Professionals today understand the impact their personal brand can have on their odds of career success, and they curate their LinkedIn profiles and adjust their networking personas accordingly. However, theirs is not the only brand that matters in the modern employee-employer transaction. Now more than ever, employment is seen as a two-way street. And as our understanding of what value and support a company owes it workers continues to evolve, it’s imperative that companies showcase a strong, positive employer brand in order to remain competitive in the war for top talent.
What is employer branding?
Employer branding, in its simplest sense, has to do with the reputation your organization enjoys as a positive (or less-than positive) place to work. It’s how your organization is marketed to job seekers — and we don’t just mean marketing in the traditional sense. With the rise of the internet has come a push for transparency, as well as the means to make that transparency possible. People today broadcast their experiences, both positive and negative, about all manner of things, including the experience they’ve had working for a particular company. Thus, employer branding is just as much impacted by what a company’s own employees are saying about their work experience as it is by traditional marketing measures.
Ultimately, a company’s employer brand exists regardless of whether or not the company has put much or any effort into strengthening and promoting it. By giving your organization’s brand some much-deserved attention, you can help ensure that the story being shared about your company is one that will attract (and retain) top talent.
It’s also worth noting that a negative employer brand doesn’t exclusively affect the caliber of job candidates applying to your company. Especially in today’s world where consumers expect the brands they engage with to be aligned with their social and moral stances, a company that has a reputation of mistreating its workers can expect to see collateral damage to its revenue and partnerships, too. In short, the possible ramifications of one’s employer brand are extensive, and that fact isn’t changing anytime soon.
What makes a strong employer brand?
A strong employer brand is one that tells the story of what makes your organization an excellent place to work in a compelling way. Like any good story, the strongest employer brands are ones that include a clear human-interest element, and that are packaged in exciting yet accessible ways. The protectors of strong employer brands are also those who don’t choose to rest on the laurels of their organization’s past positive perceptions but instead constantly seek new ways to make their story feel fresh and relevant to job seekers. And the beneficial impact of those branding efforts can’t be denied — just look at the data.
According to research published on LinkedIn, companies with strong, positive employer brands can get up to double the number of applicants as companies with a weak, negative employer brand. Furthermore, additional data referenced by LinkedIn indicates that nearly half of workers say they won’t work for a company with a bad reputation, and would continue to stand by that statement even at a compensation cost. Psychologically, it makes sense that when as much of our self-image today is equated to what we do professionally, finding employment that feels impactful, positive, and that reinforces one’s values and self-image is vital to job seekers, particularly in a job economy that favors them.
What is employer brand strategy?
A dedicated employer brand strategy should be in the arsenal of all talent acquisition leaders today. We find this holds even truer when diversity and inclusion intersects with one’s talent acquisition needs. This is because telling employer branding stories that are specifically tailored to attract the type of candidates you hope to recruit is a much more effective strategy than simply posting a job listing and hoping that diverse candidates will do the rest by stumbling upon your posting by chance. In today’s saturated online world of job listings, relying on these static posts alone to bring diverse, qualified candidates knocking on your company’s door just won’t cut it. Having a strategy around your employer brand at play is therefore imperative.
How can I improve my employer brand?
1. Identify your company’s unique employer value proposition.
Your odds of elevating your employer brand in a compelling, effective way are slim if you don’t first understand what exactly that brand is. The mission statement, values, and culture at your company are very much a part of this, as well as its business objectives. How do those business objectives intersect with the people part of your company, and how do they feed and inform each other? You should also have an understanding of what sets your company and its culture a part; now, what specific stories can you find showcasing real people at your company that best illustrate that culture differentiator?
At the end of the day, your organization’s unique value proposition will typically be derived from five key buckets: compensation; benefits; career; work environment; and culture. But the stories you share are what will help bring these value propositions to life.
2. Conduct research.
If you’re still feeling uncertain as to which values and culture elements belong at the forefront of your company’s employer brand, conducting internal research with an employee audit may be wise. (And even if you do feel certain about the contents of your brand messaging, an audit still isn’t a bad idea — staying in the loop with how employees at your company feel about their work now-right-now can only keep your branding goals relevant, data-backed, and strategic.)
