Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where are the Marketers in the Employer Brand Conversation?

Heather Polivka

 If you are like most marketers, including yours truly before I entered this field, you probably just asked yourself “what is an Employer Brand?”

As someone who was in product management & marketing for many years, I had no idea that this field existed when I was first approached about my current role as the Director of Employer Branding & Marketing for UnitedHealth Group.

What is an Employer Brand?  It is the image of an organization as a “great place to work” in the minds of present, past and future employees as well as other key stakeholders in the external market such as clients, customers, stockholders, competitors and more.

The Employer Brand is closely associated to, and should be aligned with the Corporate/Organizational Brand as well as its Consumer Brand(s) to be authentic.  Yet the Employer Brand is distinct.  An Employer Brand essentially communicates that if the people of the organization help deliver on our promises to our customers (consumer brand), and realize our reason for being as an organization (corporate brand), then here is what the people of the organization can expect in return (employee value proposition).

Wal-mart.  They have had numerous lawsuits associated with their alleged employment practices.  Those lawsuits have an impact on how the customers and the communities they operate within perceive them. Thus profoundly impacting their Employer Brand and what present, future, and past employees think about the company.

Southwest Airlines has long been a case study for how the Employer Brand impacts the quality of the customer service delivery and the overall operational performance of the organization, resulting in an organization that is the exception to many airline industry performance metrics.  In this case, the Employer Brand positively drives both the consumer and corporate brand realization.

Given recent events, what has been the impact to the Employer Brand of companies like BP, the coal mining industry, General Motors, Toyota, or financial institutions?  Furthermore, what is the impact to the consumer brand at companies like Nestle, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Estee Lauder given recent lawsuits related to alleged unfair employment practices?

What’s my point?  It actually leads to more questions:  Why are Human Resource conferences, webinars and leaders the primary ones engaging in the discussion, development, and ongoing management of the Employer Brand?  When will our Marketing conferences, webinars, and leaders be equal contributors to the conversation?

If you are a marketing, PR, and communications leader, I invite you to set up a meeting with your HR leaders to discuss your employer brand, employer marketing, social recruiting strategies, and mobile recruiting strategies.  You might be surprised what you’ll learn.  And I know they’ll be appreciative and relieved at the value, knowledge, and experience you bring to the equation.

As social media continues to rise to the top of the food chain as part of many marketing strategies today, the evolving roles of our employees as brand ambassadors make the alignment between what we promise our shareholders, our customers, and our employees more important than ever. 

The time has come for us to join the conversation.  Not because it’s a nice thing to do. Because it’s the right thing to do to effectively manage our brands, drive business performance, and impact results. 
Heather Polivka led the development of the UnitedHealth Group Employer Brand, from the methodology, through the research and discovery phase, to the creative execution. Most recently, she launched the company’s social recruiting strategy as a key communication vehicle of the brand and continues to apply leading consumer marketing practices to United Health Group’s Employer Marketing and Talent Attraction strategy. Her passion for driving innovation, and her understanding of consumer behavior, was fueled by over ten years of product management with Target Corporation and as Managing Director of Product Marketing with Lenox Group, Inc. "At the end of the day, it is the authenticity and integrity of the brand that will determine the outcome."

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Amanda Broman said...

Heather -- this is a great post! I think it is a topic that is too often overlooked. The importance of a brand inside and outside of the company is critical to its success. When their is a disconnect it will eventually affect the outside brand and success as well. Thanks!

Paul DeBettignies said...


I have been waiting... and waiting... and waiting for the marketing world to wake up to the hiring side of things.

No disrespect to our HR and Recruiter friends but most do not get that our business is sales and marketing.

I have learned more from the marketing scene here in Minneapolis (SMBMSP, MIMA, MNAMA) and transferred to my Recruiter world than in the national and local Recruiter & HR scene.

Oh well, I guess that is good for you and I :)

Nice first blog post. You did well.


s2n design said...

Great first post. I agree. Employer Brand is important to potential consumers as well because no one wants to deal with people who hate their job.

Shannon said...

Heather -
well done! totally agree with your thoughts and questions - I often reference one additional part that is changing and aligns with yours - that the walled gardens that were once the separate company brand (to the world), the internal culture (part of the employer but also more) and the employer brand (external-- attracting/recruiting candidates) can no longer be separate, principally due to social media and the tremendous changes and resulting transparency (much to their chagrin) - and that companies that leverage this, will be the ultimate winners, the ones who ignore - will spend millions trying to make it up after the fact (a la walmart). well done, shannon

Charee Klimek said...

What an awesome first post to put out there. You know I've made it my mission in life to tear down the silos between HR, Marketing, PR & Comms - not to forget IT & Legal!

Each one of these disciplines is looking at a shared goal and purpose.

It's time to put old thinking aside and break new ground - together.

Congrats. Well written and thanks for the #voiceup on Vocii too!

Heather Polivka said...

thanks all for your generous comments, add-ons, and feedback. Greatly appreciated!

Jenny DeVaughn said...

Congrats on your first blog post! I agree with Charee and Paul, it's time for internal teams to work together. You're an example of how it can be done successfully.

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