Yves Pilet Consultancy
Employer brand management


The employer brand and the personal brand (part 1 of 2)

It was back in 1999 when Cameron and Quinn revealed their four quadrants of the Cultural Profile. Each of the four quadrants represented a culture type: hierarchy culture, clan culture, market culture and adhocracy culture. Employer branding is about that culture: each culture type determines what type of talents suit organization. The employer brand in a similar manner shows a strong overlap with the four quadrants of Cameron and Quinn: the Employer Brand Grid proved that. The Basic brand, Insider brand, Outsider brand and Champion brand exhibit strong correlations with, respectively, the hierarchy culture, clan culture, market culture and adhocracy culture.

Figure 1 - Employer Brand Grid

Source: Pilet

Source: Pilet

The employer brand is not only linked to the corporate culture, but is also aligned with the business strategy and vision of the organisation. The vision is the direction in which the senior management believes the sector its active in is developing and the mission is to what extent the organisation hopes to make a difference. If the importance of technology is growing strongly in the sector, an organization will need to respond to it using the right business strategy. The market as a whole makes certain developments and, depending on the company, an organization can quickly and smoothly respond or choose not to do so. Nowadays an organization that is agile will be better of in the future and quicker to respond to market developments. The Employer Brand Landscape, another model by me, shows how market trends, company culture, vision and business strategy and various aspects of the employer brand are related.

Associations are part of your employer brand and your personal brand
The employer brand is supposed to be strongly influenced by the culture of an organization. It is the type of talent to recruit and retain that fits your organisation. All these employees also have a brand, known as the personal brand. A personal brand, in terms of branding, is the set of associations different stakeholders have of someone (Is she smart? Is she friendly? Is she a hard worker?). Besides all of the different stake holders, you also have a certain image of yourself (other people like me, people think I'm short-sighted, people think of me as arrogant). This is also influenced by perceptions friends have of you (especially if they are inclined to tell honestly what they think about you). On the labour market, potential employers and your current employer also have an image of you: your personal brand in a labour market sense.

The receiver determines one's perception
Because employees have a personal brand and are working for an employer with an employer brand, the overlap between these two types of brands deserves a closer look. Just like a company uses its employer brand to attract and retain employees, employees use their personal brand to position themselves in real life, on the labor market, among friends and at for example, the local gym. Every person has one, just like every company has an employer brand. The tricky part is to match them based on mutual values. Since every person is unique, the receiver of the image - whether it's the HR department of a company or somebody you just met at a birthday party - will determine how she will perceive you. The receiver eventually determines how much of the person's true personal brand will be revealed. This is where the sender of the personal brand has to step up: influencing the receiver's perception starts from the very first second contact is made.

Matching the employer brand with personal brands
People built up a perception of your image based on (brand) associations. The same goes for people like George Bush, Diego Maradona and mother Theresa. I'm sure just by reading these three names all kind of associations are triggered in your brain, good or bad. The same goes for an organisation's employer brand: through communication, whether in print (by ads), online (social media) or in person (when a newly hired meets his boss in real life for the first time), perceptions are made, associations are triggered and opinions are born. Just like companies use their employer brand to attract and retain employees, employees use their personal brand to position themselves on the labour market. Like I said, every person has one, just like every company has an employer brand. The tricky part is to match the employer and the personal brand. For decades, companies communicated with potential employees based on required education level and years of experience (and most companies still do) through vacancies, but nowadays companies start to wonder whether this is still the way to go. Potential employees want to match their personality (their personal brand) with a company's culture (part of its employer brand). A company should be able to communicate its company culture through its primary channel of it external employer brand perception: its career site. Only then potential employees can get a true insight in what it’s like to work for a company and are companies able to retain talented employees in the long run. Communicating a company culture through its career site provides a potential employee more insight about what it’s like to actually work for an employer than a more conventional vacancy. Potential employees simply do not know what it is like to work for an employer, because they don’t work there. Understanding the company culture increases the likelihood that the right employees at the right time are attracted and that the chances of retaining these employees increases.

Values should be at the heart of your communication
Now, based on the above, one might think that the perception of a person’s brand is not to be altered. Of course they are! Marketing communications strategies have shown that the perceptions of the target groups can be changed, as long as they are authentic, consistent and based on intrinsic values. The same goes for an organisation’s employer brand and a person’s personal brand. Based on a person’s value maps, for example by using the laddering methodology, a person’s instrumental and end values can be determined. These values should be at the heart of every possible way of communicating with a person’s peers. Once again, whether in print (a Christmas card), online (think about your messages on social media you're using and your community sees as well) and in real life (when you have a job interview). Sending your message across authentically and consistently makes it possible to change the perception of the receiving end of those messages.

In part two of this post I'll give you more insights in the personal brand and how to use story telling to enhance its power.

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