This article covers the relation between employer branding and its effects on the marketing as a whole. So I will first start with the employer branding concept with the definitions and the academic studies on it. Later I will give the relation the branding literature of Kotler and AMA. The next step will be to evaluate how the employer brand can be promoted within an organization. And I will summarize what has been gathered based on my work thorough the paper. The work is not very deep to provide new insights to the reader but it will more imply very explicit relation between one old and one new developing concept in the world of practitioners and the academicians. So this paper is more of a discussion including previous works done and also a personal observations based on different corporate and commercial companies.
Invention and Presentation of Employer Branding
Employer Branding is presented first by Simon Barrow (1990) in an annual conference of Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. However in written academic literature, it dates back just 1996. In Journal of Brand Management the conception of the naming is located into the journal by Simon Barrow and Tim Ambler (1996).
Discoverer and the father of the term, Simon Barrow, has a distinct resume to create the naming. He had more than 5 years in charge of Branding Manager of Colgate Palmolive which is an important consumer business brand. Later he was employed by Ayer Barker as a Chief Executive Officer. Then he merged his career in marketing with organizational aspects of his business and had a consultancy role in “People in Business” (CIPD Report, 2007)
It is the Barrow’s career as a combination of marketing and human resources may have been resulted a duplication expertise area for marketing and organizational behavior.
Sokro’s (2012) definition for employer branding is not directly referring employees. He instead writing on stakeholders including employees. In his definition he also ads building marketing principles identifying employer branding concept with its retention capacity.
Before deepening in the definition of employer brand, we need to define how AMA determines –brand- as per its long time view.
“A name, term sign, symbol, or design, or combination of them which is intended to identify the goods and services of one seller group or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors“(Backhaus, Tikoo, 2004).
Kotler&Lee (2008) defines “the process of developing an intended brand identity”
So the question is how internal brand management or the perception of the brand inside of any organization would help marketing activities outside.
Barrow&Ambler (1996) determines the employer branding;
“The package of functional, economic, and psychological benefits provided by employment, and identified with the employing company”
With another phrasing, “identifies an organization in the marketplace and makes it unique” (Gilliver, 2009)
“Employee brand is the awareness and perception of employees, potential employees and related stakeholders with regard to a particular firm.” (Sullivan, 2004)
In spite of the fact that the definitions done by Ambler-Barrow, and Gulliver, I will use Sullivan definition due to listed reasons.
a) Ambler and Barrow defines the employer brand internally. Within the definition, internal feelings of perceived benefits of working in the company may affect outsiders partially and may affect employer attractiveness to some extent.
b) Sullivan’s definition encompasses all stakeholders affected by the concept.
c) Sullivan’s definition is both more specific and also wide enough to have the unknown factors as stakeholders.
Drawing the limits for the definition in order to go deep we need to extract components of employee brand. I will list the base points of what Sullivan defined;
a) Awareness and Perception
b) Employees and Prospective Employees and Stakeholders
c) Related to a particular firm.
In the definition of awareness and perception actually refers to what Barrow and Ambler (1996) determine within their definition as “functional, economic, and psychological benefits provided by employment” I believe when Sullivan made a distinction between awareness and perception, he may have though that awareness is closely related to what has been offered and perception is closely related to the perceived value of what has been offered. Many works showed that perceived value is no different than that awareness. From my point of view, the awareness part of the definition is not actually different than the perception part.
Branding for employee and employer is actually different. It is more about what has been branded. While employee branding aims to target employed labor and the latter refers more the workforce outside. (Babcanova, Babcan, Odlerove – 2010)
In my paper, that distinction is not valid as I claim that marketing employer as a brand encompasses employee branding as well. But the work of Babcanova, Babcan, Odlerova (2010) have clear distinctions between employee and employer branding as below.
- Branding activities toward; employer branding is more directed to internal and external, employee branding is directed to employed workforce,
- Branded entity is the origination in employer branding whereas the latter is about the employee and his performance. (Engagement, communication, perception, performance, effect on results.)
- The aim of branding is the current and potential labor within employer marketing. However employee marketing aims more the clients who have relations with brandy employees.
- Intended outcomes for employer branding is confirming that the company is attractive for the recruits. The latter to make employees move over brand and have company’s brand’ intrinsic values.
Argument that I have, even though they may be differences between internal perception and external perception of employer, in a midterm approach they would be closely related as there is a direct interaction between insiders and outsiders. Beside I claim that whereas the branding inside is more related to Human Resources and Organizational Behavior Theory issues instead of marketing concepts.
