Monday, 24 August 2009

Talent Management, Football Teams and Metaphors

Following up on the last blog on investment in human capital and social capital, and the example of football teams, I was taken with a little article in this week's edition of the Economist (August 22nd, 2009, p. 32) on the economics of Real Madrid's strategy for re-gaining their competitive position in world football by recruiting a new clutch of gallaticos - a metaphor for what many companies have done in the past and, apparently, one that finds support in the Harvard Business School study by Jose Luis Nueno of the soccer industry in emerging markets such as the USA, Japan and China.

For those people less engaged by football (soccer) than I am, Real Madrid have spent many millions this summer in re-applying a strategy first tried nearly ten years ago by their then president, Florentino Perez. He has has just been re-employed to help the club regain their former pre-eminent status in Spanish and world soccer from their arch-rivals Barcelona, who, interestingly, have followed much more of a 'grow your own', social capital approach to world domination of soccer.

The Real Madrid strategy is not just based on the ability of the new gallaticos to turn their considerable individual talents into results but to generate merchandising revenue in the way David Beckham did during the first wave of this strategy. It is also based on the ability of Perez to convince banks in Spain to supply sufficient credit to a club operating in one of the worst hit countries in Europe in terms of GDP growth and decline. Finally, much lower levels of income tax on players coming to Spain than in other European countries helps explain that the real costs to Real Madrid in paying wages is lower.

The point of the article is to contrast 'cheque book power' with Barcelona's largely 'home grown' strategy as a route to success. Metaphors, however, such as make or buy strategies are partial - they hide as much as they reveal. What the article fails to mention in Barcelona's strategy of building social capital not only through its attempts to create 'bonds' among the team by its development strategy but by its building of 'bridges' in the community it serves and the wider world through its ethical approach to promotion. So, like all, rather lazy, single factor theories of strategic success, of which sports team metaphors are among the most popular, are likely to be found wanting. Perhaps the secret lies in complementarity among different forms of capital investment. It certainly lies in developing better mid-range theories of success in industries like soccer; otherwise we will end up repeating this make or buy argument in football, which has a long history going back a century or so but has generated little light in what makes for sustainable success.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Which Counts More for Performance: Human or Social Capital?

We've been doing quite a bit of work recently (one of my PhD students, Stacey Bushfield and I) on the drivers of innovation in public sector organizations. These drivers are often described in tripartite terms - human capital (broadly individual competences), social capital (bridging and bonding capital, and trust) and organizational capital (the non-human capital left in the organization when people walk out of the door at night). And this is the basis of the model we are testing in the NHS in Scotland, which, like many industries, invests enormous sums of money on talent management.

So, it is with interest I read about the recent investments in football stars in the English Premier League and the attempts by one of Barclays subsidiaries to pay almost obscene amounts of money to recruit staff from US competitors. It seems that some organizations and industries' strategic recipes are based heavily on human capital and hiring in stars. And, where they go, others seem to follow.

However, this strategy for banks and football teams and the unreflective imitation by others seems to fly in the face of good research as Jeff Pfeffer has recently reminded us in citing a series of articles by Boris Groysberg from Harvard on the problems of hiring stars. He did so in his book with Robert Sutton on Dangerous Nonsense, but here's a recent summary of his arguments if you haven't read it. Worth reading and reflecting on because they demonstrate the importance of social capital and its interaction with human capital, which most most of us know about but some forget in committing the fundamental attributional error - attributing too much cause to individuals and not enough to the context. So why don't firms and football teams get it?

I recently watched my local football team in the Scottish Premier League draw with and beat two English Premier league clubs (actually one was recently demoted, which tells you something). My club cost less than £500,000 to assemble in total, which was less than the cost of the cheapest player on the demoted side and about a hundreth of the cost of assembling both Premier League sides. Cheap shot or a cheap lesson here for talent management?

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Living the Brand at Abercrombie & Fitch

On what has turned out to be a very long journey back from Chicago to Scotland, I found myself killing time in a New Jersey mall after an unplanned ovenight stop at Newark Airport. I chanced to go into Abercrombie and Fitch's store, by far the most popular in the whole mall as far as I could tell. For those less familiar with fashion retailing, A&F is a top casual luxury American brand popular with young college students, so I'm not really sure what I was doing in there. Just a few hours later, I was amused and interested to read in the airport lounge at Newark a BBC news a story about A&F in London, which has just been found wanting in its application of its employer brand. A young, highly qualified woman, Riam Dean, had been 'forced to work in the stockroom after wearing a cardigan to cover her prosthetic arm'. The industrial tribunal which heard her case 'is satisfied the reason for the claimant's dismissal was her breach of the 'look policy' in wearing a cardigan. Throughout the hearing A & F's London flagship store management claimed they had an inclusive diverity policy.

