’re designing experiences that are going to reinforce that brand.
Why do CEOs need to pay more attention to employer brand management?
We recently conducted the Outlook Survey 2020, which was about current future trends in employer branding. And it was partly about what people are doing now, but also partly what they expect to be doing in five years’ time. But one of the interesting findings was that we talked to quite a few CEOs in that survey and 60% of them said, when they were asked, “Who is really responsible at the end of the day? Who is ultimately accountable for the employer brand?” And they said, “Well, we were.” So I thought that was interesting.
And I think there are two reasons for this. First, the reason why the 60%, said they’re in charge of it, but also why they should be. And I think the first reason is that we know from PwC’s latest CEO survey that the vast majority, I think it’s 73% in the last count this year, are really concerned about attracting the right talent or the right calibre of talent. Of course, if they are, they really need to be paying more attention to their employer brand reputation because, of course, as we know, you’re not really going to attract the right calibre of talent unless you have a good reputation.
And I think the second part, and it goes back to what we’re saying about employer brand management at its best, is that if you want to build a strong employer brand with the kind of transparency you have now with social media, it depends on the culture and the values of the organisation. So if there’s anybody who should be paying attention to the culture and values and certainly taking the lead, it should be the CEO.
So, I think for these two reasons, and these were two main arguments that I made, I think CEOs are and should be paying more attention to the employer brand moving forwards. And I think this is going in that direction.
Can you give us an example of a CEO who is highly involved with employer branding?
One my favourite companies is LEGO. And I remember, it was one of the organisations where it was very interesting that when we did the employer brand development, it was done with the board, and it was the CEO, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, who really paid a lot of attention. And I guess partly that’s because he was one of the younger breed of CEOs. I think then he was in his early 40s, just coming to LEGO to turn it around. And he recognised the vital role of culture in turning the organisation around. And they really have. So if there is one organisation that really shines forth, where from the outset, the CEO has taken a lead on it and seen it through, it would be LEGO. There are others, but that one really shines through for me.
What’s your 7 point plan to employer brand management?
I think if you’re building it from the bottom up, you’ve really got to start with the strategy of the organisation. And I’m assuming, in this case, that you really are taking a more integrated approach. But you’ve got to understand the kind of talent you need. And when you think about talent, you also think about skills and capabilities, and so on. So I think unless you’re really basing your employer brand on who you’re looking for and in what numbers and where, etc., then you’re going to have a bit of a problem. So that’s a first place to start.
And I think then you take the external view. I still think you need to understand how you’re currently seen. I mean, your employer brand is how you’re seen essentially. What kind of associations people have with you – awareness, consideration, etc. – and how that stacks up against your competitors.
The next step would be to have a really honest look at yourselves, where are your strengths, where, partly because of organisational needs and performance needs and also partly because of the need to strengthen some areas to attract the right talent, you also need to think about where your stretch is, where your realistic aspirations are in terms of improvement.
And I think when you’ve done those three things, then you come to the next step, which is building your employer brand platform. That’s partly your EVP, the priority areas, the three or four things you’re really going to focus your attention on. Plus your identity, your look, feel. Maybe a campaign…not necessarily because it’s not necessarily always essential these days to have one all-encompassing campaign, when content marketing can be a lot more diverse.
But once you’ve established your employer brand platform, you will then need to plan and execute your communication. Ideally internally as well as externally because you want to be building engagement and advocacy, so you can fully leverage the social media, employee-generated content and so on.
Then the next step I think is to build the experience. It’s a bit like any kind of marketing. One side of it is, of course, building equity externally with your communication. But you’ve got to keep improving the product. In this respect there’s no difference between an employer brand and a consumer brand. So internally, you’ve got to be mindful of how you continue to improve the employment experience – how you improve your learning development, various processes, orientation, and maybe performance management. However you’re doing it, you need to keep moving that forward.
