Whose Employer Brand is it Anyway?

Back in December I went to the Employer Brand Management Conference, which I previewed in this post.

I have written about employer brand quite a few times for HR and recruitment audiences – its a hot topic that many practitioners seem to want to know more about – so it was surprising at that event to find in over 120 attendees there was no-one from either discipline. Maybe the word ‘brand’ signifies marketing and comms to some HR folk, but there is little doubt that they shouldn’t be ignoring it.

The number one priority for most HRDs is the attraction, retention and engagement of the employees and skills they need – the way you are perceived as an employer, the way you reach out to new hires, the way you manage and lead, the vision and purpose, all of this is in the large melting pot of what we call Employer Brand.

Is it a case of everyone thinking that someone has responsibility for employer brand but in reality nobody takes it? Recent research from Universum sheds some light on this.


60% of CEOs think that they own it and only 32% think its HR. Which is in contrast to those in the talent acquisition sector, with 58% of HR execs and 57% of recruiters thinking its HR’s responsibility. Marketing execs are even more confused with 39% saying HR, 40% the CEO, and 27% themselves.

Whoever has internal responsibility, they seem in little doubt that the immediate main objective is to fulfil short term recruitment needs and the longer term main objective is to secure long term recruitment needs.

Of course the reality is that if anyone ‘owns’ it then it’s the employees, as it’s their experiences that are most visible to outsiders. How their employment experience is impacted by development opportunities, reward, performance management, inclusive management and a positive hiring experience is where HR come in to play. And if HR are doing their job and creating a great working environment, then they should also want to know how that is being communicated. The art is to let employees be the storytellers through encouragement, not control.

However some of employer brand is inextricably linked to general brand perception. Employer branding didn’t start with the internet, and just as Google, Apple and Facebook are brands that newer entrants to the job market would like to work for, so companies such as Virgin, M&S, John Lewis, BBC and numerous consulting firms and advertising agencies have been aspirational employers in the past. Often these preferences are based on general brand awareness, not the employment experience.

Is it the wider implications of branding and brand messages that maybe HR and recruiters struggle with?

On April 21st I’ll be heading off to blog and tweet from the European Brand Conference in London, which again is being run by Transform Magazine. There are a number of presentations around branding – perceptions, reputation, tone, experiential – with sessions specifically looking at employer branding too. There is a diverse range of companies speaking, including Cancer Research UK, BT, Oxfam, Eurostar, Orange, Fairtrade, Oxford University and Starbucks.

If you want to hear more then there are a small number of tickets available and blog readers can get a 10% discount the code TRANSCONF10 when booking here.

So if you’re thinking of dipping a toe in the branding conversation then come and join me, I’m sure the water’s just fine.

One thought on “Whose Employer Brand is it Anyway?

  1. Interesting concept ’employer brand’ and such a gray area; it is true when you say “The art is to let employees be the storytellers through encouragement, not control.” – It is a ‘pull’ rather than a ‘push’ activity; as is so much of employee engagement in general.

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