When a strong consumer brand supersedes a company’s employer brand

Renowned and popular companies with a strong brand presence are often mistakenly perceived to be great employers too.

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Youngsters starting off on a corporate career journey, would aspire to be associated with the big brands of the world. And why not, a working experience with a strong and known brand shines like a medal on the CV. However, if we look into how these so-called popular global brands are perceived as employers, the picture may turn out to be entirely different.

Even some of the HR leaders HRKatha spoke to, did not shy away from referring to many known companies and powerful conglomerates in India, who are household names today but score poorly as employers. Their fairly weak HR practices make them not-so-great employers. Still, people are compelled to work for or rather, are drawn towards these ‘big’ and so called ‘known’ brands. “This is human nature. One is attracted to work for a big brand so that one can take pride in telling others about it,” points out Prabir Jha, founder, Prabir Jha Advisory.

“A big consumer brand can rub off on its perceived employer brand”

Prabir Jha, founder, Prabir Jha Advisory

Does this mean the consumer brand of a company supersedes the culture quotient of the organisation? Is that why, despite being aware that a company may not be a very good employer, talent still gets pulled towards it?

According to Rajesh Padmanabhan, CEO, Talavvy Business Catalyst, every human being goes through an employee lifecycle. He believes that at the start of their career, youngsters would work for a company which gives them a higher compensation. Money is the deciding factor at that time. After a while, with five to six years of experience in the industry, they start looking for stability. That is when they are pulled towards big brands, so that they can hope for a more stable life for themselves, their partners and other family members. “Every choice in employee’s career is driven by a combination of these four parameters ie, money, learning, growth and experience,” says Padmanabhan.

We are all aware that there do exist few businesses in each sector that may be perceived as ‘big brands’ but fail to be known as great employers, and yet, manage to attract talent. Experts feel this is clearly suggestive of the fact that the consumer brand supersedes the employer brand of the company.

“The business brand can override the employer brand of the company”

Rajesh Padmanabhan, CEO, Talavvy Business Catalyst

“A big consumer brand can rub off on its perceived employer brand,” agrees Jha. That means, people may mistakenly perceive big and financially successful brands in their respective sectors as great employers as well. They may make this mistake while deciding on their prospective employer, according to Jha.

Padmanabhan also agrees that the employer brand of the company rides on the consumer brand of the organisation. “The business brand can override the employer brand of the company but can’t supersede the culture of the organisation,” he asserts. In the longer run, Padmanabhan believes that if the culture of the organisation is bad, it will definitely destroy the company. That is why, Padmanabhan aptly recalls the adage, “culture eats business strategy for breakfast” here.

Okay. So, a good consumer brand can attract talent, but does it work the other way round too? If the culture of the company is bad and makes it a bad employer, does it impact the brand in any way? “I don’t see that happening, because they all have great PR strategies in place to keep their image as employers intact in the public,” points out Jha.

“A big brand may attract talent but if it is not a good employer, the longevity of employees will remain in question”

Rohit Suri, CHRO, South Asia, Dentsu International

What can be the repercussions?

“A big brand may attract talent but if it is not a good employer, the longevity of employees will remain in question,” shares Rohit Suri, CHRO, South Asia, Dentsu International.

On the other hand, Jha opines, “I don’t think such companies care. For them, financial success is what matters, and everything else is replaceable”. That is because, “They are aware that if one individual goes they will find someone else to take that person’s place,” adds Jha.

Clearly, big consumer brands can supersede the employer brand of the company. As many experts agree, people tend to assume that a big brand will automatically turn out to be a good employer. They realise their mistake only after joining and then end up leaving the company after a short while. However, HR leaders also strongly believe that in the long run, culture is the king. There will come a day when the bad culture of an organisation or business will be its undoing.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This is a great topic and very relevant for the times we live in when organisations are vying for the best tech talent, and are simultaneously wading though the great attrition.

    I will disagree with Prabhir Jha on employer brand + bad culture having no impact on the external brand, and that such companies are unconcerned with the talent leak because of their focus on numbers. Take a look at what’s happening at companies around; big names that are popping on the attrition charts, and then look at their financial results (if published). It’s a vicious cycle: the constant focus on numbers leading to an erosion of work life balance, a slow change in the mindset of the people before being enveloped in a toxic culture. What next? snow-blindness!

    His assertion may be true in the case of Unicorns that are loaded with money to throw at fresh talent. But how long will they sustain? It’ll be a matter of time when they crash and burn at the altar of financial performance.

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