And then finally, of course, measuring it. So, we all know that HR analytics are particularly sexy at the moment and I think continuously will be. So the final part of the cycle is really just checking out where you’re making progress, and where perhaps you’re slacking behind and need to improve or adjust.
And I think, really, that is a full cycle. A good research platform at the front, insights that give you a strategic platform, which is the EVP and your identity, and then the communication planning, the action planning, and the measurement. So, that would be my seven-point plan.
And then rinse and repeat every 5 to 10 years?
Well, no. I think the old way of thinking was largely driven by a campaign mentality. So I think it used to be the case (and I’ve been doing this now for many years), that you’d develop your EVP, and then you’d create a campaign toolkit. And you’d run that campaign and probably be tagline-driven, and you’d have a certain look and feel, certain headlines and images. And then for the sake of consistency, you’d run it everywhere, through all of your paid media, but you would also use it on your career site and so on. Now, of course, social has blown that out of the water, that approach, because people are paying far less attention to paid media. We know that.
And of course, if you’re talking about content, you’ve got to have a flow of content and it’s got to be constantly refreshed and pretty variable. You can’t just keep banging on with the same manufactured advertising messages. So I think you don’t really go through that cycle anymore of, “Oh, we’ve done our employer brand, and we’ll redo it again in three or four or five years’ time.” It’s constant refreshment now. And I think even with the underlying EVP, you probably want to refresh some of the elements within the core EVP on a fairly regular basis, at least every other year.
And in terms of localisation, well, I think this should almost be in constant movement in terms of learning what content, what messaging is working. And as long as you’re building the same core associations as you go, that’s fine. You want to be refreshing all of the time.
Who owns the employer brand? HR or marketing?
Well, of course, ultimately and everybody would say this, marketers always say this as well, that everybody should own the brand, or at least feel ownership for it. So that’s one way of thinking about it, but of course, it’s also the responsibility and accountability for getting things done.
I would say, if you’re in an organisation where employer branding is essentially still just communication, then I think marketing should own it. Because it’s a marketing activity. If it’s just communication, then the experts are the marketers and you should really let them take a degree of control over it.
If, however, it extends into experiences as well, and of course, as I say, we say it should be, then I think it should be HR, because HR are the people who really understand the people management side of the business, better than anyone else. So they are experts, they are the consultants, they should understand all of the ins and outs of people management.
And then from the point of extending beyond communication, they should have the ownership of the employer brand because ultimately the employer brand is the employment experience. And that’s not marketing. Marketing are always going to be externally-focused. They may do a bit of internal marketing from time to time, but they’re always going to be more externally-focused. So that’s why it comes back to HR.
And I think from my experience, all of the best examples of really strong, effective employer brand management, ownership has always sat in the HR function. And where it has sat in the marketing function, it’s always been in much more externally-focused than internally-focused.
How do you measure your employer brand?
You’ve got to understand how your employer brand is perceived. That’s an obvious starting point. What do people associate with you? You’ve got to understand what your ratings are in terms of things that you want to be associated with. So if you want to be innovative for example, or you want to be seen as progressive, or you want to be seen as a good development company, then you’ve got to measure those things. And of course, that’s Universum’s bread and butter. We help measure employer brands from that perspective.
And once you’ve got that right, you need to have the flipside of that because you’ll make your call on what you want to be associated with based on its effect on consideration and preference, etc. So you also need to measure the extent these brand associations are driving the kind of behaviours you want. Is it driving people to consider you as an employer and to prefer you versus the companies you’re competing with? So that’s one side, your external employer brand. But what’s often missing, of course, is the inside perspective. So if your employer brand is built around the three or four key priorities defined by your your EVP, you should also be measuring internally to make sure that you’re delivering against those particular promises or attributes.
And likewise, just as your external image may be driving consideration and preference, internally you’re measuring what the strength of association with those particular qualities is internally. For example is this is a place where we can innovate, or this is a place we get great development? And ultimately you should be checking the degree to which these associations are translating into engagement and advocacy.
