Every company has a reputation. It could include thoughts about your products, services, leaders, team members, history, and more. And your company’s reputation can also go beyond to inspire a specific perception — emotional, instinctive, intellectual — in the people who see your ads, use your products, and eventually, speak to others about you. That reputation is known as your brand.
Your company also has a second brand related to its primary brand about how you’re viewed as an employer. This is your employer brand, and it lives and breathes in the minds and hearts of your former, current, and future employees.
In today’s increasingly competitive job market, a positive employer brand is critical. Without one, hiring and retaining the best employees becomes challenging — and costly. You need talented, leadership-bound workers to drive your business forward, and the best way to find them is to cast the impression that your company is a great place to work. Everything from the salary and benefit packages you offer to advancement opportunities to weekly happy hours, the culture of an organization and the treatment of its employees can greatly impact the impression you’re trying to make on potential candidates.
What is an employer value proposition (EVP)?
An employer value proposition encompasses your organisation’s mission, values, and culture, and gives employees a powerful reason to work for you. It’s everything your company can offer as an employer, in exchange for all the skills and experience your employees bring to the table.
An organisation benefits from a well-designed EVP, communicated often to both potential and current employees. A strong EVP can attract and retain the best people, help prioritise goals and agendas company-wide (especially in HR and workforce planning), help re-engage a dispassionate workforce, and reduce hiring costs. Most of all, it contributes to a favourable and robust employer brand.
Before you craft your employer brand proposition, your company’s benefits should be well-established, well-defined, and a proven hit with your current employees. And if they’re not, and you’re looking to revamp things, consider what influences a person’s decision whether to accept a job offer or not
Who does employer branding?
There can often be confusion about who owns the organisational task of employer branding. At smaller shops, it could be the CEO controlling the messaging or, more traditionally, talent or HR leads. At larger businesses, recruiters might lean on their HR, communications, or marketing departments to help them craft and hone an employer brand.
What’s most exciting is that your employer brand is no longer just what your company website says it is. Like it or not, employer branding starts and ends with your employees.
The employer branding process
Step 1. Get familiar with your company
When you’re able to define your company’s unique attributes, it’s easier to hone an EVP. Get to know your organisation’s core business, vision, mission, values, and culture. Understand what your company objectives are, and what sort of talent is needed to accomplish those objectives.
Step 2. Do an audit of your employer brand
You probably already know exactly where your product or service stands in the marketplace, but you may not be as aware of how your company is viewed in the market or how it’s perceived by your current employees. Conduct research both internally and externally with applicant surveys, internet and social media searches, and/or firms that conduct reputation monitoring. See what’s working at your company so you can keep doing it, and what areas need improvement — both when it comes to company operations and morale, but specifically with the talent acquisition process in order to discover ways to improve it.
Step 3. Define an employer value proposition
Now comes the part when you can make your corporate messaging sing. Draft an EVP that clearly communicates the values of your corporate brand, while reflecting what’s special about working at your organisation. It should align with your customer brand, but also speak directly to your employees.
Step 4. Use recruitment marketing
When designing an EVP or other employer brand messaging, consider enlisting the talents of the creative wordsmiths in your own marketing or communications department (or outsourcing this and other brand work to an agency). By borrowing a few marketing techniques — such as starting every branding endeavour with the questions, “WHO are we trying to reach? And WHAT do they want?” — you’ll be in the best position to craft an employer brand that speaks to your exact target audience.
Step 5. Build engagement among current employees
To help you become a trusted employer, look no further than your own workforce. For finding out what it’s like to work for your company, employees are 3x more likely to be trusted by leads than your CEO. Your employees also shape your company’s culture, live your values, achieve your objectives, and manifest your company’s mission. Without their participation, your employer brand would be nothing. Here are a few ways to get your workers more engaged with your employer brand:
- Hone the message.
Use a set of words or phrases that become a part of the company’s vernacular, as a way to describe your company’s values and what the experience of working for your company is all about. Keep it simple, clear, informative, and unique. Use this language in HR or recruiting meetings, and focus this language for your career pages, recruiting sites, social media accounts, and anywhere else your employer brand can be leveraged.
