Why Would Anyone Want To Work For You?

Why Would Anyone Want To Work For You?
By Dr. Kwame R. Charles

What is your organization’s employer brand? What do people say about working at your organization? Why would anybody want to work for you? Our research suggests that most local and regional organizations don’t know the answers to these questions. Most of our organizations just go about their daily routines without thinking seriously about how to create a brand that will attract and retain the right talent for the job and the organization – the right “fit”. In fact our research shows that employee retention is one of the weakest areas of human resource management in Caribbean organizations.

In contrast, global companies like Microsoft, Nike, Google and Starbucks have strong employer brands that set them apart from the competition and establish them as “great places to work.” That’s why they are all in the top 25 of the 2008 edition of “The Best Companies to Work for in America.” And because they are, they are able to attract and keep the best talent available.

Employer branding is a human resource concept borrowed from marketing and strategic management. Essentially, it is an organization’s strategy to create a specific perception about working at the organization. Your employer brand is the image of your organization as a great place to work in the minds of present and prospective employees. It is how your organization sells itself as an “employer of choice”.

A recent article by the Society for Human Resource Management (SRHM), the largest international human resource management association, states that HR professionals are turning to employer branding in the war for talent in an increasingly competitive environment. Employer branding is now becoming a competitive advantage for employers as they seek to attract and retain employee talent in their organizations.

Employer branding tells prospective employees what kind of employer you are and what to expect if they come to work for you. It reflects the organization’s culture, values, philosophy, policies, and management/employee relationships. Ultimately, employer branding says who you are and what you stand for as an employer.
Why brand? For the same reasons that businesses brand their products and services: to market and sell them. In an economy that is experiencing low unemployment, high demand for skilled labour, unprecedented economic growth and strong commercial activity, the competition for employee talent is great. This can be seen in the constant movement of people from organization to organization as they go to the next highest bidder. But organizations can’t depend on compensation alone to attract and retain talent, because, if this is their competitive advantage, it’s only as good as the next highest bidder.

Organizations need to be able to distinguish themselves from the competition on other factors. They need to be able to stand out from the crowd. They need to give prospective employees reasons to want to work for the organization, other than that they are paying the most. And they need to give present employees reasons to stay. Employer branding can do this for an organization.

How does an organization build an employer brand? Employer branding is designed to project an organization as a great place to work, as an employer of choice. The things that make an organization a great place to work are its core values and the extent to which its leaders and employees live and practise those core values; the leadership and management style of its leaders and managers; its human resource policies; and, increasingly, its commitment to corporate social responsibility. Organizations that excel in these areas tend to have a good reputation as an employer, and, therefore, tend to be able to attract and retain talented employees.

The first thing to do in building an employer brand is to evaluate your present brand, whether that brand is explicitly stated or just implied by what you do as an employer. The most direct way to do this is to ask your employees what they think of the organization through employee surveys or focus groups. What are they saying about you as an employer? What is keeping them with you or encouraging them to leave you? What do they like about working with your organization? What don’t they like? How can the organization improve? Become a better place of work?

When you get the answers to these questions, you can then try to reduce or eliminate the negatives, strengthen the positives and create a brand out of them. And then market and sell your brand in the same way that you would your products and services.

An exercise is presently underway to help local and regional organizations find out what their employees think of them so that they can create or improve on their employer brand. Some of the lessons that have been learned from similar exercises in the past are that organizations need to:

  • Continually develop their leaders and managers to lead by example, live and practice the organization’s core values and build trust by matching their words with their actions and keeping promises;
  • Hold their leaders and managers accountable for their behaviour and reward or sanction accordingly;
  • Develop people-centred HR policies that are practised fairly, equitably and consistently; that encourage a healthy work/life balance; that show care and respect for employees and that drive employee engagement;
  • Give employees opportunities to grow and develop;
  • Reward and recognize employees for living and practicing the core values and contributing to the achievement of organizational goals;
  • Encourage open communication and dialogue among senior management, supervisors and employees;
  • Regularly take the pulse of their employees to keep on top of potential problems and challenges, and to remain an “employer of choice.

So, why would anyone want to work for you?

Dr. Charles is a Director of Quality Consultants Limited, a business research and management consulting firm.