Design Thinking and Employer Branding: The Intersection of Science and Creativity

February 17, 2021 • 4 min read

Design Thinking and Employer Branding: The Intersection of Science and Creativity

Thomas Reneau

Thomas Reneau

Employer branding is owned by everyone in an organisation. We can all participate, whether it’s providing reviews, helping on campaigns, collecting interviews or getting communities involved.

At Ritchie Bros., we think it’s crucial to make everyone feel part of the overarching design of our EB at the earliest stage possible. This design thinking mindset allows us to use the creative forces within our company to really understand the voice of our organisation – the underlying aim of any EB strategy.

Engaging all your people gets the best results

Employer branding is something of a science, but by using design thinking, we take a very human approach and never forget there are people behind everything we are doing.

Traditionally, organisations have always tended to control and operate with a ‘mandate mindset’. This means there’s a certain way of doing things that has to be followed to get what the stakeholders want.

At Ritchie Bros., we think it’s crucial to make everyone feel part of the overarching design of our EB at the earliest stage possible.

However, design thinking is an alternative that empowers stakeholders to have a say. Instead of just having a checklist and getting things done for different members of the team, we involve them as we’re creating the strategy. By doing this, we get all of our people engaged, not just a specific ‘EB’ team. The upshot is a far richer perspective on the messages we should be putting out there.

Let’s talk about empathy as a starting point

Before we work on crafting the EB, it’s really important to understand empathy – that is, asking yourself “Why does our branding matter to me, and every single stakeholder?” Even if a person does not officially belong to EB, they are a strong ally in the process. You have to find the right way to include them. Stanford University created something called the ‘skill of empathy’ model that we work to apply here. We can’t just think about the end goal of what we’re trying to do – we have to think about it from an emotional angle and how people’s perspectives differ depending on the area of the company they’re in.

We get all of our people engaged, not just a specific ‘EB’ team.

For example, the HR team has a very specific idea of what EB should be based around people and processes, while marketing and communications is thinking about brand guidelines and how these shape what we do on social media etc. It’s very important to put yourself in everyone’s shoes, so you can launch a campaign that is representative of all of their experiences of the company and the considerations that are important to each area.

Then, collaboration really comes into play

The process of EB can be very engaging for people in the organisation. We have graphic designers, marketing teams, social media experts and so on using the data we give them to unleash their superpowers and deliver something that really feels right. Then we’re getting input from the leadership team, candidates and other employees to see what resonates and what doesn’t.

It’s crucial to put people in a slightly uncomfortable zone where they tell you what they really think. Get them to push back. We want the naysayers, because that’s what gets us thinking outside of the box. The more we test, the more we understand the ruts we’re in and how to get out of them.

It’s crucial to put people in a slightly uncomfortable zone where they tell you what they really think.

Collaboration throughout this process isn’t a peaceful campfire where people just relax and go with the flow. It’s about daring to ask the right questions so we can evolve. We’re creating as a team, where we start to test and start to launch, then review, retest, relaunch and review again. It’s a constant feedback loop.

Combining science with creativity at Ritchie Bros.

Ultimately, everything we do in employer branding is based on data. Once we have the facts, we can think about creative ways we can deliver on the ROI.

Involving every stakeholder is the key to creating the best employer branding story.

A concrete example of this intersection at Ritchie Bros. is our use of analytics and internal focus groups. We looked at some simple metrics (for example, the engagement score) and thought about what their ideal state would be and where we wanted to be next year. For instance, our financing team had some good numbers, but we wanted higher numbers, specifically around attraction. That was the scientific part: we had to be very specific.

Then we talked to the leadership team, employees and our competitors, and combined all three to get a potential Employer Brand Proposition. We could be more creative, because at this point we knew our application drivers, what we were trying to say, our core messages and the language we were going to use.

Testing told us that the market was very different from what we were expecting, so we kept testing until we got the results that were best for our organisation. Once we got to the very end and saw the results coming our way, we communicated with the whole team and shared the success.

The bottom line is it’s important for every department to be a part of your employer branding strategy. Everyone has a completely different perspective, and that is an advantage. Involving every stakeholder is the key to creating the best employer branding story.

About the author: Thomas is passionate about human interactions and applying design-thinking at work in Employer Branding but also in life. He works alongside Talent Acquisition and stakeholders to attract, retain and engage talent through various programs and events. Through his work at Ritchie Bros, Thomas strives to co-create and disrupt the system, (re)set the goals and innovate.