And I think ultimately if there’s one thing now that you would really say indicates the strength of the employer brand in the social world we live in, I would say it’s employee advocacy or your employer net promoter score. It’s phrased in different ways, but essentially what proportion of your employees are advocating the brand? And if you’re doing no external recruitment marketing or employer brand building, if you’ve got a strong word-of-mouth and advocacy now, I think you will end up with a strong employer brand.
What’s the cost-benefit to an employer brand, and how can you measure it?
Well, I think the simplest way of pushing it, and it goes to the downside, this was the upside, I think what a strong employer brand enables you to do is to hire above average talent for an average wage. And you’ll know that in the compensation and benefits community, they’re all aiming for median. They would probably like it to be lower than that, but generally speaking, they’re all aiming for average. But of course nobody aims for average when it comes to the quality of talent they want to hire.
So what you’re trying to do is build equity in other areas of the employment offer, and the benefit that you’re deriving ultimately is your ability to bring those people in at a lower cost because you have an attractive image. With a strong employer brand you’re not spending as much on getting people’s attention and convincing them. It makes recruitment much easier.
You’re getting attention much more quickly because your brand is well-known, you’re convincing people because they are very positive towards you already, they’re likely to join you at a lower premium. And the Corporate Executive Board demonstrated that this is quite an important element as well, so the people are likely to expect less of a pay rise to come and join you than they would if your brand is poor.
So essentially you’re converting all of this into a brand premium. And of course then, if you have a poor brand image, you really have to pay a great deal more to attract people’s attention because they don’t really want to read about you. Or if they have a negative view already, you’ve got to turn their view around. You’ve got to pay a lot more to executive search firms to go out and hook people because they’re not coming to you of their own accord. All of those things then add up to a fairly major cost.
So I think with a broad view in mind, the amount spent on employer brands in terms of research, and brand development and so on, is not a huge amount. If you compare it with the total cost of recruitment, and beyond that, if you compare it with the total amount of money spent on compensation within most businesses, which is huge, then the employer brand investment is relatively small.
And what you’re saying is very much from the point view of strategic leverage. If you get your focus right and you get your employer branding right, then you’re going to really help to reduce that recruitment marketing cost and you’ll be able to also get a much better return on investment in terms of performance because you’ve got better talent from the amount you spent on compensation.
So I think it’s quite compelling really. If you can get into the conversation around the business case, using those kind of arguments, and you can get hold of the figures internally, then I think there are very few people who would argue that there isn’t a pretty clear cost-benefit from employer branding.
Is employer branding easier for consumer brands?
Well, it depends how you look at it. If you’re in a consumer marketing company where you have fairly youthful products, then you tend to have a fairly youthful culture. And therefore, you tend to have a culture that attracts quite a lot of attention because you do colourful things, and it’s great, and it’s interesting, and it’s vibrant and so on. So I think when we’re looking at companies like Google, LEGO, innocent, Virgin, etc., that’s what we’re getting. We’re getting that vibrant, consumer-focused type of culture.
However, I think if you take a step back from an employer brand point of view, actually there are, some ways, some downsides also to being a consumer brand, and that’s often that you’re too popular. I don’t think Google particularly wants to have 3 million applications per year. You get the same with Unilever, L’Oreal and Procter & Gamble. They’re all getting at least a million applications a year, and that’s more than they want or need because they’d actually prefer to be only getting the right kind of people applying, so they can pick from a more select group. And it’s the fame of their consumer brands that is generating these much higher levels of application.
In business-to-business, you tend to be much more of a niche player, only known within your industry. There are some advantages to that because you’re not typically going to be overwhelmed by applications. And I guess this is a rather odd way of looking at it, but you can build a much more specific and focused employer brand for your particular group and target niche.
So it cuts both ways. It’s easier to attract more attention if you’ve got that young, FMCG, vibrant type of culture, or a high-tech kind of company culture. But B2B is not necessarily a bad place to be in terms of getting a more targeted response to your employer brand marketing.
How do the recent revelations at Amazon impact their employer brand? Will it blow over before we know it?
