Q&A |Talent magnet: turn Employer Branding into your superpower

December 17, 2019 Alicia Roy

It’s almost been a month since Cornerstone Convergence in London. How time flies! It was certainly the biggest – and greatest – HR event we’ve had so far and, as you can imagine, our team spent hours brainstorming, creating, deleting, and creating again to make the event a success.

But Convergence is more than just an exclusive Cornerstone gathering, it’s an event where hundreds of Cornerstone clients and HR professionals from various industries are able get together in one place and learn from each other’s experiences. During Convergence, I spoke with two of Cornerstone’s clients, Natures Way Foods & Starts Perform and I wanted to share their talent management story.

Rachel Parkes, Head of Talent and Development at Natures Way Foods, and Harald Enzinger, Data Operations Training Manager at Stats Perform, are both passionate about their company’s Employer Brand but their stories are really different. One has created an external employer journey whilst the other has achieved internal communication success!

Find out what happened when I spoke to Rachel and Harold and see if you can gain some inspiration from this Q&A

Alicia: When we start the Employer Brand adventure it is always a challenge to kick off. Too many open fronts! We know from our latest IDC report that almost 1 in 5 businesses are struggling to find the right talent and skills. Therefore, the Employer Brand can help us attract and retain the best talent. How important is it to get an initial pulse and audit the perception we have internally and externally? How have you gathered this information before creating your strategic plan?

Rachel:  We collected information from a variety of sources to determine the external perception of Natures Way Foods. These sources included:

  • Our preferred Supplier Agencies that have worked with us in partnership for a number of years
  • Social Media channels – Facebook / LinkedIn / Twitter
  • Community feedback – through focus groups and events held onsite
  • Indeed/Glassdoor/Google ratings
  • Recruitment Screenings and follow up surveys post-process, asking external candidates questions around their perception and knowledge of our business prior to applying and what attracted them to apply
  • Our website. Utilising user experience data – What parts of our website were most appealing? Where do users spend most their time? And which pages have the most hits?
  • Competitor research – how do our competitors distinguish their brand? What are their key messages? What makes us different and attractive to our audience?

Harald: I would like to start with mentioning that with the initial roll out of the CSOD solution, we have been busy with making that release happen and our focus was less on Employer Branding or UI/UX. From discussions I’ve had, I know that many companies experienced the same. We then, rather quickly, figured out that we need to get our users logging into the tool more frequently. We ran surveys and, based on the feedback, we defined some areas of attack. One of those areas was to rebrand the whole system, introduce a corporate design and advertise it internally.

Alicia: Once we have a real clear idea of what the perception is, we may have found that we need to change some internal HR processes. Has the audit helped you understand where you had some quality issues within the department? And what does Employer Experience mean to you?

Harald: As mentioned before we have released a corporate design, which is the same for all email communications from the tool/department, the unified Welcome Page and covers for the whole training content. We have rolled this out along with some new features to our users. At the same time, we reworked our automated email communications and increased the volume of centralised user communication, which had a positive effect. Of course, the most important factor that lets our users come back is the quality of the content and that the content is easy to find. In my world, all learning content is created by my team, so we have gathered a good knowledge about users’ needs and how to make content engaging.

Rachel: We found the following changes needed to be made to engage with our internal workforce:

  • Which channels we use to communicate key business information and to both distinct audiences – depth of detail and information to engage
  • How our employees can voice their opinions and ideas for change – so now looking to empower our employees’ representatives
  • The channels we use to communicate key business information to both populations of our business, head office and operations – the tools we use and type of communication (online and offline).
  • Consider generational differences and being careful not to stereotype – what’s important to different generations, how do we appeal to all and emerging generations who are joining the workforce (Gen Z).


Alicia: Did you have to do a lot of convincing internally to get a role likes yours in place? If not, how can we, in your opinion, challenge the organisations we work for to get them to embrace the importance of the Employer Brand? We know from a Glassdoor Survey conducted in 2016 that, “Job seekers read at least 6 reviews before forming an opinion of a company”.

Rachel: It’s important to remember that if you cannot have a dedicated Employer Brand resource in place, you should consider the wider support you can draw upon. With accountability for Talent Acquisition and Development, it felt best placed to be led by myself as I am closer to the challenges internally and externally with our brand perception. I presented the need to the HR Director and CEO for the project and focus. I am supported by our Head of Communications, the HR Business Partner and a trusted talent partner, Cogito. We can all view the project from different perspectives;

  1. HR Business Partner – the internal strategic voice of the people (close to the employee representatives)
  2. Head of Communications – accountable for how we communicate key messages internally and externally and via what channels
  3. We also used a trusted Talent Partner (Cogito) to run our internal focus groups to drive open, honest communications and anonymity

We all have a shared interest and passion in creating our culture and environment. The HR team’s strategy is centered around our key people value linked to our working culture and environment. Our objective is to create and evolve the employee experience to make us a Brilliant Place to Work.

It is important to be able to articulate to a business why you need to establish a clear EVP to present the case. You need to consider what the benefit is to the business. It doesn’t need to cost a great amount of money and you can utilise internal expertise.  In a time of tight labour markets, skills shortages and fight for critical skills and knowledge, you need to understand what makes your offering attractive, authentic and distinctive, what are your USPs? Candidates have choice and, in some cases (true to NWF), they won't need to apply for roles as they will be headhunted without leaving their desks just by having a LinkedIn profile. Use data and statistics to show how a defined EVP/EB will positively impact attraction and retention. We are very metric focused and have a lot of targets as an inhouse talent team to recruit directly (e.g. not using recruitment agencies), drive down cost to hire, reduce time to hire and, ultimately, focus on the quality of hiring through securing high potential candidates that will add value to your business.

Alicia: We have spoken about transparency in some of the conversations we have had in the past and how we sometimes struggle from a HR point of view to show what we do internally. How have you managed that disconnect at Stats Perform?

Harald: To be honest, when breaking new ground and rolling out the tool to new areas, we experience the same issues and initial scepticism from time to time. However, as soon as users, and especially managers, notice the value and benefits we bring to their teams long-term it runs smoothly and we get all the required support and acceptance.

Alicia: Thank you Rachel and Harald for sharing so many exciting insights with us!

About the Author

Alicia Roy

With a background in recruitment, Alicia is currently part of the marketing team and helps creating new content as well as building the online brand as a community manager.

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