Why employee branding is important in terms of marketing concept?
As per the view and understanding of AMA;
“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
Even though many sees employer branding is a Human Resources concept, it is closely related marketing practitioners and scholars.
1) Labor force currently opting their employers based on their reputation and credibility and prospective happiness and welfare they would have when they are working. They are, of course, considering the ethical and fair treatments of their future partners at work. (Socro, 2012) That shows that if highly skillful employees are chosen and recruited, all the operations creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings will be at higher quality in proportion to more skilful employees.
2) According to the research done by Thomson, Hematony Arganbright and Khan (1999), if employees are getting attached themselves to their organization, they are increasing current performances at an important level. The research showed that 26 % of all research respondents said that this branding loyalty increased their performance. At the high profile level of labor this rate increased to 48%.
3) Christopher, Payne and Ballantyne (2003) argued a different perspective of the concept, according to their research when all the employees experienced the vision and what is inherent in the brand they have better relations when they are in charge of relations with suppliers and the customers.
4) Especially Youngers of the recent years generally called as Y generation are effecting the company branding in both ways. One as a customer of the company the second id the social media power of the generation. (Soulez, Soulez, 2011) We know some examples from the business environment that an unsatisfied employee may destruct company’s reputation at the local and international level with its devastating results. This is not only problem of organizations also it manifest a great threat and opportunity for the governments and multinational organizations. Especially Y generation cares the employer reputation more than ever.
5) New marketing paradigm is relationship marketing and that paradigm includes many network hubs as employees, customers, suppliers, government, public, non-governmental organizations.
6) High skills employees attracted by the organizations have effect on visibility, touch and care operations in terms of the condition of the service or product.
The listed above are just very explicit connections between employer brand and marketing itself.
Researches and papers are very limited related to employer brand and employer branding for the number of the papers set up so it is very new concept in marketing.
How employer brand is promoted?
A strong relationship exists between the employer branding and the perception of the organization as the latter one rewards the organizations in terms of the organization’s vision and profitability as long as sustainability is concerned. Harris (2010) have an idea on employer branding that the concept actually is the product of three different component. Those are directly related to each other; engagement of ab employee, Communication and development of a labor.
According to Harris (2010) three items are central core in Employer Branding;
1) How and employee engage the brand that he/she is working for
2) How clearly does communication occurs?
3) How employee is developed?
Harris’s (2010) content may not be enough to cover all the content and I will add one more as the perception of the others where we live in. As people around us has the capacity to judge, respect and support our self-esteem in life. Thinking the Maslow theory of hierarchy of needs, self-esteem is a central point for not only employer branding and also the other three content as employee engagement, employee communication (in and out) and training and development. The environment we live in affects the four of them widely. As this paper is more of a marketing work instead of human resources, the statements below will list all the components of the employer branding but is able to mainly focus on increasing perception of the place where we work in terms of employer branding.
So to brand employer, one must work on these four areas but the also the question is HOW? First I will summarize those components and after I will focus on the last one as I claim it is the most important one in front of employer branding.
Core Component 1: Employee Engagement
Employee engagement is of course a wide concept covering all the relation to his/her job, processes, system, to co-workers to his peers, managers, business friends, and of course the private life.
Employee engagement: Webster’s Dictionary gives us a definition of engagement;
“Emotional involvement or commitment”;
Hence employee engagement would involve a worker’s emotional involvement or commitment to the organization and job. As this is emotional part of the employee as an individual, we need to see that it is mostly not the reality but it is more the perception on reality.
Academic literature goes a bit further and describes engaging “positive, fulfilling, work related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication and absorption” (Schaufeli, Bakker, Salanova, 2002). His statements show that how culture is absorbed and how an employee helps and supports the perception of a brand directly consequences of employee engagement based on the culture and character of the worker. Burnout is the opposite of engagement and can be described as emotional exhaustion and loss of motivation. Employee engagement has recently become a hot topic as current research links high levels of employee engagement to benefits in organizational outcomes and success.
“Studies show that among the different job sectors that the nonprofit sector has the highest levels of employee engagement. However, this does not mean that nonprofits do not need to dedicate the time and resources to ensure strong leadership, accountability and ensure that employees feel a sense of autonomy, sense of control over one’s environment, a shared sense of destiny and the opportunity for development and advancement. Nonprofits have traditionally addressed many needs in our communities that are not addressed by other sectors. The wellbeing of our communities is contingent upon a strong and motivated nonprofit sector. ” (Trusted Partner, 2014)
By utilizing these research results, your organization can identify the factors that create engagement and in turn reap the benefits provided by highly engaged employees. Also this definitely implies for the workers who has vision as helping the others create internal inherent motivation by changing the perception of the work itself.