Yes, and I guess an even more recent example is Volkswagen, of course, where there has been much hand-wringing across the whole German nation, not just Volkswagen. I don’t know with Amazon. I think there have been quite a few stories over the last two or three years about them, not necessarily, should we say, being that caring about their employees because if they’re so customer-focused, and interestingly in terms of their employment marketing they are pretty straight about wanting to be the most customer-focused organisation in the world. So at least, they’re not starting from the point of view “We’re lovely” to employees. And, “Come and join us. We’re just a happy, happy place”. They are saying: “We are very driven. We’re very performance-oriented,” etc.
So I don’t know. I think there’s obviously going to be some damage to the Amazon reputation in terms of what’s comes out. However, I think we should listen to the commentators who really know the inside story, like Dave Lee. He was the head of employer brand at Amazon until relatively recently and moved on. He wrote a very good post [My Amazon Story] about the truth of the matter and the fact that like many organisations, often you’ll get these outraged employees and outbursts, and that will attract other people who’ve had bad experiences.
But it doesn’t necessarily reflect the whole story. And I think people are used, in some respects, for these reputation flash fires to flare up, and I think Amazon has had one of those. And it probably will not affect them that strongly because most people have a very good experience of them from a consumer point of view, they know they’re a successful company, and at the end of the day, that counts for a lot.
There have been a few disgruntled Amazon employees, fine. But there have also been some people who’ve leapt to their defence. I think they’re in a better position, in some respects, than a company like Volkswagen where even though it’s not been directly about employment, it really is saying a lot more about the values of the organisation where something has been deeply institutionalised within the business that is completely counter to any claims that they’ve previously made about either looking about after the environment or corporate ethics, etc.
So I think Volkswagen will suffer a lot more from an employment point of view than Amazon.
How does employer branding work together with content marketing?
I think there’s been a shift. I think employer branding used to be thought of very much in terms of campaign advertising. And I’ve been on the agency side of it where a great deal of effort has gone into creating the campaign and the taglines, etc., with the aim of getting consistent messages out to the target audiences. And there’s still a role for that, to some degree.
But I think because paid media have become less influential and less engaging for people, and social media have become more engaging and of more direct interest to people, particularly where it feels more personal, more authentic and a little less manufactured. I mean people know that the advertising is put together by marketing teams, whereas content marketing tends to be much more story-driven, personal, authentic – at least the good stuff is.
So I think what’s happened is that the employer branding is really being pushed to the edges of the equation. It’s the framing. You want to make sure that the content that you get out to people is well-branded so they recognise that it’s about your company. And if they go from one site to another, from your career site to your Facebook Page, to LinkedIn, to Instagram, and other places, that it’s recognisably the same company because you’ve got good branding, and you may have some anchor taglines and so on. Okay, they’re consistent overall.
But within this brand frame, you have your content marketing, and your content marketing is where you have a much richer and continuous flow of personal, story-driven content. It’s not always personal because you can have infographics about the company, and you can have all kinds of other games and quizzes and interactive things, but largely speaking it’s personal and story-driven.
We’ve launched a new product called IRIS, which measures people’s response to social content. It’s fascinating, we’ve already got, I think, close to a million and a half data points with people looking at content across most of the major employers across the world and saying, “Okay, what kind of content is this? What are they trying to communicate and how engaging is it?”
We found that the content marketing that’s really working at the moment is primarily focused on people and culture. But interestingly, if you look at the full range of content, this doesn’t necessarily account for the biggest chunk. There are lots of other things that people communicate about, but we found that the most engaging content is story-driven, it’s personal, it’s about the culture of the organisation, and it really appears to be giving an authentic inside view This is the content marketing that’s really winning .
And the stuff that feels much more like branding, advertising, messaging, etc., it’s actually not winning in terms of engagement or prompting people to apply. So there’s a big, big shift from the one to the other.
What are the best social channels for employer branding?
