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Discovering Employer Branding’s Nuances for Building Authentic Connections

August 15, 2023

We chatted with Pratiwi (Talent Acquisition and Employer Branding Lead at Dagangan) about how honest employer branding, through concrete examples can create bonds, positive experiences, and shift mindsets

A journey into HR tech: exploring the impact of employer branding after moving from a communication agency

Kitty: Thank you so much for joining me today, Pratiwi. To kick off, can you tell me a bit more about your career journey? How did you end up looking after employer branding?

Pratiwi: This is a long story, but I'll try to keep it short and simple. I graduated with a degree in French Studies and did an internship in Tunisia, a Francophone country in Northern Africa. I wanted to gain experience working with people from different cultures and in a French-speaking environment. However, it didn't make much difference. I then pursued an advanced degree in International Relations in the UK and returned to Indonesia after completing it.

I thought it would be difficult to find a job related to international relations in Indonesia, especially to pursue a career in diplomacy, unless I wanted to work for the government. However, I chose not to and joined a digital communication agency called Zeno, which is a sister company of Edelman, one of the biggest communication agencies in the world. I worked there as an Account Executive, managing one of their biggest clients.

After a while, I realized that the agency-life was not for me, so I started working for an HR tech company. Initially, I was hired as a headhunter for the executive recruitment business units. I thought, "Why not try it?" because it's basically managing accounts, although the purpose is different.

In the agency, the goal is to market the brand, but in recruitment service, the goal is to market the job or the candidate. I think it's overall similar. Then, I took the chance, and after a while in the headhunting business, I was moved to the internal hiring team serving all business units. That was my first proper recruitment experience, and I thought I couldn't do it, but eventually, I survived.

Starting from there, I tried to explore what employer branding is. It wasn't necessarily proper employer branding, but at least a way to showcase what the company had to offer to the outside world. At that time, I didn't know what employer branding was, and I didn't realize that what I was doing was employer branding. I simply attempted to market what was inside the company to potential candidates and utilized LinkedIn, as well as all of my knowledge from my studies and work experience. That's where it all began.

After years, I moved to Dagangan and joined as one of the early team members. At that time, I was just trying to sell the workplace to potential candidates. However, once employer branding was formalized as a workstream, it fell under people operations. After several considerations, I took over this project in March 2023, and it's been six months. I learned from experience, and I hope that my educational background, especially, supports what I do today.

Empowering diverse talent through a transparent employer brand

Kitty: I love that you stumbled across employer branding and built your own playbook along the way, since you saw that it was previously a bit inward-looking because it was under people ops. I spent a lot of time thinking about how you're different compared to other similar companies because, if you're speaking to people who've never come across you before, that's something very important that has to come across.

What would you say is your unique difference or the number one factor that would attract talent to the company?

Pratiwi: The main factor, or our unique proposition, is our honesty and clarity. I previously shared a story with you about attending interviews where I was excited by the employer branding channels, which showed fun facilities, amazing people, and great culture. However, what I experienced during recruitment process was different. I do not want to experience the same thing again, especially in Dagangan, as it feels horrible, at least for me.

I want to show honesty, especially in our activities related to employer branding in our digital channels. We want to present not only the good or overly promising things that we have in Dagangan, but we also want to show the truth, both good and the opposite. Of course, toned down a bit in the negative parts.

Therefore, we aim to portray the real Dagangan by showcasing what people in Dagangan have to say or share. We interview almost everybody in Dagangan and want to bring them into the spotlight, but we want everyone to be recognized.

And then, of course, we want to communicate that we are diverse and dynamic. We don't want to overpromise, we disclose everything from the beginning. People enter at their own risk. We try our best so that people don't feel cheated when they see our platforms and the reviews on community websites.

In Dagangan, we want them to get what they see. Essentially, people view employer branding as a way to promote the company as a workplace, which is true, and I completely agree. Unfortunately, most people sell things that should not be sold, which may not be entirely accurate. Our goal is to present everything as realistically as possible, which sets us apart.

Kitty: That's great to hear. It's tempting to inflate the gap between perception and reality, especially when there isn't much information available for people to verify or fact-check.

Pratiwi: Usually people only see their high level management. We want to show that our operations team or warehouse supervisors are talking in our channels so they get a grasp of reality in our channel. Keep it real, that's my point.

From within to beyond: working together across functions to create a strong brand

Kitty: Speaking of different functions, how are you collaborating with other functions? Whether it's marketing, people, or ops, to amplify this employer brand?

Pratiwi: To be completely honest, I am working on this project with a very limited resource. It's not that I didn't ask for one, but I want to test my limits. I want to create something great, so I am using internal resources. I work closely with our ops team to create content and ask them to amplify our posts on our channels by organizing internal engagement activities and making them interesting for our external audience.

I also work closely with the Creative and Community teams. I brainstorm a lot with the Creative team because they handle Dagangan’s social media. We talk a lot about metrics to measure whether or not the content is successful, what type of content is engaging and interesting, and which channels to explore.

I also communicate with the Community team, which manages groups of our loyal customers. I think this is a potential branding channel, we brainstorm a lot to see where we can collaborate and where to start.

Lastly, I work closely, very closely, with the Impact & Communications team because we want to convey the right message. I hope our content won't backfire on us someday. We also learn a lot from the Comms team on how to convey or deliver certain messages as they are, so they won't be perceived as something else. And yes, I ask them a lot.

