Employer branding expert Celeste Sirin says candidates want real stories about the various personalities at work.

You might not have a formidable brand like Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos, but one thing is for sure – each one of us has a unique personal brand whether we like it or not. We all carry some form of brand identity and reputation that, managed correctly, can support and reinforce our company’s employer brand.

The personal brands of employees within an organisation can be viewed as by-products of the bigger employer and corporate brand. Personal brands are interrelated with employer brands and are inseparable when it comes to accelerating a company’s reputation in the talent space.

Harnessing the power and benefit of these collective voices can create a massive impact on positioning and elevating a favourable company brand. Organisations utilising their employees to generate authentic content to promote an emotional connection are often able to attract best-in-class talent.

Nowadays, job seekers are curious to peek behind the curtain to understand the real stories of the various personalities at work. This goes beyond them wanting to understand the qualifications, experience and skill set requirements, but the culture, values, attitudes and qualities of the employees.

Companies should not be short-sighted to the fact that partnering with their employees to support their personal professional brands can be highly effective in promoting employer brand positioning.

Recruitment and talent acquisition teams

It is a given that every recruiter, talent acquisition specialist, headhunter, HR consultant and the like should be actively building their personal professional brands, especially because sourcing and attracting the best in class talent forms an integral part of their job. If these individuals are encouraged to shape their personal brands, they will soon become known in their field of expertise; building connections/networks, which will lead them to become far more resourceful and making their jobs a lot easier. An affiliate “talent magnet” that works on raising their profile within an organisation is bound to build not only their personal brand but that of their company. Outside of the evolving technological world, candidates thrive on high touch and are hungry to have that human connection to understand more.

CHRO’s and their trusted advisory team of HR brand ambassadors are central to attracting and retaining their people. With this is in mind, it is worth the heads of human capital focussing on encouraging their team members to build and continually evolve their individual profiles. This can be accomplished through their talent teams following interesting thought leaders, making every effort to join influential online interest groups and attending professional workshops/interactive seminars.

Being proactive in profiling themselves beyond just being a talent specialist in their respective fields will provide the perfect opportunity for them to create a respected candidate following, thus building a credible personal brand. There is no doubt that candidate dependability is gained through the favourable human interaction and personal experience talent leaders provide, outside of technology. Talent seeks to build trust and a strong understanding of the value proposition on offer through hearing it from trusted talent representatives.

Hiring managers on the frontline

Elevating the personal brand profiles of highly skilled hiring managers to attract talent and provide personalised stories behind projects that they might be working on, creates dynamic and interesting content. This immediately differentiates companies from the rest, spiking the interest of talent who are eager to want to know more about the company’s offering. It’s in the interest of companies to encourage their specialised hiring managers to constantly build their personal brands and networks with a view to supporting their HR and talent acquisition teams, especially when it comes to securing high demand skills. Progressive companies are placing their operational/functional heads at the forefront as aspiring thought leaders and brand ambassadors at conferences. Research from Lighthouse Research and Advisory shows that candidates want to see videos of hiring managers more than twice as often as company overviews and ten times more often than an HR/recruiter message. Hiring managers are utilising talent attraction videos to create a credible candidate experience as “people want to work for people, not companies”. Placing the hiring manager’s personal brand at the forefront undoubtedly builds enormous employer brand equity.

The personal brands of your hiring managers build immense brand equity as “people want to work for people, not companies”.

Employees as brand advocates

Nowadays, employees across all five generations are aware that, in order to remain relevant in the new world at work, they need to be constantly working on building their own personal brand profiles. It is however quite surprising how many employees neglect to keep their public profiles up to date. This can be viewed as missed opportunities for companies who should be encouraging employees to utilise their personal profiles to underpin their company’s employer brand. Placing your employees at the forefront in articulating your employer brand proposition via professional digital platforms wins credibility of candidates. The aforementioned research confirms that “55 percent of active job seekers said the employee-generated video would be more credible/trustworthy than company-produced video” – a great consideration for companies to use. Employees provide companies with the emotional flavour, connection and personality that talent is wanting to see and experience. The focus is not about self-promotion but how employees collectively build a story of what it is like to work within an organisation.

Companies should be encouraging employees to utilise their personal profiles to underpin their company’s employer brand.

Practical steps

Since people connect better with people they know, it is worth the Head of Talent investing time in providing personal branding workshops to equip talent teams with crafting, updating and evolving their personal professional brands regularly. This can prove to be the “secret source” to assisting recruiters, sourcers and talent acquisition specialists with finding the next rarest skill they might be looking for?

  • Providing ongoing personal branding workshops to equip all employees across the company with the skills, understanding, tools and strategies to better execute their personal brand and help accelerate the employer brand of their organisation. This is particularly the case with influential employees who have high profile positions with strong longstanding networks who can promote employer brand awareness. That includes CHRO’s, IT specialists, engineers, data analysts, sales executives and so on.
  • Essentially, a company’s onboarding programme should include providing the newcomer with employer/employee branded content which will assist them in correctly profiling and aligning themselves with the organisation’s employer brand and culture.
  • Companies should be encouraging employees to utilise their personal brands to showcase and share their success stories, accomplishments, involvement in interesting projects, candidate and company testimonials and so forth. This provides visibility within communities; being viewed as knowledgeable and trustworthy experts in their industry, with both parties mutually benefitting.
  • Personal brands must be an extension of your company brand – genuine, authentic and amplify what the individual and the company stand for.
  • Just like an employer brand, a personal brand is far from static. It is an ongoing project that requires ongoing attention as it constantly evolves and changes.

Whilst some companies might have mixed feelings that personal brands are the responsibility of employees and that there are potential drawbacks with employees being recruited or poached, there are distinct advantages. Companies that assist employees with building their personal brands support a strong and positive culture which keep employees loyal and contributes to employee satisfaction.

(first published by CHRO South Africa on 16 March 2020)