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Inexpensive Ways to Make Your Company Famous

Companies on a shoestring budget can build brand identification using a variety of no-cost and low-cost measures. Before doing so, firms should be wary of things that can go wrong should they emerge as an employer of choice.

May 3, 2004
Related Topics: Candidate Sourcing, Strategic Planning, Staffing Management
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A company’s employment brand or human resources brand is the image it has among employees and job candidates. It’s a long-term strategy--the sum total of all of the experiences employees and candidates have when they come in contact with the company.

Below, San Francisco State University’s John Sullivan (in his newbook) lists: 1) Low-cost things you can do to build your human resources brand--or, as the headline above reads, make your company famous; 2) Some low-cost branding tools; and 3) Downsides to being an employer everyone wants to work for.

LOW COST THINGS YOU CAN DO TO BUILD YOUR HUMAN RESOURCES BRAND
    Here are a variety of no-cost things you can do to begin building your employment brand.

  • Benchmark and learn all you can internally from successful product and employment brands. Do the same externally (especially look at Cisco, GE, HP and IBM).

  • Assess your organization's current management practices, benefits, culture, etc., to identify what you "have to sell" and what you need to improve.

  • Do a quick survey or assessment of your current employment "image" among employees, applicants and general public using surveys and focus groups.

  • Calculate the potential ROI for branding and sell the idea to management.

  • Develop a catchy slogan that highlights your very best "great place to work" feature(s).

  • Develop a people-program inventory that lists each of your organization's unique human resource or people programs. This list should be used as ammunition to highlight your best practices in marketing pieces and in media articles.

  • Identify company products and programs that involve innovation, help save lives or protect the environment. Use these stories and examples in recruiting materials.

  • Rename some of your successful people programs with "catchy" names that grab people's attention.

  • Do a side-by-side comparison of your benefits and people pro-grams against those of your talent competitors. Identify areas where you are clearly superior.

  • Identify and assess your competitors' employment "brand" against which you'll be competing. Develop a branding strategy that high-lights the differences between you and your competitor.

  • Compose one or two-paragraph profiles of individual employee "success stories" for use in articles and on the Web site.

  • Work with the CEO's office to get top executives to mention your organization's great people practices both in their internal and external communications. When necessary, write that section of the speech for the CEO.

  • Apply for listing in the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work list.

  • Work with the PR department to identify public events that the company is sponsoring. Send managers and recruiters to talk about the company's great people practices. The recruiting department should also add a few of the marketing staff to its advisory team to offer suggestions and to coach recruiters on the latest marketing tools and strategies.

  • Work with the sales department to identify public sales events and trade shows where materials highlighting your great people practices can be displayed.

  • Quantify the participation and usage of your work-life balance and other similar high-profile people programs. Quantifying the usage sends a more powerful message than merely saying "we have a program."

  • Rank potential media and tools to convey branding efforts (based on what your target audience reads or attends), and then select the initial media and methods to convey the branding message.

  • Review articles that mention different companies' people pro-grams. Then develop a list of the criteria used by local publications when they select a company or people program to feature. Utilize these criteria for selecting which program stories you should high-light in your branding effort. In addition, build relationships with local publications and their reporters. Volunteer to act as sources, and encourage them to write stories on your great people and management practices.

  • Identify the target market (the type of candidate you are trying to attract) for your branding efforts. Develop a target profile for them (who they are; where to find them; what they read; events they go to; etc.).

  • Get key managers to write articles and give talks at industry association meetings. Be sure they include great people practices in their materials.

  • Get managers to give talks at community meetings and at the local Chamber of Commerce that highlight your people practices.

  • Invite family and friends of employees on site to see "what it is like to work here" and the importance of employees' work so that they will help spread the word on what a great place your organization is to work.

  • Offer benchmarking sessions on your great "people practices" to teach your customers and suppliers how you do great people man-agement in an attempt to get the attendees to spread the word.

  • Profile key employee success stories and best management practices on your corporate career web site. Periodically highlight your great people practices in internal publications to remind employees of the great things you do.

  • Cosponsor "career workshops" in schools to build your im-age early.

  • Ask the union, if you have one, to help spread the word about what a great place to work you are.

  • Encourage local college professors to visit and write "case studies" and articles about the company's people practices.

  • Participate in industry-wide benchmarking studies to help build your visibility.

  • Have human resource leaders speak at public human resource seminars and write articles for human resource trade publications about your people practices. Have them join the boards of local nonprofit groups and associations to help spread the word.

  • Include marketing and branding experience in the criteria you use to hire additional recruiters.

  • Create a process to measure and evaluate the program's effective-ness, monitor its progress, and improve it.

LOW-COST BRANDING TOOLS
    If you have a little money to spend on human resources branding, here are some low-cost things to do.

  • Re-energize your existing employee referral program and set "targets" for referrals from each department. Include participation as part of the normal performance appraisal process. Provide employees with cards listing the top ten reasons why it's great to work for your company.

  • Encourage employees to put decals, license plate holders, etc., on their vehicles to broadcast their loyalty. Sell or distribute employment-branded items (hats, T-shirts, pens, etc.) that depict work at your organization.

  • Participate in community clean-up programs; get your organization named on "clean-up" highway signs.

  • Develop an alumni club for ex-employees and retirees. Involve these former employees in the process of spreading the word.

  • Distribute logo book bags, T-shirts, and other similar items to children; sponsor school events.

  • Work with the advertising department to place ads that occasion-ally highlight your great people and management practices as well as your products.

  • Train and reward managers for excellent people-management performance.

  • Conduct surveys of college students, business writers, academics, executive recruiters, and influential business leaders as well as your employees to assess your perceived strengths, weaknesses, corporate culture and image.

  • Revise recruiting practices to include "wow" elements to make a lasting impression. Continually review your recruitment strategy and team capabilities.

  • Have the CEO or human resource vice president write a book about the organization's people-management practices.

POSSIBLE DISADVANTAGES OF BEING A SOUGHT-AFTER EMPLOYER
    There is also a downside to being a choice employer--a possible downside to your branding efforts. Some of the possible problems include:

  • Executive recruiters often target your organization's management and its employees.

  • The strength of the corporate culture makes changing it (as well as many operational changes) difficult.

  • Because of their "fame," the organization's employees have a tendency to become overconfident.

  • Performance measurement and willingness to accept criticism often diminish due to this overconfidence.

  • The company's image must be defended continually. Minor errors can be blown out of proportion by the press.

  • Pay levels (and thus costs of production) can be high due to the high cost of maintaining a world-class workforce.

  • New recruits may have unrealistic expectations based on image that can turn into disillusionment if everyday reality does not match.

  • Being an employer with a great reputation helps an organization grow, and this increase in size makes maintaining the culture and the "choice employer" status difficult over time.

SOURCE: Reprinted with permission from "Rethinking Strategic HR," by John Sullivan, copyright 2004,CCH Incorporated. All Rights Reserved.

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