Coca-Cola Hellenic is a distinctive company with a particular employer brand.
This post is part of a series of contributions from talent acquisition professionals titled "Talking Talent". This month's guest is Nadja Czeszak, an Employer Branding leader at Coca-Cola Hellenic.
Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company, or just Coca-Cola Hellenic, is one of the world's largest bottlers for the Coca-Cola company, with sales of more than 2 billion unit cases sold from Ireland in the west to the Pacific coast of Russia in the east, from the Arctic Circle in the north to the tropics of Nigeria in the south. Coca-Cola HBC has been named the industry leader among beverage companies in the 2014 Dow Jones Sustainability Index DJSI and is also included in the FTSE4Good Index.
Nadja is the Group Employer Branding Specialist at CCH. She is responsible for developing and implementing communication for different channels, and helps to shape processes and solutions that enable the company to establish an attractive employer brand on three continents.
How did you start being interested in employer branding and recruitment marketing?
I spent almost ten years of my early professional life in the advertizing and design industry, in Hamburg, Germany. One of my very first clients during that time was a top-three strategy consulting firm who needed our help designing recruitment marketing campaigns targeted at campus hiring. That was my first experience working on recruitment marketing and recruitment campaigns, and it was very different from our usual work; creating a campaign to hire talent is very different from making one to sell washing machines. At the time–about 13 years ago–there wasn’t as much focus on it in the agency space.
Later, as I became more senior in the industry, I had an opportunity to mentor junior team members and help them focus on their professional development, which at the time wasn’t a big focus in the agency space. I was lucky enough to have colleagues who wanted to explore their talents and interests, and who found my guidance useful in figuring out what to do with their careers. I really enjoyed that process. It was probably my first real trigger to look more closely into HR as a career path, and then every role that I took after that was an opportunity to explore talent acquisition and development a bit further.
At my next role at a newly-founded agency, I owned the HR side of the business, and was responsible for hiring the best people we could find and ensuring the company had a great work culture. Some time after that, I joined a larger agency who was looking for someone to own talent development—that experience exposed me to the challenge of working on international markets for the first time. Then I was contacted by an insurance startup in Switzerland who needed a marketer, and they added HR to the scope of the role at my request. I was able to build a team for both the startup and a software development company owned by the same founders. I was exposed to both markets and expanded into talent acquisition, which was totally new and incredibly fascinating.
How did your early career prepare you for employer branding, and how did you end up at CCH?
There was so much insight into the importance of company culture for employees across different industries throughout all my early roles in HR. It got me thinking a lot about what candidates value and look for in a new employer. I was discovering how little the brand of a company actually mattered in the face of actual internal culture and values.
In agencies, talent is what you sell to clients, and agencies are willing to pay a lot of money to get and keep the best creatives, but that thinking was not very strategic and could not sustain talent attraction and development. In the insurance startup, I was able to start more strategic thinking about how to build an employer brand and an employment experience, and how to sustainably attract and retain the best people. It’s always a challenge to achieve that.
Is this a challenge that you found at CCH as well?
Definitely. It is very important to keep track of what matters most to your target candidates at a specific point in time. Do you want to focus on building a brand experience? Or do you want to focus on bolstering the feeling of “fit” between employees and their roles at their company?
This dilemma is still relevant in my current role at Coca Cola Hellenic. When I applied here, I wasn’t thinking about Employer Branding specifically. I was open to a lot of options and challenges in talent acquisition—I mostly knew what I didn’t want to do! They were the ones to suggest employer branding, and it felt like the right fit.
How does your role now in CCH compare to what you did when you first started your career, both in advertizing and in HR roles?
In my current role, we have different focuses in the employer branding team. One of my colleagues specializes in communications and social media, while I am more focused on the technical aspect of deploying employer branding strategies, such as process, channels, markets, and more. This is much more specialised than my earlier roles, both managing accounts in advertizing and leading HR and talent acquisition efforts in subsequent positions.
