The Making of Our Employer Brand Handbook - HR Open Source

How do you help nearly 1,000 employees spread around the globe to understand, live, and bring an employer brand of a hyper growing global start-up to life each and every day?

This is one of the questions that keeps our Talent team, and surely many others, up at night. Hootsuite has experienced four years of explosive growth, growing from 20 to nearly 1,000 employees, and seeing our operations grow from one to nine countries (and counting) during that time.

We’ve always been an organization with strong values, but scaling our Employer Brand with this type of growth takes more than a compelling Employer Value Proposition (EVP). We needed to find a way to iterate on our current frameworks. To articulate and capture what makes Hootsuite special, and make it easy for current and future employees to sing from the same sheet of music.

Our answer was to develop an Employer Brand playbook, “A Guide to #HootsuiteLife”. The playbook was developed to share the why, what, and how we approach Employer Brand; including examples of Employer Brand campaigns and how our peeps can bring them to life. Focused primarily on equipping our talent department, we also wanted to build something that our employees felt equally empowered by.

Let’s face it, the field of Employer Branding (EB) is changing rapidly. So much so that probably by the time we post this it will be different. New platforms and tools enter the market every quarter. This playbook is designed to be iterative, reviewed, and refreshed in real time so we can update as we pilot and adopt new approaches, and shed old ones.

The following #HROS case study is a breakdown of how we built it, what we learned, results, what we got wrong, key takeaways, and the playbook itself. This one goes out to our entire talent team who shed some sweat to make this share for you all.

What We Did

Our aim was to build a playbook that made it easy for members of the Hootsuite Talent (HR) team to understand the why and how behind our Employer Branding efforts, as well as provide actionable and specific details on how they can participate in driving our EB efforts.

We set out to build a deck that illustrated everything from our Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and values, how we live them, to Employer Brand (EB) channels, and specific guidance on how to represent and contribute to Hootsuite’s EB efforts.

Anticipated Outcomes

  • Develop a cohesive and comprehensive global playbook to support our Employer Brand efforts

  • Allow all internal stakeholders (within and outside the Talent team) to easily understand our Employer Brand mission

  • Develop and reinforce our Employer Value Proposition (EVP)

  • More effectively onboard new hires across our Talent team

  • Support the team when sourcing in the global market with positioning and resources

  • Provide a resource for our Executive team to understand why/where/how we’re focusing our Employer Brand efforts

  • Enhance our capability to hire awesome talent

How We Did It

The Employer Brand playbook was born from an idea from our VP of Talent, Ambrosia Vertesi. Brand and social are always core to how we have scaled rapidly, but we placed an increased emphasis on our building our Employer Brand in Q2 of 2015. As we beefed up our EB efforts she saw a need and opportunity to make sure our efforts were documented for full internal transparency, and ensure our Talent team all fully understood what we were working towards, and the role they each played in success outcomes.

The project was jointly led by our CSR Strategist, Aki Kaltenbach, and Employer Brand Strategist, Lars Schmidt. They kicked off the project with Ambrosia by discussing an outline of what would be included, key stakeholders, necessary data and metrics, and ideal outcomes.

We’re breaking down the playbook below, and including the full deck at the bottom. Note: removed some proprietary content in the deck below, but included the slides with high-level overviews so readers can replicate as they see fit (c’mon, we can’t give EVERYTHING away. Didn’t you read that hypergrowth opening?). #SharingIsCaring

Building Our Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

Our first step was streamlining our Employee Value Proposition. Our company values were well-known internally (and externally through our Culture Manifesto).  We wanted to make it powerful, yet simple and easy to follow. We built our EVP as a model that cascaded from Organization → Team → Individual. It was important for us to show all three components of the employee experience, and reinforce how our individuals peeps impact the entire ecosystem.

At HOOTSUITE, we’re revolutionizing communications via social and transforming messages into meaningful relationships.

