Employer branding and business strategy


1. Introduction

As globalization progressed, the competition among firms is growing intense. In response to this situation, a great deal of attention has been paid to the role of human resource management (HRM) and, in particular, talent management programme (TMP) that is the important concept of HRM, because it is essential for companies to have “the right people in the right place at the right time” (Bardwell and Claydon, 2010) to obtain competitive advantages and to accomplish their business objectives effectively and efficiently. TMP mainly focused on keeping talented employees and considering employee engagement. However, environment surrounding organizations rapidly has changed mainly because of the development of technology, and it has to offer great flexibility by not only maintaining and developing employees but also acquiring new employees by focusing on ‘talent’. Furthermore, it puts much value on recruitment. As a result, Employer branding that seems to have an impact on not only current employees but also potential employees has received attention (Wilden, Gudergan, and Lings, 2010). The purpose of this essay therefore is to identify how employer branding initiative is designed to connect the business strategy of firms and how an employer brand initiative can be an important role of TMP.

This essay starts with brief description of the relationship among HRM, TMP and business strategy, and of what is employer barding. Subsequently, the connection between employer branding and business strategy will be discussed by using examples. The final section draws an overall conclusion of this essay.

2. Strategy and employer brand

The aim of this section is to examine the relation among HRM, TMP and business strategy, and to identify employer branding.

2.1. Human Resource Management and Talent Management Programme

HRM can be defined as “a philosophy of people management based on the belief that human resources are uniquely important to sustained business success” (Price, 2011, p. 38). Also, Talent management (TM) which is a key factor of HRM can be described as activities “to attract, retain, motivate and develop individuals” (Bardwell and Claydon, 2010, p.162). Although both of them are important concepts, TMP is getting more attention than HRM these days, as rapid change of business environment suggests the demand of proper talent to implement the business strategy. Actually, majority of executives take into account TMP as a priority and recognize that it has positive influence on their business (Bardwell and Claydon, 2010).

2.2. HR, TM and business strategy

Business strategy can be defined as “a set of decisions about the direction of a firm” (Lee, Lee, and Wu, 2010, P.1354) and there is little doubt that HR strategy and TM strategy play an important role in the business strategy, as companies are doomed to fail in any strategic initiative without continuous effort and commitment by employee (Getz and Lee, 2011). A number of researchers and business practitioners insist on the importance of strong relation among the three. For example, Smith, Silverstone and Lajtha (2013) suggested that HR strategy, Human Capital strategy and Business strategy are strongly related. In this concept, TM strategy is described as Human Capital strategy (Smith, Silverstone and Lajtha, 2013). Thus, it is possible to understand that HR strategy, TM strategy and business strategy have a strong relationship. Additionally, Liao (2005) concluded that organizations should link HRM, TMP and business strategy to develop business performance. What is more, Lee, Lee, and Wu (2010) pointed out that one of the main goals of HRM is to ensure that HR strategy is integrated with business strategy to acquire competitive advantage. From these points of views, again it is possible to mention that HR strategy and TM strategy is important for the company’s business strategy.

In this paper, relationship between TMP and business strategy is manly focused on, because TMP has received a lot of attention in recent years as mentioned earlier. One of the most key factors to connect these relationships could be employer branding. Although it is assumed that employer branding may be less important than occupational brand in some countries, such as Germany (Perman, 2013b), the fact that approximately 60% of employers think employer branding is vital part of HR could explain this argument (Newcombe, 2013).


2.3. Employer brand

Employer branding can be defined as “a targeted long term strategy to manage the awareness and perceptions of employees, potential employees, and related stake holders with regard to a particular firm” (Sullivan, 2004). In other words, employer branding is developing image of employer and convincing existent employee and potential employee of its value (beardwell and Claydon, 2010). Previously, Employee engagement policies that “are the main vehicle for increasing the right kind of enthusiasm and commitment to both work and the organization” (Perman, 2013c) has been getting attention for a long time since it has a positive impact on TM and the business of the firm. However, as environment surrounding organizations rapidly have changed mainly because of the development of technology, it is necessary for firms to cover the limitation of employee engagement that not have much influence on potential employees. Employer branding, new way of thinking, therefore is getting attention more and more. Also, recruitment is considered as much more important thing than selection (Perman, 2013b). According to Lawler (2008), employer brand is essential for selection and especially recruitment process, as it expresses not only what applicants can expect when they join the firms but also helps organizations hire right people. Also, Backhaus and Tikoo (2004) suggest that it inspires employees’ localization and provides employee retention and satisfaction. From these points of views, it could argue that employer branding has main benefits in terms of recruitment, retention and employee engagement (Barrow and Simon, 2005).

