Employer branding: Recruitment’s not so secret weapon

Geir Darge · 17 Sep

When it comes to recruitment, there are as many techniques as there are stars

Every guru has a different take on what employer's should be doing to attract the very best talent in the competitive job market. It can be overwhelming, it can be baffling at times too, yielding very little in the way of results.

This is not to say that recruitment is a dead science. Far from it, to keep your company competitive in a crowded job market you need to be at the cutting edge of the recruitment. However, you might be trying to run before you can walk.

First things first, you need to look inwards and sort out your foundations. You need to get your employer branding straight.

What is employer branding?

To use the CIPD’s explanation, employer branding is the way in which companies represent themselves in opposition or differentiation to their competitors.  Invented in the early 1990s, the term is now globally used in management circles and is basically the vehicle for one of recruitment's most fundamental pillars: your Employee Value Proposition.

To move away from jargon, the purpose of Employer Branding is basically an answer to the silent question: “why is this a great place to work?”.  Everything that defines your employee experience should be included.

Does your company have one?

It’s a bit like a shadow, everyone has one but often can’t see it. Any business, with employees, will have a type of employer branding, which is usually communicated through reputation and word of mouth. It’s also worth noting that it can both help or damage your company, depending on if your employees like and enjoy working for you or not.

This is its most rudimentary form and isn’t what is typically meant by “employer branding”, as it is too passive and can often end up damaging your company. If this is the case, then it’s time to start building a more cohesive, and marketable “employer brand” that promotes the best of your company, while also addressing the issues that may be harming your brand.

Why is it so useful?

Well firstly, since 2008 there has been a seismic shift in the way candidates interact with employers. The reduction in the financial power of businesses, combined with record low unemployment has shifted the balance of power in favour of employees. With companies now struggling to fill positions, employers are now expected to court the affection of candidates.

In this situation, employer branding is crucial to success. The more marketable your business if from an employee stand-point the more interest you will get in roles and ultimately the pickier you can afford to be.

Secondly, an employer’s reputation is far more visible now than it's have ever been. The crop of review sites, like Glassdoor and Indeed have left companies vulnerable and much more accountable to disgruntled employees. It’s said now that 70% of people look at employer review before making any decisions on a job.  A few bad reviews and suddenly the quality and quantity of applications for a position will nose-dive.

Like customer-facing departments, HR are now required to engage with PR and brand building as means of combatting any negative press received online. 

How to nail your employee branding

So, let’s say you are feeling the adverse effects of a vocal and saturated candidate pool. How do you go about raising your employer image? Well, there are 3 steps you need to take to build a good employer brand: 

  1. Gather insights

First off, what issues are you trying to address? Often the trouble with businesses is that they don’t really know what their reputation is as an employer as it’s intentionally invisible if looked at from the top, down.

So, your priority to start with should be creating a feedback loop that incorporates everyone from your interns to your senior management. Instigate companywide surveys if not weekly then at least monthly. This will give you an idea as to where both your strengths and weaknesses are. Focus groups are also a good technique for gaining insight, as they allow for open-ended feedback.

  1. Listen and learn from marketing

Nowadays we are marketed everything, from politics through to HR. It’s simply no longer sufficient to be ‘good’, you need to be seen as good. Much of the world is still getting used to this new dynamic, as much is clear from the panic surrounding Facebook and its role in the elections. However, like it or no it’s an adjustment that HR departments need to adapt to.

So, learn from your marketing team. Borrow their ideas, steal their strategies, and apply it to recruitment.  How do you go about building a brand? What techniques should you use to increase exposure and online visibility? Are you using the most effective channels to post job ads through? These are all questions that any marketer can help you with, so make use of the resource.

  1. Make sure your EVP aligns to your brand image

This is a biggie. Let’s say you’re a company whose image as an employer is “health” orientated, you might be a nutritional snack company. It’s important to tailor your EVP to incorporate elements of your brand “image” into the company culture. Schemes like, offering free health foods in the office, or a discounted gym membership will give prospective employees the notion that you live and breathe your brand.

More generally an EVP is the closest thing you'll get to having a written "employer brand". This is where you have the chance to "sell" directly to prospective candidates. So use the opportunity to impart a flavour of who you are as an employer, what your company values are and what the office culture is like.  

Ultimately this will boost brand advocacy and also help streamline recruitment. You want to be recruiting people that care about your company’s mission and including benefits that are aligned with this will encourage the right sort of candidate to apply.

A final word…

One of the most important things you can do for your employer branding is to encourage everyone to be the brand advocate. According to a survey carried out by The Drum, 84% of people trust peer-to-peer reviews when searching for a job. So having your current employees on side and vocal about the company will build a grassroots brand movement. If you’ve got your company culture right, they shouldn’t’ take much persuasion. People who love their job shout about it.

 

 



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