To get a Canadian perspective on the world of employer branding, we sat down with Estela Vazquez Perez to understand the approach she has taken to help maintain Royal Bank of Canada’s high performance culture.

Have a listen our chat below or read on if you want a full summary of our conversation, and don’t forget to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.

In this fantastic company, what could possibly be your talent challenges?

When I took the job I was thinking, “Well, you know, I’m seeing these stats and the grass is green, so what are we going to fix?” The challenge was about sustaining high performance and engaging people. You can’t sleep and hope that everything continues. So, personally, day-to-day, I need to work on differentiating the organisation. That’s a hard thing to do because we have very strong banks in Canada. So, in terms of differentiating, we need to have a good way of communicating and having a clear vision of the future, and also compelling career propositions.

So that was a challenge for me and with that being said, the job gets very interesting when you can bring this to life through people’s beliefs and presenting that value proposition. Specifically with talent challenges, like many, it’s about attracting and retaining tech talent, that would be number one. Two would be including youth in the conversation of co-creating the future and the last one, if you split from youth or tech talent just in general, we need to hire people with the right attitude. I’m trying to move beyond what skill set you to need to work in a company. Everybody’s getting ready for that and developing the skills, but finding the right attitude is tough. It’s hard to select.

So, those are my three focus areas for now. Key challenges that just don’t go away and I think they’re going to be stronger. This is not just for the future of this company, but this is for the future of Canada in general, the world, right?

How does your work with employment brand address any of these challenges?

Multiple ways but I’ll mention three. One that I’m working on right now is our employment brand content strategy, and this is to show cool things happening at RBC. So, people have these ideas of what the bank is like, but then we show them that we have all these amazing aspects. We are very good at connecting personal aspirations to our collective ambition, and then we’re also transforming culture and driving the future of banking. The greatest technologies sometimes get invented right here and we’re helping people in other parts of the world to keep things safe for our clients.

Although, sometimes just story-telling is not good enough. You have to show people how that happens, for example how a young intern might come in and became a part of this great technology that we now have patented. So, we’re working on that. That’s one part of doing it. Another part is a good strong employee brand platform. So, we design employee experiences to connect hearts and minds so people deepen their understanding of why we are here, why we exist, and why we’re in this company. That’s a good selection tool and, at the same time, an attraction tool. But then we need to connect them to what’s in it for them, to have exceptional experiences that give them a good life, and they can continue to be with us.

The third point will be to amplify the strategy and action in a digital way. This is really about enabling. Enabling marketing communications, change management, human resources, to bring these conversations to life in the digital platforms that are available. You can say maybe your career site, maybe your Instagram account, maybe our Twitter account. So, we have experts managing those channels and I bring that integration to have a story that makes sense and that it’s the same across those channels.

Can you tell us what’s inside this employer brand platform?

So in order to make sense, if you think of these strong strategies across the organisation, in spite of business lines and across the world, you have to ask; how do we bring them together? So we needed a strong employment brand platform which includes our value proposition and our creative expression. This is particularly difficult in a large matrix organisation like ours, so we’re going through constant transformation.

I’m actually really proud of the focus we give on humanity. Our core message is, “We believe in people and the power of their dreams. It begins with yours.” And our line is, “Build new futures for you, for our clients and your communities.”

So that’s our proposal. Just join us to build that new future that is going to be better for all, but it starts with you. Then we have key pillars to demonstrate how we make that happen. This is especially important because it moves your teams from thinking only marketing and communication towards into saying, “Am I delivering the experience that is going to help me retain this talent?” and that connects to what recruitment say, which is “I’m promising to deliver this when you join us.”

This platform is very sharp in saying, “What is the kind of talent that we need for the future? What is the kind of talent that is going to take this organisation into the future?” So the platform is going to bring out very pointed personas that we are going to target and you can opt in to be one of them or opt in to develop into be one of them, personas such as a partner, a leader, a maker, an optimist, and we have clear descriptions of them. So I guess this is very important to even the operations of the organisation before you go out and story-tell.

Then we needed to know how well are we doing with these stories and how well are we doing with the value proposition, and how people are taking it and is it credible or not? So, aligned to that, we developed an employment brand index to tell us our health and our relationship strength of the relationship with the talent market. So this informs how much you need to invest, either in awareness, in building familiarity or maybe on fixing the experience or even helping people endorse the organisation. So it’s a good compass to tell us where we should put our dollars to make the best changes.

In terms of ROI, have you got any results that you can share with us?

We have a good position, so I’ll tell you about our results here in Canada:

Glassdoor have also named us as a great place to work, and named our CEO as one of the top CEO’s on their website. He’s very liked and very much approved. That made a big change in some target markets, as we had a tough time with that before. As you can see we have gotten great results, but in terms of my own result and what is my talent; this year we increased our ideal employer ranking with students in technology. That’s one of our big challenges, so advancing 25 points in one year, it’s just so many people being part of this success. It’s tough to say 25 points in financial services for top tech talent.

What companies are doing it right?

I like companies that show what they’re doing. I think if you marry the cool products that you are making with actually taking care of people and talent. I like the way IBM is doing it. They come and show you their products, but at the same time you can see the calibre of people delivering. They have a very integrated platform, they have a consistent look and feel and they are also showcasing cool products.

We are very interested in new technologies, such artificial intelligence, data scientists, electrics, and all that. Who’s doing a good thing, in my own view, are all these teams in Formula 1 and Formula E. I don’t know if they realize but by driving progress for humankind, they’re making such a big difference and their attracting talent to themselves. Whether or not they have an employee brand strategy, I think they’re doing the right thing with their products and their purpose. Now we just have to learn to balance taking care of talents, anyways I just admire those two companies and industries.

If we look into the crystal ball, what would you say is the next big thing for employment brand?

Well I guess people already understand that employment brand is important. So I guess you have to make it real. Human resources need to step up the sponsorship of their employment brand, by increasing budgets and partnerships. I hear a lot of the people on your podcast still kind of justifying why they’re there. So that’s one thing. Human resources really needs to step it up. I mean, the brand teams already understood that employees are their best advocates to bring their products out, but human resources needs to grab that handle.

The other part is that employer branding is not for recruitment only. Employer branding is for cultural transformation and I’ve been driving this transformation for the past 10 years. We really need to move in that wagon. We can’t stay behind hiding in the recruitment teams. If you want to be an employment brand strategist, you really need to go out and advocate for people in the entire organization, not just storytelling about them but clearly establishing and helping drive that transformation.

Connect with Estela on LinkedIn.

About Jörgen Sundberg

Founder of Undercover Recruiter, CEO of Link Humans and host of the weekly Employer Branding Podcast.

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