Spice up your stakeholder relations: Hot questions to ask yourself before starting employer branding

I still remember the situation when I attended my oral exam for my stakeholder relations class at university. One of the examiners told me: “Marian, business is war! You need to ask and answer the right questions before you fight the battle.” Sounds dramatic and I am not sure if I would totally agree to the war metaphor. Indeed, I heard classical management studies has its roots in military strategies, however, there are also many other approaches. BUT ‘ask and answer the right questions before you fight the battle’ burned literally into my head.

What are important stakeholders for companies? Customers, suppliers, shareholders, governments, society, advocacy groups, NGO’s & advocacy groups — ahh sure and there are of course also employees. In management, literature employees are often treated as resources which are just there to fulfill certain needs & duties for the company in order to reach its strategic objectives. In return, employees will get some kind of compensation. In my opinion, employees are of course much more than just a means for a certain end— especially when it comes to the brand building process of an employer brand. Moreover, it’s not only one group of employees or future employees who will have a stake in the employer brand. Below, I divided the ‘employees’ into different interest groups to better understand the complexity of only one stakeholder: the employees.

In this article, I, therefore, focus on the employees who will be highly involved in the brand building process of an employer brand. Of course, also the more ‘prominent’ stakeholders e.g. customer may have an influence. Just imagine certain brands you like as a customer, you more likely perceive them as a good employer — or just turn it around we know so many brands who treat their employees like shit and we have a weird feeling when consuming them. So, in the end, an employer brand will always co-exist or co-create with consumer-facing brands or personal brands of people working in the organization.

The ‘employees’ below have an interest in the employer brand building process and are also affected by it. Some might be directly influenced by it, some decision-makers will have the power to support or block your decisions and some probably just want to be informed about the whole process. Just see the questions as a checklist which somehow needs to be answered and which can help you not to lose path in your everyday battle.

Interns/ Working students/ Graduates:

  • Do we want to nurture & develop them into full-time employees?
  • If needed, how can we exploit their networks in order to attract peers?
  • What might be their fear after graduation and how can our company offer the favored solution?

Employees:

  • Which seniority levels/ expertise do we need most urgent?
  • How can we involve the peers of the needed talents in the brand building process?
  • How can we find out about our workplace USP/differentiator? Do we have one? If not, how can we develop & implement one?
  • What data can we collect in order to have their views/opinions covered?
  • What do we need to offer our employees in order to keep them engaged and develop them to brand evangelists?

Future Talents:

  • Which future talents do we need for our organization in order to meet our business objective?
  • What do we need to know about them in order to build a successful employer brand?
  • What data can we collect to find this out?
  • What hygienic benefits can we offer them and what unique culture can we offer them?

Brand evangelists:

  • What made them brand evangelists? Why are they brand evangelists?
  • If needed, do we have brand evangelist across seniority levels?
  • What does it take to keep them as brand evangelists?
  • In which communities and HOW do THEY wish to represent/promote the company?

Toxic employees:

  • Is it possible to build up a trustful relationship with them?
  • Why did they become toxic? What do we identify as toxic?
  • What needs to change to ‘turn them around’?
  • Is it worth to invest resources or is it better to offboard them? (In my opinion, this is indeed a very interesting question. Does it make sense to invest resources in people whose psychological contract with a company is already broken? Isn’t it natural that according to the employee's lifecycle sometimes the ‘lifetime of an employee’ is over and it's fine if they move on to their next adventure?)

Management:

  • Does the management know what employer branding is? Do they believe in employer branding?
  • From whom of the management do I need buy-in?
  • Is there someone in management who is favoring you and supports you?
  • Is there someone in management who is highly favored by the majority of the workforce?
  • Is there a key influencer in management from whom you need buy-in?
  • What data can you show, why employer branding is needed?

Workers council

  • Does the worker council know that employer branding is? Are they supporters?
  • Do you have good relations to any opinion leaders in the workers' council?
  • What needs to be done to get the buy-in of the workers' council?

Communities within the organization:

  • Which communities exist in the company?
  • How can you involve the communities in the brand building process?
  • How can you activate the communities to live & breathe your employer branding ideas?
  • What do the communities need to feel valued, empowered & support you in your efforts?

Minorities & Allies:

  • Is diversity & inclusion a topic that matters for the company at the current stage?
  • How can minorities & allies be empowered to have the courage to speak up?
  • How can you get buy-in from minorities & allies to support your employer branding efforts?
  • How can minorities & allies activate to ‘diversify’ your employer brand?

In my opinion, these are great questions to answer yourself before starting off to fight your employer branding endeavor. Yes, they might sound a bit generalistic sometimes and related to talent acquisition, but in the end, it’s all related and an employer brand cannot be built without being influenced by recruiting realities. Once you have answered these questions, the next step would be to ‘categorize’ the importance of the stakeholder relations, which I am super happy to feature in a follow-up article.

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Are you interested to read more about the management of stakeholder relations and the view of an award-winning professor? Check this out!

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