Thoughts on Employer Branding…

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As I feel that I’ve had a decent amount of experience with being involved with a company that has tried multiple times to re-brand itself, I have several thoughts on this topic.  When you think of “cool” places to work, you think of a place that has a lot of employee appreciation and benefits; a cool space to work in, great co-workers and interesting work.

I intend to explore the following questions as they pertain to my former employer, Matthews International (Brand Solutions division):

How do you brand yourself as an employer?

My company had 3 or 4 different logos in the 4+ years that I spent there.  In my opinion, constantly presenting different logos to re-brand yourself represents more of an identity crisis than a point of creativity… especially if your targeted business is ‘Brand Solutions’ and to provide these to other companies.  Matthews advertises themselves as a “great place to work” – anyone who steps foot inside the building should question this.  When going for an advertising feel, you probably want to have up-to-date matching furniture, not crappy condition mauve colored desks, chairs with tobacco stains and holes, dim lighting, mis-matched computer set-ups and a project management area without any dividing walls and constant buzz of phone conversations usually with several PM’s covering one of their ears to attempt to listen to their clients desires.  You want to attract talented, capable individuals, but don’t your employees deserve the best working conditions? Wouldn’t they be more inclined to put in more productive hours and overtime if their workspace was less dismal? And let’s not even discuss the bathrooms… tiles falling off the wall, rusted sinks, leaking toilets…sinks that spout out brown water when turned on…

Matthews was preparing to make a move to a more creative space downtown, however, at this point – no move has been made.  These conditions are not going to attract talent unless that person is in desperate need of an immediate job.

Another way that a company should go about branding itself is through their website.  In today’s techno-age, so many people go to a website to learn about a company that they are interested in doing business with or applying to for employment. One example that I have recently encountered is the following for an Interior Design Firm.  The old webpage does not give you much of a feeling of design knowledge or capabilities – it lacks color and liveliness.  While it looks professional, it has more of the appearance of a type-written letter rather than a website, thus making it seem out of date.  As in Interior Design firm, you definitely want your clients to know that you are capable of keeping up with the latest trends as well as classic styles.  A website is the perfect place to “advertise” this.  The new website really encourages the potential customer that they know what they are doing; it is organized with the background that exudes Interior Design. I think the new design will really entice new clients. Here are the old & new examples:

Old Homepage

New Homepage

Is it about recruiting the people who fit your brand?

In the span of 6 months, 5 people quit because they were overwhelmed with the disorganization of work and the poor treatment of employees.  There was really no training and these new employees were just tossed into the rat race.  Matthews was able to sell them in to accept the position, however these people all left after an average of 1 year on the job.  This should have been a red-flag to the management, however operations continued as normal until just before my tenure ended.  Not to mention that one employee was asked to transfer accounts, trained on the account and then they re-hired someone who accepted a position with a competitor, leaving the otherwise dedicated employee in her same miserable position (she quit within 2 weeks of this occurrence)

I think that the new management has taken some steps to assure that they are changing their brand perception and have all intentions of bettering the working conditions.  To this point, it has been difficult for Matthews to find people to fit their ‘brand’ because their brand is undefined due to the past and workspace.

I think it is extremely important for a company to recruit people who fit their brand and company identity.  Employees that have more in common an better relationships are more apt to have better working relationships.  (Note: that common trait should NOT include being miserable at work!)

Is recruiting and retention also a marketing function?

This is quite difficult for me to say; Matthews did not have a Marketing department… well they had one guy who was freshly out of college with degree in Marketing.  So, I am not sure how much that says about said department…

If a marketing department is developing and promoting a company’s brand identity, they should absolutely be involved in the recruiting process and making determinations on how individuals would best fit into the company’s environment.

What benefits accrue to your company if you get the branding thing right?

The possibilities could be endless if the ‘branding thing’ is done right — happy, positive employees who gladly promote their company and are happy to go to work, talent, increased productivity, positive feedback with regards to your company, you may be able to pay less based on other perks if the employees are happy, fewer internal problems, less employee turnover…

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