Q&A: Paul Turner: “Employees are looking for emotional engagement, not just a transactional arrangement”

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 4 May 2016

Havas People's regional director for MENA talks about the essential building blocks for strong employer branding

Paul TurnerOrganisations in the UAE face a stiff challenge trying to engage talent from diverse backgrounds. Paul Turner, regional director for MENA at Havas People, spoke to People Management about how to create an effective brand that will engage all employees – regardless of age or culture.

What is talent in the UAE looking for in an employer?
It really depends which talent segment we are considering. The expat population is still, to a large extent, motivated by lifestyle and material benefits. However, the younger Emirati audience is harder to connect with. Employers need to reach out to them through channels they may not be comfortable with, such as social media, smartphone apps and video. This generation is also looking for careers with purpose, and to work for brands they can identify with. They’re looking for an emotional engagement, not just a transactional arrangement.
 
How do you advise employers to create their brand?
Our methodology is based on four key strands: research; creative execution; communication; and measurement.
 
Our research involves talking to people at every level of the organisation to build up a picture of their motivations, their aspirations, their inspirations and their frustrations. We also look at what’s happening in the wider marketplace amongst competitor organisations.
 
Then we get creative; we devise ‘brand pillars’ and a key message, or proposition, which will inform all subsequent communications both for internal and external audiences. The proposition not only has to have an aspirational aspect. We also want to create an emotional engagement with the brand. As part of this process, we will create a ‘brand toolkit’ and will start to work on ensuring the brand is consistent and engaging – for example, the careers website, recruitment literature, recruitment advertisements and so on.
 
Communication is the key element of a successful employer brand project. We need to make sure existing employees recognise and buy into the proposition. Our roll-out programmes aim to communicate the core messages, embed them within our audiences and ultimately create brand ambassadors.
 
Finally, we analyse the results through measurements such as improved employee engagement scores; reduced cost-per-hire; lower attrition rates; higher social media penetration; and achievement of business objectives.
 
How can organisations make sure that their employees believe in their brand?
Companies need to involve their employees in the process. Without their participation, they won’t feel that emotional engagement that is essential for the creation of brand ambassadors. Employer branding used to be more transactional in nature – the ‘what’s in it for me’ scenario. Now it’s all about how my employer makes me feel. It’s a significant shift!
 
Research by Employer Brand International shows a shift in employer brand strategy ownership away from HR over the past five years. Should HR be managing the employer brand?
The number of stakeholders in employer brand strategy has increased. However, HR should be a key stakeholder and is an important player when it comes to a business achieving bottom-line objectives, delivered through an engaged and committed workforce.