Kitty: I love the mindset of being resourceful because it forces you to be creative, doesn't it? It also forces you to look internally for opportunities to collaborate.

Pratiwi: Indeed. Start from within, right?

Adding a personal touch to onboarding: the importance of genuine hiring and friendship

Kitty: You mentioned that there is a strong emphasis on authenticity and truth in how you communicate externally. I suppose the first point of contact for most people would be hiring and honesty.

What are some examples of how you express the employer brand? Could you provide some practical, concrete examples in the process?

Pratiwi: Our Talent Acquisition team is part of the employer branding ambassador because they represent the company and carry its values. During the hiring process, especially the interview, we try our best to provide as best hospitality possible. It's not perfect yet, but we strive to do our best. Being nice doesn't mean being weak or soft. We show our dignity as employees by providing the best gestures.

We also provide clarity and, again, authenticity. In interviews, we are not being interrogative. Usually, the interview for us is a two-way exploration.

We treat them well because we need each other. I mean, some people have the mindset that job seekers need the company, but for us, our Talent Acquisition team, it is not the case. We need each other, we need the talent and the talent needs us, the employer. During the interviews, we are trying to put all we got to answer their questions and satisfy their curiosity about the company.

We answer as best as we can and then provide clear information about what they will face inside the company once they join, including the benefits and organizational dynamics. They can consider it properly before joining the company and signing the offer from Dagangan. They can enter at their own risk. Again, that's a concrete example.

In addition to that, I think I mentioned in the previous call about a specific program that our Talent Acquisition team has. We always stay in touch with our candidates after they are hired and help them adapt and pass their probationary period. We aim to be their friends during their first three months. For new joiners, we collaborate with People Operations, the Learning and Development team, and we want to remain involved during their first three months.

I once experienced an unpleasant feeling when I joined a company and had no one to talk to. We don't want to be indifferent and we want to be their go-to person during their first three months. That's what we do during the hiring process.

Kitty: It's always powerful when it comes from personal conviction. It's not like anyone is telling you to do this. This goes far above and beyond best practice. The fact that you turned a painful experience into something positive and are now impacting so many people is remarkable.

Pratiwi: The most interesting part is our team. I have five team members, and they think alike. That's what I like about them. They're trying to turn their painful experiences into something good so that other people won't have to experience what we did. I'm grateful to have this kind of team.

How Dagangan’s people-centric approach can shift perspective and help to discover hidden gems in tech

Kitty: It's much more meaningful when everyone is aligned with the "why" behind aspects of the employee experience.

Could you share some stories or feedback that you've received from candidates or even new hires about aspects of the hiring and onboarding process?

Pratiwi: The first one is interesting. After interviews, my candidates, my team, and I often received compliments. Most of the compliments were the same. They said that it was the first time they were treated like this. By "like this," they meant that they were not being interrogated. They were open to ask questions and learn everything they needed to know about the company and their role. This is something that lifts us up.

About the EVP, this is an interesting topic. One day, I saw someone from the Product Team, I believe it was from the UI/UX team, conducted a webinar. He was sharing his knowledge as a Dagangan employee to a rural audience. It was interesting that a lot of people attended, despite it being about tech products and UI/UX. During the webinar, the speaker said, "I'm from a rural area as well. Who says people in rural areas can't work in tech?”

And it really hits me because why do I think that only people in Jakarta and other big cities can work in tech? Again, I have to bring up this academic perception of top/notable unis. Why are only these kinds of people considered capable of working in any tech landscape? I think rural people have specific potential or skill sets that might be needed by companies as much as top graduates. Right there, I felt justified that our EVP to empower local talent and prioritize hiring local talent is right.

Let's not focus only on talent from big cities, but let's also look for hidden gems.

From that moment on, my team and I have been trying to shift our mindset. Let's not focus only on talent from big cities, but let's also look for hidden gems. I think they have the same potential. It was a touching moment for me because the UI/UX guy himself, who is from a rural area, conducted a webinar for rural people interested in tech and empowered others. It was a very touching moment and justified the EVP.

Kitty: I have goosebumps from hearing you share that. It's powerful because I also imagine the scale of the rural population is huge. If you can create those types of opportunities and have a clear pathway to success for technical talent in rural areas, just imagine the change that you can drive for the economy and workforce.

Pratiwi: Not many people, especially in our startups or tech industry, are looking for someone from an area that they don't even know exists on the map. But I truly feel happy when someone we hired from a small city can climb up the career ladder in Dagangan, or can grow while working in big companies, unicorns, decacorns, and probably international companies. It just makes me happy to see them grow.

The impact of empowered employees on spreading positivity

Kitty: Do you also find that they are quite motivated to lift up similar people from their communities?

Pratiwi: If they don't have a good experience with the company they're working for, I don't think they will share their experience with the community. But if they have a good experience, of course, they will share it and empower others to do the same thing.

Kitty: And that's why your work, and your team's work, are so crucial to continuing a virtuous cycle in that way.

Pratiwi: Thank you for considering us crucial. Not many people think that Talent Acquisition, especially, is crucial. People might see us as just a support team, only responsible for hiring, and then we're done. But I want to show people, at least in Dagangan, that we are not just supporting characters.

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