Human Capital - November 1998.

Shooting yourself at the foot
T. Muralidharan

Value-oriented marketing is all about your brands delivering what they promise to deliver, and nothing short of whatever that promise is", says management guru, Philip Kotler in a recent interview with The Economic Times.

In a country like India, which has the second largest population of brands in the world, advertisers often build up brand expectations. But do not always deliver the brand promise, shooting themselves in the foot! Losing the confidence of the customer forever. Why does this happen? The company tends to forget that the force behind the brand is the 'people' - those who manufacture, distribute and market products or services of the company. It does not focus on retaining the best talent. And, more importantly, picking the right talent.

The Good Employer Proposition

Years of experience in the recruitment business has made us realise that employee expectations have changed enormously, making it increasingly important to attract the 'right' kind of employee. Someone who is on the same wavelength as your company, who will fit in with the work culture. To ensure this 'fitment', we at TMI have evolved the concept of a Good Employer Proposition (GEP).

The closest analogy to the G EP is the USP in product advertising. While a USP answers the query, "Why buy me?", the GEP clarifies the all-important issue, "Why work for me?". A USP can be emotive and appealing to the senses, but a GEP must be factual, conveying the real strengths and lesser known facts about a company. This helps in eliciting a response from the 'right' kind of people. And weeding out the misfits at an early stage, thereby reducing the prospective employee's disappointment in the work ethos of the company.

In short, GEP helps to get the right guy in, and keep the wrong guy out.

Four dimensions of GEP

While evolving your GEP, it is important to understand what the prospective employee is looking for. And what aspects of your company are likely to appeal to him. At TMI, we have found that achievers evaluate employers and job opportunities on four basic dimensions.

  • Total compensation and benefits - This could translate in terms of "money today", "money tomorrow", acquisition of wealth (stock options etc.) and other intangibles.
  • Work culture of the company - Orientation of the company (system-driven or process driven), type of peer group, level of team spirit and extent of empowerment.
  • Future prospects - Whether hierarchical structure in the company, frequency of promotions and scope for growth within the company match the achiever's career plans. Future plans of company are also very relevant.
  • Job security and company reputation - ­Many companies may score high on these parameters but fail to impress when it comes to job security.

When evaluated on these four parameters, companies could rate either high or low. A mind-boggling number of permutations are possible. Making it easy for organisations to establish an identity that is distinct from its competition. Positioning the company uniquely and truthfully, in an endeavour to attract employees who are in sync with their ethos and work culture. When the company changes with time, the GEP will have to be suitably altered.

To illustrate the GEP, I would like to share some real-life examples. An employee of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) stands to increase his market worth manifold if he works for the firm for about 3-5 years because of the learning opportunities that the firm offers. So the GEP for TCS would be that it increases an employee's market value through learning opportunities.

My tenure at NOCIL has given me an insight into how a company could be perceived as a good employer by two totally disparate target groups. The non-supervisory staff were attracted by the handsome salaries. Managerial staff found it valuable to join the organisation because of the peaceful and stable environment that allowed individuals operational freedom.

Guidelines for formulating a GEP

Why make a GEP? The job change decision is extremely critical since it will require the employee to of his life. An achiever who is comfortable in his present job will require very strong motivation to take that decision. A G EP is a corporate's response to a potential employee's question: "Why should I join you?" Your GEP should talk about your company from the employee's standpoint, and highlight your strengths as an employer. A powerful GEP could convince the achiever that your frequency matches his. And entice him into joining your organisation.

Formulating a GEP ensures that the recruitment message conveys appeal only to the right kind of people. This prevents painful mismatches. And saves your organisation the annoying experience of associating with misfits who create a retention problem. Something that companies cannot afford given the high cost of recruiting quality people.

Understanding employee expectations. An employee expects his employer to meet his needs. But it is unlikely that you may live up to all his expectations. However, if you match some key needs and are honest about your shortcomings in other areas, half the battle is won. Once the GEP explains your work culture and other facets of your organisation, prospective employees will be able to decide whether they will fit in. And then take a critical career decision.

GEP - unique vis-a-vis competition. GEP is not a simple extension of your product USP. Nor is it just an inflated account of the size of your markets, your foreign collaborators, or your company turnover. It is an honest account of what propels your organisation. And what generates pride of association in your employees. Identify one aspect (of interest to your target audience) that distinguishes you from your competitors. Make that the core theme of your GEP.

How to formulate a GEP. To formulate your GEP, glean information about your industry and competitors. Conduct a Perception Survey about your company's image in the market across various functional segments. Interact with existing employees to understand how they perceive the company and quiz ex – employees about their reasons for leaving the organisation. Finally, create your GEP along the guidelines discussed above.

Budget for your GEP. If your organisation is convinced that brand disappointment can be prevented by improving the quality of the professionals behind the brand, then you should seriously consider formulating a GRP budget for the organisation. It is advisable to set aside about 10% of your total advertising budget for this purpose.

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