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The Top Skill for Employer Branding is Patience

Employer branding is still a pretty niche discipline. It’s been about 25-years since it was first popularized, but in the last 10-years it’s really taken off. There are global conferences, awards and most major brands have at least one or two people on their strategy teams that are dedicated to employer branding. However, for many other companies, it’s still a burgeoning area. At Drift, we speak to employer brand professionals from all over the globe on a weekly basis. Here is what we find are the biggest challenges from the field.

  1. A lack of awareness on the part of senior leadership - “I always have to sell employer branding to the influencers at my company and it wastes valuable time I could spend activating!”

  2. No budget - “I see our consumer marketing team working with hundreds of thousands of dollars and I have to fight tooth and nail for a $5,000 budget to explore one new paid solution a year.”

  3. Shifting priorities and decision paralysis - “Because employer brand is relatively ‘untested’, it’s always the first to fall off the strategic roadmap. Even when it doesn’t, I spend so much time creating business case after business case to justify resources and spend because leaders want proof it will work before we’ve had the change to pilot anything.”

Woman working at a cafe
If you are an employer brand practitioner who has experienced any of these issues, know you are not alone.

It can be frustrating and isolating to feel like you are the only one at an organization who ‘gets it’. That is the reality for a lot of employer branders - you are a team of one, tasked with creating change with no budget and very little sponsorship. Even having one or two influential people on your side is often not enough to move at the preferred pace. 

The Ideal Employer Brand Timeline

  • By January, you have a defined and approved roadmap for the year. You have already processed and reported on learnings from the previous year. 

  • By the end of February, you have integrated said learnings into ongoing initiatives, strengthening them and creating continuous exposure. 

  • By March, your first new initiative/program/platform is well underway and you produce your Q1 report for leadership. 

  • Sliding into the summer during April and May, you finalize and launch your early talent/campus employer brand strategy, while keeping a close eye on ongoing initiatives. 

  • Summer is notoriously a ‘slow’ time, but you don’t let that stop you. Your evergreen platforms are creating a continuous flow of awareness and education while feeding your pipelines with qualified talent. You produce your Q2 report and start to proactively work on planning for the next year. 

  • By the end of August, your campus/early talent campaigns are wrapping up and you are putting the finishing touches on your roadmap for the following year, and starting the stakeholdering process. 

  • Fall is fresh and filled with activities that set up campaigns to take you through the holiday season. Lots of great content is the name of the game here. Maybe you are engaging with your employee advocates to produce impactful, EVP-themed stories to post on your company channels, or working on employee spotlights. You create your Q3 report and share it with partners.

  • By the end of October, you have your plan for the upcoming year, a full content schedule to take you through to the end of year. November and December are reserved for meeting with partners and collaborators, scheduling important meetings for the New Year and working on you annual report highlighting wins, losses and learnings. 

What a beautiful dream!

A man looking frustrated working on his computer
If this doesn’t even remotely describe your employer brand calendar, please don’t feel bad

. A year in most employer branders’ lives looks something like this: 

  • By January, you are still in the process of gaining approval on the year’s strategy. You create a business case and competitive insight.

  • By February, a new stakeholder group has been introduced. You have another meeting, adjust the business case and add some more competitive insight.

  • By March, you have gained partial approval for a ‘proof of concept’. You run with it as fast as you can.

  • By April, you are ready to launch your proof of concept. You bring it to all your stakeholder groups, but the last one, you can’t get to because they have a dire business situation that delays your meeting by three weeks.

  • By May/June, the campus team is knocking on your door looking for ‘quick wins’ to open the pipeline of early talent. But, surprise! They have no budget. You scramble to pull something together that focuses on featuring campus hires from last year and beg the marketing team for space on their channels to post the stories. This takes the whole summer.

  • By end of August, you finally have the green light to launch your proof of concept. You hit the ‘go’ button before anyone changes their mind.

  • By the end of November, you have 10-weeks of a new campaign, just enough to scrape together a report that says, ‘Look at this! We achieved these results with a tiny budget and no time! Imagine what we could do with a moderate budget and a little more time!”

Somehow, against all those setbacks, you still produced results. That’s why you are amazing and the employer brand discipline is run solely on patience and passion. 

A team working on a project
The reality is, changing perspectives takes time.

All of history's greatest innovations have taken decades to really catch on. What we understand as traditional, consumer-facing marketing has it’s roots in 17th and 18th century Europe. It took centuries for it to become the household concept that every business considers essential. Relatively, employer branding is still in its infancy. We are only a few years from a time in our workforce history when providing employment and ‘giving people jobs’ was considered all you needed to do in order to add value to employees’ lives. The tides are turning and we are now in a time when employer branding is more accepted as an essential strategic practice than ever before. However, simply knowing this does little to quell the frustrations many employer branders face in trying to get what we know to be essential initiatives off the ground. 

Here are some tips and practices to integrate into your approach to help save your sanity, stakeholder with more confidence and overcome hurdles in getting to a stage where your employer brand timelines move from reactive to proactive:

  1. Ask questions and lead with curiosity. Try to remember that your senior stakeholders are bound by their own set of accountabilities. Without having immersed themselves in employer branding, it’s difficult to wrap their head around how it works. Practice patience and proactivity. If you know that business cases and competitive insight are what works to frame employer branding strategically, prepare in advance. Instead of trying to convince or persuade, go into stakeholder meetings with the intention of having an open discussion and making incremental progress. A great trick from the renowned sales professional Daniel Pink is to ask the question, “On a scale of 0-10, how ready do you think we are to explore employer branding?” If the executive answers 0, you have your work cut out for you. But, more frequently, they will answer something like a 2, 3 or 4. Then, you can ask, “Well, what made you say 2 instead of zero?” That inevitably leads to a conversation wherein your stakeholder is listing all the reasons we are ready to explore employer branding.

  2. Manage expectations, especially for yourself. Most new employer branding ventures are not going to turn astronomical results in the first year, especially if they are organic and content-based. Explore metrics that speak to the incremental growth of awareness, do YoY comparisons and understand that in the current world of social media, it takes time to build a following and visibility when you are launching anything new to the marketplace. Conversely, understand that there may be a groundswell of attention when you first launch an employer brand initiative - it’s called the ‘new kid on the block’ effect. Know that this is temporary and once that effect has worn off, you may need to work harder to maintain that level traction.

  3. Let passion and patience guide you. Know you are an early-adopter and you are driving something forward that is still relatively new. Make sure you go easy on yourself and if things get de-prioritized, de-funded or questioned endlessly, it’s not your fault. The key is to focus on incremental, intentional progress and what you can feasibly change in a reasonable time period. Don’t shy away from advocating for yourself and be realistic when you are selling to your stakeholders. Provide an honest perspective on what can be achieved and develop that ideal timeline you are continually striving for. Stay on message and stay the course… meaningful change takes time.

One of the best resources we have as employer branders are each other. There is a passionate, global community within the employer brand discipline and we are always ready to lend an ear, validate experiences, share tips and tools and talk shop. A great way to mitigate the frustration and stress of being a solo employer brander in your organization is to cultivate your network and reach out to other employer brand practitioners for support. 

You can start today by following the Drift LinkedIn page, following us on Instagram or connecting with us online to learn more about our consulting approach when it comes to employer branding!


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