A case in point in recruitment today is that you always have to attract and communicate with people to motivate them to consider working with a potential employer. There are some organizations where the challenge of attracting people from a larger to a smaller community makes employer branding even more important. 

Can you walk me through the journey that you've had over the years?

I've been in HR for over 22 years, in the role of a generalist, and worked a lot on talent management and development, and now this is the fourth time that I have had the opportunity to have a dedicated role in diversity, equity and inclusion. 

The nuance of what's unique about the connection between employer branding and diversity and inclusion is that when we used to market products and services broadly to a mainstream audience, talent was viewed as a mainstream audience. We would talk to individuals about who we are as a company in a general way, and that would convey the message and make people want to work with us. 

Today, we segment people according to a variety of demographics in the same manner that we segment our communications and marketing for goods and services. We look at age, gender, and multi-cultural communities for employer branding. The value proposition that we communicate to all the talent, the people that we want to attract, has been at the intersection of employer branding. I have seen this change to be more intentional in understanding the audience and speaking with a wide community of candidates. That also includes all the web channels; employer branding is not only about what we say but also how we communicate and where we say it. 

At the moment, there are several social media platforms like LinkedIn, Tiktok, and Instagram. As a result, you have to adjust your channel images or content and the story about your company to the audience you are trying to reach. This is also part of employer branding. One of the things that is important and that we often do not do is to ask our employees their take on what is our employer brand, what we are about, what they are proud of, and what do they admire in the company. 

Especially in this day and age, you constantly have brand ambassadors, so that has become more and more common, where companies train employees and give them resources, and encourage them to be ambassadors to share their message across the channels. 

Employer branding is internal as well as external, so it must be consistent. It is like going to a restaurant and having a very angry server, who is probably angry because they're not being treated fairly in their employment. That affects the experience of the customer, which in our case, are the candidates. I think that's how we need to see them because they have options to choose from the market. This is why we focus on employer branding, and then when employees come in, they are going to be loyal and be grateful that they have a genuine opportunity and good benefits. 

Is there a project or initiative you've been working on lately wherein you've leveraged these trends or classic elements to make that successful?

I will go back to the topic of brand ambassadors. In one of my previous companies, we had a brand day every year—a day that catered to the brand. The company shared materials with employees like merchandise and videos that could be shared. There was an intentional effort to get people to, in a fun way, learn about the brand, or bring in new people. There are people who have been in the company for many years and can speak about the brand, but then there a lot of people who are new, and so it's like a constant effort.

"In an employee resource group, taking advantage of the extended networks in an organic and powerful way to share that employer brand is the key."

The second is social media. Its use is to share authentic, human interest stories from people that are not corporate messages but that give potential candidates a glimpse into life at work. The employees need to opt-in to share those messages and stories, and they need to be prepared to know what to share. But if they express support in sharing about a job or about their sprints, knowing how to do it right and in a more impactful way to perhaps avoid the risk of what to say or sharing even proprietary information is essential. Training plays an important part in supporting the employees when they opt to be ambassadors of the brand and to know what to do. 

A third thing that is very much connected to the diversity and inclusion space is the employee resource group. Engaging in the employee resource group is a two-way process or effort where employers can go and say, 'We have the best intentions, and we want to bring the best people and tell our story. What do you think of the story and sharing it, and how that can help inform our targeted efforts?' In an employee resource group, taking advantage of the extended networks organically and powerfully to share that employer brand is the key.

Social issues are the fourth thing I am seeing, which is much more relevant in the last four or five years. If one says they have policies for equity and inclusion but does not respond well when a situation arises, it might be difficult for an employer to expect new hires to fit into that culture. This could be highly detrimental to their brand. In essence, it is not just about messaging; it is about aligning the practices in the organization to show credibility in what we are saying. 

What piece of advice would you give to your fellow colleagues and aspiring professionals in the field?

One of the biggest challenges around employer branding is around communication. For anyone playing in the diversity and inclusion space, it is important that they create a strong and broad network within the organization to discover and identify some of the stories that can be shared—those that are tied to their employer branding. The other thing is to cognize the big picture of an organization by really understanding what is going on in the business as well as the industry. Individuals need to be informed so as to get the company's message out to the world at large. 

On social media, aspiring professionals or employees should follow their own company, the key competitors in the market, big suppliers, nonprofit organizations, and major clients because it's an ecosystem. They also need to be creative constantly and learn about the different tools to reach audiences. If you are unfamiliar with some of the social media tools that are being used, then they need to be explored. This is a practice area where there are things that you can learn to be more effective.