Does your public reputation match your employer brand? A company’s public reputation – its external brand – is what customers think about its products and services. This can be very different from an employer brand, which is how job seekers view a company. In today’s competitive talent market, a strong employer brand is critical to getting talent in the door. It’s the reason that happily employed professionals are willing to consider opportunities at a new company, and the reason they reject overtures from others. People may love your products and services, but do they want to work for you?
Consider the positive employer brand enjoyed by companies like Cisco, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and REI, three companies that routinely land on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. Cisco is known for being the home of cutting-edge innovators. BCG is famous for offering best-in-class benefits, like $5 co-pays and fully paid employee sabbaticals. REI is renowned for its company culture that values teamwork and its “adventure grants” to get employees outside. For all three companies, their reputation precedes them – a tremendous bonus for recruitment.
Employer Branding 101: Getting Started
Until recently, employer branding was often an afterthought, something for HR to work on after addressing “real” needs like compliance, employee relations and benefits. But as HR departments continue to evolve from tactical centers to strategic business partners, companies are bringing greater focus to employer branding. This evolution is driven in part by a tight talent market, where a strong employer brand is critical to successful recruitment and retention efforts.
Most of today’s job seekers are passive candidates. They’re satisfied with their current job and don’t need to take a new position unless you give them a reason to. That’s where your employer brand comes into play. It’s why passive candidates take that initial informational call. It’s why they agree to meet for coffee and learn more about your organization.
Could your employer branding efforts use a kick start? Here’s where to begin:
- Assess where your employer brand currently stands.
How you view your company could be very different from how your employees view it – and these perspectives might be completely different from what potential hires think! Pay attention to your reviews on employer rating sites. While you can’t control the quality or quantity of your company’s reviews, they’re still a useful pulse check on your internal reputation.
When partnering with a recruiting firm, we can provide valuable insight into your reputation as an employer. How do candidates react when we discuss opportunities at your company? Are they excited at the mention of your name? Lukewarm? Worse? Are there common themes about your culture – true or not – that give candidates pause? This feedback is vital to identifying opportunities for improvement.
Finally, consider how these perspectives align with your employer value proposition (EVP). Company values, culture, compensation and benefits, management styles, work-life balance and opportunities to travel or work directly with clients all impact your EVP and employer brand.
- Back up words with action.
If your employer brand isn’t well known, it’s not enough to say your company is a certain way. Your company needs to be that way. For example, plenty of companies proudly point to their collaborative culture or tight team bonds. We’ve all heard companies call themselves “work hard, play hard.” But on a practical level, what does this mean?
One company I worked for had a large number of employees who primarily worked in the field on client sites. To create and maintain a team environment with a group of people who didn’t see each other regularly, the company hosts themed events like paint night, laser tag or video game tournaments. While entirely optional, these events are very popular with employees and a great way to foster a team culture with a remote workforce.
- Formalize roles and responsibilities.
HR leaders are now partnering with marketing and design teams to bring a company’s employer brand to life. These cross-team partnerships combine a wealth of best practice knowledge to drive success with recruitment and retention. For these partnerships to succeed, I recommend outlining clear roles and responsibilities and establishing project milestones and benchmarks for tracking success.
Some companies are even creating hybrid HR/marketing roles dedicated to employer branding. For example, I recently placed an employer branding specialist at a local hospital system. They’d had some challenges attracting top talent, so they developed an HR position dedicated to promoting their internal culture and professional development opportunities to prospective hires. This type of role is a bit like influencer marketing, but for job seekers rather than customers or clients.
As you build out your company’s employer brand, don’t overlook the role that current employees can play. There’s nothing more powerful than an employee who genuinely loves their job and is excited to share their experience!
In what innovative ways have your HR and Marketing teams worked together to identify and communicate your employer brand to candidates? I invite you to share your success in the comments below.