Employer branding essentials

Employer branding – the perceptions of an organization as an employer – can be a strong contributor to attracting and retaining the right talent in an increasingly competitive environment.

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What is an employer brand?

Employer branding is not a logo, letterhead or a clever advertisement, but rather the communication of an organization’s personality and unwritten promises about its culture to potential hires. This guide focuses on the top ten things employers need to consider.

1. What attracts the right staff.

It’s true to say that employers who have strong brand awareness rely on it heavily to attract the right staff. Half the employers surveyed in a recent workplace study told us that their brand was a key factor when recruiting staff, placing it alongside career progression as the two main attributes to promote to potential recruits.

Clearly, brand reputation works harder for major employers and is reflected in the fact that less high-profile employers may find the recruitment process more difficult. There is, however, a disparity between this and what employees tell us.

As might be expected, career progression is a key attribute, closely followed by salary. Yet jobseekers rate culture and location more highly than pure brand reputation when considering an employer. Some employers are taking heed. We’re seeing organizations secure the best talent by offering a clearly defined career plan, which maps out expectations of the individual and what can be expected from the organization throughout their career.

2. Tailor your proposition to your audiences.

No one proposition will work for all audiences. Whether it be demographics, cultural differences or technical skills the message is clear — know your audiences, understand what makes them tick and tailor your offering and message.

All successful businesses are adapting their employer brand to their various target audiences, taking into account differing values, ambitions, and needs, in addition to geographic and cultural backgrounds. What makes an older worker tick compared to a millennial employee or someone from a different cultural background will vary hugely. With millennials accounting for a growing proportion of Canada’s workforce, it is a key demographic to get right. Demanding more flexibility and better rewards for fewer hours, this group is harder to manage and will readily switch jobs — particularly if their needs are not met. Lose this group and you could lose a huge number of your workforce.

3. Align your employer and customer brands.

Both your employer brand and your external customer brand strategies need to be aligned in order to reflect the brand effectively and consistently, and ensure you are attracting the right people.

The bigger the organization, the more people will have already formed an opinion of it. So it’s essential the two are in alignment and not working against each other. When the two strategies are aligned, both current and prospective employees will receive the complementary messages, ensuring these become synonymous with your organization. If your employer brand emphasizes and cements the values communicated through your external brand, then, when a prospective employee approaches your organization, it will ensure they are being given the same consistent message.

4. Each impression counts.

While a jobseeker’s first impression of your organization will determine their immediate interest in you, this judgement will keep changing. Each brush with your brand influences a person’s perception of you. So the process of building a favourable employer brand actually begins far earlier than the recruitment process itself.

Review every encounter an individual might have with your brand — from seeing your billboard as a consumer, or calling your helpline as a customer, to receiving interview feedback as a jobseeker. Where is your brand falling down before, during and after the application process? Work with your recruitment partner, HR and marketing functions to help create the right experience at every encounter.

5. Your recruitment process must reflect your brand.

Every step of the recruitment process will shape the impression a potential employee has of your organization and influence them to accept or reject a job offer (or even apply). So it’s important that you’re happy that the recruitment experience correctly reflects your brand and in turn attracts and engages the right people.

Just some of the things you’ll want to consider are: where and how you advertise a job; how easy is it for people to apply; when and how you respond to applications; the number of interview steps; where, who and how your interviews are conducted; your rejection and offer process; and, finally, how you stay in contact with the new recruit until the day they make a decision.

6. Employees act as ambassadors.

Make sure that your people support your brand. They should be your strongest brand advocates. They must live and breathe the brand, understand what the brand stands for, and what you are trying to achieve. Include everyone, from sales and marketing through to PR and HR when developing your propositions. Ensure it’s fully communicated, understood and embedded internally before taking your brand to market.

Focus as much of your efforts on internal buy-in as you would on your external marketing. There is no point spending millions on marketing campaigns for a potential customer or employee to then interact with an existing employee who doesn’t visually or verbally represent the brand. It’s inconsistent, will cause internal and external disconnect, and any chance of sale and, ultimately, loyalty are lost.

7. Don’t lose focus in difficult times.

Effective employer branding relies on a consistency of message and delivery, which should not change due to a weak economic climate, or internal instability. A well-thought-out employer brand strategy looks to the long-term objectives and is built upon a clear understanding of who you want to attract and retain. This shouldn’t change with the tide.

In tough times, a strong employer brand with consistent messaging is even more essential. It helps make current employees feel more secure and confident. Don’t be fooled into thinking there are more important things to deal with. The confidence and support of your employees — and your reputation among prospective employees — will play a factor in your organization’s future.

8. Engage management at all levels.

The strongest, most thought-out and punchy brand identity will slip into oblivion unless it is kept alive by staff. But true employee engagement will only happen if the brand is embedded into the culture of the organization, made second nature, and nurtured by management.

9. Consistency.

Any customer, supplier or potential employee who interacts with your organization wants, needs and expects to see consistency of your brand. From marketing to sales to operations to delivery to finance — the complete experience needs to be consistent.

In an attraction and recruitment context, that means the visual identity, the tone of voice and the face-to-face experience that are used throughout your campaigns and process need to be ‘on brand’. This requires communication, understanding, and engagement of those involved with the process and can only be achieved by your employees understanding why these things are important and what they mean to the business and the potential employee.

10. Monitor progress.

Finally, but most importantly, regularly monitor your progress. Find out what your employees and ex-employees think. Their feedback is crucial and will ensure you are on the right track and, if not, will allow you to make informed decisions about what to adapt.

Consider the most appropriate medium for carrying out the research, make it anonymous and ask questions that are relevant to your workforce and organization. Would they recommend working there to a friend? Would they sing your praises as an employer? How long do they plan on staying with the company? Are they prepared to go over and above to ensure company success? If they are ex-employees, explore why they left and what would perhaps make them return. But remember: the most important thing is to regularly carry out the research and be committed to taking action on the results.

If you’re looking for employees, we can help. Contact us today.

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