The importance of building your employer brand

I read with interest the recent Linkedin Global Recruiting Trends report highlighting trends in the recruitment industry over the coming years. The report surveyed 4,000 Corporate Talent Acquisition leaders across 35 countries and while some of the results were predictable;

  • Talent acquisition will retain a prominent seat at the executive table
  • The majority of hiring managers are planning increased hiring over the coming 18 months
  • Sales, Operations and Engineering are the key focus for the next year
  • The bulk of the talent acquisition budget will continue to go towards traditional recruitment tactics and tools

Others did raise an eyebrow and one in particular;

  • If money wasn’t an inhibitor, hiring managers would invest most in their employer brand.

Why this caught my attention is rather simple, you don’t have to have a budget to improve employer branding…you need to have a clear vision and strategy which is part and parcel of a company culture so that every external touchpoint leaves a positive impression with the external market.

There are many definitions for employer branding but they all essentially seek to explain a company’s ability to differentiate itself from competitors through a unique Employee Value Proposition (EVP).  A strong EVP will communicate the company values in a way that highlights what makes that workplace unique and attractive to individuals sharing the same values. As employer brands are based on intangible factors such as image, identity, and perception, being able to discover what it is about a brand that creates an emotional inclination and a sense of identification with the company, can prove invaluable to employers.  

 

The importance of a strong employer brand

A strong brand successfully connects an organisation’s values and HR policies to its corporate brand. It is the image a company seeks to project as a potential employer. Think John Lewis with their emotive Christmas ads. Think Red Bull with their extreme sports ethos. Mastering the art of employer branding can translate into a workplace that is attractive to individuals who share the same values. As a result, these companies are considered coveted places to work and are much more likely to attract the right candidates.

This is true of global giants such as Apple, Google and Intel as well as smaller companies closer to home like Core HR and Teamwork. It’s about more than being perceived as hip incidentally; sure the fussball table, beer fridge and complimentary creche are a nice touch, but great brands offer more than mere freebies. Fun or cool; intelligent or inspirational: how would you describe the values that define your workplace?

The best place to start exploring what motivates people to join a particular organisation, why they stay and why they leave is internal feedback. Existing data from employee feedback, employee engagement and culture surveys, focus groups, employee forums, new hire surveys or exit interviews can often paint a good picture of the prospective and existing employees’ experiences.

 

How to make your brand stand out

 Candidates = Customers

If our experience as recruiters has taught us anything, it’s that the brands people want to work for and those focused on delivering the best possible “candidate experience” throughout their recruitment processes are one and the same.

Candidates who feel valued may be more likely to shares their positive experiences with peers and across online and social media channels (Facebook, Glassdoor and Payscale in particular) which in turn, serves to strengthen the employer brand. The quality of this experience, whether the candidate is offered the role or not, will shape their opinion of an employer and could determine whether or not they would recommend or revisit opportunities with them again in the future.

Building great relationships and creating a positive professional impression will enhance your employer profile and assist with succession planning and growth strategies. In other words, candidates will think you’re the bomb.

Don’t underestimate the power of social media

Having opened new channels of engagement between candidates and employers, social media is a critical channel in any employer’s recruitment strategy. Revolutionising the way in which we search and apply for jobs and assess our future employers and managers, this immediate, and occasionally ruthless platform allows employer brands to be amplified or discredited in an instant.

In the past, companies’ claims would rarely get publicly contested. Social media has ripped up the rule book, allowing current and prospective employees to voice their views and painting a more realistic picture of the workplace. When the company shines, the resultant feedback generates more goodwill than any marketing campaign ever could. When it doesn’t, well, Google “how to commit brand suicide on Twitter” for tales that will give you sleepless nights.

Social media is a critical channel in any employer’s recruitment strategy. LinkedIn remains recruiters’ preferred social channel for finding, contacting and keeping track of candidates (94%), while Facebook (65%) and Twitter (55%) are used by businesses to showcase the employer brand. Platforms such as YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram are gaining popularity with employers, who use them to engage with candidates. Video, in particular, is an increasingly popular medium for communicating companies’ organisational culture and the main things they value in prospective employees.

Responsible companies stand out from the crowd

Corporate social responsibility covers a wide range of concerns, from an organisation’s environmental impact to the social-political ramifications of its conduct, its involvement in charitable causes and relationships with the wider community. The general consensus, as it stands, is that millennials are typically more sensitive to environmental and social concerns than previous generations.

As a case in point, several major brands were recently taken to task over their adverts appearing on controversial political website Breitbart.com. Angry consumers threatened to boycott the brands until they remedied the situation. This illustrates the need for employers to tread carefully, being mindful of how they’re perceived both on- and offline.

 

Your best brand ambassadors are those closest to home

When employees are happy, they become the greatest ambassadors a company could wish for. Nurture your referral network, incentivise and use the talent you already have to help shape your employer brand. Employees help create the culture within your organisation. Working on strategies to involve them in growing your employer brand and talent attraction will only add to the sense of belonging and investment for all.

Planning for change

Having an adaptable employer branding strategy is becoming increasingly important in today’s competitive landscape. Changing employment trends mean that companies need to stay agile and more aware of the social environment than ever before.

 

Bryan Hyland
Regional Chairman – NRF

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