How to Build an Employer Brand, According to 13 Industry Leaders
In today’s recruitment landscape, employers must give as much thought to their own presentation as applicants give to their resumes and cover letters. After a brief hiccup at the outset of the pandemic, much of the technology industry has returned to pre-COVID hiring goals. At the same time, the workforce has found itself liberated of the need to live within commuting distance of a physical office, creating unprecedented nationwide demand for a limited pool of tech talent.
How you tell your organization’s story — from its overarching mission to the culture to the nuts-and-bolts benefits packages — is known as an employer brand, and leading businesses across the industry now employ professionals devoted to the story they tell new candidates.
So what is the secret to a successful employer brand? How do you get started, and how do you define success?
We put these questions to relevant leaders at large tech companies across the country. Taken together, they offer a blueprint for startups and older businesses alike to start and iterate upon their own employer brand.
Where she works: Dropbox’s cloud storage services help more than 500 million registered users collaborate and share information. Headquartered in San Francisco, the company has tech hubs in Seattle and Austin.
Material and cultural support: “Dropboxers are what make our company amazing. We can’t build great products or help the world work better if our own people aren’t cared for, so we try to help them nurture their holistic selves through a host of industry-leading, competitive benefits. These include 24 weeks of paid parental leave, access to mental health services through Modern Health, a generous perks allowance to spend on wellness or other needs and much more.
“Our employee-organized ERGs also help to provide our team members with a sense of community and belonging. Far beyond perks, we want our employees to know that they are seen and heard, that we recognize that they are more than just Dropbox employees, and that we are invested in them, their families, and their well-being.”
“Sometimes you wonder if people are seeing the work, and it turns out they are.”
Metrics to track: “Although measuring shifts in brand perception can be tricky, we do have a number of signals that let us know we’re headed in the right direction, which include everything from content and campaign performance to the number of applications and benchmarks we set against ourselves. We’re attracting a more diverse pool of talent every year, and we’ve definitely started to notice the uptick and mix in variety from our applications and the sources they are coming from.
“But my favorite ‘tell’ is simply hearing from candidates and new hires that they were really encouraged to see how diligently we responded to reviews, or that they loved reading our content around a heritage month celebration when they were going through the hiring process. Sometimes you wonder if people are seeing the work, and it turns out they are. And they are just as excited as we are about working at Dropbox.”
Where she works: Chicago-based ThoughtWorks is a software consultancy that helps customers design, build and execute digital products. Over more than 25 years, the company has helped a wide range of clients solve complex business problems through cutting-edge tech.
Pick a message: “As a ThoughtWorker, you are free to seek out the most ambitious challenges, free to change career paths, free to use technology as a tool for social change and free to be yourself. We believe by evolving our storytelling strategy, we are able to share the stories of our people who make an extraordinary impact on the world through technology. This storytelling is what helps us attract ThoughtWorkers who we haven’t found yet. And our employer brand focuses on those activities that foster and showcase our vibrant community of diverse and passionate technologists and contribute to our growth.”
“Great employee experience fuels a great employer brand, and that employer brand will attract people who will thrive at your organization.”
Success feeds itself: “You have to continue investing in your brand as an employer and amplify the stories that are reflective of your organization’s mission, vision and values as an employer. This adapts over time and is a work in progress to always ensure your messaging and marketing are genuinely reflective of what it’s actually like to work there. It requires a strong foundation, with continued maintenance. By doing so you will continue to reach and attract talent. And you know it’s working when you continue to connect with candidates and employees and provide what they need. This includes improvement in candidate quality, increase in employee referrals, your employees becoming true brand ambassadors and maintaining high retention rates. Great employee experience fuels a great employer brand, and that employer brand will attract people who will thrive at your organization.”
Where he works: Atlassian builds and evolves the kind of core technology found in almost every engineering team’s tech toolbox: Jira, Confluence, Trello, Bitbucket and OpsGenie. Founded in Sydney, Australia, the company has offices across the U.S. including bases in San Francisco, New York and Austin.
Transparency is key: “The most important aspect of our employer brand is transparency. We want to be as open as possible about the experience of working at Atlassian so people can make a well-informed career decision before deciding to join. Creating more transparency means sharing more and making sure the experience of working here matches the experience we display publicly. We've done this by creating channels like our Candidate Resource Hub as well as sharing monthly newsletters to our talent community with the latest content about what work life is like at Atlassian.”