The one part that was familiar was the process of creating a brand experience. We know what a candidate should experience and feel when they are thinking about applying and taking an offer from us at CCH, but how do you bring that to life? How do you make sure your powerpoint presentations translates into the right cultural experience in different markets and geographies? My experience in advertizing definitely helped me with that aspect of the role.
This brings up one of the projects that you rolled out recently at CCH, which is to build language-specific careers landing pages for the different geographies you’re targeting. What other practices, similar to this one, do you think are now table stakes in recruiting, even though they were new only a few years ago?
There are definitely a lot of new practices that have emerged. Many of my counterparts in employer branding were HR professionals before coming into their roles. Some of them have a background in communication, but not all. As a result, they needed to be open to approaching their roles from a marketing perspective, and to be open to the idea that there is always a lot to learn, and many new practices to implement.
Our internal employer branding community is one of learning or sharing. CCH operates in 28 markets or business units, and each one of them has specific needs and challenges and has to develop a tailored strategy for their market. As a result, each unit learns something different from their experiments and challenges, and they can share with the rest of the community. For example, Romania as a target market is very into Instagram, so our employer branding professionals there have a special focus on that channel.
Social media is just one example of the practices that are table stakes today. Before, no one in talent acquisition needed to know how to manage social media pages, or online communities, but it’s a necessary skill now. In CCH, some do it internally, and some hire agencies, but everyone is open to learning new tools and practices.
Another thing that we discuss heavily and that has been progressing recently in CCH, especially with rolling out Beamery, is the use of metrics. We’ve been improving our whole candidate journey by looking closely at metrics, recreating our ATS landing page, improving web comms, aligning throughout all candidate touchpoints… Things like tracking candidate journeys or application sources are mostly in place now, and whatever is missing is a priority for the coming year.
Understanding and assimilating all that recruiting data, no matter where it comes from, is a huge undertaking, so we need to be smart about the resources that are available and how to prioritize those resources to target the data we need, to focus on the channels that matter to us. There is always room for improvement in that regard.
You mentioned earlier that you know how the CCH brand feels, but it’s hard to translate it to campaigns. How do you differentiate CCH from the competition?
That is an important question. We are a fast-moving consumer goods company, we are highly performance-driven. It’s all about numbers, about how much we sell, how many units we move. To thrive in this kind of challenging environment, you need to enjoy being driven by performance. It depends on your role and your function, but across the board, that is who we are as a business, partly because of the industry we work in, and partly because it’s our identity. We work with pressure and aim for results. We support each other as much as we can and offer each other career possibilities.
Development and training is one of the pillars of our company. In every group or business function, there is a catalogue of skills that employees can pick from and learn in order to grow in their role, but you have to take ownership of those possibilities. Everyone can build the career they want here; if you want to be a leader, you can step up and go learn the things you need. By doing so, you prove to the business that you can be a leader, but you have to ask for that responsibility.
I remember having a conversation only a few months after joining at CCH, and being asked to share my professional aspirations and where I want to grow even as I was still settling into my new role. It was very different from where I had come from. CCH is about developing people as much as they are able to grow–employee development is king here.
What is different about the employer branding function at CCH? How do you respond to the challenges of your industry and your history?
The way we are organized in CCH is particular to our history. One of the first questions I had when I joined was: how do we split employer branding work streams that are centrally owned from those owned by separate territories? The more centrally-led strategies are fairly recent, but we understand the power of an aligned brand and so we try to find ways to build a united brand, one that makes sense for all territories, but doesn’t take away their ability to be innovative and to take ownership.
A great example of that was the locally-branded landing pages that one of the teams launched using Beamery. All I did was introduce the tool and ask the various teams to prepare some dummy content to prepare for an implementation workshop, but they went and created full landing pages, ready to be used for their markets. It was amazing to see such quick adoption and such willingness to take a new idea and run with it.
At the end, what I want is to see as many people as possible become ambassadors of our brand—it’s what makes the work so satisfying to me, what makes me happy, and it’s ultimately our job as employer branding specialists.