International Employer Branding Summit 2011 in Milan – Recap

In the HR community, people are willing to share new ideas and successful approaches. One of the guys creating such opportunities of sharing for the topic of Employer Branding is Brett Minchington. Being author of books on Employer Branding, he also established a global tour to which he invites several renowned companies who are willing to tell their stories. I was lucky enough to attend one of these meetings back in May, the “International Employer Branding and Engagement Summit 2011” in Milan. Apart of networking with Employer Branding professionals from around the world, the case studies provided all participants with valuable insights.  I can fully recommend you to join one of the future events!

This is is a short – and far from complete – recap of the presentations and discussions:

The Bosch approach to Employer Branding is typical for a high number of multinational companies: The Headquarter in Germany issues guidelines which are then impemented in all the countries and slightly adjusted to the local needs. In Italy, Bosch works closely together with universities although the cooperations vary in terms of quality. A very remarkable program is the so-called “Prisma Project”. This title refers to a German course for selected students at technical universities in Italy that also covers intercultural issues. The program does not only allow Bosch to contact students quite early, the students can also learn a useful language which would definitely be needed at some point of time when pursuing a career with Bosch. A second interesting initiative is the “women@bosch” project aimed at encouraging girls to enroll for technical study programs. In addition to that, Employer Branding begins at the very basis: make sure that you send a reply to all candidates!

International Employer Branding and Engagement Summit 2011Source: International Employer Branding Summit

Summit chair Brett Minchington presented first insights into his global research on Employer Branding. He pointed out that it seems a big challenge to sell Employer Branding concepts to executives in Europe. One of the biggest flaws of European companies also appears to be the lack of a proper induction process. Companies need to display their assets during the application process, so why should they not show their high-tech facilities or offer meetings with enthusiastic employees? Nowadays, companies face a transitional phase. A great chance for Employer Branding professionals! Now is the time to gather resources and get the systems in place to be ready when Employer Branding takes off to be critical for the company’s success. In addition to that, it is of utmost important to understand (potential) employees as whole persons, considering their fears (especially in times of desasters and crises) and communication habits. Concerning the ROI of Social Media activities and Employer Branding in general, Brett referred to projects being fully measurable. The other important element of an Employer Branding strategy should be the assets that will pay off after a longer period of time.

With a very energetic and professionally designed presentation, Adidas offered insights how to design a killer brand. The two speakers were true brand ambassadors, full of energy, in good shape and clothed in their product line. They presented Branding basics derived from employee research and summarized in shape of the buzzwords “Choice” and “Expectation”: How do we get our customers or potential employees to choose us? And do they get what we promise them? After being clear about these two elements, brand managers can start a three-step approach. First, you need to focus on the key differentiator (e.g. Google`s 20% rule). Second, you need to align everything you do with the message. The third step is about the full package: ensure that no one mixes your brand with another one. Additional tips were to think more like real brand managers in HR, leveraging on a great design and professional copywriting as well as a great candidate experience (based on fast response-time, maximum simplification and engagement on mutual terms). Finally, do not forget to present your brand to your customers: Adidas, for instance, have lockers on their career fair stands and they just seem to have a lot of fun working…

The following panel discussion dealt with the use of Social Media for Employer Branding. Two different approaches came up: You could either use short-term campaigns according to the trial and error method or carefully define your tone in Social Media first: Is your company more conservative and risk-averse or is it very authentic and risk-taking? Apart from that, all speakers agreed on the importance of establishing close relationships between HR, Communications and Marketing and on the need for a crisis management strategy as well as employees willing to be active in Social Media. Furthermore, the very basics were pointed out: you should enable your employees to use Social Media and you should listen to your target group first. How do they actually use Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.? Finally, it is not recruiting that drives HR professionals to consider and create an employer fanpage on Facebook – the true strength of Social Media platforms is the improvement of brand awareness. With all these new challenges coming up – what would be the key competencies future HR people need? – “Learning Agility” was the answer of Piotr Langer, UniCredit, “prepare them to be able to work in a future environment: to adapt, learn and change quickly“.

Group picture with Summit chairs and representatives of UniCredit and BaloiseSource: Employer Branding Online

IKEA‘s contribution to the Summit was mostly focused on diversity. A very strong claim they use is “To be one of us you’ve got to be yourself!Especially companies in the Retail industry have to consider that every customer could be a potential employee and vice versa. Therefore, the company’s initatives for diversity are closely linked to their communities: The recruitment should reflect “a wider base of candidates who mirror the community in which the store/location is operating“.

Piotr Langer, UniCredit, spoke about the difficult situation of the banking industry after the financial crisis. As customers and potential employees had strong reasons not to trust banks, the financial industry should now focus on “keeping the brand promise“. Before communicating a brand to the public, you should first invest in your employees to be able to create a brand grounded on a realistic base. UniCredit, in particular, used a joint effort of Employer Branding colleagues from all countries to setup an Employer Value Proposition (EVP) that is shared and aligned with the local realities in all countries. In terms of Social Media, a group of CEMS students supported the company by conducting a study among international students. The results were more or less surprising: Students still tend to prefer “traditional” ways of learning about job opportunities and potential employers (e.g. career fairs, career service, company website etc.) whereas Social Media were only of minor importance. There is still a need for making the target group comfortable with how companies communicate in the web. One possible approach could be to reflect offline events and experiences in the online world.

Barilla – famous for its Pasta – started with a hint on the recent new branding: “The Italian Food Company. Since 1877“. Having developed strong and emotional connections to the people in Italy, the company strives to grow also outside the home country. For Italian expatriates, Barilla might feel like a piece from home, but people from other countries do not realize the same quality yet. This is the reason why Barilla focuses strongly on culture – both internally and externally.Culture is what is crucial to achieving all the other improvements.  So the Employer Branding activities aim at inviting potential employees on a journey instead of just getting a job. Students, for instance, are offered courses about nutritional knowledge and the Italian style of “saper fare” thus enabling them to get to know the company and the culture behind the product.

All in all, the Summit was a great event to learn about the Employer Branding activities of other companies, to connect to Employer Branding professionals and to gain insights into up-to-date and global studies that were exclusively given to the participants.

About Gunnar Lübbe
I am a Human Resource Management student in his final year. My fields of interest are: HR, Social Media, the Financial Sector as well as personal and professional growth. This is my private account.

One Response to International Employer Branding Summit 2011 in Milan – Recap

  1. For more information on Brett Minchington’s Employer Branding Global Tour you can visit Employer Branding Online. There you will find an overview of the events, company partners, and speakers of 2011.

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