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There is a noticeable trend amongst organisations which have recognised a need for fundamental organisational and behavioural change to see their graduate intake not just as ‘the future’, but as the drivers of change.

Just days after the AGR Graduate Recruitment Awards celebrated the excellent work that many AGR members produce to communicate and reinforce their employer brands, an acclaimed marketer and columnist for wrote a column entitled ‘Employer branding can do real harm so stop it’. It questioned the validity, and even the existence, of the employer brand and provoked impassioned responses from many HR professionals, brand consultants and communications specialists. Nick Holker, Employer Brand Consultant, ThirtyThree LLP, shares his view…

he column opened with the paragraph: “This week’s column is an open letter to the members of the HR community generally engaged in what has commonly become known as employer branding. My message to this large and rapidly growing community can be summarised in a single word: Stop.” It went on to outline three reasons why employers’ efforts “can not be considered branding”, namely failure to consider the negative associations of an employer brand; lack of originality; and failure to measure brand equity. Many conceded that the article did make some valid points about poorly executed employer brand activity that does little to bring out the essence of an organisation or differentiate it from its competitors for talent. However, it was felt to completely ignore the well documented evidence of organisations across the world who have seen the measurable benefi ts that an accurately articulated and well-managed employer brand can bring to both retention and recruitment. This was all the more poignant since two of ThirtyThree’s four nominations at the awards had been in the employer brand category, in which qualitative and quantitative evidence of impact has to be presented. The concept of the ‘Employer Brand’ might not be a perfect construct − some of the terminology which mimics its consumer-oriented parent is contrived, and its precise meaning and what it involves is still open to interpretation after 20 years. However, it has been instrumental in focussing attention on a consistent approach to thinking and talking about what genuinely makes a particular employer attractive (or not) to relevant target groups.


In addition, the work undertaken in the name of employer brand development is increasingly being used not just to give prospective employees a clear, credible impression of what it is like to work in a given organisation; it is also being used to help change perceptions about entire industry sectors or skills groups.

Obvious examples of this are in some areas of fi nancial services and energy and in the promotion of engineering and scientifi c careers to female graduates, but organisations the world over are feeling the pressure to re-invent themselves in the face of constantly shifting priorities and market demands. There is also a noticeable trend amongst organisations which have recognised a need for fundamental organisational and behavioural change to see their graduate intake not just as ‘the future’, but as the drivers of change. Because this may mean attracting people with different profi les to those previously considered desirable, such organisations are putting particular effort into determining and communicating a focussed graduate proposition which may differ signifi cantly from their traditional ‘Employee Value Proposition’. However, since virtually every detail of prospective employers are discussed on social networks − from training and remuneration to the application process and the quality of the refreshments at events (and there is often the opportunity to ask employees about the reality of the working environment at campus events) − whatever appears on the website or in the presentation has to ring true in one-to-one communication. As a result, a disciplined approach to ensuring that everyone involved in the recruitment process is aligned with current thinking becomes ever more vital. Getting the facts and sentiment right and presenting them accurately to the appropriate target audience is at the core of any successful employer brand activity. As the pace of change continues to increase and organisations, their employees, their customers and the broader community become ever-more networked, rather than calling a halt to employer brand management, enlightened organisations are using the discipline to add considerable value and provide an essential, ongoing sense check on the organisation’s reputation.


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