February 4, 2021 • 5 min read
If Change Is the Only Constant, You Need Modular EB
From hats to branding strategies, one size fits all rarely works in the real world. From global organizations down to individuals, humanity is simply too diverse for a single, fixed approach to work.
This is the idea behind modular employer branding (EB), an approach that is fast becoming an indispensable tool for EB and talent acquisition (TA) teams. It sees rigidity traded for flexibility, mass-production traded for customization, and employer branding struggles traded for efficiency and effectiveness.
There’s no better time than now to take a closer look at modular EB, and how it could help to turn your organization into a destination employer.
What is modular EB?
Before diving in, let’s first agree that a great EB is simultaneously true and aspirational. It describes the unshakable ‘we’ – the culture and purpose of the organization, its identity, its values and its esprit de corps. It also describes the tangible career opportunities provided to team members.
But it’s never complete. There’s no final version of an EB. Why? Because you’re still hiring.
Like it or not, every hire irrevocably alters (and ideally enhances) your organization, and thus your employer brand. A good employer brand should therefore always evolve. It’s not a monument that you build, stand back and admire – it’s an ever-changing drawing, with sections erased by those who leave and filled in by those who join.
There’s no final version of an EB. Why? Because you’re still hiring.
A modular employer brand reflects this, allowing you to tell customized, multi-dimensional stories within a master framework, so that it’s always current, fresh and dynamic.
What advantages does modular EB have over traditional EB?
Traditional employer branding is built upon concrete programs and strategies. Rules are set in stone, and any branding effort must work within them.
Modular employer branding is different. It isn’t tied to a specific program or strategy – it floats above all of that, granting your efforts greater longevity and adaptability.
It’s this second point that has helped modular EB become popular in recent times. With the world changing so quickly, organizations have had to change too. In order to keep up with constant demographic, technological, economic and buying habit changes, they are being forced to shed their skins and reinvent themselves with increasing frequency.
Modular EB isn’t tied to a specific program or strategy – it floats above all of that, granting your efforts greater longevity and adaptability.
Adaptability is similarly being thrust on TA teams. They need to offer programs that support flexibility, benefits, wellbeing, upskilling, career development and whatever else might currently be important to an ever-changing talent market.
Where a traditional employer brand can be thought of as a printed document, a modular employer brand is more like a website. The template of each page is the same, but the content modules are different, and can be shuffled, added, expanded or deleted at will in order to piece together a story. They can be customized to account for cultural nuance and language.
What’s more, a well-constructed modular EB can become the connective tissue between different divisions and groups within your company.
How to create a modular EB framework
For most organizations, going modular will be the obvious next step in their employer branding journey. The question then is how do you create such a framework?
To know your modular EB strategy, you’ll want to first know yourself, rather, your organization. In order to transition to modular EB, then, start with a deep understanding of what happens on the ground in your geographic regions, amongst your different functions and within different divisions. You need to know what these groups need if they are to market and communicate effectively.
Employer branding needs to offer a complete view of your organization. A range of voices and perspectives must be heard.
You also need a system for gathering content from your team and co-creating it with them. This work cannot be done in a TA silo; if you want it to be effective, employer branding needs to offer a complete view of your organization. A range of voices and perspectives must be heard.
Finally, a switch to modular EB demands a collective tolerance for what I’d call ‘the risk of the unfinished’. For many this is perhaps the scariest part. Let’s say you want to create a video targeted to recruits, and you want all of your regions around the world to use it. The easiest way to do it would be to produce it and distribute it from the center – done, dusted, approved.
The reality is more nuanced. Maybe a certain image might not work in a particular country. Maybe you can’t talk about a certain benefit in one geographic region, despite it being critical in another. Instead of HQ producing a single video, you must instead ask each region to work from a brief with key messaging, objectives, a target audience, targeted channels and a storyboard. The specifics are more modular – it’s essentially a choose your adventure approach, albeit a structured one.
Just as a personalized email is more likely to earn a reply, and a personalized ad is more likely to be clicked, you can expect the personalized results of a modular EB strategy to be far more effective than their traditional counterparts.
Ensuring consistency and measuring success
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Modularized EB certainly comes with its own challenges, the most compelling of which is maintaining consistency.
You’ll need to provide master assets and firm guidance on how to activate them (best-practice hubs can help.) It will help if you can work closely with those who will be doing the activation, to ensure your recommendations are feasible. You’ll also need a delivery framework that takes these master assets and frameworks, and quickly and cost-efficiently produces outputs that work. Offering creative freedom does bring risk, so you need accountability built into the system as well.
By going modular with your employer branding you increase your chances of selling yourself as that snug fit to top talent, no matter who or where they are.
Education is key. Employer branding faces many challenges because it’s so different from corporate branding – the thing that internal stakeholders will inevitably compare EB to – and the standpoint from which they’ll try to gain understanding. You need immersive training in both the differences of employer branding and how to bring it to life, but without dictating exactly how it happens.
As with anything worthwhile, transitioning to modular employer branding is not easy. But doing so is becoming less a luxury than a necessity for any organization hoping to keep up with the ever-accelerating wheel of progress.
The one size fits all hat never feels as good on your head as the one that’s made to order. By going modular with your employer branding you increase your chances of selling yourself as that snug fit to top talent, no matter who or where they are.
About the author: Erin is a talent brand and marketing leader, both of which are an absolute labor of love for her. As the Global Employer Brand leader at EY she is responsible for leading efforts to attract top talent in 150 countries globally and supporting the delivery of EY’s ambition to be the world’s most favored employer. She is a crossfit enthusiast who loves to cook, eat, read mystery novels and watch Sylvester Stallone movies.