Tuesday 22 April 2008

Employer branding / Yahoo!

The final area of my talent management workshop I have been asked to explain more fully is employer branding.

From a strategic HCM / talent management perspective, this is about two things: firstly, differentiating the organisation from others, and secondly, communicating this differentiation. It's not about the colour of the stationery (although purple can apparently help).

Richard Donkin wrote an interesting article on e-recruitment in the FT recently. However, I think his most important observation related to some potential recruits' reactions to employers' recruitment web sites:

"They all say the same things about themselves," said one graduate, "Perhaps they actually are all the same."

I think organisations can do much more to clarify for themselves, and for their people, what sort of organisation they are. It's about getting an alignment between strategy, people and HR practices.

Tamara Erickson and Lynda Gratton referred to these as 'signature practices' in their Harvard Business Review article, What it Means to Work Here last year:

"It's the ability to express to current and potential employees what makes the organization unique. Companies with highly engaged employees articulate their values and attributes through 'signature experiences'--visible, distinctive elements of the work environment that send powerful messages about the organization's aspirations and about the skills, stamina, and commitment employees will need in order to succeed there."

These practices can be placed at the centre of the organisation's employer brand.

Writing at the Internal Comms Hub, Richard Mosley makes some good suggestions for identifying Your Organisation's Unique Brand Values: the unique properties of an organisation that can form its organisation capability / signature experiences / employer brand / employee value proposition, for example, by considering its personality:

"If the organization were represented by a single person, what type of person would that be? (It often helps to start with a few iconic examples, like Marks & Spencer, Nike or McDonalds to warm people up.) Once people have entered the spirit of this exercise you can also ask a series of more specific questions like: What kind of car would they drive? What kind of paper would they read? What kind of pets would they keep? etc."

It is through working with your executive teams on exercises like these that will ensure that you are able to offer clear differences between your and other organisations, and that you can attract the talent your organisation wants.

I think translating this differentiation into your employer brand is then comparatively easy.

A good example is Yahoo's internal branding as a 'Life Engine'.

This was developed as an employer brand at the same time as becoming a focus for corporate branding. To external users, Life Engine suggests all the ways in which Yahoo! functions as a universal guide. To employees, it encompasses this meaning, plus all the ways in which working at Yahoo! 'powers' all other facets of their lives, and provide a rationale for the provision of life insurance, free lattes etc.

In addition, employees are encouraged to tailor the proposition to their own needs. So upon the brand's rollout, employees were sent a customisable license plate frame that read: 'Yahoo!: My ______ Engine'. Employees completed this to refer to what they personally got from their job and career at Yahoo! (for example, HRD Libby Sartain's plate said: 'Yahoo! My FunPlace2Work Engine').


  1. Jon, could they write anything they wanted? :)

    My understanding of brands is that they are sets of relationships - coke is the boomers' drink and sprite is the youngsters' drink. (Gen X drinks water!) We couldn't be seen to drink the wrong one!

    What if we get out of the firm to ask how perceptions about our company circulate?

  2. Hi Jo, sorry I've not responded to any of your comments recently. As you may have noticed, I've got a bit behind on my blog and a few other things as well.

    Anyway, yes, great points as ever.

    Certainly if you#re talking about a coprorate brand, you need to get outside the company.

    For an employer brand, you've got two choices - either you target potential recruits and ask them their perceptions of the organisation, or I think more usefully, you understand the perceptions of those already working there, who after all, will have a much stronger view about what's really going on.

    You can then use this to design your differentiation and from this, your overall employee value proposition, in a way that takes the organisation forward, but still resonates with your current staff.

    You can build this proposition into your signature and other HR processes, and once this is done, can start to communicate it, internally and externally, as a brand.

    That would be my approach anyway.


Please add your comment here (email me your comments if you have trouble and I will put them up for you)