If Employer Branding Is a Team Sport, Who Are Your MVPs?

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Round-up article. Authors:

MVPs: we highlight them on a football field, but in employer branding – the team sport of the corporate field – those standout performers are a thing, too. 

We’ve previously shared why employer branding is a team sport and delved into the collective effort that a good employer brand relies on. But how do you pinpoint the most valuable players in your employer branding game, and why are they so key to the attraction and retention of great talent?

Six of our employer branding leaders discussed their views on this as we listened in – read their thoughts below.

Who’s the MVP of your EB team right now?

Ted Meulenkamp

It’s hard to say who’s the most valuable player as such – in any team, everybody is valuable. What I think is more apt is just understanding the strengths of each person and what role they can play. 

For example, some people are absolutely amazing at creating content and write really good stories, or they're really good at designing graphics. Other people are great at motivating the internal organisation in terms of getting the brand ambassadors going. Others are great with numbers and doing paid media. 

Ultimately, it's that combination of all people together in the right roles that make an awesome team. You can extend that beyond the employer branding team, as you work with other teams within the business like your communications team, your culture team, your marketing team, etc. who also have important roles to play. I'm a big fan of putting people in the right place so that they do what they love and are passionate about, and stay where their strength is. 

David Philips

I feel arrogant saying it's employer brand leaders who are the most important as I totally buy into employer branding being a team sport, and we need all of those people to come into it to make it work. But I do think that every team needs a good coach and the employer brand leader is critical in that way. 

Going back to the 360 employer branding model, employer brand is at the centre, whether I want it to be or not. At CGI, it’s our role as employer branding leaders to try and bring the different teams together, from recruitment, to local/global marketing teams, to members of the business, to try to make this work. I’m not saying we’re the only valuable player, but I think in terms of MVP in the EB ‘team’ context, we’re up there. 

Ashten Fizer

I have a different answer. I look at the companies' employees as the most valuable players. We can create the best branding, the best stories, the best whatever, but if the brand is too aspirational, lofty, or fluffy, it’s not reality. It's not the reality that the employees are living and we're not utilising those data sets (i.e. those employees). You simply have a brand that no one's bought into, and it just doesn't work out across the board. 

So I think that making sure that you are utilising your data – your employees – and really leaning into that, turns those employees into the most valuable players in the whole ecosystem of 360 employer branding.

Carolina Guillen

I definitely consider employer branding a team sport. You cannot achieve your goals as a good employer brand manager if you make enemies out of your stakeholders, right? If you don't get along with your marketing team or brand team, or your talent acquisition team or people stakeholders – things might not play out to your benefit. 

So if there's one thing that I've learned throughout my entire career, it is to be as open as possible and build as many partnerships and many relationships as possible, because they will really benefit you. You’ll always get a seat at the table that you need to be at.

Alex Her

These are all good points. I agree with David that you should value yourself as being the conductor as the leader. You’re crucial to driving the employer brand. But, you also need to know when to get out of your own way. You are important, but you're important to bring everyone together to acknowledge the employees. 

As Carolina said, you can't make enemies. I think we perceive employer branding too much as a back and forth between different teams rather than working together towards a common vision. I’ve seen it getting better, where people do respect what we bring to the table, but it's getting that seat at the table and then staying there versus being there once being kicked off. Many of us will have had that experience of marketing or branding jumping in, or comms taking over. What you’ve got to do is forge actual partnerships with these different players. That's when the magic can happen. That's when you see these phenomenal employer brands who've gone and done amazing things. 

It's because they are using everyone as part of the team. They’re not just doing a lot of makeshift stuff on Canva where they're limited with what they have, either as a team of one or just their own team that has been siloed.

Elle Green

Agreed. Creating that engagement with stakeholders is vital as you can have the best programs in place, but if it's not a lived reality, then the promise these programs make is just empty.

This ties back to the shift we are seeing in the employee experience because if you get that wrong, the whole world's going to know. That’s why I believe it's important to see all the different stakeholders from across the business as part of the team that makes up your employer brand. You can say what you like, but my role is to make sure that everything we do is embedded in driving the employee’s experience, making it positive, and then communicating that out to the market.

So, let’s say you can only hire one person to join you on your EB team. Who is it and what would they do?

Carolina Guillen

Hands down for me it would be a content creator. I’ve been in and led bigger teams and I’ve been a team of one, and as a one person team, I found it so valuable to have somebody be the creative arm. Somebody who's helping you deliver some quick wins that are hopefully going to be very visible and make your internal stakeholders happy and become your story, and also give you some time back to focus on things like strategy.

David Philips

I'm a team of one as well, and I agree that the content is such an important part of it: it's the way that we take our story to market. At the moment we use a lot of agencies, and they're key for us. The Martec is one – they’re hugely important for our employee-generated content.  

However, I also think digital is of high value. I work directly with our recruitment team and the exposure of our employer brand is very important for CGI. We have to be tactical, and a big part of my strategy around that is making sure our story and the roles we're recruiting for are out there with audiences. Not shouting the stories from the rooftops, but promoting them in stealth mode to grow that awareness. Digital pay-per-click is a good example. 

So I'm going to go for two people, a content creator and a digital person. Luckily, this is the new world, and you can have them in a job share!

Ted Meulenkamp

Yes, content is important. I’m currently in a team of two, but most of the time I’ve been in an employer brand team of one. 

EB is all about building the story. You can build all the playbooks and all the guides and your EVP, but you need somebody who is very good at finding the stories and then creating them. That's a very hard part. For the creation, you could work with an agency, but it's finding those stories and translating your EVP into really good human stories. Not shouting but finding the subtle and indirect message that we have to share. 

For example, there’s a big difference between saying, “We’re such a diverse company” and actually showing your employees that you’re diverse. What do you do to implement diversity? What programs do you have?  

Overall, I guess my answer is I'd stick with content if I were hiring a second full-time team member, but if we can introduce gig working then I’d have a digital person for four hours a week for sure.

Ashten Fizer

I would go outside the box a little here. The one person I would hire would be a marketing wizard who’s not afraid to live dangerously. 

In the past couple of years we've seen marketing change drastically. The technology has changed, the trends have changed, even the way we're able to use the information to target different audiences has changed. I would definitely want someone who’s not afraid to test, learn and fail. They'll go big or go home: really figure out what are those key ways and touchpoints that are going to convert people from just coming to the career site and looking around to actually applying for roles.

Alex Her

I think we all agree that we want one content person and one digital/recruitment marketing person. But if it’s just one person, someone who has a mix of both skill sets is ideal. 

At the moment, I'm actually going through this hiring process myself and looking for someone to join my team, and I want that person to very much take bits and pieces of all that. What I don’t want is them to just keep everything going as per the status quo because that doesn’t make your brand better. I'm going to hire for potential, where I know they can make us better and I can help them get better, too.

Elle Green

Doing bits of things has always been part of the traditional employer branding role - a bit of this and a bit of that to try to pull everything together. But I love this shift we’re seeing to having a focus on what we need to support us. What we need to empower us as leaders, find the right stories, create the right content and get it out there in the right way. 

This would not have been the case five years ago as we’d still be looking for that ‘bitser’ person who could do a little bit of everything. This focus aligns with what we are saying about empowering people and our stakeholders to do what’s important: getting the real lived experience and stories out there.

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