This was the title of a recent article in Harvard Business Review by Ken Banta and Michael Watras. They argue that employer brand is typically disconnected from the corporate brand and the core drivers of the business and is associated with superficial perks such as free lunches or unlimited vacation.
As a result they advocate abolishing the employer brand and instead building out the talent dimension as a key part of the corporate brand. They recommend a three step process led from the top of the organisation - not delegated to HR or Communications.
Step One: Create a talent framework that lays out the key qualities, behaviours, and motivations leaders want to see in their work force, so the company can deliver on its total brand promise
Step Two: Validate the talent framework with employees across the business to understand of their needs, how work really gets done and what needs to change in the organisation to retain, motivate and attract the best people over the long term.
Step Three: Embed the talent framework into the business.
They suggest this work should be led by the brand team and to make it stick must be owned by the CEO. Putting talent at the centre of the corporate brand rather than spinning out a separate employer brand is the best way to do this.
As I sit here and reflect on the article - I don't dispute the premise that talent should sit at the centre of the corporate brand. I don't dispute the idea that it should be owned by the CEO and I don't disagree with the process they describe to build the talent framework.
Emperors New Clothes? My challenge is the idea that this is a new concept/approach. Like many Banta and Watras are confusing Employer Brand and Employer Value Proposition. The talent framework they suggest is the EVP.
Its developed through engagement with Senior Leaders to understand the strategic direction and ambition of the organisation, the key behaviours, motivations and skills needed to be successful
Its developed by connecting with employees across the organisation to understand the reality of working for the organisation, what it takes to be successful as well as looking at why people join, why people stay and what makes people leave.
The combination of these two (with the third element also being the external perspective, not discussed in their approach) create the deal - the give and the get and defines your Employer Value Proposition. How this is articulated and communicated follows the same principles of consumer marketing - an overarching brand architecture, segmentation of messaging by audience, etc.
Of course in consumer marketing there are sometimes incentives/deals - like buy one get one free to encourage people to purchase a product. So why in employer terms can't some of the incentives like unlimited holidays or free lunches be communicated - they're part of the 'get' of the deal in return for the 'give' the behaviour and skills you bring to work every day.
The final point to make is the argument that this work should be led by Brand - I would strongly advocate its led (as they also suggest) from the top of the organisation (and ideally the CEO). The key is the collaboration to make it a reality - ultimately the 'brand' is the lived experience so it requires HR, Marketing, Communications and the broader business - every leader, every manager to deliver a consistent employee experience each and every day.
The problem with most employer branding is that it is disconnected from the corporate brand and the core drivers of the business. It is typically managed by the HR department and too often becomes associated with superficial perks, such as free lunch or unlimited vacation. Usually separate from any larger strategic purpose - the consequences can be dismaying.