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Making the Business Case for Your Employer Brand.

Many of our customers continue to talk about the challenge of getting their executive team to see the need to invest in their employer brand.

Why is it such a struggle to get the execs to give their time and budget to the people agenda?

  1. They may not think that their employer brand can make or save money for the organisation.
  2. They may feel that churn, lack of loyalty or a talent war are just the way things are. They can’t influence them.
  3. The senior exec is naturally distant from the day-to-day issues on the ground. And therefore they may not be given priority.

So, trying to convince a lukewarm team that you have burning needs is no easy task.

We’ve often said that HR is the only department that truly has their finger on the pulse of the organisation. They see when people are engaged. They hear the grumbles. And, not to be too existential, they feel it.

Now, try telling your CFO that you want a sizeable investment in budget and people because of a feeling. (No, we wouldn’t go there either.)

So, what’s to be done? Without the buy-in—both emotional and literal—from the exec, all that desire to create a genuinely employee-centric organisation will go unmet. In our experience, that’s one of the key reasons why HR people leave their organisations.

It all starts with building a business case for your employer brand.

And a business case that is most definitely NOT in the language of HR. It’s difficult for any of us to step out of our own shoes and into those of the audience. But in this case, unless you can think like the CEO, CFO, CTO and COO (and not all at the same time!) you could be destined for a long arduous struggle with very little at the end for your trouble.

Here are the key elements that every business case should have:

1. Be Clear on what you actually want.

When we work with our customers, we always focus on a three-year window (far enough away to get us to think creatively, close enough to know it’s actually achievable). What would your high-performance employee-centric organisation look like in three years? How would recruitment marketing drive the right candidates? How would your social channels connect? What would your careers site look and act like? What would your retention rates be? It doesn’t need to be in-depth and detailed—just a vision of a better future. Preferably done outside of the office where there is nothing to drag you back to reality.

Making the Business Case for Your Employer Brand
2. Start with the problem.

The first part of the Atomic DNA process is the diagnostic phase. That’s when we really get under the bonnet (or hood, for our US friends) of the organisation. Employee sentiment, candidate journeys and competitor analysis all shine a light on areas with room for improvement. These are the building blocks for your business case. If you want to grab the attention of the exec, start with the words “Guys, we have a problem. And we didn’t even know about it.” Watch the body language shift immediately.

Plus, showing what the competition are up to (presuming they’re doing better than you, of course) is a surefire way to get the exec motivated—if only because of good old-fashioned pride.

3. Divide and conquer.

Let’s get back to those members of the executive. They may be a board but they are really just a collection of individuals, each with different motivations and interests. In the world of consensus-driven decisions, everyone needs to be on board. One dissenting voice will slow down the process so much that the next drama or grand plan will shove yours out of the way. The CFO will need to see numbers and ROI, while the COO will need to know how it will affect efficiencies and the CEO may be more concerned about shareholder sentiment. Get the friendlies on-side first by letting them see how supporting the business plan can benefit them personally. You want everyone nodding once they are all in the room together.

4. Get the numbers right.

Exec teams are incredibly busy and generally want brevity and clarity. So, it’s critical we have a numerical part to the business case. (We know that human stories of success will win hearts and minds, but do we really want to have that conversation at the exec level?)

When it comes to the numbers, there are really only two that matter: how can this plan make money or save money? Saving money is the easy bit. We can reduce recruitment agency costs by driving the right traffic to a polished careers page. Reducing churn means all those onboarding costs and re-hiring are lowered. And yes, an employee-centric plan can generate income because the effectiveness of truly engaged employees can be tracked and measured. If we have a diversity programme that is meaningful, we can reach out to customers from those backgrounds and be their brand of choice.

Making the Business Case for Your Employer Brand
5. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Remember that three-year plan you wrote? It’s time to spruce it up so it’s ready for the exec. Set the baseline numbers for where the organisation stands now, what we want to look and act like three years from today and what logical steps need to be done first?

Quarterly check-ins are usually the right interval for progress with the exec (more than that and they may feel you’re cannibalising their attention; less and they’ll probably forget there was a plan in the first place!).

So, those organisations that seem to have their employer brand firing on all cylinders all started with a business case. Granted for some HR people it was an easy sell, pushing an open door to a receptive audience.

But in our experience, they were once people just like you. They saw the need before anyone else. They gathered the proof points and the data and had their ammunition ready. Most importantly, they stood up in front of the exec (and sometimes to a cool enough reception) and made their case—the business case for their employer brand.

Sometimes they get everything they wanted, more often than not they got the most important elements that they needed. But it helped them to start their journey and point the organisation in the direction it truly needed to go.

Have a look at some of our latest case studies to see how we have helped other companies on their way with their employer brand.

Kick-start your Employer Branding Project with confidence.
Taking the reins on your Employer Branding is no mean feat – but it’s a little less daunting when you have the right tools.
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