Although employer branding is seen as mainly the domain of personnel and marketing people, it isn’t only their function. Managers have just as important a role here, because it is managers who can leave employees with a good experience of the organisation as employer. Or the opposite – a negative experience, because Estonia has many organisations that have a substandard managerial culture and instead of leading people, they’re busy managing money and processes.

Two aspects are important when it comes to employer branding: what the organisation looks like to the outside world, the customers and the public, and how it looks on the inside, to its employees. Employees’ experience in the organisation is shaped the most by their direct supervisors, as they are the ones who communicate with the people most closely. As to what their values are, and whether they are compatible with the company’s goals, what their attitudes to people and management are – all this dictates to what extent the employee will experience working in the organisation.

HR managers can’t paper over bad management

Heads of HR and marketing can come up with good motivation packages and fun company events, but it’s much more important what happens every day at work. The executives may be up to the task but if the mid-level managers’ leadership skills are poor, the employees will suffer.

No doubt every manager has heard that employees want to feel that the organisation values them as people. Now one should ask oneself: what will we do to get people to feel valued, and feel that we care about them?

An important aspect when it comes to valuing people is to keep your end of the bargain and manage expectations – what kind of results do we expect from our people and do we have the same view of what the desired result should be? Here’s an example: let’s suppose I ask you to draw a picture of a car. You draw a sports car, but I tell you it’s not what I wanted – I was thinking of an ordinary sedan. It turns out we didn’t share on our expectations, we just assumed that the other knew what a car looks like. The same happens in organisations – it’s assumed the others understand what we desire and think. But people are different and miscommunication happens easily. If it happens all the time, people will be disappointed – “we did what you wanted, but it wasn’t enough”.

How to be really good at employer branding?

Managers first have to understand they have a very important role in employer branding and that this is not a task they can delegate. Second, common values and managerial principles should be agreed on in the organisation, these being a kind of Bible for both mid-level managers and executives. Yes, everyone brings their own authenticity into management based on their personality, but there are also pan-organisational values that have to be applied every day in management.

The stronger and more united an organisation’s values are, the stronger the employer’s brand. Employees will then feel that they belong and are connected to the entire company, not only their unit. That presumes that every unit doesn’t have its own culture and values, but rather all are walking in step. If not, people will be confused (why is it this way in Jüri’s department but not in ours) and this will weaken the employer brand.

Author: Katrin Oblikas, PCC executive and team coach