Employer branding is absolutely critical when looking to attract talent, from highly in-demand STEM candidates through to the most desirable apprentices. The recruitment process plays a central role in creating, maintaining and strengthening an employer brand; with the rise of social media, now more than ever a positive recruitment experience can be shared far and wide, encouraging others to apply and want to work for you. And while recruitment specialists such as Omni are increasingly being acknowledged as guardians of an employer brand, factors outside of the traditional recruitment process can have significant repercussions. We’ve seen industries such as the banking sector recently suffer widespread damage to their hiring process because of a tarnished employer brand, one that has been impacted by the banking crisis and subsequent outrage over huge bonuses. For millennial graduates where money is no longer an overriding factor, the industry is having to market itself in a different way to court the very best, demonstrating company values that align with those of the people they wish to employ.    

The British Army is another employer brand that has suffered due to events outside of the recruitment process. Perceptions about the military and its recent engagements, in addition to highly publicised scandals such as those exposed by Edward Snowden, means that the Army is struggling to get the quality of candidates it needs. Add to that the fact that a restructuring of the Forces is necessitating a shift towards leaner operations, with a different breed of candidate required, means that the British Army faces a war on the recruitment front. To combat this and the false perception that deep cuts meant there was a hold on recruitment, they recently launched a £3m recruitment campaign aimed at boosting reserve forces. The MoD has also launched a simplified online application form, a more streamlined medical clearance process and an army fitness app, all designed to make it easier for recruits to join.

After experiencing negative publicity, the army has realised the importance of strengthening its brand value and process. Reversing perceptions will not happen overnight, but in overhauling its image as it pulls out of Afghanistan and streamlining the recruitment process, the Army has taken a positive first step.

While image and perception are of course important, they need to be underpinned by sincere change and outreach. The Army has typically been well advanced in this regard, holding a longstanding practice of approaching and recruiting school leavers and a proven track record of presenting a multitude of exciting career paths and personal development options.

For the banks, and indeed businesses in other sectors, there is a valuable lesson to be learned. Identifying where your key talent is and forging genuine ties is highly effective when building a talent pipeline. Having a defined, consistent strategy is the backbone of any process and encompasses the identification of upcoming talent gaps, formulates a consistent approach to fill them and lays out a vision for an employer brand that will ensure the candidates required are open to your company’s approach and more likely to accept offers.

It’s no secret that recruiting and building employer brand awareness is a costly exercise, as evidenced by the Army’s own substantial cash injection. It will be worth it though, if this latest initiative has the desired effect and the Army succeeds in bolstering its resources and improves its public perception by building a new breed of dynamic, bright and skilled employees.

The good news is that, with the right strategic planning and distribution of funds, businesses can give their own employees same boost, not only when it comes to enhancing employee engagement, but also in building a stronger internal culture and corporate reputation.