There are slightly different roles. LinkedIn is more serious, more professional, and a way of targeting individual people. It doesn’t appear to be quite as effective engagement-wise, in terms of telling the personal story or the inside story of the organisation. For some reason, it’s not. It doesn’t seem to be playing quite that role in the same way that Facebook is.
I think Facebook is really emerging now as that prime vehicle for getting across the personal side of your organisation. And it’s still a bit experimental at the moment. I mean, people are posting all kinds of stuff, but I think those organisations who are putting together a good content calendar on Facebook, and really thinking through the various themes that they want to communicate are doing really well on Facebook.
In some markets, Instagram is doing extremely well. I’ve been doing a fair bit of work in the Middle East, where Instagram is really big, and in some respects, bigger than Facebook, and I think that’s because it is card-based content. I mean, you get it in Facebook, but card and visually-based content is very attractive to people when they’re trying to get the feel of a company.
And of course, Twitter. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, and a lot of companies, probably wrongly, just to tweet out jobs. But I think Twitter is increasingly being used to connect people to the right content, depending on where they’re looking for.
I think you’ve got to look at the full picture. Because it’s like in your own network, it’s not like you can necessarily just manage the things individually and think that way, or miss some of them out.
Our research suggests that particularly students and Gen Y are looking at at least seven or eight different channels when they’re making a choice about an employer. So you’ve got to think about how they all work together, not just the individual elements. And you can’t say, “Okay, we’ll just use LinkedIn, and let’s not do Facebook,” because people are making judgments based on your presence in some of these media, as well as what you’re saying and doing.
And of course, YouTube is big now, but I think it’s going to be even bigger. It’s because people, intuitively get more from moving images than they get from images, and they get more from images than they get from text, and it’s always how things are going to go. So I think YouTube has to be an important part of the mix as well.
I think it’s just inevitable…everything is being pulled in a video direction, and it’s putting a lot of pressure on companies because it’s obviously much more difficult to arrange videos than it is to arrange photography, and it’s much more difficult to arrange photography than it is just to write stuff. So it is putting the pressure on when it comes to content creation and curation and so on within businesses. But I think inevitably it has to go in that direction.
What do you think about LinkedIn’s Talent Brand Index (TBI)?
I think the Talent Brand Index is a useful measure of the volume of engagement with your employer brand, and to some degree, the quality of engagement. Because you’ve got a conversion rate, I guess, between how many contacts you have and how they actively engaged with you or not. So I think it’s quite useful, but it’s a fairly broad measure. It’s not telling you what you’re associated with. It’s not really giving you the diagnostics.
And I would say what’s missing from it a little bit, is for the size of your business, are you punching above your weight or below your weight. Because a lot of it of course depends on how many employees you have. Because a lot of the very strong brands from the Talent Brand Index point of view, they just happen to be large companies. Most of the world’s most attractive employers happen to be quite large employers, and particularly employers of students.
So, you have to work out for an employer brand point of view whether you are behind where you should be, in terms of the number of contacts you have, the influence you have, the level of engagement you have. Or are you ahead of the game, punching above your weight? So overall I think it’s useful. I just wouldn’t use it as a standalone metric for the strength of your employer brand.
What are your thoughts on Glassdoor rankings?
I have to say I was a little bit unsure to begin with because I think when Glassdoor started out like many of these sites, you get somewhat of a polarised view. So you think why have people chosen to write something on these sites and it suggests to me that you’re likely to get the people who were very, very positive about the company, and will go out of their way to be advocates. Or you get the people who have had a bad experience and are therefore extremely negative.
So coming from an employee research background, this is not particularly useful overall because what you want is a broad representation. You want to hear from the silent majority. But I think things have moved on, and I think actually the critical mass with Glassdoor now is getting pretty good. And I have to say that of the companies I know, when I look now at their Glassdoor ratings, and I look at also at the stories that come through, they’re getting more accurate and representative.
