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INSIDE EMPLOYER BRANDING

20 September 2016
Hubba Hubba, Menara CIMB, KL Sentral
  • Background to Roundtable
    In order to fulfill the transformational role that top management and boards expect of HR today, HR practitioners need to move away from and outsource the administrative functions and transactional tasks that have been traditionally
    associated with them. HR leaders need to raise their game to become strategic partners to the business, and adopt more proactive mindsets to provoke the status quo to become true advocates instead of just policy enforcers. They need to prove HR’s value by understanding every aspect of the overall business so that they can better support key business strategies and help to solve problems facing the industries they operate in.
    In response to this trend and need, Propay Partners (“Propay”), a specialist provider of payroll and employee solutions in  South East Asia that is headquartered in Malaysia, recently started an executive roundtable series. Manish Mehta, Business  Director of Propay, a company that has been in the industry for over 15 years shared, “Many of Propay’s clients have told  us that after they outsourced their payroll and other repetitive transactional HR work to Propay, they were able to focus more on Strategic HR work. Excited at being able to finally do the strategic HR work that they really wanted to be doing,  our clients approached us for more ideas and insights on things they could look into, to take their HR practice to the next  level.

    We thought this roundtable series was a good place to start. “Employer Branding” was selected as a first topic as this  is an area many clients have said they are still struggling with.” 
    Propay hosted its inaugural roundtable themed “Inside Employer Branding” on 20 September 2016, in close collaboration with &samhoud consultancy (“&samhoud”). &samhoud is a world-class, vision-driven, consultancy firm with offices in Utrecht, Kuala Lumpur and Zürich. They help companies to be sustainably successful. Their major customers are found around the world, across various sectors such as Montblanc, Hong Leong Bank, Achmea, Nestlé, TNT Express, Aegon, Rabobank, Axiata, Icare, Swisscom and Microsoft. The work they do can range from formulating a vision and strategy to implementing and improving it; as well as projects related to leadership development, branding and innovation. The organisation has been the recipient of many Great Place to Work Awards that annually ranks the top workplaces in the Europe region.

    The roundtable was co-facilitated by Mr. Wouter Van Der Weijden (who has worked at &samhoud for 18 years) and Ms. Geeta Ramachandran of &samhoud, and Mr.Bharat Avalani, a friend and Marketing Advisor of Propay. This event was attended by several senior HR leaders from organisations like BNP Paribas, Encorp Group, EUMCCI, Goodyear, JLL, Privasia Group, Scania Asia, TalentCorp, Volkswagen and CnetG Asia. The pre-event atmosphere was lively, with the room abuzz with chatter and conversation. Many were delighted to see familiar faces, and all were excited at the opportunity to expand their professional network and knowledge at an offsite event.
  • What is Employer Branding?
    By definition, “Employer Branding” is the process of promoting a company, or an organisation, as the employer of choice to a desired target group, one that a company needs and wants to recruit as well as retain. 
    It was first defined in the mid-90s and denotes an organisation’s reputation as an employer, as opposed to its corporate brand. It led to the development of Employee Value Propositions that outline the key employer benefits offered, and employer brand guidelines to standardize a company’s recruitment advertising. Predominantly outward facing and advertising driven, it was placed under the purview of HR. The recent rise of social media has resulted in companies becoming more transparent. People now trust the opinions of real employees more than a company’s recruitment advertising. Due to this, talent attraction and retention today relies more on employee engagement and advocacy. Within this context, &samhoud designed the content of the roundtable session to address 3 key questions: 
    What do employees (particularly future younger employees) want?
    What makes a strong employer brand?
    What is the role of HR to create a stronger employer brand?
  • What do employees want?
    The team from &samhoud provided a snapshot of what employees, particularly Millennials, want in a company: fulfilling and meaningful work; a creative and dynamic work environment; flexibility and work life balance (though accountability and efficiency must be emphasised); stability (a financially sound company with good growth prospects); a commitment to improving people’s lives; training and development opportunities; and a commitment to make the world a better place. 
    Even if they do not always know what they want, new graduates tend to use their first employer as an “exploration base.” Once they have a better idea of what they want, they will move to another company to jumpstart their career. Hence, employers are constantly challenged to show new hires that their companies are worth building a long-term career with. Companies such as Scania that focus more on vocational training do not mind being known as an “exploration base”, but there is an additional challenge is to showcase how vocational careers are just as respectable and rewarding as other professions; and have good advancement prospects. Companies like Good Year Tires in older industries that are traditionally more male dominated are trying to attract younger hires and more women to create a more diverse workforce. 

    Companies that are results driven or from particular industries where  very technical qualifications are required prefer to hire for skills rather than attitude. Others prefer to hire for attitude and train for skills, which they feel should be a given. Many people leave companies largely because they do not fit into the culture, do not like their leader, or have different beliefs in relation to work and life culture; not because they do not have the skill sets required. Richard Branson once said, “You can copy everything but you can’t copy our culture.” In response, many modern companies are now building in culture and values into their performance management systems, judging employees by how they live these values. There are companies, like IKEA, who specifically hire for cultural rather than job fit.

