25 y o and still kicking
It suddenly dawned on me towards the end of last year that my TERM model is 25 years old.
(“What is he talking about?” I hear you say.)
Back in the olden days in the mid 1990s, one of my clients mentioned his company’s employer brand. That struck me as an interesting concept and description of the employer/employee relationship.
That phrase stuck with me and I reasoned that if every organisation has an employer brand then it may not be beneficial in every case and even if it is, it could be better socialised and promoted. Therefore could and should there be a process called employer branding? “The process of creating an identity and managing the image of the organisation in its role as an employer.” *
As such it couldn’t be an ex-works retro fit designed to make an organisation look and sound nice as a destination for talent, it had to “take into account and manage the synergistic relationship between the values, systems, policies and behaviours deployed by the company or organisation in pursuit of its objectives through its people.” *
And that’s where TERM came in, it recognised and took account of the fact that organisations are dynamically complex adaptive systems and therefore a holistic approach is required.
We rolled out the model at a seminar in London at the end of 1996 and this was picked up by Strategic Communication Management who published a synopsis in their January 1997 edition. This led to the discovery that the employer brand concept had been first mooted by Simon Barrow of People in Business; we made contact and had many interesting meetings chewing the fat over this emerging issue; my focus was on the process of building the brand from inside the organisation.
Significantly, I was contacted by General Motors in Detroit the same year to work with them on this issue because they, “wanted to be first”. Not something you hear too often in this country!
The TERM model was used to underpin the concept in several publications and conferences. Indeed, the first Employer Branding conference in the world took place in London on 26th/27th May 1999 and TERM was used to support my keynote address.
As the concept gathered momentum, it was not surprisingly misunderstood and often shaped according to differing agendas. The market was subjected to, employment branding, internal branding, and worst of all employee branding. In most organisations it was conflated to a recruitment issue therefore championed at the wrong level. It struggled to lose these shackles for a long time but now we can see a much more holistic approach.
Over the next three years we introduced employer branding to several organisations but to be honest our organisational focus was more aligned with aspects of the employer/employee relationship that more directly drove performance.
When I started this business in 2002 (having spent the previous 13 years with Mercer and Watson Wyatt) I focused on employee engagement as a performance driver. Not surprisingly employee engagement is also a systemic issue and in fact a philosophy rather than a strategy or tactical intervention and so TERM sits at the heart of the process. The model was instrumental in informing the design of the first employee engagement survey instrument in the Q4:metrics® survey suite. That research in turn helped to produce the six key drivers of employee engagement: Purpose, Autonomy, Involvement, Development, Recognition, Environment.
TERM 2.0 is now used to help the development of employee engagement, EVP, and of course the employer brand. Indeed, if you are successful with employee engagement, you have the basis of your positive brand, the trick is to find a way to express it and socialise it.
*from: seminal paper on “TERM – Employer Branding” published by Fairleigh Dickinson University 1998
“The IABC Handbook of Organisational Communication” published by Jossey-Bass; 2006 “Integrating HR and Marketing Strategies” published by ICFAI University, 2006
“The Engagement Manifesto, a systemic approach to organisational success” 2011
© R. Alan Crozier