A story with a past: this September, Bayer MaterialScience became Covestro. A completely new company, and thus, a completely new employer brand coming with it. With over 15,000 employees, Covestro is a global player that is attacking talent markets in the US, Europe, China and worldwide.
Why is this interesting?
As we’re the APOLLO blog (= Applying Online & Loving It), this is of course an excellent case study to investigate: both the birth of the new employer brand, and the global online communication strategy.
Also, I like the colors 🙂
So I’m interviewing Philipp Aschmann, responsible for global Employer Brand Development at Covestro, Leverkusen, Germany. His mission was to get all of this done. and in merely a few months. What was it like, what is the global communication strategy for the future, and what does “global vs. local” mean for Covestro? (Knowing that internationality is becoming a key candidate experience trend.)
8 questions to Philipp
1) Philipp, how was your year 2015? It must have been quite a ride for you…
(laughs) I guess it’s safe to say it was the craziest year I ever had and I will probably never have a comparable year ever again in my work life.
2) A completely new employer brand in only 3 months. What do you know now that you didn’t know before?
That it is a very very demanding challenge, but still possible to do! We knew we had to have some sort of an employer brand available by September 1st and all agreed on putting in a “little” extra effort to make the best out of the very tight timeline.
3) Did you have a benefit of “no history”, meaning you could literally model and invent a dream employer brand? If yes, what guided you in this?
We do have a strong and long history, having been Bayer MaterialScience. Our new identity as Covestro obviously does not deny that history, especially because we are also very proud of our historic background. But at Covestro we look very confident into our independent future, which also reflects in our new vision, mission and values. We did definitely invent our dream employer brand! Our vision and our values are core elements of the employer brand, when we say: we are curious, we are courageous, we are colorful – WE MAKE the world a brighter world.
While developing the Employer Brand we did not only focus on the values and vision but also did our basic homework by analyzing employee surveys, results from focus groups and global trend research.
4) During this whole process, did you take any risks, and if yes, which ones?
I’d say we took a lot of risks, time probably being the biggest one. When trying to develop a sound employer brand in 3 months you have to develop your strategy at the same time you’re producing certain measures and content, e.g. visuals or our career websites. Given this very tight timeline you simply have to be courageous and make certain decisions a lot faster than usual.
Good examples would be our Employer Brand visuals or the career website. The Key-Visual has been produced in 3 weeks, from the shooting to the final version we see today. The visual we are using today is version 65. This might sound a little much, but I also would have never imagined how much detailed discussion goes into creating a “simple” picture like this.
We also had to have our career websites ready for the launch on September 1st. Even though they still need some work and fine tuning I am very proud of the sheer amount of content we were able to create and align in only a few weeks.
5) What was your strategy for the online communication, like career website, ATS, social media and mobile?
After analyzing Covestro’s countries and their predicted recruiting efforts, it became obvious we need to focus on China, the USA and Germany as our biggest countries and therefore created dedicated career websites for these three countries. Each of these websites consists country specific information that is only valid for them, like our apprenticeship offers in Germany or veteran programs in the US.
We also created the global career.covestro.com site, sort of like a “hub” for all other countries. Our global ATS is integrated into all these sites and also been available since the first week of September. All career sites are responsive, but to be perfectly honest also need some improvements in that regard.
Same goes for our Social Media channels. We just started our Facebook Covestro Career page and actually see quite some promising growth on that page. Other channels are currently still being analyzed.
6) If you think a year ahead, where would you like to be with the online strategy?
Given our current situation where we are still adjusting to our new identity and also independency I would actually be satisfied, if we could manage to make the improvements on our career websites we already identified, establish other important social media channels and can also see a decent amount of interaction on them.
Looking at our social media strategy for example we don’t care about the amount of followers we have in total, we want to reach those people who show a certain interest in what we are doing and who are considering us as one of their potential employers. This also relates to the interaction rate I just mentioned, but I am very aware that it will still take some time for this to develop. If we could see significant develops within one year, I would be quite happy!
7) Covestro is a global German employer. What does global mean for you – how do you do “global employer branding”?
To me global employer branding is to find the right balance between globally unique content and messages and local adaptions. Looking at the global labor market, I don’t have to mention that everybody and everything is connected. In my opinion a global employer brand should therefore consist of the same messages, use the same pictures and share the same values and Employer Value Proposition (EVP), since they also represent our company culture.
A colleague working in China should not work towards a totally different goal than his colleagues in Spain or in Canada. The labor market is just as global. Taking the example of a student who studies in Germany and goes to the US for a semester abroad, should not receive completely different messages when getting in touch with us, no matter if it’s at a career fair or online. Therefore we created an Employer Branding Guide, which serves as how I like to call it “instruction manual” to our Employer Brand. We use it to explain our strategy but also show the countries where they are asked to feed the strategy with examples and target group specific proof points.
To me global employer branding should never only address different culture by country but also by profession, age and many other factors. An engineer might look for other opportunities than a finance expert. A 45 year old professional has different requirements than a 18 years-old high school student, looking to transition into her work-life. Our branding guide provides global guidance as well as inspiration to make the employer brand come to life each and every day.
Another important aspect is our company size. We are a big global company with around 17.000 employees, but we are still small enough to regularly get in touch with each other between the countries. This helps tremendously.
8) Finally my favorite question – what was your “favorite mistake”? The one thing you learned the most from.
Taking over the job to develop the global employer brand for Covestro was definitely the one thing I learned the most from. That was definitely not a mistake, but it was definitely my most favorite thing I did so far. When it comes to actual mistakes, I have done quite a few in the past months to be perfectly honest! Again, our timeline would be a great excuse for most of them, but there’s always things you can do better.
Communicating your steps and progress internally is always key and I think you can never do enough of it. Even though I think we did quite a good job at it, there’s always someone or something missing.
I know it’s a pretty boring answer and hopefully not received as arrogant, but I think we actually did a lot of things pretty well while developing our new Employer Brand!
Thank you Philipp – this is really interesting! I’m looking forward to following your story further. Even though I think you dodged the last question a bit 😉 But that makes it even more interesting for all readers to meet you in person and continue the conversation! Maybe at the next Potentialpark OTaC Conference in Düsseldorf, Paris or New York?
About the blogger:
Julian Ziesing is blogging about his view and experience from over 10 years of working with employer branding and the candidate experience. He is responsible for business development at international market research institute Potentialpark.