How do you build a global employer brand for 120,000, in 26 different countries? We recently had a chat with Catalina Schveninger who is the Global Head of Resourcing and Employer Brand at British telecoms giant Vodafone.
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What are Vodafone’s talent challenges as a global company?
Vodafone gained organic growth due to where this industry is right now, but also through a lot of acquisitions. Challenges come from integrating, creating one culture across, but still being very respectful of our local roots. Our CEO is a big believer in “acquire companies and let them do what they’re good at, also be very respectful of local customs, local culture.”
In that perspective, from an employer brand, and from an HR practice perspective, we are a federated company. The way we work is we spot best practices, we pilot different things, and then we co-create to work together with markets. So we are very different from more centralized companies where let’s say, staff strategy is fabricated at the centre and then is rolled out everywhere. That’s what makes the challenges, but also makes us more interesting, and gives us an opportunity to really look at things critically from a global perspective. For example, when you roll out an employer brand you look at, “Will it work, will it be relevant to our employees in the front line in India, as much as for our B2B folks in Germany?”. My colleagues across the world are more talented than me, and know their customer and candidate base much better. They helped us shape that.
How do you activate your recruitment marketing?
The focus in the beginning was, “Let’s bottle our key messages and give them in the hands of local markets so that they can create their content that will drive engagement locally.” Italy was one of the best examples when they completely reshuffled the whole of their website and their candidate experience. They’ve done an amazing job in digital. They also work very closely with our care team. Imagine you are on the call with your call centre, even they were trained on talking about the employer brand. So getting really into all the digital touch points across all channels.
In India, where we have over 500 offices, we focused more around physical assets. They even had banners on highways. I was so impressed when I went to Mumbai, and on the highway, I would see a banner with our employer brand. The ultimate compliments and deployment was in Germany when we even used our employer brand claim in an advert. That was fantastic.
As we evolved, we’ve become very famous for what we’re doing in the diversity space. And now, a lot of the great stories around the employer brand and inclusiveness are coming, especially in the digital and video content. We had a couple of award-winning videos around LGBT, and around the very diverse group of people at Vodafone from all parts of the world, as well as from different ages. So a lot of focus has been to build more brand consideration and awareness around the diversity space.
What I particularly like is that the feedback has been from my colleagues on employer brand. It’s so broad that you can actually be very creative, and build your own proof points. It’s not limiting because we have different proof points, and you can build a lot of great engaging content that talks to different audiences. There’s not a “one size fits all”. Your proposition for front line is different from our proposition for graduates, or for women later in their careers. So it gives you a lot of options to be adapting it in different segments in different markets.
I’m particularly proud of countries where we’ve looked at every touch point. Not just a nice and shiny content you put on social, but also how you engage with candidates. How you send an email when you’re declining a candidate, which we believe is a very critical moment that also has to be very branded.
#VodafoneLive is the hashtag you use?
#VodafoneLive is the hashtag that they use in the UK. We never said ‘you have to have a hashtag that trends’ because in the end we want to keep it authentic. We’re seeing that our own employees are using #AtMyBest or #AtYourBest, especially when they are sharing stuff that they’re proud of. And that’s what we feel is the global hashtag. My role is to set guidance and head good practices, but we never said, “please go and trend on this hashtag.” Different countries like UK have chosen a different one, but we’re seeing that #AtMyBest and #AtYourBest picked up.
— Marisol Galindo (@MarissolG) November 29, 2016
What hard lessons can you share?
One of the hardest lessons that we underestimated initially is it takes a lot of work and a lot of time to build your brand and bring it alive across all touch points. You are only kidding yourself if you think “I’ve re-branded the website, and I’ve created a couple of videos, and off you go”. We took the long-term journey. So we took about six months until we had everybody bring all their assets up to speed. But then we looked across all touch points; our learning and development, content, and everything that went externally.
One lesson learned there is to have a very clear view, and a list of all the touch points in advance, and don’t limit just the window-shopping bits where people immediately go on your website, or go on your LinkedIn page. In a company like ours with such a broad global presence, with so many touch points, and so many people involved, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’re very cautious about that, now that we’re looking again at the branding, giving it a fresh view to go through the same journey again and make sure that we don’t miss out.
Like messaging in our applicant tracking system. Some of the applicant tracking systems are better than others. It took us forever to embed new messaging into ours. So nine months later we were still sending boring messages. That’s one example where you can fall short, in sending incongruent messaging. Co-creation was a highlight in the beginning, involving people from different countries. They come from a different perspective and saved us a lot of hassle later. We felt that they owned it.
Connect with Catalina on Twitter at @CSchveninger.