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Case study description

Case study description

This third case study illustrates the challenges and opportunities offered by creating an employer brand. The organization in this case study is a highly successful and dynamic global spirits and wine business which has grown steadily through merger and acquisition over the last 10 years. The steady progress of industry consolidation worldwide led this business to consider its future as either an acquiring or an acquired company. This contemplation led to a desire to strengthen various aspects of the business, resulting in three interrelated aims:

  • To be fit and ready to take opportunities as they arise, whether they come from industry consolidation, acquisition or new ventures.

  • To achieve quality growth by:

    • generating volume and share growth on specific existing key brands;

    • encouraging innovation and launching new products;

    • integrating newly acquired brands and businesses.

  • To enable the above to happen smoothly by implementing simple and flexible systems and processes such as those delivered by SAP.

In order to encourage full engagement and involvement in the new strategy, the organization decided to launch an employer brand which challenged all business units to get full commitment of all employees, so that each person could become part of a unified winning team, connecting with consumers and taking the business to new levels of growth. The top team wanted everyone to be engaged in the action, committed to the goal and confident of their part in achieving it. Everyone was expected to take an active role individually, and work with others as part of the team.

One of the significant pieces of data that informed this employer brand strategy was the following quote from the Collins and Porras survey, Built to Last (1994): ‘Companies with strong positive core vision and core values have outperformed the general stock market by a factor of 12 since 1925.’

The employer brand

The employer brand arose from the existing culture. It was worked on by both internal and external people through eliciting current views of the company ethos, and gathering aspirations of current employees.

The concept of the brand wheel was used to define the brand. This is encapsulated in Figure 7.4. The brand wheel idea, developed by Bates North America, is used to define the functional and emotional components of a brand. Bates North America has developed an impressive reputation for reinvigorating brands. The brand wheel is based on various concepts that go into creating a brand such as essence, values and personality. The brand essence is heart or spirit of the brand. The brand values are about how the brand makes a person feel and what it says about them if they become associated with the brand. The brand personality is a way of talking about the brand as if it were a person, to get to the emotional content of the brand itself.

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Figure 7.4: Brand wheel for employer brand

Out of the brand wheel came a concise definition of the six key brand values together with their associated behaviours. See box.

The process

The organization devised a three-stage process to move from this definition of six core values to a position of full involvement with the new strategy. The three stages were awareness, adoption and advocacy (see Figure 7.5), with only the first stage planned in detail. The second and third stages were give a broad brush plan, but awaited the results of the first stage to enable sensible planning.

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Figure 7.5: Financial service quadrants

The awareness stage involved three main activities:

  • A video was circulated to all managers, which identified the values in an exciting way.

  • Senior managers were asked to introduce the values at any business meetings they were already running within a six-month period (special meetings were not held, and HR people did not run the process alone).

  • The six values were integrated into the performance review process. They became key performance measures for each individual.

The Adoption stage is going on at the time of writing, and was preceded by a questionnaire which tested the success of the awareness stage. Adoption in this context is about implementation, so this stage of the process is very practical and involves lots of ‘handson’ activities. A brand director was appointed at the end of the awareness stage to look after and promote the employer brand, and interestingly, this person has a marketing rather than an HR background. Planned activities so far include a newsletter circulating stories of success and the creation of a Web site on the company intranet that allows exchange of views and offers team exercises and thought-provoking resources to help people to get to grips with the values. Employer brand items and gifts such as mugs, sweatshirts and hats will also be available for those who want to promote the brand locally, or wish to have themed celebrations.

Advocacy is already appearing in pockets around the organization. Various managers have been selected as brand champions, but this process is seen as emergent rather than one that needs to be closely managed.

The planning team also used the Beckhard change formula to guide their actions (see Chapter 3). This meant having a clear vision, explaining the need for change and devising some first steps.

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