Universum: Data-Driven Strategic Approach To Employer Branding

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Mats Röjdmark, CEO, UniversumMats Röjdmark, CEO It was one of the routine class projects of an MBA curriculum. Lars-Henrik Friis Molin—an MBA apprentice back then—decided to conduct a student survey to help companies enhance their recruitment capabilities. The survey was designed to gather information about what are the different criteria that students of Stockholm have in mind when choosing an employer. The results of the survey quickly drew enough attention to be picked up by a Swedish press, and many employers were surprised by the findings. Numerous companies reached out to Lars-Henrik and asked to purchase the survey data. Fueled by such an overwhelming response, Lars-Henrik immediately saw an industry for his researched work. He wanted to use such surveyed insights to help an employer brand their company better among target candidates. Soon, he founded Universum.

Today, Universum is one of the largest consulting firms for employer branding worldwide. In 60 markets, Universum delivers the critical talent market insights, winning branding strategies, and compelling story- led communication that organizations need to compete more effectively for new talent. Universum partners with over 2000 universities, alumni groups, and professional organizations to conduct studies on their career and employer preferences. This data is utilized by employers to attract and retain talent that fit their culture and purpose. “Universum are the pioneers of the employer branding discipline and set new standards on how to define, manage, and evaluate an employer brand,” states Mats Röjdmark, CEO of Universum.

In May 2018, Universum was acquired by the e-recruitment firm, StepStone, an Axel Springer SE company, but Universum continues to operate as an independent company. “With the strength of StepStone, I look forward to expanding the awareness of employer branding worldwide and create an even stronger company,” states Röjdmark.

Universum is rapidly expanding its offering and geographical presence to serve the high global demand for employer branding solutions. This year, Universum has entered several new markets including, Romania and Slovenia. Through a series of agreements with StepStone backed job boards, Universum has also strengthened its position in existing markets including the UK, where it has partnered with Totaljobs, UK’s leading job board to offer employer branding research and services.

Analytics-based Decision Making

With a plethora of choices open to top talent, employer brands need to devise innovative strategies to attract talent and ensure they remain committed to the organization. To achieve success in such a competitive market, it is no longer sufficient for organizations to only prompt consideration by talent; they need to build employer brands that will attract the best talents. Universum believes that an active brand following is built on intimate understanding. For over 31 years, the company has invested in developing the most extensive career preference data set in the world. Every year, the Universum Ideal Employers Survey is completed by millions of students, graduates, and professionals across the globe.

Universum enables organizations to use their work culture, among other things, as a recruitment asset

The data generated by the surveys give Universum’s client partners a distinct advantage in finding the most effective methods to gain the attention and admiration of their target talent.

Above all, Universum enables organizations to use their work culture, among other things, as a recruitment asset. This, in turn, helps in increasing the quality of job applicants, improving the accept/reject ratio, and lowering the compensation employers need to offer. The right employer brand also increases staff retention and turns current employees into brand ambassadors, which in turn helps create a virtuous talent attraction cycle. Employers who understand the current talent market and invest in research are the ones that can differentiate themselves from the competition. To this end, Universum offers analytics solutions to help employers gain better insights into their audience and competitors, and make data-driven decisions about their desired brand position.

By partnering with Universum, companies can also set up relevant key performance indicators from an awareness and perception perspective. They can create a more compelling employee value proposition (EVP) and messaging strategy toward their target talent group and in the process, stand out from others in the space. Employer branding data also ensures that employers can attract the right talent for the right reasons. This way, both sides are satisfied, and it increases the likelihood of boosting employee retention. As an added benefit, companies can stay up-to-date with their target group’s current needs.

A Step by Step Approach to Branding

Building a strategic employer brand is accomplished in three steps by Universum. First, Universum ensures the client’s EVP aligns with their strategy, vision, as well as values of the corporate brand. Second, the company analyzes the existing perception among employees to identify a client’s current strengths and ensure that their EVP is credible and authentic. Finally, Universum reviews insights about the target groups to develop a relevant and attractive value proposition needed for specific target groups or countries.

Universum has supported many of its global and local clients in their pursuit to develop compelling value propositions that underpin their employer brand strategies. With Universum’s unique research capabilities and extensive experience, clients receive world-class advice and the most attractive, credible, distinctive, and sustainable solutions. Further, collaborating with Universum grants access to a methodology that is used in talent acquisition projects with some of the most recognized companies around the world.

Activating an Employer Brand

Universum’s mission is to connect talent with their future career. Using a data-led approach, coupled with a unique talent targeting method, Universum is able to support employers in developing and communicating relevant and engaging employer brand content.
From strategy to content and distribution, Universum helps companies engage their target talent effectively. What separates Universum from other creative or social media agencies is the use of its career preference data set. Not only can Universum use data to inform its strategies and to message at a very granular level, but the company can also use its talent database to build audiences that can be reached directly over email or on social media. Universum’s database includes around 1,000,000 graduates and young professionals in 50 countries. From this dataset, Universum analyzes the preference of the target groups and decides what is most important to communicate from amongst an employer’s offering. Consequently, a plan is devised to reach the target groups in the most effective manner.

Winning the War for Talent

Universum offers a world-class employer branding qualification via the Employer Branding Academy (EBA). Since its inception in 2014, EBA has welcomed over 1000 participants from more than 700 of the world’s largest and most progressive employers. The certified training program is designed to teach the science and techniques behind being one of the most attractive employers. The course offers the practical tools, skills, and knowledge needed to build an employer branding strategy, execute it, and measure its results, along with access to Universum’s unique international network of employer branding professionals.

"Universum is rapidly expanding its offering and geographical presence to serve the high global demand for employer branding solutions"

Throughout the program, participants work through four modules on Universum’s interactive eLearning platform, which has been designed for a fun and engaging learning experience. The online platform combines a broad mix of theory, interactive exercises, tools, templates, and case studies in the form of both text and video. The final part of the training involves a real case study, where participants apply their knowledge, tools, and structure in the last exercise.

Universum’s employer branding training is offered through online and offline formats. The online program is entirely flexible and can be adjusted around any schedule. A participant can decide when and where they want to continue with their training. The online version exchanges the live sessions for webinars, eliminating the need for travel while allowing for full access. Conversely, the offline version puts participants face to face with a passionate expert, as well as a group of industry peers in a classroom setting.

Displaying such capabilities, today, Universum has grown to become a globally active company that provides innovative and secure employer-branding services to clients worldwide, supporting them with quantitative measurement, evaluation, development, and targeted communication of their employer brands. As demand for employer branding dramatically increases over the years, Universum is also prepared to disrupt the HR landscape with a unique employer-employee relation.
- Hanna Wilson
    November 15, 2019
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Stockholm, Sweden

Mats Röjdmark, CEO

The primary mission of Universum is to create the best possible match between employers and talent by providing knowledge, guidance, and actionable insights. Universum makes it possible to create a better talent market, contribute to the success of expertise and employers, and ultimately to a better world. Founded in 1988, Universum is a trusted partner to over 1,200 clients and 1,500 universities worldwide, including many Fortune 500 companies and internationally renowned academic institutions. They help employers to understand, attract, and retain current and future ideal employees utilizing their experience, knowledge, and services within research, strategic consulting, and media solutions