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What CHROs Need to Know About Corporate Branding in 2020

07 February
by Josh Hrala
5 minute read

Right now, branding is of the utmost importance for many organizations. After all, if businesses want to attract and retain top tier talent, they need a strong brand to succeed.

But who is leading this charge? Increasingly, the answer is CHROs.

According to a new report by Page, Chief Communications Officers are leaning more heavily on CHROs to help guide corporate and employer brands in an effort to align the company's values with that of its employees.

At the same time, CHROs oversee the entire employee lifecycle and must pay more attention to outplacement and offboarding. More on that in a bit.

A New Way to Think About Branding

This new shift in branding is in direct opposition to what was done in the past. Traditional companies often create employer brands and public brands that are separate from one another. Modern employees, however, want both of these two brands to align, allowing them to fully understand that their work is going towards a goal that they believe in.

In other words, employer brands are becoming more driven by employees - their values, goals, and opinions - and this has created a larger need for CHROs and Chief People Officers to step into the role because they are the ambassadors between management (who controls the messaging) and all of the people (who want to work for a place that they truly believe in).

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"They are moving beyond traditional employee engagement practices, beyond storytelling and internal communications campaigns," the team said in their executive summary.

"[Chief Communications Officers] and their teams are collaborating with the Chief Human Resources Officer and across the C-Suite to provide the reinforcement, rituals, training, tools, and systems to enable the new culture. They are helping to close the gap between brand and experience, between aspiration and reality."

A Look Inside the Modern Workforce for CHROs

CHROs are set to make a big impact with this move, too. For example, according to BrandExtract, a CNBC pool found that “86 percent of Millennials surveyed said they would take a pay cut to work at a company whose corporate culture aligns with their own values.”

They continue: “As a result, consistent internal branding is now critical for HR teams looking to recruit new talent and retain current staff: If external brand value propositions describe a company that's forward-thinking, environmentally conscious and values the individuality of its workforce, internal branding needs to match.”

With Millennials making up a giant swath of the workforce, shifts in branding were bound to happen. A few years ago, we probably wouldn’t have slotted HR leaders into that role, but the logic in doing so now is sound.

Why?

Because CHROs and other high-level HR leaders now aim to create ‘brand equity,’ which is a combination of how well a public brand is aligned with internal goals and actions. From the public perspective, brand equity helps creates an easier buying decision for customers. For employees, brand equity attracts talent and keeps talent engaged throughout the employee lifecycle.

An example will help here.

Let’s say that someone joined a company because their external branding would have you believe that they value being 'green' and environmentally conscious. If they want to attract people with that messaging, they better be green in practice, too. If that person joins the team and realizes that the company is, in fact, doing nothing to be more sustainable, that person will likely exit and have an incredibly bad taste in their mouth.

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CHROs are now the ones making sure that that external messaging reflects the internal actions and that the brands are taking on initiatives that are attractive to both consumers and potential hires. In both cases, honesty is valued higher than all. If an organization talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk, it could spell destruction down the road.

How Employer Value Propositions Are Now Part of Branding

In order to attract and retain people, more organizations are realizing that their value proposition has to align more closely with their corporate brand. If they do not align in an organic way, people will see through the fog and eventually leave. This is why HR - especially CHROs - need to have a seat at the table when it comes to overall branding decisions.

"CHROs are increasingly part of the branding process because the employee value proposition (EVP) — and whether the right people will stick around—​is key to a brand's overall success," reports Valerie Bolden-Barrett from HR Dive.

"But employers that try to artificially create their EVP may end up making costly mistakes, a white paper from Alexander Man Solutions noted earlier this year. Myths about the power of artificially-made EVP can actually increase turnover, Sondra Dryer, the organization's global head of Employer Brand & Experience, said in the report."

All of these things play directly into the fact that branding - which used to be labeled a marketing concern - is now the concern of the entire organization, specifically CHROs and People Officers.

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Workers want to feel an authentic connection between the employer's internal workings and what the company puts out into the world (branding). At the same time, the tight labor market has forced many organizations to examine what makes them different and unique. In short, what makes someone want to work with one organization over another?

For a long time, this has meant establishing perks and things of that nature. However, reality has kicked in, showing that these perks are just that, perks. Real engagement and retention comes from within. It comes from values, authenticity, and transparency - all things that are already aligned with HR's mission.

By bringing in CHROs alongside other C-Suite executives, businesses can ensure that their brand is on point in terms of internal issues and outside perspectives. These two need to match otherwise people will feel duped once they are onboarded.

How CHROs Will Need to Protect Their Brands

Once a brand is established, CHROs need to take special care in order to keep the brand intact.

One of the best ways to insure your brand will continue thriving into the future is to perform layoff events properly.

Layoffs have the power to completely destroy hard-earned brands because every event carries a lot of emotional weight. Displaced workers who feel like they were let go improperly can write reviews, tell others to steer clear of the organization, and many other things. In short, the latter end of the employee lifecycle directly impacts the front end, meaning that a poor layoff event can trigger talent management issues across the board.

For CHROs, this can no longer be ignored.

The solution is outplacement. By providing top-notch outplacement support to your displaced workers, you help protect your brand, ensure your workers are taken care of, and keep the organization moving in the right direction.

You can read all about how outplacement protects employer branding here. If you'd like more details, we'd love to chat about your specific needs and concerns.

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