OUR TEAM is comprised of passionate, egoless peeps having fun building something bigger than themselves.

Each day, YOU will bring our core values to life through your actions and collaboration with our team, customers, and our community.
— Hootsuite Employee Value Proposition

The next section focused on our values. We wanted to do more than state them, we wanted to show examples of how we live them. This was an important addition suggested by our Executive team in one of our early walkthroughs of the playbook in progress. Showcasing our B Corporation status was another way to reflect this, and future new hires who may not be familiar with #BCorp know why it’s written into our charter.

We spent the majority of our time developing the “what” and the “how” sections. The aim here was to clearly and concisely explain what we’re trying to do with our EB efforts.

The aim of Hootsuite’s Employer Branding efforts are to:

  1. Attract and retain the top fucking talent out there!

  2. Ensure our team is singing the same song when speaking to candidates.

  3. Inform prospect decisions by sharing an open view of our employee experience

  4. Provide an inclusive global representation of Hootsuite through storytelling

  5. Lead the way in Social HR and share our work openly both internally and externally

One of the key sections here is the Global - Local Market Positioning. As Hootsuite has grown and entered new markets, our story—and thus our EB positioning—is a bit different. We worked closely with our global talent leads to understand how we’re positioned in each region; including stage, culture, local positioning, and local EVP. This allows all of our global talent colleagues to understand the value proposition in each region and helps us tailor our EB messaging.

The next section of the Employer Brand playbook begins breaking down the “How” of our EB efforts. This section is the meat of the playbook. It covers topics including success measures/KPI’s, EB pillars, tone of voice, channels, communities, departmental branding assets, tools, and how to represent Hootsuite on LinkedIn and Twitter.

We also included some campaign examples in this section to show how we develop, design, and execute EB initiatives. We’re not very bureaucratic, so we try to empower our Talent team to come up with ideas. This provides them with the framework so they understand any stakeholders and/or approvals they may need to work with on EB programs.


We’re just formally launching the employer brand guidelines, so the metrics we’re sharing reflect the impact of an increased emphasis on Employer Brand holistically as of April 2015.

  • 50% increase in applications per position [Q2 > Q1]

  • 53% increase in #HootsuiteLife engagement (our anchor EB asset) [Q2 > Q1]

  • 61% increase in @HootsuiteLife Twitter follower growth [Q2 > Q1]

What We Got Wrong

One of our core values is “leading with humility.” That’s one of the reasons we include what we got wrong in each case study to share our missteps and learnings.

  • Our initial draft of the EB playbook didn’t include a very clear call to action to our team. We could have started with that in our “why” analysis.

  • We went through several versions of the EVP before we had the language tight and simple. We started by just taking our existing and reframing to our talent team. Their feedback simplified it—we should have started there.

  • The Global/Local EB positioning is a really key component to this roadmap. Providing our regional leads a template of what we were looking for them would have helped with time-zone communication and collaboration delays.

  • It is a huge topic for us and we have an abundance of resources we still couldn’t include without making it somewhat unreadable. We need to explore one centralized place that is more user-friendly than a PPT with hyperlinks.

Key Takeaways for HR

Having an Employer Brand playbook has helped rally our Talent team around our strategies and efforts. We don’t have a huge budget to work with and the clearer we know who we are and are not as well as how to utilize that for results, the more likely we are to be set up for success in hyper growth.

So far, it has also contributed to much deeper conversations going into 2016 planning and resource mapping. Having recently hired four new leaders onto our team, it has expedited their ability to tailor their early days strategies to what would work in our business. And finally, we are lucky to have a great relationship with our marketing team, but this visibility has helped them realize what our key drivers are roadblocks are so they can partner.

While not a requirement to be successful in your Employer Branding efforts, a digestible guideline ensures that all stakeholders are aligned and working towards the same goals. It’s particularly valuable for growing global organizations, where things can get away from you quickly, as it helps all stakeholders understand their role in driving Employer Brand.