"EMPLOYMENT BRAND' is BULLSHIT - YEAH BUDDY

Ray Ray Thorne finally used bullshit in a post (her never, never uses ugly words). She took great issue with Jerry Albright saying that “Employment Brand” is simply bullshit.
She wrote a post debating the issue (see link in discussion forum). She opines that perhaps it’s a case of you say to- may- toes and i say to-mot-toes

I got into this little debate myself this week on twitter with Boorman. Jerry just says, “It’s bullshit”. Being a verbose sort it takes me a lot more words than i can tweet to debate anything so here’s Texas Talkin. As to the tomaytoes -tomatoes let me just say that there are some places where that fruit is known as "maters".

That bit of ignorance being exploited, i'll come down somewhere closer to Jerry but not totally. (i endeavor to give the other side a chance, uh if you believe that i have some recruiting software i want to sell you bubba.) Here's why I might not be totally in the BS camp. In a small office or even a medium size company with one location it may be possible to have a consistent corporate culture. We went from calling it a "work environment" to "corporate culture", sorry i can"t make my mouth say "employment brand".

I know what a brand is it's an identifier like Ford or Cadillac or the cowboy hat that is freeze branded on my horses and the M7 on a few cows and what the reputation of that product, horse, cow means to the buying public. It's a good brand, a bad brand , an expensive brand or a moderately priced brand. A brand can be a name or a reputation that the name stands for to the public. It's built over a period of time by a product or a service being consistently good, bad or mediocre. When you see a cowboy hat brand on a horse you will know that horse won’t buck or it wouldn’t be wearing the hat brand. If I brand it and it does buck it goes the way of the Edsel. The brand has to stand for something consistent so you know it and trust it or know to stay away from it.

Unless we clone one person or go robotic with the robotics being operated by robots, i can’t see a situation where a group of people (employees) what they do and how they do it (employment) can be called a brand. A band perhaps but not a brand. As in “half the people in that company are a band of thieves.” Really, what is the other half like? “Oh they are great, honest as the day is long.” Get the drift here. Ok, maybe a cloistered order of nuns might have an “employment brand.” I’ll give it up on that one since I’ve certainly never spent much time in a nunnery.

Now here is why "employment brand" only makes sense in pretty small organizations, maybe. You have a small office normally managed by the owner or a manager selected by the owner who then hires the rest of the staff or has the final nod on who gets hired. You will have a consistent company culture because the people have to fit with each other and they are the product of one or two individuals who started out hiring people who ,albeit different personalities, will either get along and work well together or they are gone. So maybe you can say "Our employment brand is one of laid back, business casual , and our people are all focused on a common goal."

But even then what is the brand? You didn't really identify it because those are things that are perceived differently by different people. Business casual is very different for me than for you. I think business casual is silk pants as opposed to a skirt. You think business casual is jeans for example. Laid back to me is classical music, flexible work schedule. You like rock and a bit louder than i can stand, everybody gets in the office at the same time. So do we then say our "employment brand is jeans and rock music and we all like it that way". Cause business casual just went out the window.

But let's address why "Employment Brand" is bullshit. Let’s take a company that has a large accounting department, big IS dept. small close knit R & D group, huge Distribution division. The pres. is a great leader and therefore selects the best people he can find to lead each of those divisions.

Accounting is very structured, full of CPA's who wear ties because their boss wants it that way. He hires structured people who like to wear ties, they don't kid around and some of them are so dry they fart dust.

IS is a younger, very diverse group of bit tweakers with pony tails, except for the conservative cowboy type who is the VP and the Ex military guy who is the programming director and a flaming liberal to boot.

R & D is headed by a somewhat mad scientist and his band of test tube thumpers who know they are smarter than everybody else in the company, eat wheat germ for lunch and don't comb their hair most days. They mostly look like they have been sniffing glue at a foreign university for the duration of their PhD.

Then we move on to distribution. There are 10 distribution centers scattered all over the US. with upwards of 300 hourly workers in each location. They speak several languages, work three shifts and mostly don’t make over 10 to 12 bucks an hour except for the industrial engineers and the supply chain systems super users who spend copious amounts of time debating time motion studies.

Somehow it all works but what's the "employment brand"? There is no "employment brand" because it is different in each department depending on who is the current stud duck, what they do and it may change with the change of the stud duck even within the same group if a new one quacks in and it will always change with location. A distribution center in Atlanta is staffed, managed and operated very differently than a DC in Canada because the people are different, management style is different because the people are different.

