Brad Zomick

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Why L&D Is Crucial for Your Employer Brand


When you think about your company’s “brand,” what comes to mind? Most executives would answer that it’s what their customers think of their business. But that’s just the external part.

Today, more and more enterprises are turning their attention to their internal brand — their employer brand. That revolves around what the people in your organization think and feel about the company. As the Society for Human Resource Management puts it, an employer brand “is essentially what the organization communicates as its identity to both potential and current employees. It encompasses an organization’s mission, values, culture and personality.”

Your employer brand determines the likelihood that people will see you as a place they want to work. In the growing global war for talent, it’s more essential than ever.

“In today’s transparent digital world, a company’s employment brand must be both highly visible and highly attractive because candidates now often find the employer, not the reverse,” Deloitte says. “To leverage this interest, companies are intensively managing their employment brand, which can ‘pull’ candidates toward them.”

Talent development grows employer brand

To “pull” candidates, today’s enterprises need to demonstrate a clear commitment to helping employees advance their careers.

“Companies with good branding have good reputations with potential workers, are competitive in their field and have a strong workplace culture which emphasizes employee growth,” Human Resources Today reports. “The highest quality workers want to work for a company that stands out among the rest and companies with strong branding achieve this.”

One of the most important steps any company can take is to “learn what employees want” — and that is  “opportunities for learning, development and growth. Companies which incorporate training, workshops, opportunities for job shadowing and for developing additional skills are attractive.”

This explains why HP Inc. brings Brain Candy to career fairs. A branded learning ecosystem built on Pathgather, Brain Candy was designed to give workers the kind of learning and development opportunities they craved. The same goes for Visa, which used Pathgather to create Visa University as part of an effort to attract and empower the best and brightest employees all over the world.

Competitive advantage

So many companies are waking up to this need that it’s quickly becoming a necessity. Those that fail to embrace Learning & Development will soon stand out in a bad way.

In a 2017 report on employer branding, Universum looked at the world’s “100 most attractive employers” across the 12 leading global economies. It conducted a survey to find out how many have an Employer Value Proposition (EVP), which it defines as “a unique set of offerings, associations and values to positively influence target candidates and employees.” It found that 84 percent of the world’s most attractive employers have an EVP.

The concern for employer brands is growing so quickly that now, top executives see it as their responsibility, rather than a task for HR to handle. In the Harvard Business Review, Universum Vice President Richard Mosley wrote:

“One of our main findings was that many leaders now place primary responsibility for the employer brand with the CEO or marketing, rather than with recruiters and HR. In fact, 60% of the CEOs we surveyed said this responsibility lies with the CEO (40% of marketing leaders agreed) — which is a strong indication that employer branding is expected to gain greater strategic importance.”

Modern learning experience is key

Enterprises looking to create attractive, modern learning experiences can’t simply wait for their Learning Management Systems (LMSs) to evolve. New, open platforms are needed to allow employees the chance to discover, share and create content with each other.

That’s why we’ve designed Pathgather as a learning experience platform, pulling together information from throughout a company’s technology stack and empowering employees to curate content.

These kinds of platforms also speak to how today’s employees learn — online, when it’s most convenient, and at the point of need, rather than in classrooms and seminars.

The Digital Marketing Institute highlights this in an article headlined “How to Build An Employer Brand that Attracts & Retains Talent.” It notes that professional development is particularly important for attracting and retaining millennials: “In order to deliver on this appetite for learning, organizations should embrace the ever evolving e-learning landscape as it provides employees with the opportunity to learn and grow in their own time.”

Employer and consumer brands rise or fall together

The good news is that these investments in Learning & Development for employees also pay off in the marketplace. Studies find that as an employer brand improves, so does its consumer brand.

Particularly in the era of social media, employees’ statements about what it’s like to work at a company are amplified — so those statements go a long way toward representing what their companies are like. Today’s workers “provide a raw, authentic and influential perspective on a company through their social platform activities — and they influence the market’s perception of a company with both consumers and talent,” LinkedIn and the brand strategy company Lippincott said in a report.

The companies looked at two metrics: LinkedIn’s Talent Brand Index, which “measures how attractive an employer is to potential talent by examining billions of member interactions on the LinkedIn network,” and Lippincott’s BrandView, which “identifies Consumer Brand performance relative to industry peers and global leaders across a number of proprietary metrics proven to drive financial results.”

They found that companies with a strong Talent Brand Index and BrandView score have a five-year cumulative growth in shareholder value of 36 percent — and for companies deficient in both areas, their shareholder value decreased by 6 percent over the same period.

‘More than a catchy tagline’

When it comes to building a successful employer brand, lip service doesn’t work.

It takes “more than a catchy tagline, a series of pretty pictures on an ad, or a slick website,” explains Judy Whitcomb, senior vice president of Human Resources & Learning for Vi, which operates luxury retirement communities. Training Magazine showcased her company for best practices.

To build a new employer brand, Vi built a whole new learning experience for employees. “The deliberate focus on employee development is now an employment differentiator that helps the company retain talent,” she wrote, adding that job candidates look for organizations to send them a crucial message: “We understand you.”

The ROI of internal mobility

One of the biggest reasons for today’s enterprises to build their employer brands is the need to increase hiring from within.

“Global economic recovery from years of depressed growth has accelerated voluntary turnover, along with employer concerns about retention. More employers are also promoting from within their ranks, and this has put growing emphasis on HRD (Human Resource Development) and career-development initiatives,” argues Wayne F. Cascio of the Business School at the University of Colorado, Denver.

In an article on leveraging employer branding, he writes:

“ … the biggest winners in this emerging economic environment, at least from a talent perspective, are organizations with positive employer brands, performance management strategies that help employees develop expertise that maximizes their potential, and innovative approaches to the design and delivery of HRD initiatives, especially technology-delivered instruction (e.g., mobile and virtual applications, simulations, MOOCs) and social-learning tools (e.g., wikis, communities of practice, social media).”

Businesses that increase internal promotions save a great deal of money and build stronger corporate cultures.

So an employer brand, when steeped in proven methods for modernizing learning and talent development, offers a win-win for the company and its staff. It also moves the modern workplace in the right direction. Today’s best businesses are like the universities of the 21st century. They need to take up that mantle — for their own good.

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