A strong employer brand is an asset in a company’s hiring and retention efforts, in much the same way that a strong consumer brand drives its market share and revenue. But in industries where the employees of a company are also consumers of its products, the line starts to blur, and this is even more so when the company has a strong consumer brand. At that point, the relationship that employees - current and potential - have with the organisation becomes more complex.
People Matters asked Nicholas Lee, Vice President & Market Leader for Philips Domestic Appliances Asia Pacific, for his take on how the consumer brand and employer brand converge, and the impact on the employee value proposition when that happens. An expert in the management of consumer brands and team culture, he highlighted a number of key strategies for keeping the employer brand relevant in today’s changing world of work, and for aligning it with the consumer brand to keep employees engaged in the same way that consumers are engaged.
Here’s what he shared with us.
At what point does a company's consumer brand begin to influence employees' own perception of the organisation? When the two converge, how does that change brand management strategies?
At Philips DA, our commitment is: to deliver meaningful consumer-centred innovations that help consumers lead healthier and happier lives every day. Employees must believe in this commitment. Once the brand begins to influence employees' own perception of the organisation, our employees become powerful brand advocates, making them feel more connected and in-sync with our brand values. When they do, it gives them the zeal and understanding of why they are selling the products – to help and empower consumers. The results will be different too. Employees become attuned to the needs of the consumers and respond effectively to them.
What do you think are three top factors that a company needs in its employer brand today? How do these factors intersect with the consumer brand?
The pandemic has changed the way we engage with our employees and has influenced how we evolve our employer brand today.
In my opinion, companies should commit to having the following three focus areas – inclusivity and diversity in all areas, career and personal development opportunities for employees, and a strong onboarding process that inculcates the strong purpose of the organisation.
Firstly, having inclusivity and diversity as a key pillar in our employer branding positions us as an equal-opportunity employer and opens our doors to applicants from diverse backgrounds. It makes us more competitive, innovative and an attractive place to work for people who share our passion. Why is diversity important? Apart from being the right thing to promote, it also makes business sense. A more diverse workforce creates more diversity in dialogue and decision-making and creates business outcomes that are more aligned with society and consumers. Companies that are more in tune with consumers and customers generate better business results.
Secondly, investing in our employees’ development within the company allows them to continually learn and grow with us. Having clear career and development paths communicated to them gives them the assurance that it is not only about what they can contribute to the company but also what the company can contribute to them – it’s a two-way relationship.
Lastly, having a good onboarding process in place will not only get them excited about the role, but also equip them with the right tools and information that would enable them to thrive. It also imbues the company’s mission, why it exists in the first place and how it is making a difference.
At Philips DA, our approach is to improve the lives of people, and this extends to our employees as well. We must remember that consumers have changed and are hyper vigilant. In the past, their relationship was only with the products but now it includes a relationship with the company as well.
They want to buy products from a responsible company, one that is attuned to their beliefs, one that cares for the environment and its people.
In terms of leadership and the kinds of value a company offers to employees, what works best to make the company competitive on the talent attraction front?
The pandemic has taken leadership back to its most fundamental element – making a positive difference to people’s lives. It is important for leaders in such times, if not all times, to demonstrate compassionate leadership. The focus of compassionate leadership is to influence, not direct. We need to understand the hopes and fears of our people.
Yes, the business is important, but how effective and successful a business is very much depends on the people working in it.
Adopting a compassionate leadership approach allows us to create a safe environment where we can guide and support team members, acknowledge success and learn from failures as well as raise the level of trust within the team while prioritising their well-being. The pandemic has also changed the way the organisation engages with its employees. At Philips DA, we have evolved our employee engagement initiatives and practices to first and foremost take care of our employees’ well-being while positioning the organisation as an employer of choice.
The pre-COVID-19 concept of work has changed drastically especially for those who do not require specialised, large equipment. Hybrid working models are here to stay. While there is benefit to co-workers gathering at the coffee machine to banter and exchange ideas, and coming together for brainstorms, the pandemic has taught us that equally, people can be productive and energised by having greater control over their time.
We also need to place a greater focus on prioritising physical and mental well-being. Elevating our employees’ mental well-being will ensure that they feel they are being cared for. In turn, this means that they will be happier, focused and productive.
Some of the initiatives and measures that we’ve introduced include the following:
- A 3-2 hybrid working arrangement - three-day work-from-home and two-day work-from-office model.
- Oxygen Fridays - Practiced weekly, this is a conscious time for employees to be free from internal meetings and other non-critical work to pause, think, catchup and connect. The aim is to empower employees to find what we call ‘Balcony Moments’: a moment to stand back, reflect, and see the bigger picture of day-to-day operations.
- Flexible workspace in the new office premises. This aims to provide a more dynamic work environment which offers more space for interaction, collaboration and activities. All these are suited for various activities, different preferences and work styles.
- Empowering employees to take ownership of their health and well-being through a flexible benefits scheme that provides flexibility and choice for themselves and their families, according to their lifestyle needs.
- Introduced an employee assistance program hotline that runs for 24/7 to support employees’ emotional well-being.
Do the strategies used to establish a company's consumer brand also work with its employer brand?
There are several strategies that can be implemented to ensure that the company’s consumer brand and employer brand align.
Consistency is key – similar to how we engage our consumers, we need to ensure that the messaging to employees is cohesive and clear throughout all functions – from HR to marketing. This prevents confusion and disconnect with the company branding.
Building positive employee advocacy is also important. Getting employees and business leaders to share authentic stories and experiences via the brand’s social channels is one way of bringing employees and prospects closer to the brand.
Purpose is crucial. What do we stand for? At Philips DA, we focus on three aspects that drive our mission: consumer-focused innovation, sustainability, and people.
As a leader, what are your expectations from your HR team in terms of supporting the employer brand?
Supporting the employer brand is a whole-of-organisation effort – involving not just the HR teams, but other business functions as well. With that said, it is vital that HR partners with the communications and marketing teams to effectively promote the company brand. HR should also ensure a positive onboarding experience as this creates a lasting first impression and provides employees with rewards, learning and development resources to motivate and challenge them. These strategies combined can help the organisation attract and retain talent and position us as the employer of choice.