So after that long explanation what do i say if someone asks me what is the "employment brand". The only sane answer, "well it depends". If ,of course you are defining "employment brand" as what is it like to work there. If "employment brand" is what is it like to work there or "employment brand" means corporate culture then there are about 29 different "employment brands" within that one company complicated by "beauty being in the eye of the beholder" ie;silk pants vs jeans as mentioned above.

Rather than try to bullshit some candidate with some high sounding trendy bullshit about an "employment brand", i would just have to say,"Well, it depends on which location and which department you work in, people are different in each department and of course if the president leaves or the department head leaves it will change. Oh and you can bet your best buzzword and throw in a consultant or two, if they move the corporate headquarters to China there will be a major work environment/culture/ (gag) “employment brand” change.

A brand has to be something that stays the same unless the company is sold, the name goes away or some marketing guru decides that the brand is so bad it has to be rebranded by calling it Co. A instead of Co. B. When that happens the "employment brand" would change right along with the name change. Just like what happens to the hat brand if that horse bucks. The brand is altered and nobody knows from whence it came. Companies, and horses have reputations and brands. There is no such thing as a “personal brand” while we are at it. You have a name and a reputation both can change in a heartbeat as well as be as subjective as the last garlic you ate. So stop that silly stuff while we’re at it.

So all that being said, Jerry's right, it's bullshit and "THEM IS MATERS"

Views: 225

Comment by Alasdair Murray on September 23, 2011 at 1:26pm
I think one of my first blogs on here was about the same subject. I too am no advocate of 'employer brand'. I find the term a bit of a misnomer. Sure, most switched on companies have a wish list of what they want to be and how they want to be perceived by the outside world but it's a bit of a gimmick really. To me, the term company culture is more acceptable. i.e. small family run business versus sprawling corporate giant - there are bound to be big differences and someone from one of those companies may well not fit into the other's way of working. I know myself when I went from a national newspaper to work at a local one the move didn't really work as it was a whole different set up. So, cultural fit is important I feel, I'd be happy for people to talk about the working environment, but employer brand has never cut it with me. It was pretty much a term dreamed up years ago by advertising and marketing types to try and sell into organisations the fact that they needed to have one.
Comment by Sandra McCartt on September 23, 2011 at 1:47pm

You are correct Alasdair, it is not a new term as many would have us believe.  It didn't work then and with all the talk about transparency and being real corporate culture or work environment makes sense.  Or in plain English, "what is like to work there"?  It now seems to be a rerun for consultants to sell.

 

My take is that a corporate culture evolves as companies grow or don't, leadership , people and even customers change.  It's not something you go in the back room and decide what you want it to be then cram everybody into the mold.  In my world loyalty is referred to as "riding for the brand". 

 

Comment by Francois Guay on September 23, 2011 at 1:51pm

Great post Sandra,

 

To me employment brand is the vision a company aspires to, hopefully and truthfully but word on the street (disgruntled and happy employees and former employees), what people are saying about the company, management, culture,etc. is really what it comes down to and poses our greatest challenge on getting people to consider certain employers.

Comment by Alasdair Murray on September 23, 2011 at 2:21pm
I was actually working at the recruitment advertising agency that first used the phrase 'employer brand' in the UK back in the late 80s! That's how old I am :-)
Comment by Sandra McCartt on September 23, 2011 at 2:55pm

I would agree Francois and a vision is certainly something to aspire to and all the different things you mention will be different for a different reason so it can't be crammed into one buzzword .  How many times have we heard, "XYZ company is a great place to work unless you have to work for Bob Jones in the java group.  He is a bear so find a candidate who has a thick skin.  And don't forget that Judy in marketing likes people who can work late and don't have to worry about picking up kids.  You made my point very well and in many fewer words.  There is no way that an employment brand could ever be anything but a collection of impressions and experiences which will be as different as the people who interact with the people in that company on any given day.  Cultural fit is real and vital.  People cluster and work well if they like or respect each other so a group finds it's own level.  We can't create people , we can match them where the end result will be a good one.  That would not be branding.

 

@Alasdair that was about the time we first heard it.  We thought it was so hokey back then that we drew a big R in a circle and pinned it on our collars and called it our "employment brand".

Comment by Bill Boorman on September 23, 2011 at 6:29pm

McCartt, 

"Let’s take a company that has a large accounting department, big IS dept. small close knit R & D group, huge Distribution division. The pres. is a great leader and therefore selects the best people he can find to lead each of those divisions. 