And of course what you want ideally to get from Glassdoor is for the particular types of story that really gives you an insight into the culture to come through. And that’s the important thing. I think some people maybe see it as a bit of a whistle blowing tool. And of course you will get negatives in some of these places. But I think actually now on the upside, you’re also getting a quite distinctive taste of the positive qualities characterising the organisations being reviewed.
So I started out being a bit of a cynic, but I have to say I’ve become a bit of a believer, and that’s not just because I’ve been to the summit. In many respects I agreed to speak at the summit because I had become a believer. And yeah, I think they have great, great things ahead for them. I think it’s slowly spreading out of the US where it is pretty strong into at other markets. So I think it’ll do well.
They’re expanding and with the kind of critical mass they’re achieving it turns into an altogether different organism. I think having seen Vault which was a previous version of this kind of site rise and fall, I thought maybe Glassdoor would go the same way. But I think they’re here to stay. I think they’re pretty canny bunch, and they seem to have their heart in the right place actually, as well, which is important.
What companies are leading the way in employer brand management?
I guess I have to choose the companies I’ve worked for because they’re the companies that I know reasonably well. I’m often tempted to go with the likes of L’Oreal, and Unilever, and P&G. I think all of them are very good actually on the employer brand management side and have been for quite a few years.
In terms of the way they built the brand platforms, just like the consumer brands and they’ve managed them pretty consistently and professionally. I think all of those are very good examples. In fact, generally the first place to look for best practice tends to be the FMCG sector because they really know their branding and they’ve mostly done it very well for their employer brands.
BP may be a less obvious candidate, but I think they’ve done a pretty good job of building a consistent employer brand platform. They put a lot of effort into the research to choose the right core themes to focus on, create the right kind of employment deal reflecting their culture. But I think the important thing that they’ve done is also get a good balance between a strong stand out campaign “Perspectives” which presents the perspective of different employees from around the business to give you a feel for the overall culture. So it’s not banging home a tagline and it’s very much about different points of view, which add up to a consistent feel for what the culture is like. And they’ve been very inventive in terms of using lots of different types of content and channels.
So I think they’re a very good example. If you look at their content on Facebook, how they use LinkedIn, how they use their career site, they’ve got a great variety of different forms of content. They’ve done reports. They’ve done infographics. They’ve done stories. They’ve got profiles, but the themes, the underlying brand themes importantly come through pretty strongly. You know that it’s not just engagement for the point of view engagement. It’s not just aiming to give you a warm feeling in the tummy for BP. It’s about saying, “These are the things that we stand for.” And you see those things coming through. You also find that, their content is very well branded. So if you laid it all out on the table it all comes across as very evidently and consistently BP. You’re not going to confuse it with any other company. So I think from that point of view, I think they’ve been a very, very good example.
And actually, I think it’s credit to them that even during quite a difficult time for the industry, they’ve maintained a degree of focus and consistency around their employer brand, where others have perhaps slackened off a bit. So I think for a number of good reasons just take a look at BP, I think they’ve done a great job.
Related: How Does BP Use Social Media?
What will happen to employer brand management over the next three to five years?
There have been lots of predictions about this, that and the other, and we’ve already talked about some of them. I think things, from an employer brand communication point of view, are likely to become richer in terms of the format. So, if you were to compare how much text is written in terms of getting your message across, to how many images we use, to how many videos used, I think we’re moving from left to right, towards video.
Take a look at the new Microsoft career site. Rather than the static images you tend to get on the first page, they’ve actually used video. Likewise with the new Apple iPhone, they’ve launched what they call Live Photographs where you get two seconds rather than a still image. I think everything is going to go towards moving images, and I think that in itself is going to create, let’s just say, quite a lot of resource issues. But I also think that it will help bring a great deal more life to the whole area.
While it’s going to take a little bit longer, I think we’re also going to see more animation and gamification. I don’t mean gamification as in matching games. I mean using a lot of the technology that’s been used for many of the 3-D, immersive environments that are now commonplace in gaming.
