9 simple steps to build a better employer brand
Alexa Bradbury

9 simple steps to build a better employer brand

The employer brand is a big part of a business’ DNA. Get it right, and your company can successfully navigate today’s talent shortages. Get it wrong, and staff turnover will inevitably become an insurmountable problem.

Every business needs to attract candidates with values that align with those of the organisation. However, if staff and candidates see a role with a business as a “maybe” rather than a firm “yes, they are unlikely to choose your business over your competitors. And even if you manage to get them in the door, they’re unlikely to stay with the business for long.

Just because people do not want to join a business does not make them bad candidates. Instead, they may not align with what the business stands for. Creating a clear employer brand can help win over the right candidates and reduce the risk of employing misaligned staff.

Businesses need to be honest to attract people that align with their values. We all have faults, companies included. Relationships are built through a mutual understanding and acceptance of these faults.

Attempting to withhold these faults from candidates, customers, clients and partners will lead to disappointment and inevitable separation.

Despite this, the majority of employer brands do not allow company imperfections to surface. More often than not, they are propped up with meaningless terms and corporate jargon.

To take an example, consider how often businesses use the terms “best in class” and “best in practice”. These are mere platitudes that do not offer any definition, edge or clarity. If anything, they serve to alienate potential candidates — particularly the highly intelligent, highly skilled candidates required for business growth.

Given these considerations, how can businesses effectively bring their employer brand to life? In this article, we outline nine ways in which businesses can grow a successful employer brand that lives and breathes the company vision, mission and values.

1) Tell the organisation’s story

There are 5.7 million businesses in the UK and 32.5 million in the US. In such a crowded market, there’s a significant chance the majority of the public has never heard of your company.

Though this may sound like a bleak outlook, the anonymity that being unknown brings can actually turn into a competitive advantage. For relatively unknown businesses, employer brand can be changed without causing too much disruption to customers or clients. This gives businesses of all sizes scope to tell their story and bring their brand to life.

The only people who truly know how great a business is are those steering the ship. Leaders, therefore, need to consistently embody the company narrative, including where the business has come from and where it is headed. Doing this with conviction and candid honesty will, in turn, attract candidates who are aligned to the business’ ethos.

Telling the company story doesn’t necessarily require hiring a skilled writer to draft a 400-page glossy brochure. Something as simple as a 30-second video on the business’ homepage can quite easily convey what a business stands for. If a business gets its story across to the right people via the right channels, it can radically shift people’s perception of its employer brand.

A great exponent of this is Netflix, whose jobs page contains videos where employees offer candidates a glimpse of the company culture and the day-to-day at the business. Though this is simple and doesn’t require thousands of pounds of investment, it’s incredibly effective.

2) Pay attention to the company reputation

Understanding what people are saying about the company is vital. In our omnichannel, hyperconnected world, a company’s profile on anonymous review sites like Glassdoor — as well as its social media interactions — can tell someone all they need to know about the reality of working at the business.

Instead of sweeping negative reviews under the carpet and carrying on as usual, leaders should confront the true reality of their business’ reputation. This involves taking both the positive and negative reactions to the business into consideration, and responding strategically and appropriately.

3) Aim for emotional impact

For most people, changing jobs is an emotional decision. To attract candidates and start meaningful conversations, businesses need to appeal to these emotions.

Employers should interact with candidates on a direct level and engage them in their career aspirations. Sharing the company’s mission and values with candidates will help them understand the impact of their work and demonstrate that they can make an active contribution to the business — regardless of the product or service that a business offers.

4) Be clear about what the company stands for

A great employer brand provides clarity; it says we believe in something and therefore we do not mind losing out on candidates who don’t believe in it.

For example, a company that makes a statement such as “we are so committed to saving rainforests that we refuse to work with people and companies who aren’t” would likely be a good fit for candidates that are environmentally conscious. Conversely, candidates who don’t care about the environment are less likely to align with this company’s vision. 

By forming a clear brand identity and avoiding ambiguity, businesses can separate the candidate pool into those who really want to work for them and those who do not.

