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Employer branding in emerging markets - A big opportunity awaits

​I’ve travelled to more than 50 cities in 30 countries over the past 8 years conducting employer branding events and delivering training to thousands of leaders across all industry sectors and company sizes - It’s been an amazing journey. Around half of the events have been in emerging markets, a categorisations of companies used to describe a country that has some characteristics of a developed market, but does not meet standards to be a developed market.

Examples include the traditional BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China. BRIC is acronym coined in 2001 by Jim O'Neill from Goldman Sachs in a paper entitled "Building Better Global Economic BRICs. Other examples include Turkey, Chile, Latvia and Uzbekistan, a country I am travelling to this week to train senior leaders in employer brand strategy and leadership.

It is my second visit to Tashkent after my initial visit in 2013 to present at a conference and University Forum on recruiting young talent. It is also the country I experienced my first earthquake (the locals called it nothing unusual!) but that is a whole other story!

In 2011 my company, Employer Brand International entered a joint venture in Russia with the country’s largest online job board and over the next two years we built an employer branding consulting business and launched the country’s largest Employer Branding Summit. We also welcomed Russia and Ukraine to our global survey platform to conduct research into what was driving talent attraction, engagement and retention in these markets. My second book, ‘Employer Brand Leadership-A Global Perspective’ was also translated into Russian and published in 2011.

I have been exposed to a lot during my travels in Russia and other emerging markets and it is these experiences which have changed my perceptions about these countries which had been shaped growing up under the influence of messages portrayed by Australian and International media.

My travels and collaborations with leaders in emerging markets has also enlightened me to what is possible if companies in these markets were to adopt the employer brand concept as a way of acquiring and managing talent to grow their companies (and economies). The starting point should be to look holistically at the employee experience from pre-hire to retire and how this impacts on the customer experience and profitability.

The key to success in emerging markets will require a change in mindset amongst leaders who traditionally see human resources (the traditional custodians of the employer brand) as an operational function. It doesn’t matter whether the employer brand strategy is driven by the HR department or the marketing department, what matters is the company adopting a strategic approach to employer branding that is aligned with organisational objectives.

Without the right people companies failure to grow! The same challenges exist in develop markets and companies need to upskill leaders on employer branding knowledge, competency and practice. The resources to support a formal or informal approach towards this development are now more accessible in emerging markets than they have been in the past 10 years due to accessibility through the internet.

We have also found from our research and consulting in emerging markets that investment in employer branding has predominantly been focused on recruitment strategies over the past five years. This is only part of the solution! The world’s leading employer brands such as Google, IKEA, Air New Zealand and P&G have invested in appointing dedicated employer branding personnel, something I am yet to see in emerging markets. Companies in developed world countries such as USA, United Kingdom and Australia companies have increased investment in employer branding following the 2009 global financial crisis. However this is a key area where companies in emerging markets are lagging.

The advantages for leaders in emerging markets include:

  • An opportunity to build leader engagement in employer brand strategy as it is a new topic and companies do not have the history of failed campaigns that limited employer brand strategy to a recruitment function and/or standalone EVP project.

  • The cost of conducting employer branding projects are less in emerging markets as the cost of labour is cheaper. This does not have to come at the expense of quality as there is now more access to best practice through books, videos and other resources at the touch of a mouse click.

  • Launching employer brand surveys to develop own benchmarks to track over time. There is a decreasing appetite for the expensive annual employee engagement and/or culture survey conducted by external vendors. Companies are seeking real time feedback on the mood or sentiment of employees so they can make changes in real time and keep employees focused on achieving organisational objectives.

  • Training leaders in employer brand leadership across the leadership line lines as part of employer brand strategy development. This is an area countries in developed markets are only starting to address now.

  • Access to best practice methodology and case studies of successful employer brand management which didn’t exist 10 years ago when companies in developed markets began increasing their investments in employer branding. Resources are usually leaner in emerging markets so leaders have less to spend on employer branding initiatives so they will try and make every dollar count compared to the wastage that occurs in developed markets from ad hoc strategies.

Technology and growth of social sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook into emerging markets has also provide exceptional opportunities for leaders in emerging markets to gain accessibility to best practice, knowledge and key influencers in employer branding.

One area I have found consistent in employees across the world is what they are seeking from an employment experience. This usually falls in the following five areas (albeit in different priority):

  • Fair pay for fair work

  • Treated with respect

  • Meaningful work – feeling like I am making a positive contribution

  • Enjoy working with the people around me

  • Personal and career development

So how can leaders in emerging markets ensure their companies can be early adopters of the employer brand concept and develop strategy which will positon their company as a place people want to join and contribute to their success?

  • Build employer brand leadership knowledge and skill across leadership lines.

  • Conduct an internal audit of your employer brand including an employee experience survey to understand how employees perceive the employment experience and the key areas in the employment lifecycle which have the highest emotional impact between employee and employer.

  • Follow twitter hashtags such as, #employerbranding, #employerbrand, etc, employer branding best practice companies and key industry influencers on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to stay on top of latest developments in employer branding

  • Join employer branding LinkedIn groups such as the EBI Employer Branding Global Community and Employer Branding group and follow the discussions

  • Connect and engage with 50 other employer branding leaders around the world on LinkedIn to learn from them

All of the above initiatives can be undertaken at a minimal cost to what companies in developed markets have had to invest in the past ten years to achieve a similar outcome. A big opportunity awaits for leaders in emerging markets!

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