A multi-dimensional scale for measuring employer brand.

AuthorSrivastava, Pallavi
PositionReport - Abstract


Although recent research is abundant with literature on war for talent (Ready et al., 2008), yet very little research attention has aimed at competitive talent management strategies (Bhatnagar, 2007, 2009) that can act as key differentiators in corporate success. Employer branding is one such long-term innovative HR strategy to attract and retain the best talent anywhere in the world (Wilden et al., 2010).

It is important for the organizations to focus on the pre-organizational entry stage, which is the first phase of recruitment (Murphy, 1986). Any information that prospective employees receive at the initial stage, builds their impressions of the hiring organization, which becomes an important cue for what it would be like to work for that organization (Turban, 2001). An employer brand benefits both the prospective employer and the prospective employees. It attracts the candidates with the right skills who also fit into the values, need and culture of the organization (Srivastava & Bhatnagar, 2008) and at the same time gives the prospective employees an assurance of the expected work experience. When a firm reaches a higher level of external recognition, it becomes much easier for it to attract new talent (Bouchikhi & Kimberly, 2008).

Research has shown that decisions to apply for a job are related to prospective applicants' attraction to the organization (Barber, 1998). Hence, it is important to understand how applicants view the hiring organization from first impressions during the recruitment process. Researchers have initiated a systematic examination of a person's general impressions of a recruiting organization (e.g., Collins & Stevens, 2002; Highhouse et al., 1999; Lemmink, Schuijf & Streukens, 2003; Wilden et al., 2010). Scholars have called for research investigating whether organization-level variables affect applicant pool characteristics (Barber, 1998; Rynes & Cable, 2003). Employer brand could be one such variable with scope for exploration.

It is found that most of the research on employer brand is limited to conceptual papers which either identify and define the concept (Ambler & Barrow, 1996; Backhaus & Tikoo, 2004; Ewing et al., 2002) or borrow the models on consumer behavior to explain brand equity (Andreassen & Lanseng, 2010). There is little research on scale development in employer branding (Joo & McLean, 2006; Moroko & Uncles, 2008).It is also essential to understand which important organizational characteristics or practices contribute most to workplace attractiveness (Fulmer, Gerhart & Scott, 2003). The dearth of an instrument to measure employer brand necessitates an empirical study to develop and validate a measurement scale since any theoretical progress is made possible only by adequate measurement instrument (Schwab, 1980).Thus, developing a scale to measure employer brand is the primary objective of this paper, which addresses the research gap pointed out by earlier research studies in this area (Roy, 2008)

Employer Brand

The term employer brand was coined by Ambler & Barrow (1996) and further conceptualized by Backhaus & Tikoo (2004). An employer brand is about giving an identity (Backaus & Tikoo, 2004), image and distinctiveness to the organization as a desirable employer (Ambler & Barrow, 1996; Backhaus & Tikoo, 2004) and message to the talent pool that the organization is 'a good place to work' (Ewing et al, 2002; Knox & Freeman, 2006) in order to attract its prospective employees and to motivate, engage and retain its current employees (Srivastava & Bhatnagar, 2010).

The employer brand also helps organizations in the process of profiling themselves in the labor market as an employer of choice for future employees as well as to ensure organizational identification among current employees. It brings familiarity with the organization (Heironimus, Schaefer & Schroder, 2005) and enables a quick mental shortlist of prospective employers (Martin & Hetrick, 2007). In the extant literature (e.g., Backhaus & Tikoo, 2004 etc.) an employer brand has also been referred to as a psychological contract between an employer and employee as it also shapes the expectations of employees from their employment (Collins & Stevens, 2002). Drawing from existing literature, we define employer brand as "a set of attributes that establishes the identity of the organization in the minds of the prospective employees as a distinct employer promising a certain employment experience. Thus, it helps in attracting those candidates who have the required competencies and also fit with the need and culture of the organization."

Existing Measures

Earlier, the scale used by Berthon et al. (2005) has been utilized to identify the dimensions of attractiveness of an employer brand (Roy, 2008). Here we would like to differentiate between employer attractiveness and employer brand. Employer attractiveness is the envisioned benefits that a potential employee sees in working for a specific organization (Berthon et al., 2005).This attractiveness is also the degree to which a respondent would personally seek a company as an employer (Turban & Greening, 1997) and would recommend the company as an employer (Newburry, Gardberg & Belkin, 2006). Whereas employer brand is a set of attributes and qualities--often intangible --that make an organization distinctive, promise a particular kind of employment experience and appeal to those people who will thrive and perform their best in its culture (Walker, 2007).

Lievens et al. (2005) developed a scale to measure symbolic traits of an employer on the basis of Aaker's (1997) brand personality scale but the items/ factors were specific to army/defense. Similarly, the scale used by Highhouse, Zickar, et al. (1999) to measure company employment image had items which were relevant to fast food chains. Knox & Freeman (2006) have also attempted to measure the employer brand image. The current research is an extension of earlier work by adding more attributes to the employer brand scale, and thereby developing theory and customizing it to contextual domains of emerging markets like India.

Research Design & Sample

The concerned problem was addressed with the help of a cross sectional, non- experimental, sequential mixed method research design. The methodology for scale development was adapted from Churchill (1979). To initialize the study, an extensive literature survey on employer brand and its related concepts was carried out. Data was collected in two stages where exploratory qualitative data analysis was followed by a conclusive quantitative approach thus demonstrating "between (or across) methods" type triangulation (Denzin, 1978).

The qualitative exploratory study comprised several methods, namely, open-ended questionnaire, semi-structured interviews, focus groups discussions and content analysis of the main page and career section of official websites of different organizations. Pattern coding (Ewing et al, 2002), was utilized to identify the key constituents of the employer brand construct. The samples for the exploratory study were final year postgraduate management students and working managers enrolled in executive management program (both prospective employees) and senior HR executives who were dealing with recruitment in their current organizations (prospective employers). Two non-probability sampling techniques, purposive and snowball were used to determine the respondent (Table 1)

Results of the content analyses of pre-placement interview, focus group transcripts and websites resulted in the identification of thirty-nine themes which were perceived to be associated with employer brand. These thirty nine themes were conceptually grouped into seven dimensions based on their similarity. Supported with literature, the seven dimensions were further reduced to three dimensions, namely, reputation, perceived culture and HR systems & processes, based on their frequency of occurrence and prominence (% response) in the exploratory research.

Employer brand is a latent construct as it cannot be observed directly. The three dimensions of employer brand namely reputation, perceived culture and HR systems & processes (referred to as sub-constructs) are also latent in nature. It is recommended that in the case of complex constructs, it may be advisable to divide the construct into sub-scales (Spector, 1992), hence the proposed dimensions are scales in their own means and are measured with the help of different variables emerging during the study. Reputation was measured with the help of the five other variables namely financial performance of the organization, product/ service brand image, image of the industry/ sector the organization is operating in, corporate citizenship behavior and the effect of word of mouth on the reputation of the organization. Similarly, 'perceived culture' was measured with variables- autonomy, people-orientedness, 'fun at work' and 'HR systems & processes' is measured with the variables- learning & development, career growth and reward strategy. All of these variables have support in extant literature.

Item Generation: Guided by the extant literature and exploratory data, 174 items were subsequently derived deductively and inductively...

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