To conduct the effective business strategy and to win a place in highly competitive market, an organization needs to entice and keep high-quality people, and to achieve it, the firm needs to enhance its employer brand, since an employer which has a strong employer brand is frequently considered as an employer of choice (beardwell and Claydon, 2010). In terms of ways of developing employer brand and connecting to the business strategy, there are various ways, such as emphasizing the life in an organization (Laweler, 2008). Then, how companies enhance employer brand and in what ways employer branding connects to a company’s business strategy in blunt terms are next presented.

3. Case

The purpose of this essay is to identify how employer branding initiative is designed and connected to the business strategy of organization by using examples, and in what ways can an employer branding initiative become a vital part of TMP. Thus, how employer branding is related to the organization’s business strategy is identified in this section. Sony Corporation (Sony) and Oriental Land Co. Ltd. (Oriental Land) are selected as the cases, since both of them are seems to be recognized as firms that succeed employer branding and have high employer brand.

3.1 Sony

Sony, was established in 1946, is one of the biggest Japanese electronics companies, and has approximately 150,000 employees in 2013 (Sony, 2013a). According to research by Randstad (2012) which has human resource service business, it got the title of the No.1 Company in terms of employer brand in 2012 in Japan.

The main business strategies of Sony are (1) Business expansion in developing countries and (2) Creating and innovating new products (Sony, 2013a).

To implement the business strategies effectively, it is essential for Sony to obtain competent potential employees and to keep competent current employees by increasing its employer brand. Therefore, it seems to conducts following activities to enhance employ brand.

Firstly, with regard to the first business strategy, Sony emphasizes on respecting diversities, such as nationality and religion (Sony, 2013b). In terms of internship and recruitment, it presses the global workplace and posts messages of foreign participants of internship and foreign workers on its webpage (Sony, 2013b). By doing so, it informs the resource what it wants is person who has no barrier with regard to diversity, and gives chances to applicants to make a judgment that it is a right place to work or not for them. What is more, it attracts candidates who want to work globally. Also, it conducts company information session in various places, such as university and research institution in all over the world and open official Facebook page to convey fascination of the company and to hire variety kinds of highly capable people (Sony, 2013b). Additionally, it starts to take in young people who want to polish and work in Malaysia which is the most important stronghold for its manufacturing strategy (Sony, 2013b). With regard to current employees, Sony introduces studying abroad systems, and it must be attractive for both potential and current employees. Moreover, it emphasizes “global localization”. This is a concept that local person should be a president in local corporation of Sony. These activities contribute to enhance employer branding, and it enable the company to gather, keep and motivate people who have potential and are appropriate to conduct the business strategy. Now these employees in Sony positively look abroad, particularly developing countries, and they must contribute to the business strategy.

Secondly, in terms of the second business strategy, Sony also highlights make believe spirit which mean ‘believe that anything you can imagine, you can make’, and send messages such as ‘to be a pioneer of new sensation’, ‘change rules’ and ‘innovating new culture and changing lifestyle’ to applicants (Sony, 2013b). With these messages, Sony has tried to attract applicants and to select people who have a sympathetic mind with the culture of Sony and a strong mind to co-create the future of Sony. These are also trigger for candidates to choose a right option, because they are able to understand the thing which they need to work in Sony. Moreover, it takes place brief section of conjunction by 20 companies of Sony group to achieve potential employees’ understandings of various products, business style and their fascinations (Sony, 2013b). For existing employees, it conducts global posting that is a system to provide employees with opportunities for challenging new efforts (Sony, 2013b). Additionally, more than 10,000 engineers can participate in a lot of programs independently to improve the expertise of engineers, and internal or external professional instructors teach them (Sony, 2013b). For new employees, there are specialized coaching systems for particular techniques of each business in addition to general coaching systems. These are also movements to enhance employer branding, and it contributes to obtain, maintain, motivate and satisfy competent employees who are needed to conduct the business strategy. Incidentally, it also promotes ‘the good success project of female’ that is a system to improve the working environment for women to increase a number of working female (Sony, 2013b). This activity also increases employer brand and succeeds to attract, keep, and motivate women. As a result, they created a new innovative handy camera from the perspective of women. This is an example that shows employer brand actually is designed to connect to the business strategy.

3.2 Oriental Land

Oriental Land was established in 1960 to construct No.1 leisure facility in Asia, after that, it involved in the business cooperation with Walt Disney, and its main business became theme park business. According to Randstad (2012), it was elected No.2 employer branding company in 2012 in Japan.

The main business strategy of Oriental Land is Continuous development of core enterprise (Disney resort) (Oriental Land, 2013c). Based on Ansoff product/market growth matrix, its strategy can be classified into the new products and services category.

To create new services and products for continuous development and to improve the customer satisfaction, it is also significant for Oriental Land to attract potential employees and maintain and motivate talented employees. Then, employer branding initiative of Oriental Land is designed as follows.

