Solo Act to Symphony… Future of Employer Branding

Symphony

 

Recently at a dinner with a group of senior HR leaders, I was surprised at the conversation which completely revolved around value of employer branding. The zeal and fervour with which everyone was discussing the ascendance and power of the concept  was akin to what in the recent past has been accorded to likes of big data and culture.

Now we all know what Employer Branding is all about, Google is full of articles, blogs and views and opinions ranging from thought leaders to research agencies to publishing houses all extoling the value and virtue of it. After all employer branding is not a spectator sports but a contact sport! What begs the question then is 1) Is it already a mega trend? 2) Has work begun on it in holistic manner? 3) Have companies redesigned their organizations to factor this as a full time role? 4) Is it getting talked about in the board room? Let me share my point of views

  1. Is it a mega trend? Not so far, but soon will be. The onus lies on us as HR professionals and leaders to understand its subtleties and nuances, be able to nurture employee value proposition so employee ambassadorship is unleashed, which together with organizations marketing efforts will become a force multiplier to propel employer branding. If all of us at SHRM, People Matters, NHRDN, BIY, GPTW and talent influencers can put this discussion front and centre, it will gain momentum. Tipping point will come! Look at the LinkedIn post that Susan Peter – SVP HR at GE posted on LinkedIn when they announced John Flannery as the new CEO. She has written about the 6yr journey GE took to identify, train and announce their new CEO. Unprecedented degree of sharing, one would say, but huge in its impact wrt creating powerful employer brand.

 

  1. Has work begun on it in a holistic manner? No it hasn’t. But that’s ok. As it always happens, there are initiators who have taken this raging bull by the horn and have started to make inroads. They are making this their priority and focus and are starting to invest both resources and time on it. Eg Mark Zuckerberg, arguably one of the most employer friendly technology company is regularly on Facebook Live sharing stories of his dreams, failure and turnaround as he built Facebook. Why is he doing it? Well it does give tremendous impetus to the FB brand which no amount of marketing spends can! Added bonus – it’s free for him! Makes business sense – right?

 

  1. Have companies redesigned their organization to factor this in as a full time role? Progressive companies which are catching the tide as it rises on concepts such as Future of Work, Modern Workplaces have certainly begun to do it (Remember my conversation on the dinner table). Like it happened with Diversity and Inclusion, Internal Communication, Employee Engagement, Employer branding is also so far an additional assignment for someone in talent acquisition or marketing but I see the landscape rapidly shifting to having this as a full time role reporting to CHRO/CXO. If I were to extend the definition of an organization to our country India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is already branding it all around the world. His Make in India initiative is meant to make everyone come, stay and flourish in India, his organization!

 

  1. Is it getting talked about in the board room – Yes absolutely it has made its way to the board room. Company reputation both from value creation and risk management is one of the top things boards are beginning to focus on, especially in this era of IOT and social media. The astute board members and the CEO/CXO team is fully conscious of its materiality and have a technology leader on their board who’s the soul keeper of leveraging social/technology both for creating business value as well as to fuel employee ambassadorship. Anand Mahindra – The chairman and MD of Mahindra group constantly tweets and updates his followers on happening within his company. His twitter followers are 4.8mm nearly twice the circulation of major national dailies in India. No wonder then, his speed and reach of communication about the Mahindra brand is phenomenal!

 

So does employer branding really matter, does it make business sense, do stakeholders value it, is there concept of materiality to it, these and many other questions will get asked, are getting asked. There will be soothsayers, naysayers and opinion makers. Either way, the brand is getting built. The difference is will it be by design or default. The music will ebb and flow for a while before it reaches a crescendo, but then, that’s how symphonies are written!

1st published in People Matters magazine – July Issue as Cover Story https://www.peoplematters.in/author/harlina-sodhi

 

Bells & Whistles aren’t enough…

It’s that time of the year, when Santa comes flying across the sky and sliding down our chimneys with bag full of goodies and a merry ho ho ho. Eyes stay glued to the hanging stocking by the bedpost, ears strain to hear the reindeer bells ring and hearts brim over with goodwill and joy. But this visual would be quite incomplete; in fact shocking if all you saw were the reindeer pulling the sleigh with all the bells and whistles without the Santa riding in it, now wouldn’t it?

That’s what organizations have to constantly guard against when it comes to building and breathing Culture…it’s easy to plant the tree, decorate it with bells and whistles, put fairy lights on it and sparkly star atop but tough to get it to take deep roots and grow taller. Culture needs a face and voice; usually it’s the Ceo and/or founder of the company.

Often, leaders in their haste set about laying the foundation of Organizational Culture with gusto and enthusiasm only to realize that’s it’s not a project or a product, it’s not a program or a process, certainly not a race or a sprint! It’s an ultra-marathon! Just putting together nuts and bolts of Culture such as training programs, websites and posters, scorecards and rewards is never going to be enough. .

