HR’s role in creating a strong brand image

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We do not always associate HR with the brand creation of a business

The HR department has a crucial role to play in the creation of a strong brand image but only if it can balance the management of marketing, wellbeing and D&I…

A strong employer brand can result in multiple benefits for a company, for example making it a more attractive place to work and boosting sales. A LinkedIn study found that 80% of talent leaders agree that its ability to hire great talent is based on the significance of the employer brand. Unfortunately, HR doesn’t always get to assist with a company’s branding – despite the resulting benefits for the departments it looks after if the brand is flourishing.

Despite this, it is possible that the HR department can assist in improving a company’s brand. It is incredibly important to curate a brand that not only appeals to employees but potential talent looking to join the business, who often tend to focus on all aspects of a brand, not just the relevant information regarding a job role.

Additionally, over the last year with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic still being felt, people are re-evaluating their jobs and careers, it is therefore imperative that staff feel proud and included in the brand they work for. With HR management, the creation of a robust brand is possible, focusing on drawing in potential hires to key areas – such as D&I and wellbeing. These are areas of increasing interest to potential employees, which if looked after properly, can help retention, recruitment and boosting engagement.

The importance of the HR and Marketing relationship

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Even though HR and Marketing are seen as two distinct functions within an organisation, collaboration between the two teams can lead to a stronger brand. A closer relationship between the two should be seen as a positive development and something to strengthen going forward. This collaboration will highlight the importance of cooperation within a business, helping to develop a brand image that strongly works for the business.  This mentality is shaping decisions the HR department is making when it comes to new appointments, too. For example, when looking for a new Talent Acquisition Manager, you may not only consider their ability to recruit but also their  marketing and media skills. According to Harvard Business Review, HR’s lack of marketing skills to communicate brand awareness successfully, can be circumvented by hiring HR professionals with a background in marketing. Therefore, this move can enhance HR’s ability to take active ownership of the brand.

The University of Oxford Director, Andrew Stephens, believes if employee behaviour, which tends to be under the remit of HR, does not deliver the message that Marketing is trying to construct, then HR could find a far less engaged workforce. Employees that are more engaged are more likely to uphold the firm’s brand, which both the HR and Marketing teams can help to mould, according to Stephen. Furthermore, the collaboration between HR and Marketing can not only increase the value of a company’s brand but also the engagement of employees, too.

 Boosting the brand – Wellbeing and D&I

Engagement is not the only tool which can help to boost a brand. A strong employer brand can carry with it core elements that HR would usually attempt to drive into the workplace daily. The brand can help communicate strong messages, as it can be associated with work-life balance, employee satisfaction and wellbeing, all of which are major pillars in HR’s role. In some cases, these components can seem just as important, if not more so than the work of a business itself. In fact, Westfield Health research found that 43% of companies with wellbeing initiatives have employees with ‘very good’ productivity levels, compared to only 18% of organisations who do not have wellbeing programmes claiming the same.

The follow on is that candidates want to see proof that a company’s brand image matches the reality of working life at a potential employer – and they want that reality to be a good one. Therefore, HR need to make sure that the business’ brand reflects the lived reality of wellbeing at the firm, as well as things like diversity initiatives. Brands must also be able to demonstrate their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), so candidates will recognise it as a place where all can thrive and an environment they aspire to be in.

Nonetheless, employers should not try to associate too many positive characteristics with the company’s brand, as staff will notice if the company is wrongfully claiming something the business does not represent well. Companies need take care, not to mis-sell or overstate their culture and capabilities, as often candidates will see through this. In particular, businesses need to ensure that their D&I commitments are strong and demonstrable. In this case, actions really do speak louder than words.

 HR can step in when businesses fail

The HR department can often take the brunt of the responsibility of pushing the brand when businesses lose focus. HR teams can help keep the brand afloat by making sure the workforce is well-motivated and engaged, by planning employee-led campaigns and initiatives. As companies do not always put much focus into trying to promote the firms’ brand, it is important HR steps in, so that the brand image is not neglected.

The HR team are well placed to make sure business values are taken seriously. They can safeguard the employer brand and values, making sure that they call out examples of cultural misalignment in an employee’s behaviour or decision-making. In order for company culture to be represented in the brand, HR should aim to include core values in all decisions made. If these are authentic and relatable to the company, the process should be straightforward.

Collaboration is key

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For a company to cultivate a strong brand image, then Marketing, IT, HR and business leaders need to work together. As we have seen, HR’s role in a brand strength is key to a business’s success, bringing a positive impression of the brand, helping to draw in talent and the potential to drive sales. Therefore, it always makes sense for HR to be involved in the creation and development of a brand so that wellbeing and D&I is appropriately reflected. Additionally, the HR team can be seen as a strong reinforcer of bran-centric thinking, when the company itself fails to push forward the brand identity of the firm.

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