Employer Branding

Talking Talent with Alex Png: The Power of Authentic Employer Branding

Last month, we had a chat with Alex Png, Grab’s Employer Branding and Recruitment Marketing Manager.

He shared with us his thoughts on what it takes to build an authentic employer brand that truly speaks to candidates.

Employer branding in a growth context

Grab is one of the most successful and best-known tech companies in South-East Asia, especially after it acquired Uber’s operations in the region earlier this year. Since being founded in June 2012, it has grown into a $10B dollars firm across 8 countries; building and maintaining an employer brand for such a rapidly growing business is, unsurprisingly, a challenge.

When asked to tell us more about Grab, Alex describes a large, sophisticated machine that operates in multiple markets. “Grab started out as a taxi transportation service, and then expanded into private ride-hailing, bike-sharing, coach shuttling and other multi-modal transportation services. Since we saw a need to additional services to our suite of mobility solutions, we established a digital payments and financial services arm, as well as a food delivery and logistics division.”

The company operate in over 220 cities within 8 countries in Southeast Asia, and has offices across the world, including the United States, India, and China. However, it’s still a startup at heart, with a culture heavily anchored around performance and growth. So how do you build and preserve an employer brand that reflects that culture and attracts the right candidates?

A balance between authenticity and aspiration

“One’s employer brand is only as good as the sum of the company's employment experiences"[tweetery-end], says Alex. “In this day and age of hyperconnectivity, your employer brand is reflected not just by word-of-mouth in person, but by social media sites and review sites like Glassdoor and Indeed. It would do more harm than good in the long run to broadcast a brand that is not true of the culture of that company. You should see your employer brand as a mirror reflection of your actual culture.”

An employer brand has more elements to it than just the company’s culture, however. It reflects the mission and goals of the company as well, an element of the future, of what could be.

Employer branding with Grab illustration

Candidates want to know what the employees of the company dream about, what they aim to achieve in terms of growing the company and its culture. “There is definitely room to stretch,” says Alex, “as there are always aspirational goals to be attained in the realm of culture-building. Just be careful never to overstretch to the point of disbelief.”

The role of TA in Grab employer branding

The Grab employer branding guidelines are in line with its entrepreneurial culture, and let team members own their initiatives. More than anything else, Alex sees his role as that of an enabler: while he provides guidance by shaping the direction of Grab’s employer branding and talent marketing initiatives, it’s up to his team to come up with the right content for them, and to analyse their results to draw actionable insights.

The TA team also interacts with external stakeholders in the process of building and promoting the employer brand. Employees outside of Talent organization can participate in creating content that the company can use in branding campaigns. External partners in the media are involved as well, and help amplify the company’s employer brand, for example with exclusive releases or news bites on media channels.

Communicating with today’s candidates

A clear positioning is crucial to such a fast-growing company, which is why Grab pays so much attention to the core ideas supporting its employer brand:

"[tweetery]By and large, candidates have become more immune to corporate sales pitches by recruiters, and are taking more time, and going through more steps, to understand an employer before committing to a job offer.[tweetery-end] They definitely make use of social networks and third-party sites like Glassdoor: it’s not just anecdotal sharing, you can see it as well in the interview reviews they’re leaving on the likes of Glassdoor, Blind and other social apps.

“All these mean that employer brands are more heavily scrutinised than ever. While you should take care in your brand positioning, it’s also vital to stand by the truth of your culture. Additionally, it’s wise to respond to feedback on employer review sites and take it back for further evaluation, in order to build a positive candidate experience that resonates with your employer brand.”

It’s not just about candidates being more exacting, however. A successful brand is one that acts as a filter and attracts people that will be a great fit.


The Employer Brand comes through at every step

Every single touch point with the candidate is an opportunity to communicate the employer brand, and that includes interactions with the company’s employees and recruiters. It’s common sense, really, but not always easy to implement.

One practice that works for Grab is constant and positive communication. Because of frequent communications around the commonly-held values of the company, employees are better able to talk about what their company stands for, and why they work there. They are a powerful voice for the company’s employer value proposition, one that candidates find informative and convincing.

Recruiters and sourcers are also held accountable for the process by which they approach candidates and the experience they create. “Our recruiters are proud of what they do, and that means they convey that positivity to candidates,” says Alex. When sourcers and recruiters feel that they represent a great workplace, they have fewer blockers to proactively approach candidates and tell them about it.

Authenticity is a strong factor in creating a brand that sticks, but it is not always easy to parse into tasks, projects and marketing initiatives. For Grab, for example, it’s about applying only for awards that truly reflect the company’s culture and strengths, or giving employees a good reason to want to talk about the place they work at. For other companies, it could take other forms.

No matter how a company chooses to approach it, however, it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s a long-term, detail-oriented endeavour, but one that yields incredible results when done right.

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