“At a high level, we monitor our talent brand health by measuring the rate at which our primary candidate audience associates Atlassian with having a reputation as a great place to work.”
Reputation monitoring: “At a high level, we monitor our talent brand health by measuring the rate at which our primary candidate audience associates Atlassian with having a reputation as a great place to work. We also measure the impact of our various efforts by monitoring engagement with the resources we’ve created and measuring candidate confidence during the interview process.”
Liz Gelb-O'Connor, Global Head of Employer Brand and Marketing at ADP
Where she works: Finance and HR professionals use Automated Data Processing — or ADP — software to manage digitized timesheets, administer and deliver benefits, manage taxes and pay employees.
Differentiating tech: “About 18 months ago, we decided to create a separate careers experience dedicated to recruiting tech talent. This allowed us to develop an employer value proposition specifically targeted to the technologists we wanted to attract, to showcase our tech transformation story and to cut away the noise to connect more directly to our audience. As a result, tech.adp.com was born — a career site for our tech jobs and a tech blog featuring the authentic voices of our people. We launched right in the middle of the pandemic, but we are super excited about the engagement and conversion rates that we are seeing.”
“Involve your tech team or organization to co-create your employer value proposition, then focus on storytelling for talent attraction.”
Be a storyteller: “Involve your tech team or organization to co-create your employer value proposition, then focus on storytelling for talent attraction. Building an employer brand is more than creating a marketing campaign — it has to be a true representation of what makes your company unique and fairly depict the employee experience. I loved hearing directly from our people about why they chose ADP and why they stay. We used their authentic voices to form the basis of our talent attraction.”
Where she works: Discover’s technology helps users and businesses alike move more than $400 billion annually through its direct banking and payment services. The company also has a number of credit and loan products for consumers and businesses.
Time in role is through the roof: “The average tenure for IT professionals at Discover is more than seven years. We believe it’s because there are no spectators here. Our teams solve challenges, innovate on our technology to design our customers’ experiences and ultimately build a leading digital banking and payments company. We invest in employees’ potential and value what makes each employee unique, and with our collaborative team-based culture, we succeed together. Those are the messages we share through our employer brand activities.”
“We want to give candidates more access to what makes Discover special.”
Sharing the secret: “Ninety-one percent of our employees would recommend working at Discover to a friend or family member. My employer brand team shares all those great reasons why. In 2020, we launched new careers social channels on Instagram and Facebook and have plans to launch Twitter this year. We want to give candidates more access to what makes Discover special and allow our employees to share their experiences about why they choose to build a career here.”
Where she works: Businesses use Dynatrace’s services to monitor, optimize and scale their applications. The company’s software intelligence platform offers infrastructure monitoring, microservices, security, UX building tools and analytics tools and supports multi-cloud environments across all major providers.
Believe in the product: “What sets Dynatrace apart as an employer is the dedication and passion all of my colleagues have for our product. This contagious commitment radiates throughout our offices. I strive to capture this excitement through global employee testimonial videos and graphics. The goal is to spotlight employees’ #DynatraceLife experience, their hobbies (work-life balance is super important here!), their role and why they are proud to work at Dynatrace.”
“I’m hoping to craft a new onboarding ‘buddy system’ for new hires in North America.”
Put it in video: “I’m currently in the process of producing more job description videos from hiring managers to modernize our recruitment approach and connect with candidates. I’m also broadening the recruitment brand that I crafted in 2019 to international Dynatrace offices. Later this year, I’m hoping to craft a new onboarding ‘buddy system’ for new hires in North America. Once it has been finalized and is proving successful, I plan to expand this to our international colleagues.”
Where she works: From its tech hubs around the country — including San Francisco and Chicago — Cisco Meraki provides cloud-controlled Wi-Fi, routing and network security products as well as IoT cameras, mobile device management services and environmental sensors to protect IT infrastructure.
Turn colleagues into brand champs: “One philosophy that I have always stuck by when it comes to talent branding is that ‘candidates don’t believe brands; they believe employees.’ Our employees are a vital part of our talent brand and they are our best asset. It is imperative to us that we capture our authentic employee experience and voice. One way to ensure this is to make our employees a crucial part of our talent brand content strategy. The stronger your employee content strategy, the more robust your talent brand will be.”
