UNC Kenan-Flagler Insights

HR’s role in linking personal, employment and leadership branding

October 7, 2013 By kfblogadmin1

CanStock_ExecDev_PersonalBrandingThe following is an excerpt from a white paper by Meena Dorr, director of career and professional development, UNC Kenan-Flagler Executive MBA programs.

Although a cover letter and resume are still important in the hiring process, a new hurdle recently has been added to the mix. Thanks to the rise of social media, recruiters and hiring managers are increasingly checking out the candidate’s LinkedIn profile or other personal or professional social media site, or searching for job samples on YouTube or SlideShare. This new step in the process led to a renewed emphasis on the importance of personal branding and, conversely, because applicants can now find more information about a potential employer than ever before online, a renewed emphasis on the importance of employment and leadership branding. 

Personal branding helps candidates differentiate themselves in the hiring marketplace. An employment brand is the image an organization wants to project to the employment marketplace about what it is like to work there. A leadership brand conveys an executive’s identity and distinctiveness as a leader.  All three of these brands are linked, and the savvy talent management professional should understand and promote these linkages.

The Personal Brand

Personal branding has been around since the early 20th century, but it has gained more traction in recent years as a way to differentiate oneself in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Career development experts strongly recommend that all employees, from entry-level to seasoned professional, develop and maintain a strong personal brand. And while this recommendation includes HR and talent management professionals, this cohort has even more reason to be up-to- date with the personal branding trend; personal branding often reflects, for good or bad, the person’s perception of their current and past employers. Personal brands and employment brands, therefore, are inextricably intertwined, and HR and talent management professionals have an opportunity to help employees develop their own personal brands while reflecting a positive employment brand. 

The Employment Brand

Like personal branding, employment branding has been around for a while, but the rise in the use of social media—which can easily make or break an employment brand—has made employment branding a renewed priority in many organizations. Social media has made it easier than ever for disgruntled employees to tweet or post their complaints about employers, quickly damaging an employment brand. 

Good employment brands that take advantage of social media attract talent to an organization’s website to learn more about its values and to apply for a job. It also attracts people who truly believe in the organization’s mission, vision, and values, and can help bolster an organization’s public image by communicating its culture, work practices, management style, and growth opportunities. The entire organization “owns” an employment brand. HR and talent management professionals, however, should use the values espoused through the employment brand to assess a candidate’s fit and for developing employees in ways that promote those values. In the recruiting and hiring phase, HR should evaluate a person’s values to see if they align with the organization’s values. Once they are on board, employees should be coached about the employment brand and encouraged to represent that brand to others in an honest, authentic way.

The Leadership Brand

The leadership brand not only reflects the values and qualities a leader has to offer an organization, it also reflects the organization’s values. Leadership branding can be used as a personal career building tool for executives to promote themselves to other organizations, but there are positive attributes to leadership branding that can directly benefit the organization. Leadership branding can help organizations because it can attract investors, high-quality customers, and top talent. It can also increase the organization’s value and help guide leaders’ behavior. It can also boost the company’s reputation by helping to promote its leaders as thought leaders in their industries.

Linking Personal, Employment, and Leadership Branding

HR professionals should foster personal, employment, and leadership branding because each one adds value to the organization, and all three are inextricably linked. Helping employees identify their personal brands through personal development opportunities (like media training, public speaking development, preparing for promotions, etc.) helps the employer understand employees’ career goals and aspirations, and can help HR professionals develop individualized learning and development plans. It can also help in succession planning, recruitment, and cultural fit placement. Employers who know their employees’ personal brands can use that knowledge to identify and groom future leaders and to start the process of leadership branding early in an employee’s career cycle.  

Personal branding can help the employment brand because employees who are clear about their personal brands and how their employers are actively fostering them are engaged, motivated employees who say good things about their employer. They become “brand ambassadors” who share the same values as the organization and who are happy to communicate those values to others. 

HR and talent management professionals know that today’s successful organizations are the ones with the ability to adapt and innovate, qualities that are employee-driven. Employers who help employees identify their personal brand as it aligns with the organization’s employment and leadership brands reap the rewards in increased engagement, which leads to increased business value.