suite brew series with Schneider Electric

Having presented employer branding insights and reports to over hundreds of clients, I’ve always said that there is a distinction between the corporate and employer brand. That companies have to be diligent in having a separate strategy when it comes to curating the candidate experience vs the customer’s experience.

However, this interview between Schneider Electric’s CMO Chris Leong (CL) and Senior Director, Global Employer Branding Yeonjoo Lee (YL), provides another point of view when thinking about employer branding and the roles both marketing and HR play in telling that story. I'm delighted to be able to have Chris and Yeonjoo interview each other on the topic of employer branding.

Joining Schneider 6 years ago to lead its digital transformation, Chris Leong was appointed to the executive committee as CMO 3 years ago in March with the clear mission to make our brand and marketing a competitive advantage for the company. She’s come from a thriving global career that has taken her around the world, working in brand and marketing agencies and global companies, from consumer markets to B2B industries.

Responsible for the global employer brand of Schneider Electric, Yeonjoo Lee joined the company five years ago as the Head of Marketing in Korea and Taiwan, before she moved to Hong Kong SAR to take over this position. With over 15 years in Marketing, she has been tasked with bridging the company’s employer and corporate brand.

Schneider Electric on employer branding
Schneider Electric on employer branding

Yeonjoo Lee (YL): From a marketing perspective, what do you think is the key difference between the consumer brand and the employer brand?

Chris Leong (CL): I wouldn’t focus on the difference.

We believe that great people and partners make Schneider Electric a great company. Not only our employees but also our customers, distributors, developers, regulator, community members and the whole eco-system help Schneider deliver our brand promise.

Traditionally, a corporate brand and an employer brand were separately developed to target different audiences with different objectives –The analogy often used was that they are two sides to the same coin.

Now society has evolved and the line between a corporate and employer brand has been blurred. There is greater transparency facilitated by social media and websites like Glassdoor. Every voice - from customer, employee, partner, and job applicant - can be easily heard, and they collectively influence on the brand perception.

Consumers themselves have changed. They value how companies treat their employees or partners, which has an impact on their purchase decisions. The corporate and employer brand need to work together in a holistic way. It’s less two sides of the same coin, and more so a mobius strip that is intertwined with each other.

YL: How do you communicate the different brand messages effectively? Do you have to develop 2 strategies to support the messaging?

CL: It’s one brand strategy with different executions and messages per audience. Let me give you an example.

We have a brand business campaign going on, named the ‘Bold Idea’ campaign. Targeting our customers, we talk about our EcoStruxure, the IoT-enabled architecture and platform, and what benefit it delivers to help our customers achieve their bold ambition.

We have also implemented this Bold Idea campaign to target university students. Schneider has an annual global business case challenge, Go Green in the City, which has been running for 8 years. This year, as part of the Bold Idea campaign, we asked students to apply for the challenge with ideas bold enough to help our cities and planet become more sustainable.

While the audience is different, we have a very consistent messaging strategy, including creative look & feel, messaging tone, and hashtags – ultimately, it’s the same campaign, but with different executions.

Schneider Electric on employer branding
Schneider Electric on employer branding

Chris Leong (CL): How important is it that HR and Marketing work together to create the right employer brand messages?

YL: It’s an important change management. We first changed the organizational structure. I have two reporting lines – one to the Global Talent Acquisition SVP in HR and the other to the Global Brand SVP in Marketing. It ensures that I engage both HR and Marketing stakeholders and that we have an aligned strategy.

In addition to the strategic alignment, marketing skills are getting more and more important for HR professionals. Traditionally, HR was an inward-looking function, but more and more it is being called upon to strengthen the brand promise of organizations, and this requires HR to reinvent itself.

A candidate journey - from awareness, consideration, application to retention - is the same as the customer journey. Majority of the market are passive candidates, and HR cannot just sit still and wait for quality applications.

Data analytics, which have been the area of marketing, is also super critical in HR now. Schneider Employer Branding team uses all the insights tools in Marketing, such as Brand awareness measurement tool, website, social media or SEO analytics. Going one step further, customer segmentation in Marketing is being applied in HR too. If we are looking to hire more software engineers, for example, we may segment and map the market to understand what kind of skills are available in the market vs skills that we need, where those talents are based vs where our hub office is/should be located, where they work, how they move, etc.

Lastly, our employees live by our brand values. They are our powerful communication media. Marketing and HR work together to help 142,000 brand ambassadors be proud of our mission and deliver business value to our customers.

CL: What initiatives have you implemented that have contributed to building the right EVP for our business? How are you measuring the impact of those initiatives?

YL: We defined our EVP three years ago based on employee insights. We conducted +30 interviews with senior leaders, +32 global focus group discussions where +300 participants attended in 21 markets in 7 languages.

Going beyond just building the EVPs, we have been continuously transforming ourselves to demonstrate our EVPs. For example, Diversity and Inclusion is one of our EVP to ensure that every employee has equal opportunities and the same chance of success no matter who they are or where they are from.

To support our D&I ambition, we introduced a unique multi-hub model and systematically relocated global jobs to these hubs across the world to have a truly global leadership. So, instead of having one global headquarters, we now have three hubs located in Paris, Boston and Hong Kong SAR. In the coming years, we hope to continue to attract local talents through this model as it has already been instrumental in the expansion of our business beyond the traditional markets.

