Developing a solid employer branding strategy is no easy task in itself, but companies today also have to grapple with coming up with an employer brand that resonates with candidates in specific regions and countries. Akankasha Dewan speaks with Tricia Duran, HR director for Unilever Asia, on how the company creates an overarching employer branding policy which still remains geographically relevant.

Creating a strong and effective message about your organisation, its culture, its people and its opportunities is of paramount importance for any business to attract the right talent and be successful.

But for companies to do so, they need to craft their messages and include elements in their employee value proposition which candidates from any and each country can relate to.

Developing a ‘glocal’ employer branding strategy

This is especially true for companies such as Unilever, which is a well-known brand operating in various countries.

“Unilever is a global organisation and at the end of the day, we work towards a global standard,” says Tricia Duran, HR director for Unilever Asia.

“Saying that, however, the implementation and activation of our policies are based on what works locally in terms of culture. We mainly look at what is the right thing for the right kind of organisation, and then tailor it according to the country involved.

“So we’re global and local at the same time. Almost ‘glocal’ in a way.”

Duran explains that Unilever, as a brand, stands for the company’s vision and mission – which is mainly to double its business while halving its environmental impact.

“When it comes to having an employer branding strategy, we simply need to take what Unilever stands for and then translate it according to the consumers we’re speaking to. This is because the people we intend to recruit and bring into the organisation are consumers themselves,” she says.

“Eventually, it’s really just about bringing to life what Unilever stands for, in a very Singaporean way, and tailoring it to the consumers we’re speaking to, or the talent we wish to attract.”

Speaking to consumers and candidates regarding the qualities they wish for in an employer is, but one part of the process, she explains.

After analysing what these prospective talent want, she adds her team analyses if the company can provide candidates with those exact offerings.

“What we do in Singapore is that we take the desired attributes of the employee and ask ourselves if we can resonate with those characteristics,” she says.

The FMCG company then creates programmes which informs candidates about the offerings it provides.

“For example, we segment the population we are targeting according to things like awareness about our industry and company.

“And then you have a series of activities which is just about awareness – ranging from what’s going on in the FMCG industry, to what are Unilever’s brands.

“These include informative forums to drive simple awareness, or more hands-on activities such as internship schemes or competitions.”

Unilever’s internships

One such example of how the company informs candidates about its offerings as an employer is through its internships.

Currently, Unilever has about 60 students who work with it as interns on a project for three months during the summer.

“After these students come and join us as interns, for example, they see for themselves what Unilever is about as an organisation. They tend to see Unilever in its most authentic form.

“That’s how we turn them into advocates. They go back to school and share what they have observed.

“They also go back and write on their Facebook pages, and tweet to their friends about what they have experienced while working with us.”

But the question arises whether such exposure gets risky at times, as students get to know both the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation.

Duran explains, however, the process is about dealing with high risks and high rewards.

“On the one hand, you bring students in and they see what they see, but on the other hand we’re very confident because what we put out at schools and what we advertise is genuinely who we are.

“What they learn from the internship is firstly, about our profession and about the work we do.

“But at the same time, they learn about our culture. They can determine for themselves if we are fun and friendly, if we have a sense of purpose, if we have inspiring leadership or if they think we are stable – whatever is important to them.”