Employer Branding: Why Emotional Connections Matter

by Charly Newton-Coombs

Shuffling from one foot to the other, I stood in anticipation at the top of the stairs looking out onto the rows of chairs, the empty stage area, and the Network HR logo beaming up on the wall.

It was 5.45pm – 15 minutes until show time, and I began to flick through the mental checklist to make sure everything was in place. Attendees confirmed – check! Guest speakers on site – check! Wine and canapés at the ready – check! We were good to go.

Having joined the Network HR team in late 2016, what captured me the most and made my decision to join the business unquestionable was the desire to become even more immersed into the HR market, providing much more to its candidates and clients than the standard recruitment process and being seen as a true ambassador within the HR sector. Part of the plan was the ownership of 4 networking events throughout the year. These events would attract and interest some of the most sought after HR professionals in the UK and build Network HR’s reputation as a true partner to its candidates and clients.

The countdown to anything you are passionate about tends to be a mix of emotions and for me, the time between 5.45pm and 6pm was certainly that! Anxiety – will people turn up? Worry – have we done enough? Happiness – the room looks amazing! Excitement – I can’t wait to get started!  And then it happened, the doors swung open and in walked the first guest – a familiar face. Then, in what felt like seconds, the room began to fill, wine was being served and the sound of conversation created a buzzing atmosphere. PHEW!

On Wednesday 22nd March 2017, Network HR partnered with Publicis UK to hold an evening of insightful discussion around ‘Employer Branding’ with some of the UK’s leading HR practitioners. Guest speakers Jason Franks – CEO of MSL Group UK and Tom Baker – Global Head of Resourcing for Imperial Brands PLC took to the stage to share their thoughts around the subject along with some eye opening facts and figures and the honest truth about attracting talent in an often frowned upon industry.

Jason was the first of the two speakers to stand in front of our audience and deliver his thoughts on employer branding.  MSL Group PLC, a strategic communications and engagement company that sits as part of the Publicis Group prides itself on creating value for its clients by linking the power to make themselves heard (through engagement) with the power to convince (through relevance).

As you can imagine, employer branding runs through the veins of Jason who oozed passion when he spoke about his clients, the challenging yet successful campaigns they had led and some eye opening facts and figures around the present generation X and the future of generation Z.  It was obvious that Jason had engaged his audience as I could see many a head nodding in agreement, taking pictures of slides and jotting things down into a notepad. Jason filled his 30 minutes with ideas on engagement, changes that are happening in the work place and what needs to be done moving forward to keep up and stand out!

Next the audience saw Tom Baker stand up to introduce himself. Tom has been a part of the Global Talent Acquisition team for the business predominantly known for manufacturing tobacco products for almost 3 years and delivered what could only be described as the honest truth behind what it often comes down to when attracting talent into an industry highly frowned upon by some!

Imperial Brands are a FTSE Top 20 business employing over 34,000 employees globally inclusive of 5 generations across its workforce and Tom stood bold, unknowing of the thoughts and opinions of his onlookers towards the tarnished ‘tobacco sector’ and unveiled some of the mistakes the business has made along the way, some of the many hurdles they have climbed but essentially how they have handled change to attract and retain each generation over the years and battle against external environments and perception. The thoughts on the sector itself were mixed but nothing but positive feedback was delivered from our guests towards Tom himself and the way he spoke out about his experiences.

The night itself finished on a high with the Q&A session delivering some interesting and often direct questions from the crowd to both Jason and Frank with them bouncing off one another along with the energy that was now circulating the room to round of a hugely successful event and discussion around the hot topic.

As the end of the night approached, the wine had been drank and the canapés eaten, our guests began to set off home (and some to the pub) but not before delivering the warmest of thanks and gratitude coupled with amazing and constructive feedback towards Network HR’s first event.

For me, I left the night on a complete high, full to the brim with information to take back to the office the next day and use in my own self branding activities along with the greatest sense of pride. We did it! We brought together a group of senior HR individuals on an invitation only basis, partnered with global communication giants Publicis UK at their UK headquarters on Baker Street and stirred up conversations across various industry sectors on a topic set to transform many businesses over the coming year.

I am proud to be a part of a business that truly values the relationship it has with its existing employees, the talent it is attracting for the future and its clients/candidates. It is easy to be an ambassador of a company’s values when you believe in the brand and the morals of people around you! Joining the team here at Network HR and building my own personal brand as a Specialist HR Recruiter for the Technology & Media sectors has been nothing but positive and I hope to continue to connect with individuals in the space moving forward.

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