5) Identify the candidate persona

Businesses need to be very clear about the type of person they are looking for. For example, is the ideal candidate a problem-solver who will sacrifice everything to find solutions to a particular business problem? Or are they an outgoing, confident character with exceptional social skills?

In trying to figure out who will best fit in at the business, an in-depth candidate persona should go beyond basic demographic information and aim to ascertain what motivates candidates to perform at work.

Mapping candidate personas into relevant motivational categories — such as career, status, performance, development, innovation, empowerment, values, and support — will help businesses fine-tune their talent acquisition strategy and select candidates who align with the organisational mission and vision.

6) Ensure the brand reflects company culture

The importance of company culture is something we’ve all become aware of over the past decade. Almost every leader now recognises this. What many businesses fail to achieve, however, is how to build, amplify and celebrate a culture that is truly organic and people-focused.

For the employer brand to reflect the company culture in an honest, healthy way, businesses need to think about what their culture really looks like.

This involves considering how company policies and procedures reinforce culture, as well as understanding how it is reflected in day-to-day working conditions. If employers claim to offer a work-life balance but staff have to navigate painful bureaucracy to work from home, the business is not being honest. Culture cannot be an enforced, top-down endeavour. It needs to be honest and transparent.

After clarifying what the reality of company culture is, social media can help to leverage it as a competitive advantage — bringing yet more life to the company story. Through blogs, photos, graphics and videos, businesses can provide insider insights and start conversations about what it’s like to work for the business. Have a loveable office dog? Show it off on the company Instagram page. Host an office quiz every Friday afternoon? Show the world how fun it is!

Being authentic and giving employees a say in framing the narrative is vital. Given that tech-savvy millennial and Generation Z candidates can spot insincerity a mile off, authenticity will prove the key differentiator between companies that say they have a great culture and those that show it.

7) Define the business’ USP

In the collaborative business world, we all learn from other’s successes. When it comes to employer branding, however, it’s best to avoid imitating other companies’ strategies. After all, the whole reason for creating an employer brand is that it is unique to the business.

An effective employer brand is a business’ way of differentiating themselves from the competition. If the website looks and feels exactly like a competitor’s, neither business will stand out.

Of course, some companies inevitably have a more exciting employer value proposition (EVP) than others. But not everyone wants to work for super-competitive, high-demand companies like Facebook. Some people would rather work for a small family business where the CEO is on first-name terms with the entire workforce, while others want to work for an established company with a strong ethical stance.

To stand out in a crowded market, businesses need to answer the “so what?” Why should candidates care about the business? To provide a credible answer to this question, an effective employer brand should seek to justify the business’ existence.

8) Create a single, unified vision

The most effective employer brands all have one thing in common: they are simple. By focusing on one particular aspect of their organisation — no matter how granular — and then building the employer brand around it, leaders can convey a powerful message.

Whether it focuses on the best break-out area, the best coffee, or the best pension scheme, if the employer brand stays true to what the people in a business actually care about, the company will naturally attract the kind of people that will thrive in such an environment.

Just as a pearl starts with a grain of sand, a successful employer brand starts with one seemingly insignificant yet hugely influential element.

9) Define the channels and touchpoints

Many companies believe that employer branding is the same thing as candidate experience. This isn’t the case. Employer branding takes much more into account.

Candidate experience forms part of employer branding, while employer branding encompasses the full gamut of how businesses appraise, engage, onboard and staff; how they advertise new roles, how they devise company policies and procedures; and how they promote the company on their website. In short, employer branding is the foundation of a business’ people strategy.

Most candidates’ first interaction with a business is typically a job advert, and yet scant consideration is given to how the company is reflected in it.

Before posting a job ad, businesses should reflect on how the company comes across in the language and layout. Does the ad say why someone should take the job? Is it truly authentic? Does it outline realistic expectations?

All of these probing questions should be applied to every candidate, client or customer touchpoint across every channel. Consistent messaging is crucial for an effective employer brand.

Only you get to actively design and manage your employer brand. Failure to do so leaves the power of your brand in other’s hands  — and which business wants that?

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