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Who should be in charge of the employer brand: HR or marketing?

When asked to define a 'brand', people give a variety of different answers. However, what they do agree on is that a company's brand is the sole responsibility of the marketing department. However, what about the company's employer brand? Which department is responsible for this – HR or marketing? There is an argument that both departments can work together on this function.

What is an 'employer brand'?

An 'employer brand' is the image a company displays as an employer, either to job candidates or suppliers. So, for example, if your employees speak negatively about your company on social media you would probably end up with a negative employer brand because potential job candidates (who might seek employment at your company) and your other stakeholders would see how negatively these employees are speaking about your company. Chances are very good that they would become suspicious and not want to have anything to do with your company because of the bad publicity.

This means that because the employer brand functions as a marketing tool, the marketing department could argue that it's their responsibility. However, as employees are an integral part of the employer brand – and the employer-employee relationship is the domain of HR – HR could put forward a valid argument that they need to take care of the employer brand.

In actual fact – says the Blu Ivy Group - HR and marketing can help each other a lot in terms of managing this brand.

Marketing can teach HR about segmentation

One of the fundamentals of marketing is dividing your target audience into segments so that each message that you put out reaches the right people in your target market. Blu Ivy says that HR can adopt this strategy in the employer branding process by, for example, creating different employee value propositions for different groups of candidates.

HR can teach marketing about listening to people

When developing an employer brand for your company, you will need to listen very carefully to your employees to find out how they feel about your organisation. As HR is in touch with your employees – and listens to them on a daily basis – they can provide this valuable input for your employer branding process.

How does an employer branding process happen in 'real life'?

In practice, employer branding seems to be solely in the HR domain – with little (if any) input from marketing. However, this doesn't mean that the employer branding process is a total flop if marketing isn't totally involved.

Says Elsie Pule: general manager for HR at Eskom and vice-president of the Institute for People Management (IPM), "Our HR vision is to enable our company to become an employer of choice and this will be informed by our overall company vision.

"Our approach to developing our employer brand is to target learners as early as high school. We offer very competitive bursary programmes and the majority of our learners end up working for us. Our organisation is very dynamic in so far as training and development are concerned, and we recognise that as a state entity we are training young people not only for our company's future skills requirements, but for the country at large. "