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10 Key Questions to Ask About Your HR-Brand Partnership

Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan on June 13, 2017 10:30 AM

HR and brand. A not so unlikely pair, but it hasn’t been until recent years that they’ve gotten the proper alignment - and airtime - they deserve. 

HR professionals hold a unique role when it comes to brand – serving both internal and external customers across many touchpoints. Not only are they now critical members of the organizational brand marketing team, helping shape and deliver on an external promise to new talent, they are also stewards of company culture.  All this while maintaining their own departmental brand integrity with every employee interaction.

It’s a tall order.  But also, an unprecedented opportunity for HR to more fully represent, create and better steer the heart of every organization’s success – its people. 

Here are ten questions to help evaluate the strength of your essential HR-Brand partnership across all its channels.

1. How well do I know both my internal and external customers? Every brand strategy begins by understanding the customer – inside and out. For HR, it’s a matter of knowing what their employees’ and recruits’ lives entail at work AND at home, and what they need and expect from an employer to be most engaged.  The research HR professionals gather for this ongoing education needs to be fed by both formal data from outside, trusted sources and partners, as well as through direct surveying and qualitative feedback from employees and candidates.

2.  Does my brand promise answer – and deliver on - my customers’ needs? A brand is made up of a lot of things, but many marketers would say it’s most importantly, about a relationship built on a promise consistently upheld by your organization.  If your company isn’t promising the right things in the right way, your target audience – recruits and employees - won’t hear a word.  If you’re promising the right things, but not delivering on them, the issue moves from not hearing to never listening – and that brand damage is nearly impossible to repair.

3. Does my HR brand echo that of my organization? You, your team, and the way you interact every day with your employees make up your HR brand, along with your organization’s insurance and benefits offerings, perks and awards, training and development, and much more. But even if your department’s offerings are top-notch and follow industry best practices, if they’re not in sync with your organization’s core mission, goals and brand identity, that disconnect will be felt by employees and recruits alike.  Ultimately, it won’t be enough to attract and retain employees for the long-term. Your HR brand can have its own distinct voice, but that voice needs to reinforce and hold up that of your larger organization.

4.  Am I a partner at the brand table? HR professionals should have an equal seat at their organization’s brand table and not only contribute to the conversation, but at appropriate times, lead it.  Take stock. Do you feel you’re a viable partner and equal stakeholder in the discussion? If not, address these issues with leadership.  When it comes to large-scale communications and meetings at your organization, ensure that HR is visible part of that strategy and in front of your employees at key moments.

5.  Is my brand strategic? It can be hard to reconcile a brand dream vs. a brand reality, and part of that reality is ensuring that it is supporting and helping meet business goals. Keep your brand promise directly linked to and contingent on your department's budget, quarterly and annual goals, as well as those of your organization. 

6.  Is my brand fresh – and staying relevant? Brands are continually evolving – and must do so to survive. Not only do brands shift to meet the changing needs of their customers, they’ve got to be attracting and filling the pipeline with new opportunities.  Major brands around the world continually go through audits and exercises to keep fresh and relevant, using the analysis of trending data and changes to the competitive landscape, market research and focus groups.  Do the same for your organization – in a relevant, budget-friendly way - when it comes to better serving your employees and your recruits. Maybe it’s quarterly, twice a year, or annually, but involve the right stakeholders, gather the data, and make the necessary changes.

7.  Do I have brand ambassadors spread throughout the organization?  Nothing’s more valuable than word of mouth and customer testimonials when it comes to brand.  Enlist and train employees throughout your organization who have full buy-in, and are willing to share their true stories.  They must understand and believe in the breadth and depth of your brand promise, specifically, HR’s role in delivering on it – and can spread the word effectively to others – inside and outside the organization.

8.  Are my visuals and messaging in sync with those of my organization?  This isn’t just about having an HR-specific logo with the same colors as your company.  Every email, phone call, job description, video testimonial, post on the employee intranet, or communication via the career recruiting platform contributes to your brand image.  Ensure they are in line with your brand edicts as agreed upon with marketing, corporate communications and other leaders in your organization. 

9. Do I have a clear understanding of my brand reputation? Perception vs. reality. It’s critical to fulfilling a brand promise.  The first step is awareness. Ask employees and candidates how they perceive and rate your organization and how they’d describe your reputation through formal and informal surveying.  Keep aware of your Glassdoor, and other recruiting website ratings, and respond to them.  If your reputation needs repairing, lay out actionable steps to address it. 

10.  Does HR – and all leadership - walk the talk? Nothing is more convincing than practicing what you preach.  HR must live up to this standard, as should organizational leaders throughout all levels of management.  Offering flexible work arrangements, family care benefits, perks for greater work-life integration, more PTO, training and development opportunities, and company-organized charitable initiatives all sound great, but they won’t sing until leaders actively participate and live them. 

At the end of the day, a brand’s longevity boils down to authenticity and the emotions that experience elicits from people.  This couldn’t be truer when it comes to the workplace and the way brand is manifested in organizational culture, the recruiting process, retention and ultimately, engagement.

The world and our workplace is becoming more and more transparent. This is a positive and a negative for employers and employees alike. Provided your HR brand lives up to its promise under the most visible of circumstances, your chances to not only be seen – but experienced – in the best light possible are great.  

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Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan

As Director, Sales and Marketing at, Heidi is responsible for developing innovative, results-driven programs for Care@Work – a consumer-centered portfolio of family care for employers and their diverse workforce. Passionate about helping HR professionals improve the lives of their employees, Heidi follows and writes about the top trends and research impacting both employees and employers in the workplace, including the future of work, consumerism and HR, building employer brands, pay equity and paid leave policy, and company culture. Prior to joining, Heidi led marketing teams at a variety of technology companies including Constant Contact. She lives north of Boston with her husband Brian and their “daughter” Lexi – a 10 lb. Shih-Tzu therapy dog.