16th November 2016

The role that internal communicators play in employer brand management was the topic of a recent series of seminars by the IoIC London team. Over three events, we examined the ‘why’, the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ of employer branding.

The first event saw representatives from various organisations debate the importance of a strong employer brand and how social media such as Glassdoor have democratised the scene. The second event introduced delegates to IoIC’s new Employer Brand Audit tool. Our third and final session, Internal communication at the heart of an employer branding strategy, included case studies from SABMiller by Justine Stevenson, and ODEON & UCI Cinema Group by Brooke Nolan. Simon Barrow rounded off the evening, and the series, with his thoughts on the specific contribution that communicators bring to the table.

The SABMiller story

When Justine Stevenson, Internal Communication Manager, says she “feels refreshed” when she goes to work, it is not just because the company makes beer. The team spirit, which is one of the organisation’s values, proves that it lives up to its vision. But its stories are the ultimate differentiator. “It’s all about getting under the skin of your company,” she says.

Encouraging internal communicators to start with seemingly basic questions, Justine argues that it is essential to understand what your company stands for. Do your mission statement and values reflect the culture and what your people are really proud of? Understanding these elements helps internal communicators to build an employer value proposition that compliments the heritage and culture of a company.


ODEON’s four steps to implementing an employer brand strategy

With over 10,000 people in over 270 cinemas in Europe, ODEON’s employer brand journey began two years ago, during challenging times, when engagement could be improved and the company’s CEO realised that when your product is exactly the same as your competitors', you need to offer more. Motivating and engaging staff was the place to start. Brand engagement agency Synergy Creative helped the organisation to transform the business from the inside out.

Brooke Nolan, Synergy’s Marketing and Communication Manager, shared a behind-the-scenes look at the employer brand process implemented by ODEON.

ODEON wanted to encourage colleagues to ‘own’ the brand – to become brand ambassadors, share their stories and bring ODEON’s values to life. This journey was broken down into four steps:

  1. Research, working closely with the Chief People Officer, HR and internal comms, gathering customer and employee insights.
  2. Defining the employer value proposition: skills for life opportunities, important when a large part of your employees are part-time, shift-based and/or temporary staff.
  3. The creative process: a strong employer brand concept and consistent messaging included “Be Extraordinary, Be ODEON” created in a cinematic style.
  4. Mapping the employee journey: a range of initiatives and campaigns to improve every aspect of the people experience. These included a strong focus on vision and values that included fun activities – from travelling scrapbooks, which were decorated with stories from staff across cinemas in Europe, and a new on-the-spot recognition scheme, to giant advent calendars with daily activities that encouraged staff to share and create content from photos to videos of teams living the values.

And the results? Measured using McKinsey’s organisational health index, employee engagement, it jumped from the third to the top quartile in under two years – the biggest single leap recorded by McKinsey.

With ‘change’ rapidly becoming a ‘constant’ among today’s corporates, both companies are now involved in a change of ownership. This begs the question: is employer brand a saleable commodity? With 80% of a company’s value being intangible, we probably will not be guessing at the answer.

Simon Barrow, former brand manager at Colgate who later created the employer brand concept, focused on the issues of employee brand management and the role internal communications play in shaping it. "Employees deserve the same respect understanding, listening, communications, leadership and coherent management as customers do," explains Simon. "Internal communicators have a key role in owning employer branding alongside marketing, HR and sales."

Here’s why:

  • They often are already close to senior management.
  • They are involved in massive decisions on what to say.
  • They have fewer turf concerns than other functions and must take a broader, more corporate view.
  • They already work closely with other key employer brand facing functions such as human resources, marketing and operations.

Internal communicators are well placed to influence senior management on the commanding heights of what makes for a real employer brand; they already create content, find stories and use the language that supports employer branding. They also encourage dialogue on the topics that make up the employee value proposition, and highlight the realities of the employment experience where they do not match the stated standards and the established values and behaviours.
The series of seminars coincided with the launch of IoIC’s new Employer Brand Audit tool. Increasingly, internal communicators are playing a crucial role in managing the employer brand and IoIC needs to be part of the debate. Jennifer Sproul, the IoIC’s chief executive, says: “IC is fundamental to delivering the employer brand promise communicating its vision and values, and shaping the employee voice. IoIC partnered with TCBA to create the Employer Brand Audit, a unique tool that allows organisations to measure and provide key insights on where their brand is positioned both within their employees’ and customers’ minds. IoIC will continue to explore Employer Brand and the role of internal communicators in this increasingly important agenda and its impact on organisational success.” 

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