Employer Branding Is a Team Sport: 4 Leaders at Canva Tell Us Why

February 1, 2022 • 6 min read

Employer Branding Is a Team Sport: 4 Leaders at Canva Tell Us Why

We’d noticed that the employer branding profession is still widely misunderstood, and business appreciation of the impact it can have is highly varied. By talking to leaders around the world we realised the employer brand community is significant, over 15,000 globally, but still it’s highly fragmented. Industry education has mainly been driven by vendors, and internal practitioners don’t always make the time (or have the platform) to share and benchmark their practices. We wondered if there was a way to strengthen the global community and raise the understanding of employer branding - at a business level. So we decided to start Employer Brandwagon, Would you like to be a part of our online community? To become an Employer Brandwagon Contributor sign up on our community page.

As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child”, and that sentiment can very much be applied to employer branding too. Bringing (quality) life to your employer brand (EB) is just as much of a team effort! 

You can tackle employer branding in a number of ways, and focus your gaze on priorities that match your unique business needs. But whatever your strategy, there’s one thing you should always do, and that is to view it as an exercise in collaboration. 

Amongst the key imperatives of a successful employer brand is consistency, and to achieve that, you have to make sure that all stakeholders – from internal departments to individual employees to leadership – are working together effectively. 

We asked four department heads from Canva to tell us how their role fits into Canva’s employer branding puzzle.

Charlotte Anderson, Talent Brand Lead

Why is employer brand important?

So many people think that the employer brand is about how you speak with candidates, but what I personally love about it is how holistic it is. It represents every experience that both candidates and employers have with your company. 

Employer brand plays a pivotal role in defining the employee experience. Working in this area enables you to develop the experience, language, culture and messaging, and then share that with others in a way that resonates with them. It’s a way for you to bring your values, your team and your opportunities to life through creativity and storytelling. 

Who should care about employer branding?

It sounds cliche, but everyone should care about employer branding to an extent. 

As a candidate, you should be looking at your potential employer’s brand and asking yourself: is this a company whose values align with mine? If you work in marketing or communications: does the employer brand align with the wider company messaging? If you’re in TA: is the employer brand helping to solve your recruitment challenges? 

There are so many ways to look at it and I think that’s why there’s the constant question of where employer brand should sit within an organisation. As employer brand functions build out and become more mature, senior stakeholders should certainly be actively looking at it too, and understanding how it’s supporting hiring efforts and what role it is playing in the candidate experience. 

How would you like your EB team to evolve, moving forward?

At the time of writing, our team at Canva is a team of one (me!) but I work incredibly closely with TA, Comms, Social, People and Brand on a daily basis to make things happen. Next year, our team will hopefully expand and we’ll have SMEs working across the team with different skill sets and areas of focus to achieve our crazy big goals.

I’d love to build out my team to reflect the same structure as a marketing team. I find it amazing that employer brand SMEs are marketing generalists and can do a little bit of everything, with the ability to think strategically and action effectively. However, if you really want to take your employer brand to the next level, having someone who specialises in paid spend or someone who knows CRM like the back of their hand would be amazing.

I’d also love to build out our global expertise by putting people on the ground in our different markets. It’s really important that employer brands are tailored for each audience and that’s hard to do when you don’t know the local nuances.

How do you approach the collaboration needed to help you achieve your goals? 

When it comes to stakeholders, my approach is to build respectful partnerships. I firmly believe that we can all learn from each other and it’s important that every voice is heard. Knowing when to bring stakeholders in on the journey, to communicate clearly and manage expectations are some of the ways that I try to bring this to life. 

We couldn’t have succeeded in our EB goals without this team because…

Everyone has a role to play and I consider myself really fortunate to work with a range of specialists at Canva. Everyone sees the value in the work we’re doing and how it can impact hiring, retention and experience.

Chris Hew, Corporate Communications Manager

What should a communications team be mindful of when working with an employer brand team?