I experienced personally five corporate companies namely Sabancı, Koç Holding, Alsom, Deloitte, Kentbank and as a consultant more than 60 companies. According to the observations that I have from those corporate and commercial companies that employee engagement has a tendency to increase if the employee thinks that the employer gives more than what employee thinks that he can get e.g. creating new projects for high potentials, surprise bonuses, increasing the added value of staying in the company longer time. The main drivers are three folded. One of the experience was in more dynamic company –Deloitte- which is generally having younger and new graduates. In Deloitte, the employees have employer branding based on more feature expectations and the know-how they are learning and obtaining. The second category would be more Sabancı and Koç Holding type of companies which employ more of a long term workers and experts. The second group was using a career management system and monetary rewards to sustain employee engagement. The third group is more like a project company being multiple countries and using more expatriate like Alstom or Bombardier. The third category used more expatriate welfare conditions and contracts to provide employee engagement for long time and in different locations and projects. So the company structure and business model strongly affects employee engagement. The key lies generally in what employee needs and how they are fulfilled with what company provides.
Core Component 2: Communication
Employee communication can be divided into two categories, one is toward outside and the other within inside. Both affects the organization marketing structure but one is more effective in terms of the overall marketing of a brand or any organization at the stake. What I focus within the component affects mostly marketing structure is more outward. But even the outward communication is fed by two different channels.
- How employees communicate the internal conditions among them.
- How employees communicate the brand outside of the organization.
As the new marketing phenomena is relationship marketing, each variable affecting this relation also affects the company brand and consequently the marketing power of the origination.
The most difficult challenge in branding employer is generally the continuum of providing open and clear communication patterns. When an organization uses the branding ad-hoc basis or from an event basis point of view, that would not generally an effective branding structure. It needs continuing efforts to provide a solid mechanism.
Core Component 3: Development
Training and development is very strong effect on employee’s perception outside and representation capabilities in the eyes of the others who would have the potential to buy, to work and relation with in the key areas wherever needed.
If an employee thinks that I do develop myself within the current structure, he/she naturally thinks that I am growing and the organization supports myself. That supports psychologically gives a message that the employee is important and there is connection and bonding between employee and the organization.
The development also encompasses the sharing the strategy and vision with the employees as there is a facility between employees and the customers continuing at every contact level.
Core Component 4: Perception of the others where we live in
This component is more related with self-esteem and self-esteem is partly set by the person and partly set by the others. According to Mutz (1992) mass perception affects the individual self-perception referring self-esteem. If some people working a kind of organization is known reputable by the others also has positive perceptions and evaluations for the company itself. For Branding the perception and the feedback received from the others are vital points for public perception of the organization and the product/service.
I claim that this is the respect received from the others. This can be divided in to categories or classes one of them is to desire to get respect from the others and the other one is independence and freedom.
But the important thing is not the words or their inherent meanings. The most important thing is the perception of the concepts at both the employee level and the outsider level.
So promoting employer brand also increase self-esteem to same extent affecting the employee’s self-confidence and loyalty to the organization. Employers self-esteem is a central point in as human care for being secure and recognized in their environments and have values to stay longer periods in relatively perceived better brands.
Employer branding is a rising concept for most of the organization as it is an important factor for the internal and external stakeholders. So new and giant companies are investing on it. The four component of employer branding as follows; employee engagement, communication, development and the perception. All works should focus on perceptions more than what has been side.
Soon we know that the marketing science will have more concentration on employee branding as it has effects on the marketing concept as a whole from different layer as listed in the paper.
But as a summary, the marketing as a whole has direct connection with employer branding from different point of views.
– Skillful employees attracted to the organization empowers the organization’s place within competition.
- Employee engagement increases performance having high level results on the marketing side.
- Increasing vision awareness also increase the effect on relations with clients and suppliers.
- Young generation has huge effect on branding as a whole. This is also effected by the perception of the brand.
- Relationship marketing encompasses also the employees as hubs connecting the environment.
- High skill employees better understand visibility, touch and care functions of successful marketing.
It is easy to conclude at the logical level that employer branding should be core concept in relationship marketing.
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