'Do you leave 'employer branding' to your PR or PA teams alone?'
'Are you a leader who believes in creating an employer-brand through controlled and often top-down approach?'
'Are you an executive-team who is constantly paranoid about the heath & fragility of your corporate brand?'
If the answer to any of the above questions is ‘Yes’, then you are missing out a big-time of an opportunity- your employee pool and more specifically, the ‘A’ talent or High-potential! While the hunt for good talent is fierce, the war for great talent is becoming insurmountable by the passing year, at least for the average companies. And, we know who the winner is in this war! The balance of power has tilted in favor of talent. Talent acquisition professionals are splitting their hair, yet most of the organizations don’t look at their own backyard! In fact, majority of the organizations don’t have structured approaches to, what I call, creating raving fans out of your employees (read HiPos). The issue is further compounded given the changing demographics at workplace- by 2020, 50% of US workforce will be millennials. Indian scenario would be even more challenging given the fact that the average age of Indian workforce by 2025 would be 27 years . Add to this, the folklore of employee engagement from Gallup which claims that 70% of US workforce is not engaged at work. You suddenly have a heady cocktail of organizational problems capable of unnerving even the most accomplished HR leader.
However clichéd it might sound, people remains the most valuable asset any organization has (though I have personal reservations in articulating people in flesh & blood as assets or human capital! Let that be a discussion of some other time). Yet we see disproportionate amount of branding exercise and resource allocations for product branding alone. It requires a reference-shift from the executives and leaders to this neglected area of ‘creating raving fans from the employee-pool’. Edelman Trust Barometer 2015 throws up an interesting observation - 'Customers trust the frontline employees more than the CEOs.' Talking of turning the conventional wisdom upside down, former CEO and philanthropist Vivek Nayar produced an off-beat legend by creating a culture of ‘Employees First Customer Second’ at HCL Technologies which turned the company into one of the fastest growing & profitable IT service companies. While so many glaring evidences and blue-ocean thoughts around employee engagement shout out loud, why do organizations and HR leaders fail to take cognizance of this critical issue?
In the following paragraphs, I will try to address the working model of ‘Creating raving fans and brand-ambassadors from HiPo employees’ especially in today’s socially-networked age. We all recognize the sheer power and influence of various social network platforms- both internal (ESNs) and external to the organizations. Consider this, in your organization you have a robust HiPo engagement program rubbing shoulders with an equally progressive ‘social media at work’ policy- the duo is overwhelmingly potent and as a forward-thinking HR leader, you can play it to the hilt to tap into the internal and external talent with élan. Your high-potential employees can augment and galvanize your employer brand like no other. Combining the insights from the white papers, anecdotes and my own personal experience, a well-laid out HiPo engagement program in today’s hyper-connected workplace can do wonders to your employer brand.
The architecture of such HiPo engagement must consider these four pillars:
- Drive the ‘meaning’ of work HiPos do. Getting the ‘A’ talents understand and appreciate the true ‘meaning’ of their everyday work is pivotal to any engagement program. The employee can commit his discretionary efforts only when a deeper sense of purpose behind the transactional work and KRAs is well appreciated. The leadership has a special responsibility in facilitating this deeper meaning for each of the employee and more so for the HiPos. One of the cardiac surgery MNCs espouses its employees through a tagline saying ‘Helping every heart beat heathy- one at a time’ has a profound mind-share grabbing effect than possibly the best of features of its products. You’re appealing to human beings- employees who are emotional. This is why some authors argue a case that the position of CEOs should be replaced as Chief Meaning Officer (CMO). HR leaders and practitioners have a special duty to create a positive work environment through recognitions, rewards and celebrations. It’s documented that such recognitions cost a fraction of retaining and attracting top talents.
- Your HiPo has a personal brand too. Aligning the personal brand of ‘A’ players with that of the organization will have synergistic effects. As HR leaders, are you encouraging your talent to discover, nurture and augment his/her personal brand. The reality is that most of these talents will have little idea of who they are or what they, as professionals, stand for. Create a climate where the talent is coached into looking inwards to dig out the raw personal brand and then you polish it to the perfection. During this exercise, try and find out the commonalities of themes where his professional-purpose and meaning either aligns or has the highest probability to align. This is your employee engagement’s sweet-spot. In fact, some of the progressive employers have incorporated the same in their HiPo and socialization programs.
- Advocacy over social networks, be it ESNs or external! Crafting a robust social media policy which aims at educating and empowering rather than curbing and regulating employees’ interaction over social networks, will go a long way in terms of speed and reach. No amount of PR exercise can match the employee advocacy of the company brand on platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. Encourage your HiPo employees to capture important moments (customer interaction, special celebration at office, learning events among many others) by clicking photographs and briefing a short narrative over such platforms using appropriate hashtags. One healthcare major encourages its employees to be social media savvy and share such moments through visuals or posts using a suggested hashtags #ProudToBeXXXX, #IWorkAtXXX etc. These shares really catch the eye-balls of employees’ own personal networks and connections. At the end, your employer-brand shines.
- Create HiPo employee councils and quality circles. The reach and impact of your HiPo engagement program will get manifold augmented through active involvement of such employees in various councils and quality circles such as New Product Introduction councils, Brand-mapping exercises just to name a few. Cross-functional leaders should wear their creative hats in designing such forums. In turn, these talents will turn out to be the strident supporters of organizational vision & mission. They see such horizontal growth opportunities as equally fulfilling to their natural strengths.
If we look at any of the above tactics and measures they don’t cost a bomb but the ROI is far greater than any external media engagement plan that your PR teams will advocate for.
Are the HR leaders and executives open enough to shift the reference frame of employer branding and engage with high-potential talents which is fulfilling, sustainable and can be scaled up easily?