As part of a core team of five, Kumari Williams — HARMAN’s Director of Global Talent Acquisition and Employer Branding – and team had their work cut out for them as they set out to redefine their global EVP and employer brand.
With the project officially launching in the spring-summer of next year, Kumari shared the steps the team is taking to amplify their efforts and develop a strong employer brand that will resonate in all 34 of their active regions.
According to Kumari, this is a big project for them on multiple fronts.
“Internally, our goal is to summarize and clarify who we are and who we want to be — which includes HARMAN’s corporate goals of growing our revenue to $20 billion by 2025. So we have to rally around something meaningful for current and prospective employees,” Kumari explained. “Externally and sometimes internally, there is confusion around who HARMAN is. Which is why we need an EVP to bring clarity and allow us to position ourselves as an employer of choice for those candidates who want to be a part of something great.”
So, for her and the team, this project presents an opportunity to clarify to the marketplace who they are as an organization and why HARMAN is a good place to work.
Kumari and team kickstarted their process by utilizing HARMAN’s EVP project “work stream” team to gain insights on their different employee segments.
“We had to make sure that, because we’re a global company, we have the input from around the world so that what is created resonates around the world,” said Kumari. “And we did that by leveraging our work stream team — they are the ‘international feet on the street’ for us to understand what connects with our audience.”
A regular meeting cadence with the work stream team allows the core team to provide project updates and share the project timeline. The meetings also allow the work stream team to provide input on their regions and divisions.
“We’ve tasked them with collecting collateral that’s used in their region so that we can do an audit of what’s out there as far as our existing brand,” she explained.
Kumari and her team knew that HARMAN ultimately requires a single global employer brand that would be applicable to every segment and region.
She shares that, in order to gain more insights and set the project up for success, they chose to partner with recruitment advertising agency TMP Worldwide.
According to Kumari, it was important for them to choose an agency that could be as nimble as they were and could meet their aggressive deadlines for the project.
“Agility was the biggest thing we were looking for,” explained Kumari. “We wanted a partner who would be able to run with us, and TMP has been able to do that. It was also important that TMP be flexible with regard to changing input. TMP learned quickly that change is very much a part of life at HARMAN. Like HARMAN, TMP believes in an agile, iterative process that gets client input at every stage. If the messages did not resonate, HARMAN wanted the agency to know right away what elements did not ring true.”
Kumari also shares that the agency’s consultative nature was important for them and how they wanted to run the project.
“They told us things about our brand that we didn’t know, but they didn’t try to change who we are,” she said. She emphasized that these considerations were crucial for them in both their decision-making process for an agency, and also in the success of the project.
“Fortunately, our partner TMP’s offices span not only the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany but also India, Singapore, and a Latin American hub in Brazil they were thus sensitive in understanding that HARMAN did not want an American-centric brand,” said Kumari. “In speaking with our leaders and employees, they have been able to discover the common elements of the HARMAN culture that transcend geography.”
After the agency got to work, they came back to Kumari and team with the pillars of an employer brand platform that they took to their work streams for input.
“We asked the work stream team if TMP’s insights resonated with them. So we relied on the work stream input to make sure that it sounded like the HARMAN culture,” said Kumari. “And since TMP was creating a ‘One HARMAN brand,’ the foundation of what we were creating had to work for the work stream’s diverse divisions and their regions.”
She explained that these insights were crucial to the project and building their employer brand, because they needed the buy-in of the work stream team to make everything work across their 34 countries.
“If you go to launch an EVP and employer brand in China, and they haven’t been part of the project at all, then the adoption will likely be low,” reports Kumari.
Kumari and team also worked with their agency to build off of prior focus group data to help develop their new employer branding initiative.
A brand represents what we stand for. Its meaning and value extend beyond any of the tools with which we will communicate it. Successful employer brands, therefore, require both top-down and bottom-up buy-in.
“We told them we had employee research and asked them to help us validate what we had already done,” she said. “Then they took that information, built upon it, and reported back to us so we could incorporate it into our plan.”
Kumari explained this step was important for them because there was a lot of work that had been done previously to try and launch this project in prior years.
“We wanted to build off of the prior efforts of our colleagues,” she said. Having the support of TMP is helping them cross the finish line.
She and the team also worked with an internal steering committee to keep them on track and make sure they also had buy-in from leadership.
The committee was comprised of their global HR leadership team and key leaders from Marketing and Corporate Communications. Kumari and team would check in with them periodically as new ideas developed.
“If they thought we were off track, then we could take that information and adjust,” said Kumari. “We want to keep everyone up-to-date as we go and have them there as a sounding board.”
While Kumari helps provide guidance to the team, she credits the project’s success to her team members whose everyday jobs revolve around branding.
She emphasized that Cheyenne Foran and Darryl Ramey — who are HARMAN’s Talent Acquisition Branding and Social Engagement Program Manager and Senior Manager Talent Acquisition Branding & Partnerships, respectively — have put in the work to build rapport with TMP and set them up for success. They have established a collaborative process with TMP, in which everyone feels comfortable to share their thoughts and feelings. This heart and mind connection is essential if HARMAN is to build as brand that can be “lived” by employees, who will ultimately become brand ambassadors.
“Having Darryl and Cheyenne on my team has been so critical to the success of the project,” she explained. “We are on track because they live it, breathe it, and are driving it every day.”
She says having at least one or two people on her core team that are 100-percent dedicated to the project has made all the difference for them.
For anyone building up their employer brand strategy, Kumari emphasized identifying your stakeholders early.
“A brand represents what we stand for. Its meaning and value extend beyond any of the tools with which we will communicate it. Successful employer brands, therefore, require both top-down and bottom-up buy-in,” said Kumari.
As a result, Kumari points out that a new brand will naturally arouse emotional responses from stakeholders. Identifying stakeholders early in the process helps one find the best ways to communicate and identify and potential roadblocks to success.
“That’s critical regardless of the size of your team,” she said. “If you don’t know who your stakeholders are, then you can’t anticipate where resistance will come during your project.”
She said that knowing from the onset where there could be resistance and where they had buy-in was integral to the direction they took with the project.
“Our Executive Leadership has a vested interest in the project succeeding, that’s a vital part of building and launching a successful EVP and employment brand. The goal is always to have a brand that everyone at HARMAN can understand and identify with. That is what we are building. That is why we are doing this.”
Kumari Williams has been a member of the Talent Marketing Board since 2018. You can follow her on LinkedIn.