To build, drive and sustain culture leaders have to “run their talk”, “change their language”, “act in accordance”, “protect it when push comes to shove” and “lean on it when torn by conflict”.

Deeply Believe before they Optically Do!

To everyone who is the Culture architect, Culture crusader, Culture evangelist, it’s time to go beyond the bells and whistles and be like the Santa with a constant twinkle in your eye, eternal spring in your foot and forever gusto in your laughter!

Dig deep, Ignite the fire, Leave a legacy…Merry Xmas!

 

My Journey, from Slides to Stories

Story.jpg

If you, like me, worked for many years in global MNC’s and large corporation’s words like pitch, deck, power point slides would be part of your language and muscle memory. Your core professional DNA really! The moment I would hear of an operating review, customer meeting, project update, I would grab my laptop and feverishly begin to search through templates and formats, in fact, I even had them archived as per the person we were going to make presentation to….CEO likes blue colour font and prefers pie chart over bar, CFO wants to see excel and benchmark data, Customer want comparison with best practices…you get the drift. It was all canned and highly personalized. Or so I believed….

And then I discovered the power and potential of being “untethered” – walking into rooms full of people, standing on stage, talking in townhall, pitching to leadership without the slides. A year ago, this would have petrified me but then Life took a turn…

Today, my blood pressure no longer rises, I don’t sleep fitfully, and people around me don’t feel the pressure as I no longer spend endless hours making the deck and then beautifying the slides and then fretting over notes under each of them so I remember the data, insight and punch lines!

I now tell stories of my life’s experiences, my own anecdotes, tales of things I’ve done, paint a picture of things that have happened to me, share my own learning and talk of lesson I’ve learnt, a narrative from the heart that leave no piece out – hard facts or emotions.

And it works like magic! No one was as stunned with the impact it has on audience than I was! Not only did I unshackle myself from unnecessary gadgetry, unburden myself from anxiety of building content but ended up adding meaningful colour and context to my conversations.

Today I am my own “Google”, my life experiences are my “Wikipedia” and I am the “Story”!

 

What Marathon taught me about Culture

Many would agree that when we talk of culture it’s largely if not entirely in context of organizations and countries or even families but running is not something that comes naturally to mind. Till a week ago, It certainly didn’t to mine.

The sound of the drum beats and pounding footsteps at the crack of the dawn on Sunday morning made me change my view. I woke up to the Mumbai Marathon! What a sight it was. Unending streams of people tirelessly running for unity, camaraderie, love, diversity and many other causes but most of all for themselves.

For many it was simply a cacophony of motley noise, vibrant colours and jostling human bodies to all running to get ahead. But I saw a lot more that day.

I saw countless people lined up alongside the road cheering the runners, dozens of volunteers hand out water to them and I saw the sea dotted with fishermen boats keeping an eye on the marathon.

What deeply struck me – wasn’t this Culture in action. After all, if culture is defined as set of symbols, rituals, beliefs and behaviours, wasn’t I seeing all of that in its full glory. What else could it be but our deep rooted spirit of sportsmanship that made us get out of bed at 5am to cheer strangers, our notion of hospitality that had us giving energy bars to folks we would never see again, our ingrained sense of oneness that had us rub knees and ankles of the runners just so they would not get cramps.

In corporate parlance, we would call this visible manifestation of Culture. This would be seen as demonstration of our Values and Behaviours, those of One Team, Honour, Collaboration, Energy, Drive, Respect and more. If that was the case and it certainly seemed like that to me, standing by the road watching this symphony of motion, why was that in an organizations, we had to meticulously craft our Values and Behaviours, bring employees to classroom to acculturate them into it, spend time and money to paint our walls with them, hard wire them into core processes such as hiring, performance management and recognition so everyone would “live them” and no one could short circuit them. Why indeed?

Is it that organizations say one thing and do another, is it we decorate our walls with one message and behave in another, is it we train for values and reward for results, is it we encourage competitiveness and expect collaboration, it is we celebrate aggression and ask for camaraderie. Is it? And expect culture to be the panacea!

As the marathon slowly started to come to an end, I saw people rush out to help the stragglers, offer them rides back home and clap equally hard for them, for indeed in great endeavours it is glorious to even fail.

By talking about Culture in hushed tones of reverence, by conjuring visual imagery of Values as an Iceberg, are we making “Much ado about Nothing”. Perhaps we should just put organizational processes, policies and practices in place which feel right – Fair to Company and Fair to Employee and Culture will take care of itself.

Meanwhile, Mumbai celebrated the victory of all its forty thousand runners, those who won, those who beat their time and those who simply ran!