And I think, obviously, if you want people to get a feel for what the organisation is like, then one way of doing that is to try and immerse them in those worlds. L’Oreal did it with their business game called Reveal, which was an immersive environment. It looks a bit clunky now but I think they were ahead of their time. I’m pretty sure things will start heading in that direction and we’ll see a lot more of that.
I also think that there will be a degree of maturity reached in terms of the management of the employer brand. So that this focus still dominant within many organisations of just focusing on the presentation side of things – the recruitment marketing, the identity, externally without really linking it up properly and integrating it with people management internally, I think they will be growing maturity in the area. I’ve seen over the last ten years, it’s moved on leaps and bounds.
I think over the next five years we’ll see a lot more employer brand managers having a role sitting between recruitment marketing and people management. Because in many cases, I think people calling themselves employer brand marketing people, or employer branding people, and really still playing a recruitment role, rather than a coordination role across all forms of communication and experience that shape the employer brand.
So I think those are three of the big ones for me. I guess there’s probably a degree of wishful thinking in all three of those. And it may take longer than one would expect. But I think I definitely see a lot of movement in all of those directions.
Please share the story of your Great Aunt Dede, Churchill and Monty as featured in your book?
My Great Aunt was a strong northern lass with a broad Cumbrian accent. She left home when the war started and rather than joining up with the English nurses she joined the Free French. The Free French were the French who, rather than giving in to Hitler and becoming part of Vichy France actually left their shores and came over to London.
And they had a field hospital unit that travelled around with them. And my Great Aunt Dede was the head nurse. So they were in North Africa, and the Free French were fighting alongside the Eighth Army. And alongside the nurses, they had a number of well-connected young ladies from aristocratic families, who used to drive the cars and ambulances,.
And when the top brass came out from England, these ladies were always invited to go to the dinners because the generals liked to have their smart dinner parties wherever they went. And quite often the nurses, or at least Aunt Dede would be invited along as well.
So it was a period during the North African campaign when we were not having a particular good time. We were being knocked back to the left, right and centre, Tobruk had just fallen, and Churchill had come out to really find out what was going wrong, what needed to be done, etc. There was a dinner and my Aunt was invited along.
And the conversation at this dinner party turned to what they thought was going wrong and my aunt being quite outspoken, blurted out what she thought. She said the trouble was that all the soldiers in the hospital she served in ever talk about was German general Rommel. He’s a character, he’s a real leader. And she said something along lines of we need somebody like Rommel. They need to know who’s leading them and care. They want somebody who they would fight for, rather than the faceless commanders currently in charge.
I think there was a stunned silence, and this was not taken too well. I don’t think my aunt ever got invited to another one of these dinner parties. But the funny thing was that within a pretty short space of time, I think within a few weeks, the existing generals were pretty much packed off. And a new general turned up who had a lot more charisma. And was able to make a big difference and of course that was General Montgomery.
My aunt didn’t necessarily directly claim that she’d won the Second World War, but I guess that one moment of either madness or sheer bravery in speaking her mind may have been a moment that turned things around. So there we are, that’s my Great Aunt Dede. Of course the story ends with Montgomery helping the Eighth Army win the battle of Alamein, and after Alamein, it really turned the tide of the war for the Brits. So a, pretty, good story, hopefully soon to be made into a motion picture, with Cate Blanchett playing my aunt. She’d have liked that, and thoroughly deserved it too.
This story is the intro to the chapter around internal engagement actually because of course what Montgomery had been very good at, and why he managed to turn things around is that he was great at communicating. I mean he went out like modern elites do, which generals tended not to do, and spent a lot of time just briefing units of soldiers face-to-face, and telling them what was going to happen, why they were important, the role they had in it and all of that kind of stuff.
So it’s really good modern management thinking really. It was management by walking around but he led the troops in a very purposeful way. They all met him at some point. They all knew him, whether they liked him or not. They thought that if at least he spent the time to come and see us, he cares and we’ll fight for him. And they did and of course, it paid huge dividends.