When Ahold merged with Delhaize a little over three years ago, the new organization, Ahold Delhaize, made a conscious choice to identify the right culture and business strategy for the future of the new organization.
Ahold Delhaize is a global organization that supports great local brands in 11 countries. While each brand has a strong local identity which can be leveraged in recruiting for their brands, the global support organization has not had a clearly defined “brand” that can be communicated to current and prospective employees.
Director of Culture and Engagement Kathy Randall and her team were tasked with building out their employer branding strategy — starting with understanding their Ahold Delhaize EVP.
“Right now, we’re focused on driving awareness of our organization and targeting key talent segments we’ll need to deliver upon our future objectives,” she said.
Over the past couple of years, Kathy’s team has been focused on identifying and evolving the culture required to drive the business strategy and establishing an authentic and differentiated EVP.
They began by considering how they wanted to go to market and talk about themselves as an organization. They also wanted to highlight the value of working for Ahold Delhaize.
“We’re getting an understanding of when to leverage local branding versus when to align to a global brand, and how to build a connection between the two,” she said.
Historically, all their talent marketing decisions had been driven locally so, in 2019, Kathy’s team worked with their brands to do significant research into building the Ahold Delhaize EVP.
They partnered closely with their brand representatives who own their local employer brands to get their perspectives on who they should talk to, what critical talents they’re struggling with, and best practices in how they identified their local employer brands.
Then, they partnered with an external company to execute the research, understand common themes, and identify the Ahold Delhaize EVP.
“We have 20 different consumer brands in 10 countries, and we received input from all of our brands and businesses through various methods, including any previous research, individual interviews, focus groups, and surveys,” said Kathy.
All that research was in support of Ahold Delhaize’s overarching two-fold business proposition.
“We support great local brands,” she said. “It’s not uncommon from a consumer perspective to walk into one of our brands’ stores and not know that it is a part of the Ahold Delhaize family of brands, and we like it that way. We want the local customer to have a customized experience based on local needs and preferences. However, there is value in leveraging the global organization in supporting scalable capability, driving efficiencies, and identifying best practices that will help both the global and local organizations create an attractive employer brand.”
They also focus on seeking out talent with a digital mindset — which is a talent market that nearly every industry is going after.
After they completed their research, they spent the next several months socializing the information gathered.
“We’ve also been gaining alignment with our brands on how we want to leverage the research and what our EVP pillars should be,” Kathy said. “We gained this alignment by seeking feedback on the research and whether those pillars resonate or feel significantly different than what they’re doing locally and how they perceive themselves as an employer.”
The Ahold Delhaize EVP pillars and employer brand have yet to be publicly unveiled, but Kathy did share the foundation the pillars are built on.
“Each pillar has a significant portion of who we are because we want it to be authentic, but it also has an area of aspiration needed to achieve our business strategies,” she said.
“In 2020, we’re focused on figuring out a launch plan to create a splash with our leaders, associates, and key talent segments. One of the key aspects is to identify the types of tools and guidelines to provide our leaders and HR colleagues to enhance our Ahold Delhaize employer brand, particularly in regards to the key talent segments we know we need to attract globally.”
She said they’re also preparing to kick off a project around the associate experience, which includes the candidates’ and employees’ perception of Ahold Delhaize as a global employer.
“It’s a balance of showing that our global organization is like an extended family, but also having our brand employees feel really connected to their great local brand to create the right consumer experience aligned to the local brand’s strategies,” said Kathy. “Because the employer brand must be aligned with and complement the consumer brand.”
Now, they’re working on laying out the tone of their employer brand and getting their leadership to move their focus away from process and onto the actual experience.
“We’re great at operationalizing almost anything,” said Kathy. “We’re incredibly efficient. But you can’t operationalize people’s emotions, so it’s about thinking how our processes and interactions with our associates create the right sentiment and reflect or reinforce the employer — and ultimately the consumer — brand.”
To help make that shift, she explained they need to create clear guidelines and in-depth training for the people who will be key drivers of the employer brand once it launches.
“That training will be around the pillars and what they mean, tonality, key themes to highlight within their market or with key talent segments, and how each of us are responsible for bringing the EVP to life,” Kathy said.
She said they’re hoping to specifically work on training their broader HR community and business leaders to effectively represent the Ahold Delhaize employer brand — and why that is important.
“We’re looking at helping them understand that engaging with talent requires a marketing mindset and highlighting what is valuable to them,” she said.
Depending on where you are in your talent marketing journey, Kathy emphasized the value of getting all your key stakeholders aligned.
“If you have multiple brands, get them aligned and make sure their voice is heard,” she said. “Do the research. Organizations with a lot of brands often think they’re all different, but the data might show otherwise.” She explained doing the research will help everything on the backend move much faster.
“Take the time to do both internal research and external research,” Kathy said. “You need insight from both of those perspectives to truly understand why people come to and stay in your organization and how talent perceives your current employer brand.”
Kathy Randall has been a member of the Talent Marketing Board since 2019. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.