What Is Employer Branding?
Employer branding is defined as the reputation that an employer enjoys as a great place to work through strategic employee value proposition, as opposed to the more general corporate brand reputation and value proposition to customers.
Whether one knows it or not, all organizations have an employer brand. It is the perception of the employees towards their organization. A perception that can infuse a much needed magic ingredient to propel the brand forward to glory.
This may sound a little melodramatic but building long-term brand loyalty starts from within. Most organizations are simply focused on the customers and the external world. But history has shown us that organizations who do not have great company cultures or employee happiness manifest that lack in the external brand world which could ultimately lead to loss of brand loyalty, mindshare and market share.
In this definitive guide, we will take a look at the fundamentals of employer branding, why employer branding is important to HR, how to develop a winning employer brand strategy, enhancing the employee value proposition and more. We will also look at several examples and case studies of brands that are killing it with employer branding and lessons you can learn from them.
Fundamentals of Employer Branding
Employer branding brings tremendous value to the company or organization through its ability to attract, engage and retain talent which leads to winning loyal customers and hence market share.
When your company can promise and then deliver a great experience to employees who in turn are happy to contribute to the success of your brand then your employer brand can be considered to be effective.
A winning employer branding strategy brings together a brand’s core values, customer strategy, and HR strategy, which are all linked to the company brand. One of the core values of any organization should be to have ethical standards that they uphold through how they deal with their HR practices and company culture. The employer brand is therefore influenced by the ethical perspective that employees take, as well as through business actions.
The fundamental pillar of any employee brand starts with the employee experience.
Employer brand expert, Denise Lee Yohn in her interview titled Why the Relationship Between Culture and Brand is so Important, says:
You can’t expect your employees to deliver to customers what they don’t experience themselves.
She goes on to say that nearly 70% of American workers are not engaged at work which is threatening to lead to a culture crisis in Corporate America.
An example that comes to mind is the way that Marriott brand has an internal strategy to enable their employees to experience all the things that their guests enjoy as part of their training and employer branding strategy. This includes massive discounts on hotel bookings, free drinks in bars, discounts in restaurants located within the premises and so on.
The result is that employees could put themselves in the shoes of the customers their service and be able to understand how the service should be to maximize customer happiness.
In fact one of their core values is precisely this:
We Put People First
“Take care of associates and they will take care of the customers.”
This is our founder’s philosophy and it has made Marriott International a great place to work for more than 85 years. Our people first culture has consistently earned us awards and recognition around the globe. Giving associates opportunities to grow and succeed is part of the company’s DNA.
By enhancing employee experience, you increase the power of the service they provide to your customers which in turn translates to brand loyalty. Invest in policies which empower your employees to feel like that they are part of the brand and genuinely come to love it.
If they love the brand, your customers – who interact with your employees – would love your brand too!
Internal communication is another big pillar of your employer brand strategy. Focused and conscious effort must be invested in making sure that your internal communication – communication between the brand, stakeholders & management and the employees – is transparent, on brand and something you would be proud of in case it saw the light of day.
Most often bad internal communication can lead to an employer branding crisis. Therefore it is paramount that you establish policies and guidelines for internal communication and have failsafe plans in place to ensure that no erroneous communication ever gets sent.
I agree that it is easier said than done and if your organization is large then it would be virtually impossible to monitor and regular all internal communications.