A couple of points emerge from this case. The first is just how important decisions taken by a local management team can impact on a brand. This item was number three in the national UK news, and may result, like the charges levelled against the Gap and Nike a number of years ago, in costing this company very dearly in terms of reputational capital. The second, slightly more subtle point, is that it illustrates the problems local managers have in interpreting the different strategic logics discussed in previous posts. I can well imagine an agonised discussion/debate taking place either in the head of the manager who took the decision to put the girl in the stockroom, or maybe between a group of managers/ supervisors in the store over the logic of distinctiveness (most fashion brands feel the need to have their staff 'live the brand' in terms of their appearance) and the logic of legitimacy.

At 3.00 am this morning my colleagues who were also stuck in the airport with me (Continental Airlines certainly did not live up to its brand claim for satisfied customers) were debating the merits of sustainable management and corporate social responsibility. Our sleepy conclusions were that new standards of legitimacy will probably win in the end in spite of the edicts of Milton Friedmann on the unitary role of business, forcing firms to become more ethical in their approach to doing business. Not easy to square, but firms like A & F had better eat some humble pie to recover their reputation in the UK at least for being a 'cool brand'.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

New Perspectives on Engagement

Another wonderfully illuminating session from the AOM conference, which most consultants and HR managers interested in engagement would have found very beneficial. To my mind this session represented all that is good in academic research and made up for what I've not found in any of the consulting work on the topic. It dispelled commonly held myths about the 'engagement industry', helped define what engagement was, provided robust and logical models of the how and why of engagement, and provided some great evidence from extremely tight studies of 'how to get engagement and keep people engaged'.

Here's a precis of their blurb (I've only changed the tense, changed a few pieces of academic jargon and added in a few parenthetical comments).

'Because of claims from both research and practice that engaged employees result in competitive advantages for today’s organizations, researchers have focused a great deal of their attention on identifying drivers of engagement that could suggest levers for managerial control. The symposium presented four papers that expanded our understanding of key antecedents which help employees become and remain engaged in the workplace. The first paper, by Sabine Sonnentag et al., from Germany was a longitudinal examination of how job demands combine with off-the-job psychological detachment to predict employee engagement. Results suggested that periods of psychological detachment (mentally “switching off”) during non-work hours reduced or eliminated the negative relationship between job demands and engagement.

The second paper, by Eean Crawford et al., from the University of Florida was a meta-analysis (a survey of surveys) that clarified ambiguities concerning the relationship of job demands with engagement in the job demands-resources model (this is definitely one that practitioners should get to grips with). Meta-analytic estimates revealed that job resources (autonomy, control etc) had consistently positive relationships with engagement, while job demands appraised as hindrances have negative relationships with engagement and, job demands appraised as challenges have positive relationships with engagement.

The third paper, was by Jill Waymire Paine from Columbia (was an absolute gem). It examined multi-level data from five organizations predicting employee engagement in organizational change initiatives. Arguments for change and followers’ regulatory focus (whether they were risk taking optimists, or risk averse pessimists) were most predictive of employee engagement in change initiatives. This paper had really important implications of how leaders management change and keep people engaged while doing so, rather than inducing resistance or cynicism.

The fourth paper, by Ronald Bledow et al., from the University of Geissen, examined daily fluctuations!!! in employee engagement and found that positive workplace events interact with social and personal resources to predict daily levels of employee engagement'. Again, this work brings into question the stability over time of a concept such as engagement.

Link these papers to the one by Balain and Sparrow reviewed in an earlier blog and you begin to get a far better understanding of what engagement is than anything that I've come across so far. I'm certainly going to use them in my research and consulting, and others may want to do the same.

More on Talent Management from the Academy

I'm doing a new chapter with a practitioner colleague of mine for a book on Global Talent Management edited by Hugh Scullion and Dave Collings, so it was with great interest I attended probably the best session for me so far. This was chaired by Paul Sparrow and summarised by Chris Brewster, with some top class presentations in between, all of which will feature in a special issue of the Journal of World Business later this year.

