Catherine Gouw, Head of Employer Branding Lidl International
Congrats on winning Global Employer Brand Leader of The Year Award 2023, Catherine! We are very pleased to get this chance to chat with you. First things first; What is your own personal motivator in your work with Employer Branding?
From my point of view, employer branding is all about people - on the one hand, we want to appear attractive as an employer to relevant target groups in order to inspire them to join us and, on the other hand, we want to convince the people who already work for us that it was the right decision for them in the long term.
The focus on people is the personal motivator for me in my work in employer branding - it's not just that we do our work for people, but above all the collaboration with so many great people that spurs me on every day to be even more creative and authentic in my work. Working with my direct team, but also the contact with my international colleagues in Employer Branding, creates an atmosphere in which it feels like working with friends.
Great to hear about the people focus as a strong motivator for you personally and the community you have built over time in Lidl. What is your reflection on the evolution of employer branding in general since you started working in the field?
When I started in Employer Branding in 2010, the relevance of the topic was nowhere near as high as it is today, but the focus was already the same then - it was always about people. Due to the increased importance of the topic, a great community has also formed globally, which makes it possible to constantly question yourself in your work, utilise synergies and be inspired by other great projects in order to get the best possible results for your own employer.
You have introduced powerful analytics and a KPI system to measure employer attractiveness, both from the outside and inside – what have you learnt?
Data should always come first - after all, all the creative ideas are useless if we are not aware of what we should focus on. It is therefore significant to have relevant key figures in order to be able to use this data to derive, for example, what is important for future campaigns or to what extent the internal perspective should also be taken into account. Our Employer Branding Survey helped us a lot here, as we firstly surveyed the relevance of individual topics both internally and externally and secondly learnt how Lidl is perceived as an employer in these areas. Some topics that may have been relevant for us in communication beforehand were no longer relevant after the presentation of the results, or vice versa, as we had the comparison between desire and reality in black and white for the first time.
In addition, another overarching learning, which particularly concerned the employer brand interfaces, was that employer branding is an interdisciplinary topic that affects everyone in the entire company - because every single employee has a major impact on the employer brand. That is why it was also very important to us to present the results at different levels, but also in different areas, in order to sensitise people.
What are you most proud of in the Lidl EB work so far?
Over the past around 4 years, I have been able to celebrate many great successes together with my team. This has only been possible because we have built a team in which everyone stands up for each other and shares their own knowledge with the others to create synergies. Even though we all have different backgrounds, we are united by our mindset.
Since 2020, we have been able to develop many exciting topics and projects together and implement them in all 30+ Lidl countries through close collaboration with the countries’ colleagues. It all started with the rollout of the international employer brand design - a very emotional topic for us, as we tended to use cooler, almost distancing colours in the past and, with the implementation, we are not only talking about approachability, tangibility and diversity, but have finally brought them to life authentically in a bright world of colours and images.
In addition, as mentioned above, we have been able to measure Lidl's attractiveness as an employer globally since 2022 through a 360° data-driven employer branding approach - this success was recognised with second place at the Trendence Awards 2023 in Berlin and the Employer Brand Management Awards 2023 in London, among others.
That is great work and well-deserving of attention and recognition. Have you seen further impact of your work on the perception of Lidl?
We were also able to communicate Lidl's internationality more strongly externally and thus further open up the black box surrounding Lidl. We have achieved this, for example, by setting up the "Lidl International" LinkedIn profile (+70k followers since November 2020), but also by establishing our international careers site https://careers.lidl/.
The results mentioned above and the associated internal positioning at Management Board level have raised the topic to a very high level both structurally and globally and it is now an overarching strategic topic.
However, we must not forget that this would not have been possible without a fantastic international employer brand & recruiting community - it is this community that makes us better and better.
You made a statement at World EB Day 2023 to no longer talk about Employer Brand but Brand only. Why? What do you want to achieve and what challenges do you foresee?
As a B2C retailer, we have different target groups that are closely connected - customers are always potential employees for us and potential and current employees are always customers at best. In order to utilise these synergies holistically within the company, the silos have to be broken down to implement a successful One Brand approach. In a first step we are trying to align calculation principles of our KPIs with those of the customer perspective.
My personal aim is that in the future everyone in the organization is aware of their impact on the brand. Especially the store employees have to understand what it is about and which effects could arise, as they have the direct contact to the customer (or from HR perspective the direct contact to a potential employee), that is they have to keep in mind the different brand perspectives of ONE brand.
A powerful conclusion – we are ultimately one brand, and all of us in the organization contribute to the brand experience. Thank you so much for chatting with us today, Catherine, and best of luck in your continued work!
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