Almost everywhere we look and in most things we do, brands influence our lives. Brand images in fact appear to have hijacked products.Think search engine, think Google. Think Noodles, it’s Maggi (for my husband atleast!). Brands have come to be one of the most powerful wealth creators for an organization today. Companies are not stopping at just creating brand equity for their products.They are looking at a bigger image, what is now called the Corporate Brand equity.
In a Knowledge based economy ,where it is the employee who first plays his cards, companies are now talking of a people-centered philosophy. An employer brand is being recognized as a critical element of the Corporate Brand Equity. Employer branding is essentially a targeted, long-term strategy to manage the awareness and perceptions of employees, potential employees, and related stakeholders with regards to a particular firm.
The return on employer branding is quite clearly reduced attrition, greater identification, easier talent acquisition. Yahoo! seems to have gone about this in a big way.
My friend – let’s call her Ms.Z – was an intern at Yahoo! a few summers ago. From the very day that she received her Yahoo! offer letter and welcome kit, the Yahoo brand image was impressed upon her.The welcome kit, she says, was an instant connect. It had a Yahoo T shirt and a jack-in-the-box that sang out the yahoo yoddle everytime it was opened.
By her fifth week of internship, Ms.Z says that not a single day had gone by without her discovering a new branding exercise.The stationnery, the door knobs at the work place, even the templates of power point presentations carried the yahoo purple colour code.The exclamation mark was another strong symbol that has been deployed.The exclamation mark has been so emphatically internalized, Ms.Z claims that she never types Yahoo! without the exclamation mark.
There are posters within the workplace that shout out motivating slogans like: “ 400 million users Yahoo because of you”. This she believes does often make her feel that her work is reaching out to people and that it is worthwhile. Yahoo also has, what they call the yahoo yoddle. At an all hands meet ,the President and the CEO of the Company yoddled, with all the employees chipping in. Few employees at her workplace even have the yahoo yoddle as their ringtone.
That the company is serious about this effort is evident for all to see.The Yahoo! purple, replete with the exclamation mark and the yoddle are all part of an intensive brand building exercise. Ms. Z believes it is all for a good reason. These initiatives send out a strong signal to the employees.It is important that the employees are fresh, enthusiastic and full of ideas.She believes that all these symbols and signs do succeed in creating a sense of belonging to the workplace. When a new employee joined the company, her introductory mail to her team concluded with “ I am what Yahoo is, which is Fun”.This reflects a successful brand building effort that has managed to create an external brand image that is aligned with the internal corporate culture.
However, one needs to remember that the brand image that the organization portrays externally needs to always be consistent with the internal brand for the entire exercise to be successful. An incongruence could, at the end of the day, leave an employee cynical and disappointed.
Having said that this seems to be a surging phenomenon today, I have to say that I know of companies that have held (consciously or otherwise) strong employer brands for years. For instance, I have had the chance to closely know people who have worked with Malayala Manorama, the most widely circulated daily newspaper in Kerala. And there are few companies that have measured up in terms of employer brands in my (perhaps, most certainly) biased eyes. This company also used to hold a strong patriarchal and familial culture which is not uncommon in old business groups of India (I speak in the past tense, since it’s been a few years since I have not been following the company in the past few years and Indian media has changed drastically in this period. It’s hard to believe that Malayala Manorama has not felt the winds of change).
So is employer branding just another one of the HR fads? Or will it help address the attrition issues that Indian companies have been facing?