What is employer branding?
Whether they know it or not, all companies have a brand. Some are far more developed and recognizable than others, but that doesn’t necessarily make them better than the next guy.
The goal of branding is to help companies (and people) differentiate themselves from others. For consumers, branding is often associated with logos, product packaging and advertising. But a company’s brand is more than that. It’s all about how an individual feels and the opinion they develop when they hear a company’s name, visit their website, consider purchasing a product or service, or joining that company. As Malcolm Gladwell, renowned author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking points out, “Buyers make most decisions by relying on their two-second first impressions based on stored memories, images and feelings.” And the same can be said for job seekers.
In their 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, Deloitte Consulting calls an employer brand “the story that employees in the external world tell about your company’s employee experience.” They consider it a critical differentiator. When an individual learns of a job opening, one of the first things they do is conduct online research about that company. They visit their website, read employer evaluations on sites such as Glassdoor, and ask friends for their opinions about the company.
Why do they do this? Because it helps them decide if working with that company is a good decision for the next stage of their career. Employers need to care about the things that turn up when a prospective employee does their research on them, particularly when it comes to the views of existing and former employees. Job seekers tend to judge a company’s fit for them based on employee opinions on employee engagement and advocacy over anything found in recruitment advertising.
Why Companies Should Care About Their Employer Branding
Global recruiter WilsonHCG produces an in-depth annual employer brand report that discusses Fortune 500 branding trends and influencers. In their latest report, they identify employment branding as having a direct influence on the “health and well-being of companies. A poor employment brand not only puts your ability to attract top talent at stake but will also affect your bottom line.” Just how does something like a brand have such a big effect on profit? Because there is an ongoing global shortage of skilled workers. When 73% of company CEOs express concern over the availability of key skills in job candidates, it boosts competition to attract and retain talent who do have the necessary skills. Employees want to know that your company can give them what they want in a fulfilling career, and your brand has mere seconds convince them. In previous blogs, GoCo wrote about the cost of replacing an employee ranging from 25-213% of that employee’s annual salary. And a related white paper by KPMG found that 50% of senior hires don’t last more than 18 months. The means attracting quality employees and having good retention strategies are critical when hiring staff. Having a strong employer brand has other bottom line benefits:
Studies have found that small to medium-sized businesses faced unique challenges when it came to differentiating themselves and recruiting quality candidates in a competitive environment. Though they recognized the importance, most felt there was a lack of awareness and interest in their employer brand. So what does a company need to do to overcome this? They need to know what makes them different from their competitors, and develop a brand that clearly conveys that difference.
What are branding best practices?
To start, employers can and should build on their commercial branding efforts as a part of their employer branding. Consumers often become employment candidates, so the two branding strategies need to be cohesive and genuine. When building out your employer brand, be thoughtful before getting too far down the rabbit hole. Take the time to clearly outline your objectives. This is called developing your “employee value proposition,” or EPA. Think about the image that your consumer brand conveys to your clients. Ask yourself:
- Does that differ from the image you want current and prospective employees to have of you?
- What do you want to get from a strong employer brand?
- What skills and qualities does your ideal employee have and how will they fit in with your company?
Having those answers will also help you determine the key performance indicators that will let you know whether your branding strategy is working.
Look inward as well as outward
In order to get to where you want to be, you have to know where you are. A critical component of developing an employer brand is to know how your current employees feel about you. Perform an internal survey. Ask your employees for feedback on the objectives you set out at the start, and be prepared to alter those objectives based on the feedback. A strong indicator that your employees are committed to you as their employer is whether they are referring their friends to you as prospective employees. High referrals are an endorsement from those who know you best. As a Society for Human Resource Management article points out, the cost to solicit candidates from existing employees can be less expensive than going through traditional recruiting channels, and are often of a higher quality. It is also indicative that your workforce is highly engaged and that they have:
- A willingness to refer the organization
- Pride in the organization
- A sense of future
- Intend to stay
- Are inspired to give extra effort
Develop a connection
The first impression a job seeker has about a prospective employer can go a long way in determining the quality of the candidate applying for the job. As with consumer branding, a strong employer brand should build a psychological and emotional connection with both prospective and existing employees. It should convey what your company stands for, including its:
- Culture and values
- Leadership model
- Commitment to employee well-being, betterment and career opportunities
Enhance the recruitment experience
Interestingly, consultants CEB (now Gartner) conducted a 2010 study which uncovered that 49% of unsuccessful job candidates were left with a negative impression of a company they had interviewed with. Of those individuals, 20% had stopped using or buying from that company. While the impact is greater for B2C businesses, the message is clear. The candidate experience can directly impact a company’s consumer brand and marketplace reputation. So getting that right is key. Collaboration and promotionIn terms of developing the brand and getting the message out to the public, it’s important for HR to work with their marketing and communications departments to create a cohesive employer brand and develop a strategy around getting the message out. Ideally, these departments are already aware of the current consumer brand and are able to mesh it with the employer brand. When promoting the new brand, it’s important to know what recruiting methods were used in the past, and which were most successful at attracting high caliber candidates. The most popular sources for proselytizing your employer brand are:
- Your company’s website. It’s the first place your new employer brand should appear because it’s one of the first places that candidates will look for information about you. Assuming you have a careers page, outline all the qualities of your employer brand. Whether you have open job positions or not, prospects should still be able to get a feel for what it’s like to work with your company.
- Your LinkedIn company page. Popular as a research resource for both recruiters and candidates, a LinkedIn company page allows people to learn more about you, follow your company and share your posts — keeping you top of mind when they’re looking for a job. Additionally, followers are 78% more likely to respond to any direct InMail that you send to them. Also, encourage employees to update their personal LinkedIn profiles to include their work for your company.
- Your employees and internal employee referral programs. As mentioned before, there are many benefits that come from receiving candidate referrals through your employees. Your employee intranet is key to reaching employees to let them know of opportunities.
Asking your employees to share job openings on their own social media networks is also key to broadening your reach. On average, 50% of employees post messages, videos, or pictures of their employer on their personal social networks. Take advantage of this. Create a company hashtag that could be used to increase uptake (but avoid coming across as being gimmicky or it may backfire).
- Recruiters. If you use recruiters to help find you job candidates, make sure they are aware of your employer brand, and exactly the type of candidate that you are looking for. If they are familiar with your company, their recruiting insights may also help you determine the qualities of your brand.
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It’s clear that the rewards for successfully developing your employer brand can be significant and help distinguish you from your competition. It doesn’t have to be a major undertaking, but it must be thoughtful, consistent, genuine, and also engaging to your current employees. Take the time to find out who you are, and who you want to be and develop your brand around those qualities.