It seems only yesterday that HR Communicators were focused on employee engagement and how to better engage employees through more effective communications, onsite events and employee town halls, employee opinion surveys, and collaborative technology.
Just as we’ve gained a better understanding of employee engagement, now we’ve started hearing a lot about employer brand. At a Talent Brand summit I attended earlier this year, the conversation drifted back and forth between employee engagement and employer brand. And as I participated in the discussions, I realized that many of the attendees were using the words interchangeably while other attendees were asking, “What’s the difference between employee engagement and employer brand?”
Employee engagement only speaks to the experience of a current employee. Employer brand, on the other hand, speaks to both the prospective and current employee. But more than speaking to the entire employee experience, a strong employer brand is also the connective tissue for how you promote and market your company as an employer. Simply put: Employer branding is the perfect marriage between HR and Marketing.
However, I admit, my own philosophy on employee engagement, employer brand and the relationship between the two has evolved over time. But one thing I’ve always believed is that employee engagement is not a tactical event nor is it even a strategy. It’s a desirable outcome.
I’ve come across many companies who focus their employer branding efforts in one of two ways: to either attract top talent through recruitment marketing or to retain current employees through employee engagement tactics. But as the steward of my own company’s employer brand, I am focused on the entire employee journey — the experience from prospective employee to current employee to when an employee leaves the company.
One could argue that recruiting is the “easy” part of activation — you know the target audience, you know where to find them, and you know how to engage with them. The challenge lies in making sure what you sell to candidates is the same as what you promote to current employees.
Think of employer brand activation in two parts: 1) initial activation in talent acquisition; and then 2) the experience as an employee. The longer tail of any employer brand is the sustainment and infusion of it within your HR programs and your corporate culture.
I’ve also always been emphatic about leveraging the employee lifecycle to better understand employee needs based on where they are in the lifecycle. But it wasn’t until I started working within the HR organization to optimize the employee value proposition that I really began to see the full value of it. Whether you define it through a framework that is simplified (Hire > Inspire > Retire) or one that is more complex (Attraction > Recruiting > Onboarding > Growth & Development > Benefits > Separation), the employee lifecycle is the perfect tool for extending your employer brand beyond recruiting and into onboarding and other areas of the employee experience:
- Use the employee lifecycle to better understand employees needs throughout their career journey within your company, giving you a roadmap for driving a consistent experience from candidate to employee to retiree.
- Help HR better connect how their disparate functions come together and how to infuse employer branding as you work with them to identify key attributes and differentiators for their different areas.
- Identify all key touchpoints of the employee experience so you can more effectively communicate and market to employees in a way that drives understanding and appreciation for all of HR’s core offerings, thereby influencing overall employee engagement.
Be sure to download this employee lifecycle roadmap for help on developing an employee lifecycle that works for your organization.
And why is employee engagement an outcome of the employer brand? Because your employer brand is what gives credibility to your employee communications. Your employees won’t become engaged unless they see and believe what you’re selling them. As your employer brand attracts and engages employees, you’ll see increased employee interest and participation, you’ll see employees become advocates for what you do (and how you do it), and more importantly, they’ll begin to live and breathe the essence of the employer brand itself.