Designing the Total Employee Journey

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

Tending to the candidate experience is an important part of employer brand management, but it’s far from employer brand’s only job. After all, “candidate” is just the first of many roles an employee holds across their journey with your company.

At packaging solutions company Sonoco, employer brand management is tackling the “total employee journey,” from candidate to alum. Rather than taking a recruitment-focused approach to employer brand, Global Lead for Employee Experience Kristi Raines embraces a “start to finish” view of the employee experience. In her own words, “We’re looking at opportunities to engage at every stage.”

Employer Brand at the Recruitment Stage

Retooling the recruitment process at Sonoco started with a question: “How do we get our recruiters thinking like marketers?” Raines observed that recruiters tend to be much more analytical and process-driven than marketers. To serve the total employee journey, however, their relationship with candidates can’t end with the “sell.”

“Candidates rely on recruiters for much more than just selling them a job,” Raines says. The bond an employee forms with their recruiter may be the closest HR relationship they have during their tenure with a company. When given the opportunity, employees often return to them for career advice, networking opportunities, and more.

To get Sonoco’s recruitment team thinking more like marketers, Raines offered them a curated collection of content to share, along with the freedom to pick whichever resources resonated most and adapt copy to fit their personal voice. This strategy saw results, and the team began forging more connections with new and different people.

Employer Brand During Onboarding and Beyond

Supporting Sonoco employees during the onboarding process means focusing on development, with special attention to HR technology. Check-ins at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, and six months are a must, as is collaborating closely with Sonoco’s organizational development team.

Kickstarting a positive employee experience means looking beyond the day-one basics (new desk, fresh computer). Raines and her team are always looking for ways Sonoco’s learning management system can support better onboarding. They follow up to ensure employees’ relationships with their managers remain strong and that they’re being provided with development opportunities—key areas they identified through “total employee experience mapping.”

Employer Brand and Alumni

Sonoco knows that a company’s relationship with an employee doesn’t end on their last day in the office. The care Sonoco takes with its exit process shows: It’s not uncommon for workers to return to the company.

“We’re really proud of the fact that we have a lot of boomerangs come back,” reports Raines. And even when they don’t, she says, the experience an alum takes with them has a serious impact on employer brand—“They’re going to want to share their experience with Sonoco with their next employer.”

In the short term, Sonoco is considering implementing exit interviews to enhance that alumni experience. “It’s critical for us to seek feedback from those that left,” says Raines. “We don’t know what we don’t know, and if your recruiter is the only HR person you interact with during your tenure with us, then we really don’t know what we don’t know.”

This start-to-finish strategy demands that employer brand managers maintain strong relationships with every wing of their organization. Those relationships take time, Raines reminds us, as well as patience and creativity.

“Don’t go in with one idea,” she recommends. “Go in with eight.” That flexibility will pay off in the long run—for your employer brand and your employee experience.

To follow more of Kristi Raines’ work in employer brand, connect with her on LinkedIn. For help developing data-driven employer brand strategies to make real change, talk to us—the right data provides insight that you can act on to improve your company.


Our newsletter is exclusively curated by our CEO, Jörgen Sundberg, for leaders who make decisions about talent. Subscribe for updates on The Employer Branding Podcast, new articles, eBooks, research and events we’re working on.


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