Employer Branding: Definition, Benefits and Strategies
These days, researching potential employers is as easy as researching the hottest new brunch destinations. Faced with this reality, employers must take a proactive approach to attract and engage with top talent. A well-crafted employer branding strategy can help any business influence the perceptions of job seekers and employees, but getting started requires a little context.
What is Employer Branding?
Employer branding is the process of managing and influencing your reputation as an employer among job seekers, employees and key stakeholders. It encompasses everything you do to position your organization as an employer of choice.
Your employer brand is your organization’s reputation as an employer. In simpler terms, it’s what job seekers and employees really think of you. It’s what they tell their friends and family when you aren’t around. Though it may not be tangible, your employer brand is an asset that requires constant cultivation.
That’s where employer brand-ing comes into play.
Why ‘manage’ and ‘influence’ instead of ‘own’ or ‘dictate?’ Because your employer brand is not something you actually own. Your reputation as an employer exists in the minds of candidates and employees, and it is shaped by their thoughts and impressions. You have an employer brand, whether or not you actively manage it. Candidates and employees have an opinion about you, and if you aren’t working to influence it, you’re at their mercy.
Think about the totality of your firm’s recruiting and retention efforts as a series of individual interactions. Every touchpoint leaves an impression with candidates and employees that shapes your employer brand and your ability to hire and retain great people. Without proper management, each one of those touchpoints can become a deal breaker, costing you candidates and employees.
The Importance of Employer Branding
It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of employer branding.
While the concept has been around for decades, it didn’t gain widespread attention until the mid 90’s when the first online job boards were launched. Almost overnight, employees had access to millions of opportunities across the country. The workforce became more fluid than ever before, and the days of sticking with one company for the long haul were over.
Smart employers adapted to this shift (some faster than others) and began to take proactive steps toward attracting and retaining top talent, but thousands of organizations still fail to capitalize on the benefits of employer branding.
And those benefits are significant.
Let’s look at some stats — good, bad and ugly — that shine some light on why employer branding is so important.
95% of candidates identify a company’s reputation as a key consideration when exploring new career opportunities (source). Virtually every candidate out there — whether they’re active, passive or somewhere in the middle — will consider your company’s reputation before applying.
66% of job seekers want to learn about your culture and values (source). Candidates are literally telling us what they want to see during the job search. Your employer branding efforts can be a great way to communicate these features.
69% of candidates would reject an offer from a company with a bad employer brand, even if they were unemployed (source). Even the fear of unemployment isn’t enough to overcome a negative employer brand.
Companies with a poor employer brand must offer a minimum of a 10% pay increase to lure top talent (source). Imagine paying a 10% premium on every single hire you make. Now take a minute to consider the state of your employer brand and ask yourself if you’re already paying that premium without realizing it?
40% of passive candidates would accept a new position without an increase in pay if the company had a good employer brand (source). A positive employer brand is all it takes to overcome the stigma associated with a lateral move for nearly half of the workforce.
As much as 23% of the 18-34 year old workforce would accept a pay cut for an opportunity to join a company with a good employer brand (source). While we would never recommend intentionally underbidding your competitors, this goes to show the power of reputation.
Only 49% of employees would recommend their employer to a friend (source). This one is especially scary, as employee referrals are often the best source of quality applicants. You can kiss those hires goodbye if less than half of your employees would recommend you to their network.
More than anything else, these statistics prove that employer branding impacts every facet of the employer-employee relationship. While it is most often associated with recruitment, employer branding also affects employee engagement, retention and even profitability.
How to Build an Employer Brand
Alright, so you’re ready to get serious about your employer brand.
But how do you get started?
You may not be able to hire dedicated experts to handle this function, but there’s no reason you can’t build a compelling employer brand. Breaking things down to the most important tasks will make the process much more manageable, so let’s cover the basics.
Conduct an Employer Brand Audit
You can’t hope to influence or manage your employer brand if you don’t know what people think about you, so an employer brand audit is the first step.
This is a two-pronged fact finding mission designed to uncover how the company is currently presenting itself to candidates and employees and what those people actually think about the company.
First, examine everything, and we do mean everything, you’re saying to candidates and employees that could impact their perception of the company. Your job descriptions, career page, social media profiles, acceptance/rejection letters, onboarding materials, internal communications, performance reviews — if it exists, analyze it.
Next, it’s time to get some feedback from candidates and employees. Remember, the idea here is to understand how they really think and feel about the company, so be sure to ask questions that will provide meaningful information.
How would they describe the company to a friend? Why did they choose to apply? Why did they choose to accept/reject their offer? Why do they stay with the company year after year? Why are they leaving the company? Do they feel the company “walks the walk?”
You want to speak with enough people to feel confident you’ve gathered meaningful data, but don’t overdo it. Collecting too much information will make data analysis nearly impossible.
Once complete, the employer brand audit will help you identify and correct the gaps that exist between how the company is presenting itself and how it is perceived by candidates and employees.
Craft Your Employee Value Proposition
Armed with the information collected during the employer brand audit, you’re ready to craft your employee value proposition (EVP).
The EVP is the “people deal” that exists between an organization, its employees and the talent it’s looking to recruit. It answers two important questions:
- What the individual employee or candidate can expect of the company.
- What the company expects of the individual employee or candidate.
Think of your EVP as the guiding light of your employer branding efforts. While you may never share it publicly, your EVP will shape your communications moving forward.
Developing your EVP is no small feat, but fortunately we’ve covered the topic in depth and can help get you started.
Implement Your Employer Branding Strategy
At this point, you should be ready to take your message to the masses. But what channels are most important? There are countless avenues you can utilize to promote your employer brand, but when getting started we recommend starting with the lowest hanging fruit.
- Job Descriptions - Job descriptions may not sound like the place to let your personality shine, but they’re often the first interaction job seekers will have with your company so make sure they reflect your desired employer brand.
- Career Page - Your career page is the anchor of your employer branding materials, making it one of the most important touchpoints with potential candidates. Compelling photography or video, employee testimonials, your core values and more can all help convince candidates that you’re the place to be, so spend some time dialing it in.
- Online Reviews - These days, almost every job seeker reads employer reviews before applying to a job, and coming across a negative review can stop them in their tracks. While you can’t control anonymous reviews, you can respond to them, and that can have a serious impact on perceptions. 62% of job seekers say their opinion of a company improved after seeing it respond to a negative review, so pay attention to what people are saying about you and don’t be afraid to respond.
- Candidate Experience - If you’re lucky enough to convince a great candidate to apply, at some point you’ll interact with them offline. Whether it’s an initial phone screen or in-office interview, the experience that candidate has must align with your employer brand or you’re almost guaranteed to lose them.
Remember to walk before you run. Employer branding isn’t easy, and there’s no sense rushing the process. Once you’ve tackled these items, you’ll be able to dive into more advanced employer branding projects.