Lead with care

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Lead with care

Can an elaborate employment branding strategy be successful if managers suck? Probably not, which is why leadership is closely linked to successful employment branding and employee relationships. The implications for any business are potentially far-reaching.

Talent, says HR Future Publisher Alan Hosking, resides in the top 20% of a company’s employees who, by their skills, knowledge, experience and attitude, generate 80% of the company’s revenue.

“They want to work in companies that enjoy good standing in the community, in the marketplace and in the eyes of its employees, so that they can talk about their employer with pride,” says Hosking. “Consequently, they are not attracted to companies which do not have a strong employer brand.”

While South African business are slowly waking up and implementing employment branding strategies, these are still centred on how managers view the business (and their own management skills) rather than how current and future employees view it. The first step towards effective employee branding seems to be assessing the people management skills of management.

Hosking agrees, saying there’s no way incompetent management can create a reputable employer brand. “Essentially, while management creates the strategy to strengthen the employer brand, its success is in the eye of the employee. The employer brand has to be seen to be good by the employees, not the employers,” says Hosking. “Unfortunately, incompetent employers believe their own lies. The employees have a better chance of seeing the true state of things.”

Sadly, the human resources function in many companies today seems to have very little to do with building people up and a lot to do with controlling them. Etsko Schuitema, author of Leadership – The Care and Growth Model, suggests the mechanical metaphors we use to describe business (’If all parts of the system work, then the machine makes money’) make us overlook the fact that people are more than just parts of the system.

“We can nurse a mechanistic view of an organisation as much as we like,” writes Schuitema. “The simple fact of the matter is that if the people are not committed to the business, and therefore willing to go the extra mile, we do not have a sustainable enterprise.”

Some companies are getting it right. Hosking says Investec has such a good employer brand that they don’t have to advertise positions – they have quality candidates approaching them for work and they can afford to pick the best. Mark Gray, of marketing and human resources firm Graylink, also points to Outsurance and RMB as positive examples. “They’ve successfully integrated their corporate and employer branding efforts, linking their people directly to the success of their businesses and saying to the market ‘we respect those that work for us’,” says Gray.

What are people looking for in a company when they seek a new employer? Gray believes needs change from audience to audience. Often age (and generation) has a large part to play. “When you’re just out of college looking for your first job, things like travel and experience are top of your agenda,” says Gray. “For those with families and a large mortgage, security might be of greater importance. The trick for any employer is to map what attractive things (value propositions) they can authentically offer with those things the target audience actually values/ wants/ needs.”

Leadership, or the lack thereof, helps define every aspect of a business. Schuitema argues for the importance of leadership in empowering employees through genuine care (about them, not just the stock price) and the creation of growth opportunities and empowerment (less control, not more).

Companies that understand that employees are not simply a cost but a credit to the business are better positioned to release the full value their people bring. This ultimately is what makes or break an employment brand and a business.

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