I'm not going to try to summarise the papers as some can be found on various websites, including the opening literature review by Randall Schuler from Rutgers and Ibraiz Tarique. Of the four papers presented two were of most interest for me. The first was by Hugh Scullion, Paul Sparrow and Elaine Farndale on the the role of Corporate HR departments in global talent management. They argued that what they did and how effective they were depended to a great extent on the degree of corporate control or decentralisation of the organization, or in our terms, how the organization addressed the integration-responsiveness logics, which maps onto my earlier posts on this topic on Negative Capabilities. In trying to develop a framework for helping academics and practitioners think more systematically about global talent management, I think they have come up with something of real interest which is both empirically based and shows important connections among the four roles that corporate HR departments play or should play. These four roles are:

1. Champions of Process - systems monitors, or in our terms guardians of corporate integration
2. Guardians of Culture - in our terms, ensuring integration and legitimacy through spreading the message of corporate values
3. Managers of Internal Receptivity - preparing the organization and its business units to facilitate and accept mobility among leaders, and
4. Managers of Networks of Leaders and Corporate Intelligence

They argued employer branding was the binding tie between 1 and 2, with which I readily agree. We've discussed this in earlier posts as employer branding following a logic of similarity and legitimacy through help build and disseminate shared values. However, there are a couple of problems with the framework, one of which was picked up by Paul Evans, who pointed out the corporate HQ perspective they had on global talent management, a view evidenced by the frequent mention that decentralised multinationals experienced the greatest problems in implementing global talent management. This, of course, depends on where you are standing, because the interests of business units are sometimes in conflict with the interests of the corporation as a whole. And, as Paul Evans rightly mentioned, Web 2.0 technology is facilitating a much greater bottom up approach to talent management, which is not in the gift of corporate HQ to control. I would also add that our discussion of employer branding needing to reflect authenticity and privileging the local (see earlier post) also implies a perspective that global talent management is not something that corporate HR departments should necessarily control in the way they often do - in other words, decentralisation of some decisions on talent is not always a problem, rather the reverse.

So, Paul, Hugh and Elaine, if you read this blog(I know we discussed that following the questions you may have to rethink your model a little) you may want to take into account some of these points in revisting your model. But even if you didn't it is certainly a help for HR practitioners in multinationals in giving them a useful framework to think about their jobs in relation to talent management.

A second paper from some Finnish and Swedish colleagues presented by Kristina Makela which was also very interesting examined the question of who made it into the talent pool and why. Apart from the obvious reasons connected with performance appraisal, which was a rear view mirror, 'on-line' search', they found three explanations, which were more forward looking, 'off-line' reasons - cultural and institutional distance (the less that this was between corporate HQ and individuals, the more likely they were selected), 'homophilly' (the more like the existing talent pool, the more likely to be chosen) and network centrality (were they key nodes in the organizational networks). Some worrying findings here!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Picking up on Negative Capabilities and Talent Management

I know as academics we're not supposed to look for confirmatory evidence to support our views, but it's rather difficult not to feel pleased when some ideas you have just written about seem to be supported by what is going on in the big bad world of talent management.

I've just attended another session at the Academy of Management on 'Developing Top Executive Talent; How Employers Do it' featuring three presentations by the heads of HR/ Talent management of three American multinationals - GE, Boeing and Sara Lee. Common themes of these presentations were:
  1. The linking of executive development to key strategic capabilities and the distinctiveness logic, which was also expressed in the exclusive approach to talent management focusing on the top 20% of performers
  2. But the need to connect and assess executive development to the expression of core, corporate values. Indeed corporateness and corporate values were core themes in all three presentations but never fully explained as to why. GEs performance-values matrix seemed to sum up the way these organizations attempt to reconcile these two dimensions, with leaders measured not only on how the perform but also on the extent to which they express core values. Indeed, they seemed to be pretty ruthless about 'removing' (their word) high performers who didn't live up to the values ('would you want these people in GE' was the question?), whereas they were willing to give second chances to low performers who expressed the core values.

When questioned on this, all three suggested that the strategies weren't forever and that they frequently amended the values to reflect changing environments. In other words, strategic direction was more learning than planning, though the planning word did feature in their presentations - implying even these giants of the corporate world 'muddled through', to some extent at least.