We measure our employer branding impact in various ways. For the external impact, we track how much "Share of Voice" we create for the overall corporate brand awareness, how many engagements we deliver, and how younger talent perceive us as an employer. Internally, we have the annual pulse check of employees on how much they are willing to advocate the company as well as monitoring internal referral trend and feedback from candidates.

YL: What about from a marketing perspective? How do you measure the impact of a strong brand message in the market?

CL: The fundamental job of marketing is to articulate a relevant and compelling value proposition for our customers – to win their hearts, minds and wallet.

To do this we have put a lot of focus over the past years on putting customer stories front and centre. We’re leveraging these stories across earned, owned and paid media with compelling content is helping Schneider build a stronger brand, digitally engage with our customers, and ultimately drive growth for our company. We measure across all social and digital channels to track impact in real-time vis-à-vis competition – this visibility allows us to see how our brand is performing in key markets, around key events and in target media.

Natasha O'Brien (NOB): What do you think sets Schneider apart as an employer? What do your staff consistently say about you?

CL: Our meaningful purpose, diversity and inclusion as well as our innovation obsession.

We believe that access to energy is a basic human right. Our meaningful purpose is to turn this dream into reality through safe, reliable, efficient and sustainable energy solutions. We are committed to solving the energy paradox, and deliver Life is On for everyone everywhere. This is about why we exist as a company and makes us stand out. Many other companies have sustainability goals, but Schneider Electric business is directly built to help make it happen, not just to be more sustainable in how we work. This is one of the biggest reasons why our employees decide to work for Schneider Electric.

Diversity and Inclusion is another differentiator. As mentioned earlier, our ambition is to offer equal opportunities to everyone everywhere, and we want our people — no matter who they are or where in the world they live — to feel uniquely valued and safe to contribute their best. When we launched the Global Family Leave Policy last September as part of our D&I strategy, it was appreciated a lot by our employees. Our Family Leave policy reflects the needs of our diverse workforce and provides time-off for key life stages like welcoming a new baby, taking care of sick or elderly relatives, and mourning the loss of a family member. We were the first company to implement the global family leave in our industry, setting the minimum paid leave standards with a very inclusive definition about family and leave so that we manage our unique life and work.

The third element is our innovation DNA. Schneider Electric has been a market leader in many segments. With the megatrends of urbanization, digitization and industrialization, the market disruption is more profound than ever. Schneider powers the digital economy via IoT enabled solutions, and many talents want to be part of this journey. It’s so exciting because the combination of connected people, supported by connected technology, and data has the power to truly transform businesses for the better, increasing both energy and operational efficiency.


NOB: What are some the bigger challenges in brand attraction that Schneider Electric faced and how has the brand overcome them in the last year?

CL: In an increasingly digital world, our greatest challenge as a brand is speed while ensuring a consistent and synchronized customer experience lifecycle. Imagine a customer journey from an open social media environment on our web, to a timely invitation to a relevant webinar, to a follow-up from our sales team, to the project fulfilment experience, and customer care throughout installed operations.

First and foremost, we focus on knowing our customers – understand who they are, how they want to engage and be able to anticipate their challenges through insights. Increasingly customers manage their relationships with companies digitally which means we need to consider the end to end journey, zooming in how we can help resolve their pain points through digital engagement and tools.

We are constantly listening to customers – not just to support their current needs through better customer interactions, but to also to address what they need from digital innovation: i.e., how we can best scale Schneider’s own digital innovations to solve our customers challenges.

NOB: What kinds of programs, initiatives and/or measures does HR take to create a positive employee experience that helps to retain staff?

YL: Retention of critical talent remains a top priority, including technical skills, sales, digital talent and women. The drivers of retention are many and vary across markets so it starts with a data-based approach to understanding the reasons for attrition and drivers of retention.  At the global level, inclusive culture, employee development & learning and career growth are top priorities.

D&I is an important value for us as our people can be at their best when they feel uniquely valued and safe. We already talked about our multi-hub strategy and global family leave policy to create the inclusive culture for our people. Schneider is also one of the Corporate Impact Champion for UN HeForShe campaign, and have commitments to pay equity, women hiring as well as executive support for the programs. Recently, Schneider signed the UN Free&Equal Standards of Conduct for Business to stand up for the rights of LGBTI community, too.

To ensure the learning agility under the digital transformation, we have a strong focus on digital skills of employees. We have been identifying gaps, reskilling, upskilling, and provide bite-sized learning platform so that our people can learn and grow on the go.

Lastly, in an ever-changing environment, we provide ongoing career coaching, feedback to our people while freeing up their energy through empowerment. We simplify the way we operate, embrace Flexibility at Work to the fullest and see it as crucial to become a more agile organization. We believe that the well-being of our people creates performance, and performance generates well-being.

CL: I was attracted to Schneider because it is the world’s best-kept secret! Our technologies ensure that Life Is On everywhere, for everyone and at every moment. That is a pretty powerful mission and I am proud to be part of the leadership team in delivering this promise.

the suite brew at randstad
the suite brew at randstad

For a conversation on employer branding, recruitment or talent management, feel free to connect with Natasha O'Brien, Business Concepts and Client Solutions Director, at