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How to Build a Winning Employer Brand: The Case of Siemens

Background

 

Siemens AG is a German conglomerate company with headquarters in Munich and Berlin. It is the largest European industrial manufacturing company with international branch offices. Industry, Energy, Healthcare, and Infrastructure & Cities are the principal divisions of the company that reflect its main activities. Besides, Siemens is a leading producer of medical diagnostics equipment, such as magnetic resonance imaging systems and computed tomography, as well as the leader in laboratory diagnostics and clinical IT. After the industrial automation division, medical healthcare division is its second-most profitable unit. The company and its subsidiaries employ around 351,000 people worldwide. In 2017 Siemens recorded global revenue of around €83 billion.

 

Today, Siemens is the eighth most popular employer in the IT and engineering divisions in the world, and sixth in Germany. Rosa Riera, Vice-President Employer Branding and Social Innovation at Siemens, states that the goal is to move into the top five and pass large companies like IBM and Intel (Fröndhoff & Höpner, 2017). Riera adds:

 

“We were convinced that we still have a great offering for the labour market - as our products make a true impact on society as a whole and help many people. The effects our solutions had were enormous, but the talent market was not aware of this. In the past we didn’t manage to convey this effectively in our storytelling. We want to change this moving forward” (Universum 2018, p.3).

 

Why is This Topic Relevant?

 

To attract the best talent is getting even more difficult and many companies want to improve their image as an employer (Cappelli, 2015). Companies understand that today people give considerable importance to job satisfaction and inspiring work environment where they can thrive and develop their competencies. At the same time, there has been a lack of skilled and educated employees worldwide, especially in Germany (DW, 2017). Thus, employer branding has become one of the top priorities for many companies.

 

‘Future Makers’ Campaign

 

In the scope of the ‘Future Makers’ campaign, Siemens wanted to highlight how engineers could contribute to the progress of current employees and candidates. The company’s employees are the key to a strong and reliable employer brand – the key ingredient for finding out what the company and work mean to its employees.  Riera argues that the internal environment has more weight than what is being presented to the outside. The company’s reputation is more dependent on the employees and what they are communicating to the outside world, especially through social media networks.

 

Research & Findings about Data

 

First, Siemens worked with an employer branding consultancy Universum on research to understand what the market thought about the company. For instance, it was important for Siemens to understand what engineering students thought about them and which values they associated with the company. The next step in the research was to get an insight about the internal perception of Siemens. In total, 700 people from seven key markets (the UK, Germany, India, China, the Middle East, the US and Brazil) took part in focus groups and shared their opinions and feelings about their employer. The research identified three key opportunities (Kemp, 2017):

 

·     there were few companies with such an international and diverse workforce;
·    there were few companies doing such important work (for example, transport networks and automating cities);
·     Siemens was already employing 351,000 people who were ‘building the future’ but their story was not shared.

 

Objectives

 

Based on these data and insights, Siemens set the following objectives:

 

·    raise awareness among its employees about the company’s mission;
·    raise awareness among its employees about the company’s culture and values;
·    attract external candidates to the Siemens’ Careers & Jobs website;
·    create a Medium blog dedicated to the ‘Future Makers’ campaign.

 

Strategy

 

Siemens has a reputation for being old-fashioned, conservative and lacking innovation among both current and prospective employees. The company’s communication department realised that they should present Siemens as young, diverse, vibrant and attractive to existing and new talent, and to adopt a more inclusive approach. To create their global employer rebranding strategy and activation, Siemens appointed R/GA London agency which helped them design the ‘Future Makers’ campaign and identify its main goal - to position Siemens as an innovative and modern employer, and help the company start a digital transformation journey (Synergy 2017, p.12). The company also decided to lay a special emphasis on its people and their stories, and show how they are shaping the future at Siemens. According to the information on the campaign’s Medium blog:

 

“By telling these stories we are not only shining light on the ground-breaking work and opportunities available at Siemens but also creating a large volume of snackable digital, mobile and social content assets that are available to be used and shared in all markets. This perpetual approach to ‘people first’ story content is designed to inspire, educate and promote conversation both inside and outside the business and to drive consideration of Siemens as the ‘employer of choice’” (Future Makers, 2018).

 

Implementation

 

A traditional approach with posters and flyers was not on the agenda of the Siemens public relations and communication professionals. The campaign focused on innovation and digitalisation because many companies are working in this direction and their targeted audiences – current and prospective employees, especially younger generation – are accustomed to working in a digital and fast-paced environment. As a result, Siemens pushed towards digitalisation to intensify their employer branding efforts to meet culture and talent expectations.

 

They started out by changing the hierarchy of their brand colours, making things more colourful and cheerful, and less conservative and cold (Figure 1). Next, they created an app ‘Siemens 360°’ that gives current and new employees a chance to explore the world of Siemens by highlighting real employee stories from around the world (Figure 2). The app came preloaded with six stories filmed in a virtual reality format.  The idea was to reinforce internal cooperation and help attract new talent by showing inspiring stories about unknown colleagues in a 360-degree format. Every employee in the company’s international divisions received cardboard glasses which they could use to watch the movies. Also, at events and trade shows potential applicants received the glasses, plugged into a cell phone, so they could get an understanding of how it feels to work at Siemens. 