“You know your talent brand strategy is doing its job when your employees are proud of the brand they have helped build.”
Involvement signifies success: “You know your talent brand strategy is doing its job when your employees are proud of the brand they have helped build and play an active role in your organization’s recruitment marketing campaigns, blogs, recruitment videos and more.”
Where she works: Chewy dominates pet product e-commerce, with everything from food and supplements to treats and toys. Headquartered in both Dania Beach, Florida and Boston, Massachusetts, the company has corporate technology offices in Seattle and Minneapolis.
“Wow” them: “While our various talent acquisition segments (corporate, customer service, fulfilment and campus) all require differentiated recruitment marketing approaches given their diverse talent audiences and roles, a constant and core thread across all of these segments is our defined Chewy employer brand positioning. No matter your location or role, you’ll be joining a place where you’ll be empowered to build, grow and unleash your potential. As the company continues to grow, our hiring approaches and strategies also continue to evolve, though always fueled by our commitment to ‘wow-ing’ and attracting talent authentically, leveraging internal employee ambassadors and showcasing our unique Chewtopia culture.”
“We also talk directly to the source: our candidates and new hires.”
How to measure success: “Looking at ‘traditional’ metrics can be very helpful in measuring the performance of specific content pieces, paid ads and social campaigns. These include increased career site visits, applications, social post impressions, shares of a specific job post or improved employee review ratings. We monitor employee review sites to not only measure employer reputation externally but also to share insights and learnings with leadership to help improve internal culture. We also talk directly to the source: our candidates and new hires. We gauge how they learned of a role and why they chose to join the Chewy pack: was it at an event, a media article, LinkedIn job listing or a referral? This is a great way to learn directly from your target audience, while also helping plan future awareness efforts.”
Where she works: Through its hybrid cloud monitoring service, Datadog helps organizations identify opportunities to improve agility and increase efficiency on the back end of their business apps. A favorite among DevOps teams, Datadog offers more than 200 turnkey integrations deployable across an entire DevOps stack.
Employee involvement: “Your people are your biggest advocates and champions when it comes to amplifying and building your brand, so make sure you’re building a brand that your employees are proud of. You want your employees to be eager to amplify their experiences and share their stories with their networks. Showcase them in content opportunities on your social media channels and blog posts, and make it as easy as possible for them to share those pieces of content with easy, pre-written ‘quick copy’ they can copy and paste to LinkedIn or Twitter.
“One creative way we’ve started telling more of that day-in-the-life narrative in today’s virtual landscape is through a new monthly ‘talk show’ on LinkedIn called Pup Corner. It’s a four-minute conversation with an employee that gives a summary of a certain team, job role, challenge or piece of advice. By highlighting employees, you’re also helping them build their own personal brand and thought leadership in the space, building further credibility with your candidates and customers and giving them the power to build your employer brand organically.”
“Your candidates are your best source of truth when it comes to knowing how talent is responding to your employer brand.”
Solicit feedback: “The best way to know if your employer brand is resonating with candidates is simply to ask them. Maybe you’ve been working to encourage more employees at your company to leave reviews on Glassdoor or Comparably, and your recruiters start hearing more and more from candidates that they checked out your company reviews and really loved what employees had to say. That simple qualitative anecdote tells you what’s working well. Your candidates are your best source of truth when it comes to knowing how talent is responding to your employer brand, so don’t be afraid to ask them what attracted them to your company, and keep note of the videos, blog posts or job platforms they mention so you can concentrate on the initiatives that your talent is being drawn toward.”
Dara O’Connell, Talent Brand Marketing Manager and Megan Carlisle, Talent Brand Program Manager at Twitter
Where they work: As one of the world’s largest and most fast-paced social networks, Twitter employees pride themselves on building infrastructure that supports public conversation. Headquartered in San Francisco, the company announced it would allow some employees to continue working from home permanently after the pandemic subsides.