Both functions should work hand-in-glove. Developing a strong employer brand involves creating the tone of voice you’ll be using throughout internal and external communications, so communications should be represented from the start with employer branding. 

More often than not, the very first touchpoint prospective employees have with a brand is its external content. Therefore it’s crucial that there’s a degree of consistency between what is being communicated externally and how that matches the day-to-day happenings of a company. When a brand fails to deliver on its promises or live up to its expectations, it’s not a good look.

What are some future opportunities for employer-brand focused communications?

Telling more employee stories. People are the heart of any organisation and storytelling becomes the proof in the employer brand pudding. People want to hear more about employee experiences and what goes on behind the scenes – the failures as well as the successes.

Hearing these stories gives candidates an opportunity to really look under the hood and find out what it’s like to work for a company. It is not only an effective way to attract talent, but also to retain it as employees feel like they are being heard and their experience validated. 

Jessica Beard, Talent Programs Lead

How important is employer brand for emerging talent?

Gen Z, the new generation entering the workforce, has been influenced by some of the biggest challenges of our time: accelerating climate change, a global pandemic and the resurgence of (and need for) social movements like Black Lives Matter. 

As a result, it is a generation that is vocal, confident and values-driven. And they expect the same of their next employer – employers who empathise and align with their own values.   That’s why an employer brand is so important to connect with the emerging talent market. It’s a way of showing them we’re on the same journey, and that if they choose to join our company they’ll be having an impact on matters they care about.

What are your recommendations for hosting successful student recruitment events?

  1. Meet the talent where they are. Gen Z students are often busy with extracurricular activities on top of their studies, so make it convenient for them to connect with you. 
  2. Take a human approach because authenticity and transparency wins amongst Gen Z. Demystify the workplace by discussing the company values and where we stand on hard-hitting topics, as well covering the actual work they’d have in store were they to choose your company. 
  3. Allow students to connect with those who have ‘been there, done that’ by inviting past interns or current graduates along to events. 
  4. Ensure they’ve walked away learning something new. Attendees have given you their most precious thing – their time. So what are they taking away from your event that they didn’t know before?

Jacky Barker, Social Media Lead (B2B and Employer Brand)

What role does social media play in cultivating an employer brand?

The primary role of social media is to build awareness of your employer brand, and give insight into the company’s values and culture. Therefore, when candidates are considering their next move, you’ll hopefully be at the forefront of their mind. 

The very specific goal of social media activity within an EB strategy is to draw the attention of the right potential talent. You want someone to see your posts and say ‘that company aligns with my values, I want to work there’, or just as importantly, ‘I don’t think that company would be right for me’. Through this, you increase the overall quality of the applicants who want to join your business.

What’s your one piece of advice for anyone looking to start employer brand specific social channels?

Start with strategy. For me, the most important part of this is to understand your audience, their behaviours and their motivators. You need to understand who they are to be able to communicate your messages in a way that will resonate with them. 

Consider things like, what makes you as an employer brand unique or stand out to this audience? What are your target candidates’ needs and desires and how do you as a brand fulfil them? This is the base point from which you should build out your content strategy and define what your social content pillars will be.

At Employer Brandwagon, we’re pushing the collective thinking of the global EB community. Level up, inspire creativity and find encouragement from others who just ‘get’ it by joining the community here!

We’d noticed that the employer branding profession is still widely misunderstood, and business appreciation of the impact it can have is highly varied. By talking to leaders around the world we realised the employer brand community is significant, over 15,000 globally, but still it’s highly fragmented. Industry education has mainly been driven by vendors, and internal practitioners don’t always make the time (or have the platform) to share and benchmark their practices. We wondered if there was a way to strengthen the global community and raise the understanding of employer branding - at a business level. So we decided to start Employer Brandwagon, Would you like to be a part of our online community? To become an Employer Brandwagon Contributor sign up on our community page.

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