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Developing Brand Recognition, Part 1
Because of this, employees are likely to choose one department over another because they identify with the mission and the overall organizational culture.
The first step to recruiting these candidates is getting their attention. Departments with a reputation as being progressive are able to more easily attract top candidates than agencies with a poor reputation. Becoming an employer of choice is not a single event, but an ongoing, dynamic process. Leaders must continually work to manage the public’s perception of the agency as a place to work.
One technique to achieve this goal is to develop a strong brand recognition. Branding is the process an organization uses to distinguish itself from other employers. The concept of employer branding came from the product branding process used in the marketing industry. A brand image immediately triggers a mental image of a product or service’s quality.
For example, what images come to mind when one thinks of Mercedes versus Yugo, or Nordstrom versus Walmart? Similarly, a strong employer brand creates an image in the minds of job candidates of what it is like to work in an organization and makes them want to work there. Just as companies market their products and services as being the best, police departments must advertise employment opportunities with their agency as being the best.
Developing a strong employer brand has many benefits. Agencies with a strong brand image are able stand out from competitive employers and have a special allure as being an employer of choice. The stronger the employer brand image, the greater the emotional attachment employees have with the agency and enable departments to create a competitive edge in attracting and retaining high-quality candidates. Officers know they are part of something special. Because of this, agencies experience better morale and pride from being associated with a premier agency.
When an agency is already known for being a great place to work, less effort is required to recruit quality candidates. In addition, research indicates that candidates who self-select are more likely to be a high-caliber candidate and experience higher retention rates. Departments are able to withstand efforts from other departments to poach incumbents. If another employer is able to recruit an officer, the individual is more likely to return to the department when they find the working environment is not the same. Organizations are better able to attract employees in tight labor markets and turbulent periods.
On the downside, departments with a strong employer brand are known for having the best officers. As a result, other departments are continually attempting to recruit incumbents. In addition, developing a brand image is a long-term process, and the image is easy to destroy. So leaders must constantly work to protect the brand.
It is important to recognize, however, that every police department is already known for something and therefore has a default brand image. An agency may be known for providing above average salaries or equipment. On the other hand, an agency may also be known for poor employee relations or officer misconduct scandals.
The process of moving from the default brand to a desired brand is not an advertising or slick marketing scheme. It is a comprehensive bottom-up process that requires leaders to complete a thorough organizational assessment to identify the agency’s strengths and weaknesses. Using the findings of this critique, the current image and work conditions must be compared with the desired work environment.
The identification of any disparity requires changes to upgrade. While this may seem simple, changing an organization’s culture can be a long, difficult, and painful process. Once the desired conditions have been developed, the brand image becomes a magnet to attract and retain officer that fit with the organization.
Over the next three months, we will outline the process for agencies to identify their current brand image, develop the desired image, and communicating the image to potential candidates.
Dwayne Orrick has been the Cordele, GA Police chief for 18 years. He holds a Masters of Public Administration and a BA in criminal justice from the University of Georgia. People with questions or suggestions regarding their department’s recruitment and retention program can contact Orrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in Law and Order, Sep 2008
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