Two further noticeable features were:

1. the desire and reality of all three to focus on developing rather than hiring talent, especially in the engineering divisions of GE and in Boeing. Leadership development in the core businesses was based on taking talented engineers and subjecting them to intensive and extensive development opportunities - in other words seeing leadership and management as an extension of 'craft' and not as something which was separate from and above the core business of engineering and manufacturing quality products, and

2. that sustainability, the core theme of the AOM conference, was not even mentioned in the three presentations. Is this a case of the Academy leading practice, or failing to be in touch with the reality of business?

Finally, the Boeing case highlighted a potential problem in the development-oriented approach to talent management. Everything they seemed to do was aimed at creating strong internal cultures and strategic capabilities based on promotion and development from within. Yet much of the research suggests that innovation often requires the injection of fresh blood and ideas from outside. The Boeing VP for talent management didn't seem to recognise the irony of this philosophy with her need to visit GE at Crotonville and Harvard to develop herself to develop others!

Blogging for Management Academics and Practitioners

I participated in an excellent professional development workshop at the Academy of Management's Annual Conference yesterday on 'Blogging for Management Scholars' run by CV Harquail of Authentic Organizations and colleagues. This day long workshop focused on the reasons to blog, how to read blogs, how to participate and, for beginners and experienced users alike, how construct a blog using Wordpress, probably the best platform for this social medium. Though it was aimed at academics, I would say that it applied equally well to reflective management practitioners and consultants who are interested in blogging.
A blog has been created - InsightstoAction- which contains all of the information to get started and a really useful list of academic blogs created by management and organizational scholars, some of whom I met yesterday for the first time. There were some particularly useful sessions, tips and illuminating discussions on not only 'how to' blog but, just as important, why to blog and how to engage with your intended audience. I learned that my blog posts were among the longest, which is rarely a recipe for any form of communications, let alone one that is noted for brevity. In part these long blogs are written for my benefit, so there was a lesson for me in being a little more focused on who I'm writing for. So no more 2500 word posts.
One session that helped me think more reflectively about my own blog was a free writing exercise intended to help author construct the 'About Me' page, one of the most important features on all blogs since it helps convince readers that you are worth listening to and engaging with. This exercise was based on writing to a series of prompts and ran along the following lines:

  1. If your blog were a room, what kind of room would it be? A lecture room, seminar room, kitchen, etc' - describe the room, the furniture, the layout, decor etc.
  2. In that room, what do you want to talk about or discuss and why do you want to talk about it?
  3. What role do you see yourself mainly playing in that room? Director/ expert, conceiver of new ideas, translator of ideas, coach, collaborator? Which words describe your role? And which are most appropriate for what you are trying to do with your blog?
So many thanks to CV Harquail, Jordi Comas and colleagues for an excellent session and I can thoroughly recommend InsightsToActions to anyone interested in management blogs and blogging

Saturday, 1 August 2009

New Futures for Employer Branding

I'm doing a number of presentations on employer branding at academic and practitioner conferences over the next month or so, beginning with a symposium with colleagues on 'Current Controversies in Recruitment and Selection' at the Academy of Management (AOM) in Chicago this coming Friday. At that session I'm going to outline what employer branding is about, how the recession has changed the focus of HR and people management, and thus the need for employer branding, and how employer branding can contribute to a bigger agenda of strategic and business model change (incidentally, I'm also going to participate in a session at the AOM run by C.V Harquail, the creator of Authentic Organizations on blogging for management academics, which I'm really looking forward to).

Three inputs into that session are relevant. The first is our consulting work with some excellent colleagues at Holcim, Getinge and the NHS in Scotland, from whom I've learned so much. This has reinforced my conviction that you never really understand business and management phenomena until you have been involved in changing them, which is one of the compelling reasons for academics becoming involved in clinical work and action research. The second and third are the most recent CIPD statement on Employer Branding: Maintaining momentum in a recession' which Rebecca Clake wrote and to which I contributed to during some roundtable discussions with senior practitioners, and a paper I've just finished with Paul Gollan and Kerry Grigg from Australia, entitled 'A Future for Employer Branding? Dealing with Negative Capabilities in Strategic Human Resource Management', which my colleagues are going to present at a conference in Sydney later this month. Not surprisingly, some of the messages in these two publications coincide'. The CIPD paper makes a case for employer branding becoming a business imperative. At one of the advisory group sessions from which the CIPD report was produced I argued for the need to link employer branding to big ticket items such as leadership and innovation, which has been taken up in the report and is one the themes in our new paper on the future of employer branding in tying it to strategic and business model change.

