Every organisation, large or small, has an employer brand, whether it has been consciously established and nurtured or it is the product of chance or neglect. It’s like a billboard for your organisation’s image as an employer, but one that may be projecting a variety of different messages, positive or negative.
Employer branding isn’t just about recruitment. Global research has indicated that it can also affect employee engagement and loyalty, staff turnover and productivity. Your employer brand is strongly influenced by what has become known as the ‘psychological contract’ with stakeholders. They include employees, job-seekers, people who might work for you in the future, and the people who influence them, such as family, friends and their social networks.
In essence, employer branding is like the ‘barbecue test’. How would people talk about your organisation if they were chatting at a barbecue?
Here are five steps HR and senior leadership can take to ensure their employer brand is working to their advantage in the ever-increasingly competitive marketplace for talent.
1. Get buy-in from the leadership team
The leadership team needs to determine the ‘give’ and ‘get’ of your employee value proposition (EVP) – what is required from the branding strategy; how to align this with your mission, values and culture; and how to demonstrate the appropriate behaviours that need to be applied across the business?
2. Gauge where you are and where you want to be
Define a starting point for judging your current employer brand, its strengths and weaknesses, so progress can be measured against it. The tools for doing this include quantitative research and focus groups involving staff and job candidates that look at what attracts people to your organisation, what deters them and what could be improved.
Having asked job candidates what they think about the organisation before they join, it is important to follow them up if they subsequently join, to get their perception-versus-reality observations.
Exit interview data from your departing employees can also provide valuable insights into what they think are the strengths and weaknesses of your employer brand. Suppliers can also provide additional external perceptions of your employer brand.
With this baseline in place, you can determine what you want to be renowned for, i.e. the qualities that will be at the heart of marketing your organisation to the candidates you want to attract. It will also define the attributes of the business, including its corporate values, which shape the internal and external perceptions of your organisation.
3. Identify the gaps between where you are and where you want to be
Once you are aware of the current perceptions of your employer brand, and understand where you want to be, a gap analysis can then be undertaken.
4. Identify what can be done to bridge the gaps
By encouraging all employees to voice their opinions and suggested actions, where possible, you can harness their active support in bridging your employer branding gaps. Some of the required improvements that are identified will be easy to implement. Others will become projects in their own right that need the backing of clear plans, measurable milestones and executive sponsorship.
5. Take your employer brand to market
Appoint brand ambassadors and encourage all employees to spread the word through their online and social media profiles, along with SEEK company reviews.
To judge progress, develop reliable metrics that measure return on investment from your strategy. They may relate to cost per hire, fulfilment of vacancies, and satisfaction with line managers and demonstrated values. These will vary depending on the organisation.