Here are 18 Internal Communications Best Practices from Enplug:
- Envision, strategize & plan first – as with anything, start with a plan and strategy as to how your internal communication should be structured and how it should look
- Use the right tools – use technology properly to enable great internal communication. Tools like Slack, Yammer etc are great for internal messaging while allowing moderators to keep an eye out
- Be visual – use clever visual imaging to communicate your brand values and expectations to your employees
- Make it entertaining – make internal communication fun and entertaining. To be able to do this, you would need to recruit talent who know how to create entertaining messages and memos
- Include metrics wherever possible – use metrics and stats to inform and educate employees on what is happening in the organization so they could feel like they are in the know and perhaps feel proud of the progress being made
- Don’t lose sight of the big picture – along with operational communication, from time to time, be sure to include messages about your company vision, mission, core values and so on to ensure employees remember what the company hold dear
- Provide channels for feedback and ideas – employee feedback can be a powerful tool in ensuring problems are identified early one an addressed before they become HR nightmares. Create easy to use feedback channels for employees to use and make it known that leaving honest feedback will not be punished
- Encourage cross-departmental communication and collaboration – leaving departments in isolation can be a recipe for trouble. Ensure you thread together various departments, occasionally, so each is aware of the activities and achievements of the others
- Avoid communication overload – keep internal communication simple, to the point and clear. Do not overload employees with too many internal memos, facts or newsletters
- Don’t just inform – inspire action – make sure your internal messages contain calls to action, and motivational quotes
- Open the lines of communication – have an open door policy in terms of communication and let employees feel safe to reach out without feeling intimidated
- Maintain transparency – transparency should be a mindset and is crucial to building trust, accountability and open dialogue
- Encourage company-related use of social media – where possible encourage employees to share their work related moments on social media. To avoid any confusion, come up with clear guidelines on what is acceptable
- Share industry news, trends, and insights – include industry news and scoops in your internal communication so your employees feel like they are contributing to something bigger than their job
- Use internal communications to recognize and praise success – announce individual or departmental achievements and milestones so that employees feel praised and recognized
- Create a customer-centric team with personas – share customer personas with your teams so they come to know and understand the customer clearly. Often employees could be so removed from the customer that they do not feel any kind of accountability towards what matters most – customer happiness
- Promote employee resources and training – encourage employees to constantly invest in personal and professional development which benefits everyone in the long run
- Think like a marketer – when it comes to internal communication, do not think of it like an afterthought but rather as a primary marketing endevor
The biggest impact that employer branding has is on recruitment. It is getting harder and harder to recruit top talent. Employees are much more in the driver’s seat and in a position to demand higher salaries and working conditions.
In fact most employees, these days, are more interested in the experience of working in a company, along with development and growth opportunities. It is not simply about salaries anymore. This is where creating the right employer brand comes into play.
Jonas Altman, the contributor to The Guardian, says:
Staying ahead in business is now all about finding new ways to attract and inspire an energetic workforce.
Ask yourself this question:
Why in the world should an employee choose to work at your organization?
When employees have so many options to choose from, why indeed would they work for your brand and give their best? What kind of promise is your brand making to the employee to foster trust and accountability?
By creating an awesome employer brand, you communicate to the talent pool that your company is a great place to work, thrive and develop. This means that you build a great nourishing company culture that comes to the rescue when you are looking out for the top talent.
Here is a great example of a 125-year-old company trying to attract young and inspiring talent. It is meant to be funny and light-hearted but the message is clear – GE is saying that they are not just an industrial company but are also a digital one!
Why employer branding is important to HR?
Employer branding is critical to HR, right from the recruitment process to retaining top talent. It is very crucial when trying to attract top talent. A great business is nothing but it’s people and if an organization can not recruit the right people then success cannot be guaranteed.
Here is an awesome infographic from the people at LinkHumans that shows you some stats on the importance of employer branding to HR.
Here is the list from the infographic:
- Companies with a stronger employer brand see a decrease of 43% in cost per hire
- 67% of job seekers would accept a lower remuneration if the company has positive reviews as a place to work
- A bad reputation could cost a company with over 10,000 employees over $7.6 million in additional wages!
- Employers who fail to invest in their reputation could be paying up to $4,723 per employee they hire
- 69% of job candidates are likely to apply to a company if they actively manage their employee brand
- 84% of employees consider leaving their current jobs if another company has better employee brand
- 88% of millennials believe that being part of the right company culture is very important
- 72% of recruiting leaders worldwide agree that employer brand has a significant impact on hiring
- 79% of job seekers are likely to use social media in their job search
- A strong employer brand leads to 50% more qualified job applicants!
How to develop a winning employer brand strategy?
Creating an Employee Branding strategy is just like creating a brand strategy – you need to figure out your value proposition, come up with a brand story and then figure out how to tell that story clearly through messaging. Although there are many employer branding best practices and there are tons of articles out there, I will not go into them in this context.
Research your competitors
Start off by researching how your competitors are implementing their employer branding. This is not to copy them but to understand the forces that are at work so that you can move to the next step – identifying your competitive advantage in terms of the employees.
Identify your competitive advantage
What sets your brand apart from the competition in terms of how employees are recruited, nurtured and retained? Do you offer stability as your primary criteria? Or do employees get greater opportunities for career growth working for your organization? Or do they get to work with a top-notch team that they can not find elsewhere?
Identify your employee value proposition
Your employee value proposition is the values that you as an organization offers to your employees. These values could be and usually are different from the brand core values that you offer to your customers.
Design your employer branding design language
Once you have come up with your employer value proposition, you would need to create a design language that communicates the value proposition to your employees and for candidates that you are looking to recruit. This could include logos, brand marks, the design of the careers page, design of internal memos and newsletters, the design of social media channels and so on.