In this paper, we have tried to deal with the problems that complex organizations, especially but not only, multinationals face in dealing with the integration-responsiveness problem, part of which turns on how to deal with how to be global and local at the same time. In doing so, we've set out a new framework for thinking about what strategic human resource management might mean, highlighting two contradictory logics that drive strategy making in organizations in opposite directions. The first is to be distinctive, which takes them down the route of identifying business unit level strategic capabilities that make organizations truly unique, and the A positions and players that are critical to these strategic capabilities. In turn, this leads these organizations away from one-size fits all HR strategies and best practice and global employer brands towards more of a focus on exclusive talent management policies and segmentation of the workforce and specific employer value propositions/ branding messages for these groups, especially the A players (see earlier blog on linking employer branding to strategic HRM)

The other logic drives organizations to be legitimate in the eyes of others and society at large. This logic sees strategic decisions as influenced by a need or drive to be similar to others. Sometimes decisions are driven by the need for legitimacy, sometimes they are driven by an historically shaped 'industry recipe' for success that managers use as a model against which to judge their decision-making in uncertain conditions. The result is that there are strong pressures to imitate others’ strategies and values, supported by intensive networking among managers (and HR specialists), recruitment of business leaders from a relatively small cadre or talent pool that lead to bandwagon effects, coercive comparisons in the form of benchmarking best practice against other firms, and national legal standards or codes of conduct in accounting, governance and CSR drive companies to achieve legitimacy by becoming similar. This logic ensures that firms develop a strong corporate value system, often for investor s’ consumption, and to control potentially rogue subsidiaries that might damage hard won corporate reputations and brand equity through opportunistic but ultimately self-defeating behaviour for the corporation as a whole.

The SHRM implications of this drive towards corporateness are of firms becoming similar in their branding, thus seeking to become employers of choice with a global employer brand and ‘best practice’ high performance HR architectures (high performance work systems +the Ulrich model). The audience for many of these best practice messages are largely external – to sell a message to investors, governments, customers and potential employees that they are engaging with a well run, legitimate company that is as least as good as others. It also helps existing employees identify and engage even more with the organization because identity and engagement are formed by what these employees think significant outsiders feel about their organization - their so-called construed image.

The obvious point to make on the legitimacy logic is to ask the question that Michael Porter might ask: where is the differentiation in doing things the same as everyone else?

Three further sets of tensions of negative capabilities result from these contradictory logics:

1. The tension between corporate and local identities. Global companies seek to exercise control over identities because of the need to have business units and their workforce ‘on message’ with the corporate logic, global cost leadership and corporate stakeholder management. However, philosophers and management scholars have argued identity is essentially a local phenomenon and has to resonate or be authentic with employees and other local stakeholders because both are a product of local cultures. So localisation of identity requires organizations to be in tune with local employees and other stakeholders and to encourage constant expressions of employee voice and speaking truth to power, an argument recently receiving UK government backing from the MacLeod Report on engagement.

2. The tensions between exclusive and inclusive HR strategies. The exclusive approach to talent management that focuses on the few at the expense of the many has its critics for ethical, economic and rational reasons. Especially in European economies, including Britain, that have a heritage of integration among firms and employees and different values from the USA as a recent Economist poll on Anglos-Saxon attitudes has so vividly illustrated, the liberal market philosophy on which this exclusive talent management approach is based is a difficult pill to swallow for many organizations, managers and employees outside of the US.

Even within the USA, however, there is strong evidence that the exclusive version of talent management hasn’t worked well and, given the unpredictability of economic environments, can’t work well. Groysberg and his colleagues have produced a number of series of articles showing the negative side of the ‘star’ system which the exclusive version of talent management has helped fuel. And, has Anthony Hesketh has argued, the metaphor or a talent pipeline with the implication that talent management can be planned might be more realistically replaced by a metaphor of the talent sieve, with leaks appearing at many junctures because of the failure of organizations to manage careers through the pipeline and because of declining levels of loyalty among talented employees who have got the message delivered by acquisitive organizations that job change is the fastest route to salary increases.

3. Tensions between human and social capital and innovation. Arising from the previous discussion, HR initiatives and other management techniques and functions are increasingly being judged against how they impact the innovation agenda in these organizations. Research has shown that the 'collective IQ' of an organization, the latter of which is the basis for innovation, depends at least as much and probably more on social capital investment than individual human capital investment, which is what talent management and employer branding have traditionally focused on. So as well as investing time and effort in recruiting talented individuals, the role of human capital investment, organizations also need to focus on social capital by strengthening internal bonds among employees and by creating strong organizational identities (addressing the ‘who are we’ question as well as the ‘who am I’ question).

