The interesting fact about an organisation’s brand is that it strongly exists whether or not it is managed by any function. Thus when the oft-asked question arises as to who should own employer branding, it is not an easy answer. HR is looked upon as a logical owner, as the employer brand is a powerful tool to attract and retain talent.
However, as employees, prospects and customers increasingly weigh multi-dimensional factors of a company (such as what it stands for, and its outlook on people, clients and community), the employer brand ownership needs to spread beyond a single function.
Cross-functional collaboration, a critical pillar of the employer brand
Both in terms of cross-functional impact and dependencies, the power of the employer brand cannot be overlooked. With business embracing the non-siloed and collaborative mode of functioning, cross-functional brand ownership is very much a reality. It therefore does not matter where the ownership lies, it matters more how the owner collaborates across the organisation. The brand manager function and team need to seamlessly navigate the company’s structural matrix to build cooperation, trust and coordination across executive leadership, HR, marketing, communications, IT and legal.
This calls for a competent team comprising employees from various functions (and sometimes, external professionals) to design and implement a value-enhancing employer brand strategy. Working together, they need to build agility and customer centricity to sustain a strong and consistent brand that truly reflects the organisation’s core culture.
Enter the cross-functional employer brand champion
If cross-functional collaboration is critical to employer brand management, cross-functional employer brand champions are even more so. They bring in shared pride and responsibility through diverse knowledge and capabilities to build brand advocacy.
Born out of the core company culture, internal advocacy has a reinforcing effect to improve every facet of the organisation – the way talent is acquired and retained, the excellence with which products and services are delivered and the manner in which customers are engaged and delighted. Such advocacy cannot be restricted to one function alone. For example, Starbucks uses their Twitter handle #sbuxjobschat where candidates chat with employees about what it’s like to work there. Imagine the 360-degree perspective a prospective candidate would get with Starbucks’ cross-functional brand champions.
Cross-functional employee brand champions bring the best of marketing into employer branding. They convey strong affinity and identification with the company that prospective talent can immediately spot, and customers can experience. Such employees create brand differentiation that even the best of competition cannot duplicate.
Cross-functional brand champions build credible and viral stories
Building a credible employer brand requires a ‘viral’ narrative by diverse employees across functions and seniority levels. Cross-functional brand champions can be internal or external (ex-employees) – and when they tell the story about the company’s vision, values and practices, it has a telling effect. The more employees across different departments, demographics and hierarchical levels that can tell their stories, the stronger and more authentic will the employer brand be. L’Oreal, Harley Davidson, Nike and Google are some reputed organisations whose brand strengths rest on their employees’ brand championing.
What these brand champions do is to replace the corporate voice with voices of real people who are proud to belong. The more diverse they are, the clearer will listeners hear their consistency and truth.
Employer branding requires cross-functional collaboration across multiple departments and diverse responsibilities for sustained credibility. People look for authentic voices they can relate to and resonate with. A unified message of diverse voices blend to create an impactful employer value proposition and ultimately an employer brand of integrity. Such a brand creates a truly cascading effect to attract talent that is aligned with the organisation vision and belief – which in turn multiplies the population of its brand champions.