Whether employer branding is owned by talent teams or by marketing teams is a debate as old as employer branding itself. And, according to a recent survey performed by JobPixel on LinkedIn, the debate still rages on with the contenders in a dead heat.
Last month, JobPixel put the question to its social media followers, writing: “Do you believe employer branding should fall under talent acquisition or marketing?” The response was huge, with more than 1,000 readers answering the poll. When confronted with only choosing one or the other, the results proved that professionals are almost completely split—with 48% choosing talent acquisition and 47% choosing marketing.
Below the post, leaders in the industry chimed in, revealing exactly why neither choice could claim victory: because the correct answer is, in fact, both. To find out why (and how), it’s important to first understand what employer branding is and what it means at any one company.
What is employer branding?
An employer brand is the perception people have of a company as an employer. The UK’s CIPD defines it as “…a set of attributes and qualities, often intangible, that makes an organization distinctive, promises a particular kind of employment experience, and appeals to those people who will thrive and perform best in its culture.”
In Universum’s Employer Branding NOW 2023 study, 1,700 talent leaders (including professionals from 60 out of the 90 World’s Most Attractive Employers) were surveyed on employer branding topics, and it was found that 78% say employer branding is a top priority —a number that is up 11 points in just two years. It’s clear that an employer branding strategy should be climbing its way up any growing company’s to-do list.
According to JobPixel CEO Omar Khateeb, the top ingredients of a good employer brand strategy these days include: a clear employee value proposition (EVP), engaging content, employee advocacy, strong social presence and a corporate brand that all has authenticity and consistency at the forefront.
“The candidate mindset has changed. It’s no longer about just how much the job pays,” he explains. “It’s about company culture, role clarity and emotional connection and engagement with the job opening.”
The pros and cons of team ownership
According to Omar, when a marketing team owns the process, there is more likely to be consistency with the broader brand in messaging and visual elements, a well-oiled campaign machine with processes in place and an existing system for tracking and analyzing metrics. However, marketing teams might fall short in aligning with the goals of talent acquisition or HR, whose work would be impacted the most, and might not be aware of the regulations and compliance that is specific to recruitment marketing. Platforms, technology, process and nomenclature for talent also might be left out to the detriment of the brand.
When talent acquisition and HR teams own the process, they bring an in-depth understanding of hiring and talent as well as knowledge of recruitment goals. These teams have access to direct feedback from candidates and are incentivized to achieve success against talent engagement and recruitment-specific metrics. As they will be the outward face of the employer brand for candidates, they are also the most important team members to align with on messaging and goals. But limited marketing expertise, resource constraints, and a lack of established communication channels with cross-functional teams could lead to a not-so-well-rounded brand identity.
All these facts suggest that in order to benefit from recruitment industry knowledge and enjoy smooth execution of the marketing, collaboration is the key. Omar agrees, explaining that “sharing knowledge and expertise, coordinating on projects, leveraging both teams’ resources, aligning goals and strategy, creating a long-term relationship and gathering more feedback/engagement from all parties,” are all steps toward establishing a successful strategy.
But it doesn’t stop there. When it comes to forming an effective employer brand, industry leaders also stress the importance of expanding the teams’ reach across all facets of the company—and to keep iterating. Some stakeholders to consider include:
- Leadership: The leadership that owns the establishing and reinforcing strategic mission, vision and values. This can include business owners, founders, CEO, C-suite and executives.
- Managers: Those who lead, manage, train and evaluate team members.
- HR: The team that manages employee relations, establishes company policies and manages the candidate experiences.
- Marketing: The team that communicates company news externally and manages brand design and messaging.
All of these stakeholders have influence on how an organization is perceived as an employer and therefore can significantly impact not only the existing workforce but also the perception among job seekers.
“You cannot build an employer brand without actually knowing the employer. I know, shocker!” Mary Streetzel, head of employer brand at Google, explained on “The Employer Branding Podcast.” “But a lot of folks kind of stay in their lane, as some may say, and they don’t really expand out. You have to ensure you are doing the research, internal and external about the company, that you are [talking] with teams throughout the company, that you are sharing info not only with folks on the ground working but also with high-end leadership, making sure you are aligned on that messaging.”
By keeping communication open and building relationships across the company, she explained, employer brand teams can answer an important question: “Are they experiencing the EVP that you’re pushing externally? If they’re not, then there might be something wrong with what you’re doing.”
How best to organize and resource is truely up to each company, but experts agree that the best way to succeed with employer branding is to make sure all stakeholders understand their influence and organize for collaboration. The question of ownership of employer branding between talent and marketing will continue to be debated for the foreseeable future as the industry continues to evolve, but sometimes simply having a conversation can bring a company one step closer to success.