Thursday, November 22, 2007

Employer branding is tokenism in India

From Economic Times

There's a perception-reality gap
Madhukar Shukla
Professor at XLRI Jamshedpur

A brand is something that is woven around a product. A good employer brand would, and should, represent the personality, the soul of the company. Building such a brand requires a lot of introspection by the company, and answering the question, “what kind of company we are, and want to become”; it must involve all the constituents of the organisation.

In most cases, however, companies treat ‘employer branding’ as a mere short-cut for attracting the talent. Instead of soul-searching, the HR departments tie up with ad agencies to conjure up an image that may be attractive to their target market, even if not their own. That’s a real dampener for new recruits––there’s a perception-reality gap they’re confronted with. The myriad ‘Best Employer’ media surveys add fuel to fire as they bring out checklists. So a ‘fun place’ for some may not be the same for others.

If one looks at successful employer brands carefully, one finds that companies do not do it consciously. For instance, when Sasken Technologies was a growing company in 2001, they decided what kind of organisation they want to be. Out of this introspection came things like their single-status policy, wherein all employees, whether the CEO or the young programmer, would be treated at par––such as every company executive would travel in the same class, etc.

Now this may attract certain kind of people, and it may also ward off others who wouldn’t like to ‘work in a commune’. Sasken certainly didn’t do this to attract talent. But later, such policies became the chief constituent of the company’s employer branding policy.

Similarly, Infosys, Wipro and TCS never consciously built a brand. They just built a workplace that would be productive and where people would be happy. Employer branding becomes a tokenism when it doesn’t fit in the DNA of the company. And, there needs to be a lot of self-sustained and conscious effort needed to create such a fit; to ‘become oneself’.

The Tatas would never like to become like Reliance, or vice-versa. The brand as an employer must provide a long-term advantage. And this advantage comes only when the profile of the candidate fits well with the profile of the company. Also, one must also appreciate that employer branding works mainly at the entry-level since the mid-level workforce and upwards look at other things, such as job profile, career enhancement et al.

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