We’ve noticed a disturbing trend while talking to university HR staff. When it comes to issues of employer branding, there’s a gap between the university’s human resources and marketing departments. It is imperative that these two departments work together if a university wants to develop and implement an effective employer brand.
As higher education has become more international, the role of a university HR department has evolved. In the age of internationalization, HR has to work even harder to keep their university top of mind. Developing an employer brand is key to growing a university’s international reputation and remaining competitive. It falls to HR to earn the candidates’ consideration by making sure that the institution (and its mission, vision, and values) stands out for the candidate. A good employer brand encourages candidates to build a long term career at that institution.
Part of the challenge of developing an employer brand is that employer branding doesn’t entirely fall under the purview of human resources, yet at the same time it’s not wholly the responsibility of marketing and communications. Employer branding is a mix of both. When an HR department is left alone to establish and communicate the university’s employer brand, we see them struggle to achieve the full impact. However, employer branding is so closely connected to recruitment that the marketing and communications team can’t be solely responsible for developing it. Successfully establishing an employer brand requires intense collaboration on both sides.
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HR departments have the foundational knowledge required to create an employer brand. They know the institution’s hiring needs, compensation, benefits, advancement opportunities, employee culture, and work environment. Marketing also owns the university’s branding activities and are experts in measuring audience engagement, creating campaigns, and telling a compelling story. They also know the best channels and strategies to reach each audience segment. These competencies need to all come together in employer branding.
It’s not just identifying and developing an employer brand that should be a collaborative process. Communication and implementation are most effective when done jointly between HR and marketing as well. Conveying the institution’s employer brand to potential applicants is what helps create awareness among high-quality candidates, build a candidate pipeline, and develop engaged and loyal employees. If universities don’t share their own employer brand, potential candidates will turn to sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor to learn what these institutions are like as an employer. This means that candidates are basing their opinion on information that could be out of date, incomplete, misleading, or even flat out wrong. Institutions need to take control of their own brand.
Some of our clients are starting to realize that HR and marketing need to come together in strategic ways and are starting up interdepartmental projects. The universities that are even further ahead are mimicking the corporate sector by hiring human resources staff with communications backgrounds. Multinationals like Johnson & Johnson and NBCUniversal are creating positions directly related to employer branding in their both HR and marketing departments. These employees have titles like candidate experience manager, talent branding specialist, or even employer branding specialist. Collaboration has helped these companies come further in establishing a reputable and effective employer brand.
We want to leave you with some questions which we hope inspire some reflection: How does your organizational structure empower you to effectively promote your employer brand? How do your HR and marketing departments collaborate?