More than just a PR exercise
By MILLIE ONG
Although commonly the domain of corporate branding and public relations (PR) teams, human resources (HR) is stepping up to be a big contributor to branding efforts in many organisations.
As talents are at the forefront of an organisation and the catalyst for its capabilities, HR policies can be as important as the products and services that an organisation offers.
HR departments can actively promote their policies and initiatives as part of corporate branding; highlighting efforts directed at employees rather than to the general public.
Ask the question “Which is your dream company to work for?”, and people will go on and on about their favourite companies.
These companies, often leaders in their industries, are famous because of their positive HR policies, work culture and employee engagement efforts – sometimes without the same amount of brand awareness for their products and services.
These organisations use HR as a form of brand expression, generating positive values associated to the company.
HR branding efforts have become part and parcel of HR strategy due to its benefits – particularly in talent acquisition. Positive publicity as an “employer of choice” often allows organisations to attract larger quantities of talents, including the cream of the crop.
A good track record of engaged employees and other pro-employee initiatives shapes an organisation that is in demand amongst talents seeking new opportunities.
People want to work for a company that would treat them well.
Is it all for show?
But the question that arises is this: are these HR policies just another PR branding tactic for a company, and nothing else? Perhaps, but often there is more to it than just that.
Implementing pro-employee HR policies can be extremely beneficial to all parties involved. Organisations who intend to utilise HR policies to drive branding must have genuine and properly implemented initiatives to qualify for such publicity.
Undelivered promises can create negative reputations about an organisation, therefore diluting the credibility of the brand.
As such, organisations must then truly be committed and willing to invest effort and resources towards improving HR processes, employee engagement and taking initiatives to nurture their own talent.
Employees within a company then benefit directly from these efforts, even if they appear to be aimed at a purpose that extends beyond impact to employees.
In addition, strong employer brand efforts often involve more than just a talent acquisition strategy. It is also an effort to keep employees engaged.
Positive HR policies can be aimed at keeping current employees happy and ensuring talent retention, especially in a time when job-hopping is increasingly the norm.
Thus, the initiatives become directly aimed at benefiting existing employees as well, such as through increased compensation and benefits or improved work culture.
Such branding strategies create positive conversation about the organisation and act as indirect marketing for the company’s products and services.
This form of passive marketing could then actually generate sales and revenue for the organisation.
Furthermore, by attracting larger talent pools interested in working with the company, organisations have the opportunity to recruit the best of talents.
Strong talent can have extremely positive impacts on organisation performance, whether through the infusion of new ideas, improved work processes or productive collaboration.
Having the right talent within a company can be the competitive advantage possessed by industry leaders.
Moreover, according to Organisational Support Theory, talents who perceive their employers as being supportive and valuing their contributions are more likely to reciprocate – possibly through increased effort in the workplace.
When benefits reaped from positive branding and effective talent acquisition become apparent, it motivates organisations to further upkeep their efforts – creating an eventual multiplier effect.
The employee advocate
Given the new role that human resources (HR) plays in contributing towards an organisation’s brand, employees themselves inevitably become brand ambassadors.
They are the walking, talking models who can share and publicise positive policies, processes and initiatives that have been implemented within the organisation.
This goes beyond a picture of smiling employees featured in a press release to actual testimonies of how HR actions affect their work on a daily basis.
Outside of external brand communication, having employees advocate for the organisation through informal means can become a strong branding tool.
If you work in a company with positive HR policies that have been beneficial to your work and life, one would be bound to want to share this information with others. But, how?
Talk about it… everywhere
Whether in casual conversations with friends or families, there’s no harm in sharing the practices of your organisation as part of your daily interactions. Just make sure it flows as part of conversation and doesn’t sound like you’re blowing your own horn.
The power of social media is undeniable, and it serves as a great platform to share as well. Whether it’s a simple status talking about the recent employee engagement effort or sharing press releases by the company, it increases the level of reach that your organisation gets.
Through increased awareness of these positive HR policies conducted by the organisation, it serves as passive contribution to the organisation’s branding.
Contribute ideas and suggestions
HR policies are about the employees, and how they relate to the work of the organisation. As employees, these policies are central to your daily work and can have direct effects on you.
Although the creation and development of these policies fall under the purview of HR practitioners, every employee has the right to contribute suggestions and feedback about it.
It is likely that employees themselves would have a better understanding of how policies affect them within their context, and be able to propose ways to improve.
Constant improvement creates more positive HR policies, which then further strengthen your organisation’s HR branding.
Millie Ong hopes that every company will be inspired to become an employer of choice, taking the steps to create a happier and more engaged work culture for all employees. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.