Figure 1: Logo of the ‘Future Makers’ (Siemens AG 2017)
Figure 1: Logo of the ‘Future Makers’ (Siemens AG 2017)
Figure 2 : Siemens 360°, iPhone Screenshots (2017 Siemens AG)
Figure 2 : Siemens 360°, iPhone Screenshots (2017 Siemens AG)

 

Apart from creating a vivid logo and the app, they also set up a Medium blog showcasing employees’ stories from around the world working in different divisions of the company. Medium blog acts as a carefully curated ecosystem for all ‘Future Makers’ stories and highlights diverse roles at Siemens. Posts are published on the blog weekly and republished on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Siemens.com. Siemens focus on the people and their stories, as well as on their contribution to the company. The note from the editor on the Medium blog states that:

 

“When our founder Werner von Siemens first scribbled down his electrical inventions in the 1800s, he couldn’t have known the impact his company was about to have on the world. More than 170 years later, we owe a lot to one individual. But we are also exceptionally proud to employ 351,000 of the world’s brightest minds who continue to create and progress ground-breaking products that shape the world we live in. That’s where Future Makers comes in. From helping to find the cure for cancer, to creating International Space Station windows, to teaching IT to thousands of young engineers in Mumbai, our people share what it’s really like to work with us. This is their platform, their voice, their story” (Future Makers, 2018).

 

Evaluation

 

The results of the campaign were the following:

 

·    99% of employees said that they felt more connected to the business and its overall mission;
·    98% of employees stressed that now they understood more about the company, its culture and values;

·    98% of employees said that they felt more engaged at work;
·    Siemens’ Careers & Jobs portal saw a 55% Month-on-Month increase in visits, and a 67% increase in average time spent on the Siemens Careers & Jobs website;
·    Medium ‘Future Makers’ blog received more than 100k views.

 

The new approach of an employee-led discussions helped Siemens attract, keep and develop the best talent. A warmer attitude within the business with traditional structures and conservative thinking, highlighted the importance of employees and their stories to the company.  As a result, Siemens managed to build a new environment where every single employee has a voice and takes part in the culture of conversation. Rosa Riera claims that “we are a global company, but we have leant on local employees and filmed different films for each region. People need to see themselves to really connect with the story” (Kemp, 2017).

 

Assessment and Management of Risk

 

The main concern with the ‘Future Makers’ campaign is that the company has to keep its promises made during campaign’s implementation. It would be frustrating both for the new employees and the company if, after experiencing a nice virtual Siemens reality, employees find themselves in a bureaucratic environment with long processes and traditional management structures. Riera stresses that talented young people enjoy autonomy and flat hierarchies, and that they prefer to work on interesting projects during which they can realise their ideas.

 

According to research carried out by Glassdoor, an employment website where former, current or potential employees can anonymously rate their companies, a company’s values and culture do more to reinforce its reputation as a prospective employer (Bersin, 2017). The study shows that, apart from salary and benefits, employees stress investment in leadership, company culture and employee development when deciding whether to recommend their company as a rewarding place to work.  Also, many employees strive for a job from which they could draw value and meaning. In particular, employees under the age of 35 see ‘career opportunities’ as the main driver of employment brand. For them, the ability to progress and grow in their job is the top driver of job satisfaction and future earnings. Therefore, companies that develop and keep a culture of learning and career growth are bound to succeed in innovation, long-term growth and employee retention. Also, they will outperform their peers that refuse to adapt.

 

Thus, Siemens should develop and carry out specific procedures and processes that correspond to what they have communicated in their ‘Future Makers’ campaign to avoid a sudden crisis and reputation damage. Being a large company with multiple divisions across the globe, it is important to coordinate efforts and make sure that both the employer and the employees understand where they stand and where they are going.

 

Recommendations for Improvement

 

Based on the research and evaluation of the ‘Future Makers’ campaign, the following guidelines for the campaign’s improvement are recommended:

 

·    Set SMART objectives – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound – because they lead to better measurement of outcomes. The more specific the objectives are, the easier it is to prove success of the campaign. The campaign is ongoing but it is vital to establish a specific time frame within which the outcomes will be measured.


·    Siemens has offices in multiple locations where employees have different cultural background and different approach to work. Thus, it is important to set the objectives having in mind the cultural aspect and evaluate the outcomes accordingly. Besides, inputs and outputs should also be considered from this perspective.


·    As a result of the campaign, current employees have changed their attitude towards Siemens – now they understand its values and culture better. However, nothing has been said about potential employees and candidates – do they understand the company’s culture, values, mission and vision? This topic would require a separate research. In this way the company will know who their potential employees are, what they think about the company and work environment, as well as the application procedure, interview and the overall recruitment process.


·    Medium blog was set up to raise brand’s awareness among current and prospective employees. In the evaluation phase of this activity more specific social media metrics should be used. For example, likes, shares, and comments – to understand if this content struck a chord with the readers. Tracking exposure, engagement, influence and action would also be beneficial. Views of the blog are not enough because they do not reveal anything about audiences’ behaviour.


·    Apart from the blog, it is important to do social media listening and note what is being said about the campaign, if anything at all. Besides, goals and outcomes should be set, quality and quantity should be evaluated, content should be analysed.


·    Sending press releases to relevant journalists could be in place for raising awareness about the campaign and Siemens as the ‘employer of choice’. During the campaign the company did not work with the media and as a result did not carry out media evaluation.


·    Above all, PR professionals should use transparent evaluation methods to show employees and clients where the data has come from and how it has been analysed.

 


 

Article written by Liudmila Kazak

 

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