Employer branding is one of the big trends to emerge in HR and recruitment in recent years.  During the last recession, employers sought to save money on recruitment agency fees by creating internal recruitment teams.  In tandem, employer branding became imperative to help these internal talent acquisition teams to sell the benefits of working for their company and create the talent pools of candidates that a recruitment consultancy would have normally done for them.  

With the recession now over and the economy experiencing growth, the recruitment market has become candidate driven, with talented professionals in the position to pick and choose who they work for based on the opinion they have formed of that company.  Additionally, review sites such as Glassdoor give an insight into what it is really like to work for a company from the employees themselves. 

Yet with all this investment in employer branding, employers have reported a surge in applications, rather than an increase in the quality of candidates.  This has created an issue for the internal recruiters, that of sifting through countless applications and the risk of hiring a candidate who may leave quickly because they don’t fit in. 

Why is employer branding ‘mark 2’ important?

It is no longer enough to emphasise salary and conditions when giving reasons to work for your company.  To get the quality of candidates who meet your company values and are therefore more likely to stay, you need to give an insight into your culture to create a unique selling point to work for your business.  Employer branding ‘mark 2’ is about how your target candidate pool interacts with you and feels about you.

Employer branding isn’t a ‘HR’ or ‘Marketing’ thing

It is easy to delegate employer branding to HR or Marketing, but do they really know what makes your business ‘tick’on a day to day basis?  Do they know that Neil makes cakes every Wednesday, Amy came up with a great idea that was adopted and changed the business, Emma started as an apprentice and now runs the IT team, or that Jon raised money for charity by asking his workmates to sponsor him to abseil off a building?

Ask all staff to get involved, you will find a number of willing volunteers will step up to give feedback and a real insight into the culture of the business.  By doing this, you will also get your employee’s buy in for the employer branding initiative, as they will have played a part in setting it up.

Beyond just pay and promotion opportunities

Employer branding must show both the hard and soft reasons for working for a company.  Pay, perks and promotional opportunities are good reasons to join a company, but candidate retention is down to cultural fit.  Many failed hires are due to the employees feeling that they don’t fit in, or that they disagree with the direction the company is taking.

Consider this: the cost of a failed hire can be up to three times their salary when you take into account recruitment costs, either internal costs or recruitment consultant costs, training costs, plus if the new recruit is shadowing or being trained by an existing employee, the cost of that employee not doing their normal job.

Think about the company values, why the company was founded in the first place, the company’s mission, the good things your company does and what the future plans are.  What attributes do the successful hires in your organisation have?  Equally, think of a time it has not worked out with a new employee and why this is.  By doing this groundwork into your employer brand, the new recruits will be better informed what it is like to work for your company and will therefore be more likely to stay.

Show your personality

One of the friendliest people I know has a stern looking photo on their LinkedIn profile.  They are a Lawyer, understandable to have an officious looking headshot, but even in their profession they are regarded as one of the warmest and most engaging people to work with.  The photo does not convey this; a smile in their suit photo would have met both the brand guidelines and the personality of the person. 

If your company is cutting edge, innovative and informal, it is easy to stifle that creativity by creating a corporate brand in an effort to appear ‘professional’.  Over ‘sanitising’ your brand can lose the message you set out to convey in the first place.  Be bold and show what it is really like to work for your company.  If the dress code is casual, make your corporate headshots in the clothes you would normally wear.  If the company is innovative and cutting edge yet informal, make sure that the tone of voice in your blogs and comment pieces reflect this.

Make it accessible on social media

‘Work for us’ pages on your website are great, but real gains can be made via social media.  Social media offers real time updates to your audience, with many social media platforms having LinkedIn is traditionally the home of corporate networking, yet have you considered a Youtube channel or Instagram?  A picture or video can showcase your employer branding in an easy to share and engaging method across social media.  Take it a step further and set up ‘work for us’ Twitter and Facebook feeds with posts about the latest happenings in the company; and give your employees the responsibility to update them.

Don’t be paranoid

It is easy to think that your brand could be compromised if all employees are given the opportunity get involved in employer branding.  Inappropriate posts or spelling and grammar mistakes are both reasons for employers to think about delegating the posts to the marketing team.   However if you censor the content, you start to lose the impact of the buzz your employees are creating for the brand, plus the rise of social media and review sites like Google Reviews and Glassdoor means that employees have the chance to have their say externally of your company anyway.

Empower your employees to make contributions to the brand, be it a photo of a charity fundraising cake bake, a teambuilding day or the celebration of winning a new contract and your brand’s personality will really shine through.

Not just for big companies

How do some lower division football teams attract a top name to play for them, whereas other Premier League teams struggle?  It is no mystery, it is down to employer branding.  Start ups and SMEs can benefit from employer branding to showcase their ambitions, plans and investment, to attract the right talent to take their business to the next level.  In addition, they have the benefit of having a close knit team to set the foundations of their employer brand moving forward.

Spreading the word

Once you have established your employer brand, the next step is to get it out into the market.  How you do this is unique to your company.  Where do potential employees in your candidate pool look for new jobs?  This could be LinkedIn, an industry specific website, the local press.  Do some research into where the market looks for work and then make a plan to target where they will be looking with your employer brand.  If you are using job boards to advertise your vacancies, ensure that the job board will allow you to showcase your employer brand, rather than simply post a job.  www.emptylemon.co.uk was set up with the specific goals of improving employer branding and enhancing the candidate experience, by not allowing recruitment agencies and giving companies a branded employer page.

Measuring the success

How you measure success is again unique to your company, but it should be measured.  The indicators of success could be a reduction in attrition due to poor cultural fit, or attracting a large number of candidates to work for you who would not ordinarily have applied to your company. 

Employer branding is here to stay and is constantly evolving, yet the principles of marketing apply throughout; that is researching your market, finding out what they want, identifying your unique points and promoting it in the places where your target audience are likely to see it.

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