Find your voice through employees: “Our Tweeps, the people who work at Twitter, are most important to our employer brand. They’re at the heart of everything we do. We’ve found our voice through them, and that’s been the North Star for our employer branding. To build on this, we’re continuing to support and create experiences for our Tweeps that they choose to share with the world and on Twitter. It allows us to put their voices and tweets at the forefront of our work. We want to show, not tell, Twitter’s purpose-driven and people-first culture, from their perspective and through their experiences. That alone resonates with people in more authentic ways than it ever could coming from us as marketing speak.
“We use internal employee surveys to understand if we’re delivering what we promised them during the recruitment process.”
Gauge results through employees: “If it feels true and authentic to Tweeps, we know our employer brand is working. We use internal employee surveys to understand if we’re delivering what we promised them during the recruitment process. We also work with internal and external partners to track how we’re perceived in the market against factors that drive employment decisions. This helps us know if our activations are actually shifting how we’re seen by future Tweeps. We also do A/B testing with our marketing copy, creatives and audience to understand what’s resonating, giving extra attention to inclusive and clear messaging.”
Rachel Duran, Head of Global Talent Branding at Cloudera
Where she works: Engineers and data scientists use Cloudera’s enterprise data cloud platform to transform, query, optimize and predict security and governance policies. The technology covers the entire data lifecycle, from IoT devices at the source to experimentation and segmentation processes.
Building on a remote foundation: “Cloudera was a remote-friendly company before 2020, but new programs, such as our all-company ‘unplug days,’ online yoga class memberships, virtual team cooking classes and meeting-free days made the transition to an all-virtual workplace last year a little more manageable for everyone. Additionally, Cloudera has recently launched several major initiatives to foster and empower diversity and inclusion in the workplace, starting with the addition of our chief diversity officer and equality committee.”
“We’re excited to have built new avenues of external communication for our employer branding efforts.”
Reach candidates where they are: “As a growing organization, we’re excited to have built new avenues of external communication for our employer branding efforts, including the recent launch of our Cloudera culture blog. The blog gives us an opportunity to showcase our amazing culture and benefits through the eyes of our employees and share that through social media and email messaging.
“This year, we’re focused on key talent brand initiatives such as building diversity in our teams and making it easier for job seekers to learn more about working at Cloudera. We’re revamping our careers site, job descriptions and social media strategy to lay a solid foundation for building this effort throughout the years to come.”
Jill Larsen, Chief People Officer and Executive Vice President at PTC
Where she works: PTC helps businesses coordinate data workflows and integrate IoT devices into existing systems. By focusing on reliability and efficiency, the company says it frees up time for customers to invest in innovation.
Come for the tech, stay for the culture: “Our biggest area of opportunity in building our employer brand is amplifying the voice of our employees, finding what makes us truly unique and building a diverse and inclusive employer brand. Why would a UX manager, software engineer or talented sales leader choose PTC, and why do our employees stay? We know we have high-caliber technology and are leading the way in digital transformation, but it’s our culture and values that support being yourself and pushing boundaries that create retention for our employees. We’ve made numerous top workplaces lists for consecutive years and added some new ones this year, and our global benefits offerings are competitive and getting better every day.
“Out of all that, what are the critical pieces we showcase and how do we continue to disrupt ourselves? I think culture differentiation becomes more challenging as the pandemic continues and employees and organizations shift to a more virtual workforce. The paradigm of what matters to employees is changing, so staying at the forefront of that shift and figuring out how to retain the best of your culture while evolving it to stand out in a virtualized world is something we are navigating.”
“Use your people analytics and data insights to find the low-hanging fruit.”
A word from the wise: “You may be surprised to know that we are a 35-year-old company! And I’ve led a number of brand transformations. First, you should know it can be done and you don’t need millions of dollars to do it. Remember that you have an employer brand whether or not you choose to focus on it and actively craft it. Your employees have a voice, so make sure you are amplifying it because they are always your greatest asset and storytelling vehicle. We’re really just at the start of our employer brand journey, so our advice is to remember that it should be authentic and reflect your company’s values, but it should still be aspirational to who your company or employees want to be.
“You have to start somewhere, so use your people analytics and data insights to find the low-hanging fruit. Go out on social and see what your candidates and employees are saying, and remember that it’s an iterative process. An employer brand is a living, breathing organism that will grow and change with your organization, so it’s less important to get it perfect than it is to just get started. And most importantly, have some fun and tell the story of what makes your company great.”