First of all, Oriental Land emphasizes ‘providing great dream, throbs, happiness and consolation’ to applicants and employees (Oriental Land, 2013d). The company also clarifies the portrait that it seeks website. By pressing the state and portrait, it enables them to recognize what the firm seeks and what the life is like in the company. Particularly, Oriental Land (2013d) puts great value on ‘conceptualization of experiences and knowledge’, because it is essential for employees to generate new ideas, services, products and value. Moreover, in addition to delivering the company information sessions through the interment, it spends a lot of money to take place in the milk round in various regain in Japan to inform the company’s original value. Additionally, in terms of the instruction course, it has specific features as all employees can learn Disney philosophy (Oriental Land, 2013d). This activity not only attracts potential and current employees but also contributes to create new ideas, services and products which are suitable for Disney resort. Furthermore, it introduces unique enforcement of policies for employees to enhance motivation and to approach a task positively. Firstly, the system called “I have idea” that all employees are airily able to propose their own idea in terms of goods, service, foods without consideration of position and division (Oriental Land, 2013a). Second system is the “spirit of Tokyo Disney land” (Oriental Land, 2013a). This is an activity that an employee praises other employees by giving a card with message (Oriental Land, 2013a). Thirdly, “Five star program” (Oriental Land, 2013a). This is the system that a Boss writes a massage to their subordinate to appreciate (Oriental Land, 2013a). Finally, the system called “Thanks day” (Oriental Land, 2013a). After closing the theme park, board of member and company officers serve all casts as gust once a year (Oriental Land, 2013a). There is little doubt that these systems enhance its employer brand. Also, it definitely contributes to acquire and maintain competent employees and improving skills, knowledge and motivation of employees that are appropriate for its strategy. Actually, the number of visitors of the theme park is gradually increasing (Oriental Land, 2013b) though it may also be related to other factors.

Additionally, Oriental Land (2013e) is concerned about the risk that shortage of staffs may lead the reduction of service quality and failure of the business strategy. In other words, eclipse of employer brand that is essential for the firm to acquire and keep high-quality employee has a negative impact on the business strategy. From this point of view, it is easy to understand that keeping and enhancing employer brand is extremely important for organization to acquire and maintain competent employees, and to succeed the business strategy.

4. Discussion

As can be seen from these examples above shown, both Sony and Oriental Land provide employees with various kinds of opportunities, such as right benefit package, right career pass and right learning program to keep, develop, motivate and satisfy current employees. These opportunities and the real-life example of actual employees attract current employees who see in person and are essential for the business strategy, and potential employees who check the information disclosed on their webpage and in company information session, and cultivate their employer brand.

On the basis of these activities and employer branding, they invest huge amounts money in recruitment activities, and develop employer brand by clarifying people who they pursue based on their business strategies. By doing so, potential employees are able to obtain a chance to image their futures and to understand firms’ needs, also organizations are able to recruit competent people to conduct the effective business strategies. As a result, they are able to not only keep, satisfy and motivate high quality employees but also obtain high potential employees who construe, sympathize and are suitable for their business strategies.

That is to say, employer branding is designed to attract potential employees, and to acquire and keep employees, especially who have competency and fit to the business strategy. Also, it is significantly important for TMP to enhance, maintain and shape employer branding, because it enables organization to not only keep current high potential employees but also acquire competent people who are valuable for implementing the business strategy effectively in competitive labor market which is mainly generated by rapid technological change (Backhaus and Tikoo, 2004).

On the other hand, it is important to remember that collapse of employer brand may cause decrease of human resource and leakage of technologies, and lead reversal of business strategies as mentioned earlier. To avoid these situations, organizations must continue to keep and increase their employer brand because employer branding enables to actualize lower staff turnover rates (Kucherov and Zavyalova, 2012).

Incidentally, as can be seen from the examples, recruitment, coaching and development, and career management process should be consistent under employer branding because the effects for business strategy and organization objectives may be significantly different when compared to each process is treated separately (Kristin and Tikko,2004). Also, thinking about particular people for particular job and understanding importance of key employees are important to implement the business strategy (Perman, 2013b). Furthermore, it is easy to understand that employee engagement still take in vital role for firms.

5. Conclusion

This essay examined how employer branding initiative is designed to connect with the business strategy of firms and in what ways an employer brand initiative can be an important role of TMP. In summary, employer branding initiative is designed to gather and keep competent employees who are essential for implementing the effective business strategies. Also, because employer branding initiative can attract high potential people, and maintain and motivate existing employees, in particular, who have competency, it can become a vital role of TMP. On the other hand, it is strongly recommended for people who push TMP to remember that collapse of employer brand may lead the failure of the business strategy and employee engagement is still important to deal with employer brand and business strategy. However, there is a limitation that this essay does not mention payment which is one of the key to enhance employer branding, because it is confidential business information.

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