Redefine your recruitment policies and process
Your recruitment process must reflect the employee value proposition and the values you espouse to your employees. However, great care must be taken to ensure that the experience that candidates have are consistent with how they would be treated once they become employees. Often you see a disconnect between the communication during recruitment and after.
You only get one first impression, so invest in creating an enjoyable and accessible recruitment experience that encourages future talent to positively engage with your brand.
Draw up plans for a winning company culture
The company culture is where your employee branding really shines so make sure it is thought through and planned meticulously. Leave nothing to chance. Keep that plan an open and evolving one and tweak it gradually to the best it can be.
GlassDoor, a leading employee review website has an awesome PDF guide on how to build your employer brand and comes with 10 steps to follow. Here they are in brief. If you would like to read the full PDF, click here.
Step 1 – Get Input
Get a feel for how your reputation is by conducting internal surveys, meetings and exit interviews. You can use tools such as Word Clouds on Glassdoor, CEO and company ratings etc.
Step 2 – Define your employer brand
Start off by getting a buy-in from senior leadership and soliciting feedback from employees. Define why people work you in the first place. List the 5 key ingredients that make up your employer brand. Then connect the employee value proposition with goals to attract the right audience.
Step 3 – Bring it to life with photos and videos
In communicating your employer branding through the brand identity and visual language, use authentic photos and videos and let the company culture shine. Empower your employees to add value by participating.
Step 4 – Propagate the message
Broadcast your employee branding message on the careers section of your website, on your company social media channels and through employee referrals.
Step 5 – Create a community recognition
Remember that 3rd party validation is the key and try and get on review lists such as Glassdoor’s “Best places to work”.
Step 6 – Create a powerful job description
As you will see in an example below, make your job listings speak of your EB message by using relevant keywords and match your vision statement.
Step 7 – Optimize the candidate application experience
Make the job application process smooth and hassle-free by using technology. Integrate social media and mobile technology and make sure to track and analyze the results to help you make the process better.
Step 8 – Turn employees into brand ambassadors
Use employee referrals as an integral part of your recruiting strategy. Also, ask for employee reviews and broadcast them on social media.
Step 9 – Build a candidate pipeline
Leverage your job listings process to drive traffic to apply for the jobs. You can also use job advertising platforms such as Glassdoor to increase the pipeline.
Step 10 – Monitor and measure your effectiveness
Remember that just like company branding, employer branding is also an ever-evolving process. You have to constantly monitor and measure your effectiveness with things like retention rate, employee engagement, quality of hires, cost per hire and number of applicants.
Examples of winning employer brand strategies
Here are some examples of brands that are killing it with their employer branding. I list some specific action items that you can learn from. If you see any similar killer stories out there, please do send them to me.
Lululemon really portrays a fun and vibrant perception for its careers and jobs portal. Here is what one of the jobs advertised says:
The role will combine the life-altering potential of wearing stretchy pants to work every day while talking health, fitness and yoga to your guests and community.
You can see they are trying to be fun, hip and appealing to the worldview of the kind of people they want to recruit. They also utilize the social media quite expertly with campaigns such as #ThisIsLululemonLife and #JobLove that really capture audience attention and create the impact that their employer branding strategy dictates.
Lithium does a great job of making their office look like the best place to work! Check out the video below of their employer branding in action. The video shows a typical day in the life of an employee in POV. It starts by showing a couple of shots of the office building and the street followed by the elevator, meeting other team members and then getting to the desk.
The whole mood is very upbeat and there are various shots of co-workers giving high fives. This looks very genuine and does not come off as scripted or cheesy. The video shows the perks of working at Lithium including games rooms, lunch, relaxing space in the office and more.
Forced to compete with Apple to be “cool”, Microsoft is actually doing a great job with their employer branding in the shape of a dedicated careers Instagram account as well as a nice careers page.
In fact, they have an article called “How to land a job at Microsoft via Social Media” which lists a series of steps on how to apply for a job through social media along with actionable tips and advice.
I hope you found this guide to employer branding strategy interesting and informative. Please do take this topic seriously if you are interested in recruiting top talent and retaining them. Remember, it is the people that make brands great and with so much competition out there to recruit top talent, you will be handicapped if you are not investing in an awesome strategy.
If you have any questions about this top, please give me a shout using our contact page. If you would like SpellBrand to help you create a kickass visual language for your employer brand, reach out to us and we can schedule a strategy call.