    Unilever is one company that has been very successful with Employer Branding, applying the same focus and consistency  to this area as they do to their corporate and consumer branding. Mr. Bharat Avalani, who has worked with the FMCG giant for 24 years, felt that employers today need to show employees that they do not always need to switch companies to get the different “dynamic and creative” experiences that they want. Employees just need to work with a company that can give them these different experiences.
     
    Mr. Bharat also strongly believes that a company’s sense of purpose and vision needed to come through to potential  employees. Unilever was founded on a vision to create a brighter future for women and homemakers everywhere. This singular vision has been consistently translated into its market offerings, from the cleaning detergents it manufactures to make life easier for homemakers, to the meaningful campaigns that it runs such as its “Dirt is Good” campaign that promotes outdoor learning and play for kids. To this day, Unilever still leverages on long-time loyal employees and “Unileaders” like Bharat who continue to believe in Unilever’s brand value, partnering with them for its employer branding activities. Companies must consistently create good experiences for each graduate that comes through their doors, as even if they leave your company after a short stint, they can still become a strong advocate of your brand. Companies that are results driven or from particular industries where very technical qualifications are required prefer to hire for skills rather than attitude. Others prefer to hire for attitude and train for skills, which they feel should be a given. Many people leave companies largely  because they do not fit into the culture, do not like their leader, or have  different beliefs in relation to work and life culture; not because they do not have the skill sets required. Richard Branson once said, “You can copy everything but you can’t copy our culture.” In response, many modern companies are now building in culture and values into their performance management systems, judging employees by how they live these values. There are companies, like IKEA, who specifically hire for cultural rather than job fit. 

    One participant, Ms. Emiliawati binti Zainol, General Manager of Human service background summed this up best by saying, “We should treat well to our own people, they will in turn market it well to our customers.” performance.”
  • What is the role of HR to create a stronger employer brand?
    HR has evolved at a meteoric rate in the past century but is currently at a crossroads. HR is going to have a huge role in leading and shaping the future of business but needs to reinvent itself. 
    A popular article, The Evolution of HR: Developing HR as an Internal Consulting Organisation talks about this by highlighting how HR typically has 4 main roles (Administrative Expert, Employee Relations Expert, Change Agent and Strategic Partner) and 16 accountabilities within those roles. There is a general consensus that in order to remain relevant (and avoid extinction), HR needs to bring marketing philosophy into its practice and redefine itself as a Change Agent and a Strategic Business Partner.
  • What makes a strong employer brand?
    When asked to name a top local or international brand, Google was a top-of-mind response for many, but people were encouraged to name less obvious choices. For leading international brands, many named GE for their investment in innovation, research and development, talent and education.

    Nestle was named for being a market leader that was highly structured with good visionary leadership. Nestle also was said to offer ample training and development opportunities plus many family related activities for their staff. Samsung was admired for its strength in product branding. 
    A local brand that participants liked and looked up to was DiGi for its fun and innovative brand personality that as well as its emphasis on growth, learning and new ways of working e.g. open offices with hot desking. Grab was named for its cool startup culture and expansion plans. Maybank was seen as a very visible and stable company, with good CSR contributions,  strong social media presence and minimal scandals. Petronas was recognised as a truly global Malaysian company that still maintained strong ties with local culture. Leaderonomics was another popular local brand valued for its genuineness as well as its contributions to leadership and team development. There is also Ecoworld, a property company focused on ecofriendly offerings that was also seen to have strong leadership. Through these examples, participants obtained a better idea of the values and qualities potential employees could be looking for. 

    &samhoud listed the four main factors needed to create a strong employer brand. These factors were shared by some of the real life examples discussed. They are: 

    • Brand awareness and presence that are synonymous with the industry you operate in (e.g. Maybank and the financial  sector are synonymous with each other) 
    • Positive attitude associated with your brand image i.e. people know about your brand, what it does and have a positive  attitude towards you 
    • Your brand is able to influence behavior i.e. people want to buy from you and look for ways to work with and for you
    • Your brand has ambassadors that are willing to recommend you wholeheartedly to others 

    In short, talents want to be associated with successful, stable companies. A quick voting activity that required participants  to rank their companies in relation to various organizational areas of importance, revealed that most organisations performed averagely in terms of Mission and Purpose, Strategy, Financial Performance, and Leadership Team. Areas that received the lowest scores were Turnover Rate and Attractiveness to Employees.
  • Conclusions
    Good employer brands tell consistent stories across their organisations, have a compelling identity and a “point of view”. Companies need to be able to offer not just employee, customer and financial value but also have a strong vision and strategy on culture and change, leadership and team development. Communication is also critical as a company can have a great vision and mission but this is meaningless if no one knows about it. HR needs to look at all these areas holistically as often “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
    All participants agreed that the robust and interactive session highlighted that they needed to do more in the Employer Branding area so that each of their company’s strengths can come through more clearly and be communicated better to attract the right potential hires and to retain existing employees.  

    The diversity of perspectives from participants resulted in a very robust discussion. Propay looks forward to hosting its next roundtable that will potentially focus on Corporate Storytelling, a topic that it feels will complement the area of Employer Branding well.

    We have captured the event images for your viewing pleasure, click here to browse.
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