- Show off your employees (by having them show off themselves).
Did you know that one in four candidates view other employee profiles immediately after finding out about a job opportunity? Encourage your workers to update their online profiles so they’re current, professional, and attention-worthy. Your People or HR department can send out helpful email reminders, no-hassle links, and tutorials on how to do this. You can also leverage the experiences, expertise, and personalities of your employees by having them tell their stories on panels and become subject-matter experts or mentors on topics they’re qualified to write or speak about in their field. Any time your former or current star employees bring positive attention to your customer or employer brand, you’re putting your best recruiting foot forward.
- Turn your employees into a social recruiting army.
As your employees update their personal and professional profiles, ask them to write (honest, but ideally favourable) reviews of your company on job listing sites, to post company news and updates, and to share job opportunities to their personal networks as they come up. The average network size of a company’s employees is 10x larger than its own. Since your employees are your unofficial recruiters and marketers, the first step of a good employer brand strategy is to help employees use LinkedIn and other social media networks to represent themselves and spread the word about your company. Ask your social media manager to send guidelines on where and what to post and send links to make it easy.
- Nail the onboarding process.
The first 90 days of employment are critical to turning a new team member into a productive employee. Your company can make a deep and lasting first impression by offering a smooth onboarding process. Arm new hires with the tools, introductions, and orientations they need to hit the ground running and start thriving in their new roles.
- Offer skills training and advancement opportunities.
Nothing saves recruiting costs more than promoting from within, so give your workers opportunities for personal growth and professional development. Offer management and leadership training, special certifications, and plenty of avenues for career advancement to capture job candidate interest and commitment from your employees.
Step 6. Write snazzy job descriptions
Job posts are often the first contact candidates have with your company, so they’re a perfect way to promote your employer brand. If you’re going for a brand voice that stands out, instead of, “must demonstrate excellent communication skills” you might try, “You’re the type who’d just as soon pick up the phone than wait for an email; the phrase ‘cold call’ doesn’t give you the shivers,” as a more descriptive, attention-getting way of bringing your organisation’s personality to life. Then, optimise your search engine results using — but not overusing — words and phrases you know your ideal candidates are searching for.
How to improve your employer brand
To increase the number of quality, enthusiastic applicants vying for positions at your company, your CEO, leadership, marketing team, and recruiters can all help develop and growth your employer brand. Whether you have a big budget or small, whether you’re a large company or a start-up, there are plenty of strategies you can use to think like a marketer, build deep and meaningful relationships with your staff, and boost your employer brand like a boss.
1. Don’t focus on compensation
Your employer value proposition will be the strongest if you can talk about how a role will be meaningful (personally fulfilling or about a global good) or a superior work experience, over compensation, especially if you want to attract younger candidates. Your EVP should be unique, compelling, and tuned into the deeper motivations of why a person might want to join your team.
2. Start a company blog
If you’re a recruiter with a marketing mindset, you know that content — and lots of it — can be a great strategy for competing in a noisy marketplace. Job seekers often check out a company’s blog to get to know an organisation on a more human level. You can post company news, culture updates, and articles written by your employees or company leaders, all in a personable voice. A blog can also be used to highlight the unique people policies, processes, and programs that show your organisation’s commitment to employee happiness.
3. Use rich media
Use high-quality videos, photos, and slideshows to tell your company story, celebrate your diverse employees, and show off beautiful workspaces. A welcome video from your CEO or hiring manager is a great way to make an introduction, as are staff interviews talking about their experiences working for your organisation. Plan and budget for these and other marketing costs at the start of each quarter.
4. Hire for diversity
It’s no surprise that who you hire says something about your brand. Having unique thinkers from a diverse range of backgrounds shows you’re not only walking the walk as an equal-opportunity employer, but also extending your brand’s reach (both customer, and employer) into new groups — a sound business move, and a key strategy when building a powerful employer brand.