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It is absolutely necessary in today's times for the HR Department of an organization to establish itself as a brand & no doubt increasing number of companies are focusing on creating a unique 'HR brand'.

Traditionally viewed as a powerful marketing tool to manage customer perception, 'branding' is being increasingly used by HR departments as a tool to recruit new people & establish its position in the organization. This is   a reflection of the changing role of HR- from a recruiting entity to a business partner, internal consultant, operational as well as an administrative expert.

A good balance between task & people-orientation, responsiveness to employee issues and concerns, coaching and training people managers to take responsibility of people-related issues can help in establishing a good brand.

The Need of HR Branding

A brand is a product, service or concept that is publicly distinguished from other products, services or concepts, so that it can be easily communicated and helps in establishing a unique identity. It is a promise to the customers that a specific level of value, quality and service will be received. The most important point to be noted is that 'building a brand' is a corporate strategic issue and not a short-term tactical activity.

The manufacturing industry being people-oriented, what differentiates the best from the rest is the "quality of human capital" in every organization. While there is plenty of talent available, the difficulty comes in finding the talent with the "best fit" to the organization. Potential employees would like to associate themselves with companies which have a "brand" of success, leadership, people development initiatives and also instill a deep sense of pride and commitment.

In case of HR, the past few years have seen dramatic changes in its perception or outlook by corporate leaders. From just being looked as a support function, HR today is viewed as a key player in driving corporate success and customer satisfaction. "In today's knowledge driven economy, HR plays a strategic role in bringing in the right kind of people into the organization. In a sense, HR is the first face of an organization that a new prospective employee sees." Investing in brand-creation for HR is of paramount importance for an organization. Market research has shown us many times over that strong brands do contribute to strong competitive presence. In the present times, the role of HR manager is more of public relations skills combined with strong problem-solving skills.

A good balance between task & people-orientation, responsiveness to employee issues and concerns, coaching and training people managers to take responsibility of people-related issues can help in establishing a good brand.

Various Quality models also depict concentration on the people development factor in traditional or in non-traditional segment. In the IT and ITES sector the SEI-PCMM and PCMM-I models have their key performance areas on these aspects. All organizations are progressing towards the P-CMM practices and its certification in order to earn the credibility on these attributes. Customers will also feel comfortable to deal with such organizations as the stability and maturity of the work force will indicate the stability of the organization for its delivery.

Not much effort has been made by the organizations to improve their corporate image internally. However, with increasing global competition and a more mature work environment, Indian companies have also started looking at this facet of branding.

HR branding leads to Employer Branding

Employer branding is all about the company's value in the market, a timeless process that in today's scenario has gained even more significance. It is essentially a combination of the reputation of the organization, the career offer and the corporate culture existing in the company.

Typically, there are two types of employer branding exercises. One is for prospective employees and the other for the current set of employees. In case of the former, the employer branding initiatives are targeted at building mindshare in potential recruits about the company as a preferred place to work. This can be in the form of communication through advertisements, third-party endorsements through the media or going to campuses. Internal employees might not know about all the product or solution offerings of the company and it becomes necessary to inform and educate them.

Employer branding has become more critical in today's times, as most professionals are looking at a stable career and establishing a long-term relationship with the company. It is said that an unsatisfied customer tells ten people about his experience while an unsatisfied employee tells a hundred. Employer branding reflects the work culture in an organization. Therefore, it is of much significance. Through right branding, the company can recruit the best talent and reinforce its positioning amongst its employees.

A survey conducted by Hewitt Associates reveals that more companies are now focusing on employer branding to "attract employees" and keep them engaged. There is a direct correlation between an effective employer brand and achieving business success. It helps in retaining current employees, increasing employee satisfaction, attracting job candidates, and motivating employees in their work, which leads to excellent business gains. The purpose is to use the internal brand as the seedbed for aligning their people programmes   to deliver significantly improved business results.

Till recently, employment ads were just showing the job description of the vacancy. The focus in the last two-three years has been shifted to create a powerful image for the organization as a "dream place to work". This depends on a whole host of factors like how successful the company is perceived to be; what is the vision and mission; what kind of work culture they have; what type of training programmes, motivational classes & what kind of career growth opportunities they offer. Now organizations are aiming towards not employee satisfaction but employee delight!

Employer branding is not an easy task as it is a long long-term process. It takes tremendous effort and a strategic blend of logic and intuition in the brand-building exercise. The company has to have superior leadership, operational excellence and customer focus, and most importantly people-orientation in a genuine way, for the branding exercise to be successful.

Companies have been focusing on more advertising than taking concentrated efforts in building relationships. According to a survey, the future might be in danger for those companies who may otherwise invest too much in mass media and little in personal contact programmes. As per the survey, the most believable forms of communication are not the advertisements, literature and websites, but the behaviour   of employees and accounts of their own work experience.

Employer branding is a part of overall branding strategy of a company. For this to happen, the HR department should ensure that there is a constant flow of communication within the organization and there is no conflict with respect to internal and external image. Both these factors are very significant. Every single employee should   buy into the vision, commitment and ethics of the company and should be a walking advertisement for the company. Doing a major employer branding exercise would be nothing if the company's own employees do not believe what is being said. An organization must adopt a concerted and focused approach to building and maintaining its reputation as a 'Best Workplace' and constantly work towards reinforcing this branding through continuous exercises

A typical branding exercise would involve identifying the USP (unique selling proposition) of the company and articulating the DNA of the company, highlighting the competitive advantages of this DNA and creating a consistent brand language across the organization in all forums to all the constituencies. And the most important part is to act on what you say. Plain words can't get a brand. A brand has to be built on action.

Experts point out that the next couple of years will witness companies engaged in innovative methods to stay ahead in the race. These may include hiring image building experts to enhance the brand value, providing competitive compensation, enabling foreign postings with dollar salaries and stock potions, or offering challenging work environment in cutting-edge technology areas.