Your employee experience is your employer brand

Very often I see the Employee Experience theme treated along with the Employer Brand one. On the one hand, this is only logical because if the way an employee lives his work is not part of the employer brand, we could ask ourselves questions about the relevance of the employer brand.

But on the other hand, it is worrisome because when we talk about employer brand, we are mainly talking about communication. Some would say that from this point of view, the employee experience is just a pitch for salespeople who, in any case, have no power over the product they are selling. Worse still: it will not be up to them to assume the consequences of overselling the product, but to HR and especially managers who are the first to find it normal to make things a little more attractive, but who have understood that they have nothing to gain by going too far, except if they like to see people leave in the middle of a trial period or to manage the disappointment or even frustration of their staff over the long term.

HR marketing is marketing like any other

HR marketing is marketing like any other. There is the one who sells and the one who faces the customer’s disappointment and they are not the same people. Some bring candidates/customers with promises and others try to keep them. Whenever possible.

In terms of recruitment, there is one difference: the manager is caught in the middle. On the one hand he has a need to recruit but on the other hand he knows that if he falls into overpromise it will backfire.

I was talking the other day with someone who will soon be changing jobs, evidence that even in these difficult times the market is not totally at a standstill.

He told me he applied after seeing the company’s career site. As often the promise was a little too good to be true but as he is an experienced profile he knew how to take things into account, not to take words at face value and not to exaggerate his own expectations while waiting to talk to human beings.

First contact with a recruiter. Everything is fine from a value/competence point of view. And he is being “sold ” more or less what he could read on the site. But already he detects that the answers to some of his a little too precise questions are a little vague and awkward.

Two interviews later he finds himself in front of the person who will be his future manager. There are questions about the employee’s experience. Not only the working environment, the various advantages, the (necessarily good) atmosphere that reigns in the company, but the organization of the teams, agile management or not, how people collaborate, what tools, is the company sick of meetings, etc.?

With 20 years of professional experience, he gave as much importance to his work context, to the way the work was going on as to what was around his work. He knew what his performance would depend on and preferred to know what he was getting into.

The manager was clear. “We’re making progress but we’re still a long way off. We are moving towards a more agile management, we have collaborative tools but we don’t collaborate well, we still have a bureaucratic side that slows us down. I prefer to be honest with you because if you join us, we need to work in confidence“.

The candidate weighed the pros and cons and accepted the offer. Why did he accept the offer? Because the manager was honest, he was really interested in the job and even though everything was far from perfect, there was still a trajectory that gave hope for the future.

But he added “if he hadn’t told me the truth, if I had chosen to join them and realized the gap between promise and reality on my own I think I would have left right in the middle of the trial period”.

I think that if HR knew what the manager had said during the interview he would have been he would have been reprimanded

Your employer brand no longer belongs to you

Today the concept of brand is swallowed up by that of experience. A brand is no longer what it says it is, but what customers experience when they come into contact with it. Before the purchase, during the purchase, during the use of the product or the service and during the exchanges with the customer service.

For an employer brand it’s exactly the same. No one gives any credit to the soothing speeches of the HR communications anymore. It shocks some communicators to whom I say this, but when I ask them if they trust a TV ad to know the qualities of a product, they look down.

What candidates trust is what those who work for you say. We can say that in a world that has become digital and social this is the new normal, but let’s not fall into this kind of hasty shortcuts. This has always been the case, the only thing that changes is that with platforms like Glassdoor (although I doubt that it will have a real impact on some markets like France for example) and professional networks like Linkedin or even more personal ones, it changes scale. We’ve always talked about our work to our friends and family. We always have an opinion on the businesses that are our customers by dint of being around them, we find that it is nice or not to work there and we necessarily share our opinion around us.Sometimes we knew someone who knew someone to ask for information or someone we spoke to repeated the message around them. Today these discussions that used to take place during a professional, family or friendly meal, in a bar or an informal discussion have changed scale and go further and faster. In short, individual speaking and the network effect on a company are nothing new and existed before digital technology. Today what changes is that the speed and scale of propagation.

This raises the question of what people are saying about their work experience. Unsurprisingly they do not talk about the promise, or it is secondary.

They talk about what they’re really going through and again, that’s not really accurate. What they talk about is the difference between the promise and the lived experience and that’s a completely different thing. The lived experience can be average, it’s not a problem if the promise is also average, it’s a disaster if it’s high.

When you fly on a airline that makes a low cost promise and you have a low cost service, you don’t complain. When you fly on a company that has a premium promise and you have a low cost service, then you complain.

So it’s not just a question of experience or promise, but of adequacy between the two.

A company is judged on how working there is like, not on what what happens when people are not working.

One can also be interested in the topics that employees take into account when evaluating their experience.

Are the colleagues nice? Do we have nice offices? Do we have a lot of benefits? A generous HR policy? Are we well paid? Yes of course it counts and it counts all the more since the employee has just arrived and has not been confronted with many work and production situations.

But in the long run, the judgement is made on the capacity of a company to give its employees the means to succeed. It is logical, they will be judged on their performance, so a company that puts a ball and chain around their ankle not only hurts them (friction) but also puts them in danger (performance) and creates a form of frustration due to the fact that those who evaluate them are the very ones who prevent them from succeeding ( engagement, trust).

Once one is done with the packaging, one is interested in the content of the package, which is 95% of the interaction with the company. The speeches about the atmosphere and the good atmosphere are replaced by those about complication, slowness, lack of digital culture, bureaucratic culture, prehistoric tools, lack of certain skills, problems to collaborate with colleagues or other departments.

In other words, a company can be “nice”, “cool”, offer good salary conditions, at some point what the employee sees in it is its ability to keep its promise to customers and help its employees to keep it, to exploit their potential to the maximum.

From Promise to Employer Brand

So if we summarize you have :

1°) The company’s explicit or implicit promise

2°) What the collaborator experiences at work and while working (which is not the same)

3°) The difference between the two that conditions what they will share.

Today, communication is no longer a substitute for execution. A brand is only what it brings to its customers and employees, an experience in the broadest sense.

Without work on employee experience a company is just “a boutique that offers jobs“. Alimentary. Without engagement. One chooses it for lack of better, one does one’s job but no more, and one leaves it as soon as one can.

And without coherence between communication, promise, and the lived experience, a company is only a disappointment machine.

Photo : Employer Brand by Artur Szczybylo via Shutterstock

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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