Surveys may suit your need for this, but don’t forget to make use of today’s employee review online databases to keep a current pulse on how talent at your organization feels. Using these forums to conduct external research on what people have to say about working for your competitors is a good idea, as well. Are there any specific areas where you can improve?
3. Manage your existing online reputation.
Speaking of online employee review forums — is your organization properly, regularly engaging with them? Although the reviews may be populating without your company’s involvement, that’s not to say the story ends there. Monitor what people are saying about your company on these platforms and respond as often and sincerely as you can, particularly in the case of a negative review. This will immediately signal to job seekers browsing these platforms that you’re engaged as an employer and that you care, and that can speak as loud of volumes as any negative review can.
You can also contribute to the story being shared about your company on these platforms by encouraging current employees to leave a review. Was a worker recently promoted for their excellent work? Take this congratulatory moment to encourage them to weigh in on what their overall work experience has been like. This will ensure you’re capturing fresh, relevant reviews from employees that make up a composite picture of what your company really looks like.
4. Leverage your talent.
As mentioned before, it’s the human-interest piece that elevates an employer brand from just okay to memorable. For many job seekers, what will go much further in conveying your company’s unique value proposition than static advertising is an actual employee showcasing what exactly makes your organization such a uniquely positive place to work. People want to feel like they’re hearing from other people, not simply hearing from a faceless company. And highlighting the voices at your company of the groups you’re hoping to recruit, including diverse candidates, can help extend your employer brand to broader groups of people and move your organization's recruitment needle significantly.
5. Package your story in a compelling way.
This means embracing all the pieces of digital storytelling that largely encompass the ways we access and engage with stories today. Does your organization use written content and blog posts to illustrate your employer branding message? What about social media posts, videos, newsletters, webinars, and virtual career fairs? These stories need to be packaged in an enticing way in order to stand out from the sea of content available on the internet today.
Additionally, distribution is just as much a piece of this packaging as the form the content takes itself. Perhaps you’ve produced a compelling video featuring your company’s founder that perfectly sums up the culture tenets your organization was founded upon. But if you’re not strategically placing this video on the platforms your target demographic frequents, and with regularity, it and your brand story are likely to get lost amidst the interwebs. Placement counts.
Tools and resources to use:
For those interested in recruiting diverse candidates, especially, the employer branding program offered by Fairygodboss makes it possible for hundreds of top employers, like Apple, IBM, and Bank of America, to attract top female talent. By helping these companies package and distribute their story to female job seekers, Fairygodboss’ program can enhance a company’s visibility, engage existing workforces, and drive more women to apply — all by harnessing the power of employer brands.
Outside of Fairygodboss, other existing resources include:
Facebook, Facebook Live, and other social platforms
"About Us" pages
Examples of good employer brands
How does an over-a-century-old conglomerate like IBM continue to feel fresh and exciting to new generations of top talent? Through relevant, people-first storytelling. Its beautifully curated Instagram feed is just one example of this, featuring “Humans of New York”-style employee snapshots in honor of Pride month, and the company has also chosen to elevate the stories of dynamic, boundary-pushing female leaders through written content, as well.
After being prompted to examine internal company data by female executives, CEO Marc Benioff now-famously learned in 2016 that Salesforce had a $6 million gender pay gap on its hands. Rather than come from a place of denial and attempt to brush the issue under the rug, Benioff and his fellow executives made the bold decision to come forward with this data via a public pay audit, promising that the resulting gap would be corrected. Benioff was good to his word down to the last dollar, and the company earned major employer branding points for transparency, honor, and protecting the rights of its female talent as a result.
Rather than make the mistake so many companies of guilty of — making a bold move in the right direction, only to fail to adequately broadcast that moves — Etsy made sure its revolutionary decision to provide 26 weeks of paid leave to all new parents was one people would pay attention to. The press video it put out shortly thereafter, showcasing employees who’d benefited from the extended leave program and their families, was instantly hailed as a tear-jerker.