Accounting is very structured, full of CPA's who wear ties because their boss wants it that way. He hires structured people who like to wear ties, they don't kid around and some of them are so dry they fart dust. 

IS is a younger, very diverse group of bit tweakers with pony tails, except for the conservative cowboy type who is the VP and the Ex military guy who is the programming director and a flaming liberal to boot. 

R & D is headed by a somewhat mad scientist and his band of test tube thumpers who know they are smarter than everybody else in the company, eat wheat germ for lunch and don't comb their hair most days. They mostly look like they have been sniffing glue at a foreign university for the duration of their PhD. 

Then we move on to distribution. There are 10 distribution centers scattered all over the US. with upwards of 300 hourly workers in each location. They speak several languages, work three shifts and mostly don’t make over 10 to 12 bucks an hour except for the industrial engineers and the supply chain systems super users who spend copious amounts of time debating time motion studies. 

Somehow it all works but what's the "employment brand"?"

 

I think the "employment brand" is clear in your description. As I see it:

You have a President who lets Managers build their own teams and be individuals.

You have a culture, environment (whatever you want to call it,) where depts can set their own rules over how they work, as long as they get results.The leader is interested in results, not methods of work, dress etc,Managers are allowed to manage as they seem fit.

Difference is encouraged. It'snot a place with lots of rules. Results focussed.

 

I'm sure there would be plenty of potential Managers who would love to be allowed to work in that way, and given that message would choose to go work there, wanting to leave another place where they feel they can't build a team the way they want it.

 

I'm sure your horses with the cowboy hat, or the cows branded with M7 are all different to look at. They will have some traits that make them different, not robot clones. What they do have however are some consistent traits. Like the fact that they won't buck. The brand as you describe it says to me that I know that I'm getting the things that are important to me, even if the horse is black or white in colouring. Tall or shorter.

 

I don't see employment brand is any different. I agree 100% with you and Jerry that there are a lot of Bullshit employment brands messages. Usually put together by marketing or someother dept, that have no relation to what it is really like to work there. Manufactured without reality, but looks good in a brochure.

Just my thoughts on this,

 

Bill

 



Accounting is very structured, full of CPA's who wear ties because their boss wants it that way. He hires structured people who like to wear ties, they don't kid around and some of them are so dry they fart dust. 

IS is a younger, very diverse group of bit tweakers with pony tails, except for the conservative cowboy type who is the VP and the Ex military guy who is the programming director and a flaming liberal to boot. 

R & D is headed by a somewhat mad scientist and his band of test tube thumpers who know they are smarter than everybody else in the company, eat wheat germ for lunch and don't comb their hair most days. They mostly look like they have been sniffing glue at a foreign university for the duration of their PhD. 

Then we move on to distribution. There are 10 distribu

Comment by Sandra McCartt on September 23, 2011 at 7:23pm
I'll go for culture , work environment but to me that's not a brand. It can change as fast as a new president coming in next week. my take on a brand is that is a consistent identifier. You made my point re horses/cows. No matter where they are or if they get lost in a snowstorm, when somebody sees the brand they know where they live. That doesn't work with employees. They walk out the door and nobody knows where they work unless they wear uniforms or have the company logo tat on their forehead. If somebody else hires them the new employer has no idea if they are representative of this mystical thing called employment brand.

I'll use Jerry's example from yesterday. What's the employment brand or what is it like to work for the state of Texas? What is the employment brand of AT&T. All relative to department , location, this weeks supervisor.

For the record. All horses that wear the hat brand are black and almost the same size except the pony who looks like mini me. There is a pic on here somewhere. The one gray horse does not wear the hat brand because he is not representative of the "hat brand" horses. In fact we call him brand x. Cows all black baldys and you couldn't tell them from every other black cow in the country without the M7. And we can'tbtell them apart.

The problem with what you are calling employment brand is that there could be 100 companies with the same corporate culture or management model. So co A B C etc could have the same employment brand ergo it would not be a distinctive employment brand that would differentiate one from the other so does not qualify as a brand. They would be just like those black cows can't tell one from the other unless you know the name=brand they work for like Ford or Cadillac..

If you and I look alike, dress alike and do the same thing, the same way neither of us has a personal brand except our names so one of us has to change hats. :)

I agree that the idea of a brand has been so snarled up by buzzword bingo that it means nothing.

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