Employer brand is a critical part of talent acquisition, engagement and retention – and by being so, a critical part of overarching corporate strategic objectives.
In this piece we look at the benefits of employer brand, the building blocks of an effective brand development strategy, and the roadblocks companies often face on the way. If you need a recruitment management system, don’t pay a lot of money when you can use Rectruiteze for free! Give it a try right now!
What Is Employer Brand?
Employer brand is very much the buzzword of the moment. You’d have had to be hiding somewhere that doesn’t bear mention not to have heard the phrase, in fact, with 8 in 10 employers citing employer brand as important or very important.
In other words, employer brand is about identity. It’s both internal and external – about how both your current employees and potential candidates see you. Just because it says “ethical” on your internal values document doesn’t mean that’s what Mr. Joe Bloggs thinks when you ask him what you’re about – and that’s the point.
It’s about understanding how you’re perceived as an employer, and taking steps to align that with how you want to be perceived. Think of yourself as close-knit community in which everyone’s valued… but your Glassdoor reviews say otherwise? I’m afraid, in the world of employer branding, they’re right and you’re wrong.
What you think really doesn’t matter. What your current and future employees think, en masse, does. They define who you are.
Why is Employer Brand Important?
The perception of HR is shifting. It wasn’t too long ago that the HR division was seen as a sort of add-on, stuck out on a limb doing all the hiring and firing stuff that no one really wanted to know about.
Now, businesses are recognizing how critical HR is in terms of overall company success. HR leaders are being invited – nay, expected – to contribute much more in terms of company strategy, direction and planning. The reason for this is fairly simple: businesses are only as good as the talent they employ.
It’s strange that this recognition has been so long coming. The perception of the ‘employee’ has shifted, moving away from churn n’ burn style grunt-work towards recognizing that ideas, innovation and creativity drive a business forwards.
This changing perception is at the center of employer brand. If top talent is recognized for driving commercial success, the means of securing top talent becomes increasingly important.
Changing perceptions of talent are at the center of employer brand
Add into the equation the changing talent market, and it’s easy to see why employer brand has risen to such prominence.
Almost every market is candidate-driven right now. There’s a mismatch between the skills we need and the skills we have. The tech sector is exploding – and there aren’t enough candidates to meet those needs.
Practically, this means hiring competition is fierce. It’s brutal, in fact. I was were using a recruitment management system for a Digital Account Manager not so long ago. I found this great candidate, fairly junior but ready for the step up.
Within a week, three companies were in the mix, ready to go to battle for her. Each company probably put out three or four offers in the end. She ended up nearly tripling her salary and stepping from an Executive role straight into a Senior role.
And you know what? At the end of the day, it wasn’t salary that swung her (although I’m sure it was a pretty nice bonus).
All three companies had upped their offers so considerably, it stopped being about salary. All three offered flexible working. All three were a fairly equal commute. All three promised her training and development. She ultimately made her decision based on who she most wanted to work with.
That’s employer brand.
Employer brand can make the difference between that rock-star developer joining Google… or Bing.
Employer brand is the lynchpin of talent acquisition, retention and engagement, playing a critical role in driving business growth and achieving strategic objectives.
How to Develop an Employer Brand
For all the popularity the term has, many companies still lack confidence when it comes to properly implementing an employer branding strategy.
Let’s look at the four stages of a typical employer brand development project, so you can draw up your own strategy with confidence. This isn’t intended to be pro-scriptive – on the contrary, it’s intended to inform and inspire you to develop your own unique approach.
The first thing to realize about employer brand is that you have one, whether you like it or not. This stage is all about finding out what your employer brand is currently – in order to determine the scale of the task ahead of you – and laying the groundwork for successful implementation further down the line.
It will likely involve conducting focus groups, both internally and externally. You’ll probably want to implement employee and candidate surveys, and audit the candidate journey.
Securing senior buy-in will be critical. Research shows that high-level executive buy-in is significantly higher among companies with a strong brand than those without – 79.9% vs. 61.4% respectively.
It’s also important to build inter-divisional relationships at this early stage. The issue of ownership of employer brand is a troubled one – should responsibility sit with marketing or HR, for example? Transcending these siloes and providing a cross-functional forum in which employer brand can be meaningfully discussed is critical.
- Development Of Value Proposition
This is the stage at which you determine what you actually want your employer brand to be. It’s about going back to who you are, as a company, and where you feel your value lies.
It’s much more theoretical than the last stage, and creative. This stage involves defining your brand attributes, and the ways in which each attribute is expressed in your company. At the end of this stage, you should have a creative brief that defines who you are, what you stand for, and what differentiates you as an employer.
This is the union of the two stages before, bringing your creative brief to life and readdressing any disparities in how you want to be seen and how you currently are seen.
It’s easier said than done. The key thing to bear in mind here are that your employees must connect to your expression of employer brand. For example, if you brand yourself as an innovative company committed to training and development, simply embedding that message throughout your communications isn’t going to cut it. You must also deliver on that promise with visible training and development opportunities, or you risk your employees feeling alienated from the brand you project.
Employer brand must be, above all, credible and real – an honest reflection of who you are. You should then embed this brand throughout the company, applying it to all internal and external communications, all marketing assets, all processes.
Like any good program, your employer brand program shouldn’t be seen as static. On the contrary, it’s an evolution and one that you need to track over time.
You should measure internal and external response and brand perception – return to the surveys and focus groups, and ensure that your new brand is being seen how you intend it to be seen.
Measure your results throughout the recruitment process, and identify areas to improve. Your employer brand will naturally change over time, and getting the structures in place to identify that and act on it will set the business apart.
Those four stages are a loose framework upon which you can base your own employer branding strategy. Although precise strategies and methodologies will naturally differ, these are the building blocks.
Roadblocks to Employer Brand Success
Maybe the above is misleading, in making employer branding seem so simple. It isn’t – and there are no doubt many great companies out there whose employer brand does them no justice.
These are the things that most commonly hinder success.
- Lack of communication
Employer branding is by its nature both holistic and multi-faceted. Creating an effective employer brand that simultaneously communicates all the elements of brand ‘personality’ in an authentic, credible way requires clear lines of communication – cross-silo, and from top-to-bottom.
- Lack of ownership
As we’ve said above, employer brand doesn’t clearly ‘belong’ to one group or the other, and that can lead to complications. Without an effective strategy in place to allocate responsibilities, the fear is that employer brand ends up belonging to everyone and no one. Finding a way to create cross-company engagement can be challenging, but it’s absolutely critical to success.
This is about saying vs. doing. Employer brand will always fail if it’s not credible, believable and true to reality. Saying one thing and doing another will lead to employee disengagement, negative brand perception, and real lasting damage to your brand.
- Short term thinking
One likes to think that all top executives are able to reconcile short-term expense with long-term gain. Unfortunately though, that isn’t always the case and the some companies will always be fighting a losing battle so long as employer branding is seen as unimportant to overarching strategic goals.
Saying that, the fact remains that employer brand is front and centre in the corporate imagination at the moment. The soils are ripe for HR professionals to deliver a real and persuasive business case for employer branding, with an encouraging 94% of people seeing employer brand as an investment not a cost.
While employer branding is by no means an easy task, it’s a worthwhile one – playing a fundamental role not only in talent acquisition and retention but also in company profitability and growth.
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