Implications of the Future of Employer Branding. So what are the implications for the futures of employer branding and how can it be used to resolve these dilemmas of SHRM and identity management? We suggest there are three changes in direction needed: a focus on authenticity, privileging the local, and a focus on social capital.

Focus on authenticity. It needs to rid itself of its image of being something that is designed by HR, marketing or corporate communications departments for others, especially among buisness unit managers and employees of large corporates, towards being locally responsive and authentic. Authenticity has become an important concept in recent management literature in fields such as leadership and marketing and needs to be at the heart of employer branding for it to help resolve the dual logics of SHRM.

In our Sydney paper, we have written about an HR strategy-as-practice approach that attempts to reconcile the tensions between the two logics of distinctiveness and similarity/ legitimacy. This requires that we understand who all parties to the strategy-making process are (a much wider group of people in organizations than senior managers and officially designated strategists), how they act and what resources they draw on they participate in helping create and implement strategies and, by extension, business models. Thus effective employer branding should begin by learning about the authentic voice of different groups of employees and managers at all levels and locations inside and outside of the organization. On this point, we have made the case in our CIPD report for new, free-form, open access Web 2.0 tools such as blogging, on-line discussion forums and social networking to enable authentic employee voice. We regard these new tools as more effective, or at least complementary, media for enabling employee voice than traditional organizational surveys.

Privileging the Local. Our argument for greater authenticity in employer branding compels us to focus on the local and on the logic of difference. This is not only because identity is an essentially local phenomenon, but, as we have noted, so are strategic capabilities, transformative business models and the HR architecture that supports them. In practical terms, this means privileging the local at the expense of the global in terms of creating authentically meaningful employer branding and employee value propositions. The outcomes may look no different from those that might result from a traditional top down exercise infused by the logic of similarity, especially since the process may be loosely framed in terms of broad aspirations of values or a corporate identity that organizations would like to be known for. However, an HR strategy-as-practice approach suggests the outcome is less important than the means by which it is arrived at.

As we have argued elsewhere, however, ‘the weight of evidence…suggests that the top-down, corporate global message continues to be the dominant one, which often represents considerable previous investment in ideas and programs, and, hence, an inbuilt reluctance to change course or experiment’. And, as we have noted in this paper, top down employer branding reflects the compelling logic of similarity, the benefits of integration and strong institutional and rational pressures to remain top down, including the desire to build global customer facing brands, pressures to meet international governance standards, investor demands, global performance standards and HR business processes. As the similarity logic requires, it is not only local responsiveness and authenticity which needs to be taken into account; there also needs to be a balance between the needs for and benefits of integration . A key element of HR architectures is employee engagement, which rests on defining the kinds of beliefs, values, attitudes and actions that employees are expected to hold and display, both at local and corporate level. This is part of the corporate function of employer branding, to ensure that it moves lockstep with business model and strategic change, not in parallel to it.

So, in privileging the local we are not arguing for a neglect of corporate or global values and branding, but rather that they should be ‘equivocal’ to allow employees at local level considerable latitude in creating local expressions of these values, authentic identities and meaningful strategies for themselves, and in doing so benefit the corporation as a whole.

A focus on social capital. Finally, we stake a claim for employer branding’s potential contribution to building bonds, bridges and trust, the key elements of social capital, and not just focusing on the creation of human capital. Social capital as a complementary asset and enabler of human capital and as a precursor of intellectual capital and innovation has become amongst the ‘biggest games in town’. And innovative business model change and product-market innovation needs a clear explanatory framework of how HR integrates with such changes, which provides an essential justification for employer branding role in learning about and communicating a strategic discourse that binds individual, team and organizational identities – the glue that holds organizations together - during periods of change.

Since social capital is also dependent on building bridges among employees and business partners, employer branding can help innovation, business model and strategic change by extending its traditional focus from those employed on a ‘contract of service’, the traditional employment contract, to those ‘contracted for services’, often pejoratively described as the contingent workforce. Employer branding can also contribute directly to the innovation agenda by encouraging authentic voice in organizations as I've argued above.

To conclude this rather long blog, if you find any of these arguments appealing or contentious, please - all comments on our views are welcome. Andif readers of this blog are keen on seeing the full paper, please contact myself, Paul or Kerry.