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From Employer Branding to Brand Equity – what makes Google that successful as Employer Brand?

The VUCA World (Volatilty, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) presents new challenges to companies and agencies alike. The increasing digitization makes the world fast and complex, our professional and private live changes fundamentally. Frank Kohl-Boas, Head of HR Northwest, Central & Eastern Europe Google Germany, explains to the participants of the 4th GWA HR Management Expert Group on May 3rd, 2016, in Frankfurt, how Google faces this trend.

Kohl-Boas emphasizes in his keynote „From Employer Branding to Brand Equity – what makes Google that successful as an employer?“, that experience-based knowledge gets less important in the VUCA World and the attidude „We have always done it that way“ is out of place. Instead he asks for a mentality that embraces variety, is open to innovation, and is people-focused. A guideline that leads Google’s Corporate Culture and HR  Management worldwide.

Since the beginning of Google in 1999 the founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have been convinced of the idea that only suitable employees can guarantee the success of their company. Knowledge workers make up the Human Capital as a central part of the Corporate DNA and Organizational Culture – at that time an innovative idea with tremendous effects on the labour market. A study from the  Boston Consulting Group on „Employer Branding“ (for details see below), explains the phenomenon „Google“ inter alia as follows: „Future through freedom. Although Google is the second most valuable brand of the world, it does‘nt seek to preserve the brand but emphasizes change through it’s employees. Google was built to resolve a problem and to sort the internet.“

Declared company objective is to find the most talented employees, to foster and promote them, and finally to create the Google world of tomorrow with them. The recruiting process as an inherent part of Google’s Employer Branding and HR  Management follows the corporate strategy  and vice versa. A international team of professional recruiters regularly screens talent markets und raises attention with unconventional addresses (http://www.spiegel.de/karriere/berufsleben/foobar-so-arbeitet-googles-verstecktes-recruiting-tool-a-1051330.html). To attract and gain a so-called „Googler“, Google applies consensus-based recruiting methods. Only if all of the persons involved in the recruiting process (that can be up to 4 decision makers) agree, the new „Googler“ can be employed. The final authority is  Larry Page, which demonstrates the importance of the recruiting process at Google (http://www.faz.net/aktuell/beruf-chance/arbeitswelt/google-personalchef-man-ist-nie-zu-alt-fuer-google-13668458.html).

Thus every single employee is understood as a decisive component of the corporate culture. The „Googler“ per se unveils an unusual high level of motivation in his job. However, it is up to the operative HR  Management to enable „Googlers“ to develop their personalities and to advance their knowledge and skills. Kohl-Boas calls this the „Können-Wollen-Dürfen“-approach (being able to, wanting to and be allowed to). Freedom to think, incentives in terms of innovation projects, and a culture of constructive criticism sets free great potential. The BCG-study concludes: „Thus, new products for the customer are developed in a discourse, which in the end strengthens the brand.“

Of course, Management Culture is also an essential aspect of Employer Branding. Frank Kohl-Boas considers one of his main tasks in teaching managers how to enable their teams and staff members properly. An active culture of constructive feedback, respect, freedom, flat hierachies, and self-dertermination are crucial factors for success. Basically said: networking beats hierachy.

Further insights into Employer Branding 4.0 and more possible answers to the question why Google considers employees as the most important brand investment provides the before-mentioned BCG-study „Vom Employer Branding zum One-Branding. Der Mensch als Schlüssel zur Marke“ (http://www.bcg.de/documents/file160190.pdf).

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