Too little attention is paid to company branding as an employer. Companies like Google and Microsoft have incredibly strong employer brands. The Googleplex is almost as famous as what comes out of it. The result? People queue up to work at Google. More people than they could possibly hire. In the midst of an IT skills shortage.
Cultivating and maintaining a strong employer brand runs through the entire employee journey. From hiring the right people, to retaining and engaging them and making ambassadors out of ex-employees.
Employer branding shouldn’t just be an after-thought for HR when crafting the ad copy for a vacancy. Good employer branding should be at the core of the organisation.
Cultivate the brand, live the brand
An employer brand is more than just a marketing message. It must reflect the truth of what it’s like to work at the company. In the age of social media companies no longer have 100 per cent control over public perception of the business, principles must shine from the inside out.
Defining the employer brand has to start with identifying what’s great about working at the company. Asking employees what they like about the place, what makes them keep coming back to work (other than the money).
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And once defined, management should take positive steps to maintain the brand. Otherwise it’s a falsehood. Something designed to lure people in, only to disappoint once they start work. If the brand doesn’t reflect the truth, it won’t last long.
Reward behaviour that reflects the brand. Reward actions by employees that maintain or promote the brand like internal blogging, promoting the company on social media, CSR activities. Make organisational and hiring decisions based on alignment with the brand.
A good brand is as prescriptive as it is reflective.
Attracting the right people
A strong brand makes it easier to attract the right people. By being specific in job descriptions and vacancy adverts – describing more than just the technical skill requirements, wording copy to reflect the ethos of the company, or even spelling it out – the people you want to apply will be attracted, and those you don’t, put off. The aim should be quality, not quantity. Why should someone want to work for your company in particular? Not do the same job somewhere else?
A well-defined brand also makes sorting through applicants that much easier. It’s an additional layer of requirement. It’s not enough to be qualified for the job – you may well be capable of doing it, but you also need to fit in with us. Be someone we want to have around. It’s not a personal slight. It’s ethos alignment. If you’re into what we’re into, you’ll be happier, we’ll be happier, and everyone will work harder.
Be nice to unsuccessful applicants. It all feeds into the impression that your company gives. No one wants to work for a company that doesn’t get back to candidates or gives withering critiques when asked for interview feedback. And people talk.
The ultimate goal is to cultivate a strong enough employer brand that is communicated externally in such a way that people want to work for the company regardless of whether any vacancies are open or not.
Retaining the right people
Because the brand is real, not some marketing exercise, because the company is a ‘fun, creative place that encourages bright ideas and rewards taking time to think’, the same things that appealed to your staff when applying keep them around.
When job hopping is the new norm and people expect to move jobs 8-12 times in their career, retaining talent is no easy task. If your staff feel aligned with the company goals, as expressed by the employer brand, they will be more engaged in their work. Committed to something larger than themselves.
Engaged employees are 87 per cent less likely to leave the company, as well as being more productive. And they’re also more likely to spread the positive word about working at the company. Facebook posts about how much they love their job. Telling work stories at the pub with a smile on their face. Every positive communication helps strengthen and externalise the employer brand.
Making ambassadors of alumni
If making nice with unsuccessful job applicants is good for projecting the employer brand, then so too is ensuring leavers go on a good note. No matter how great an employer, how aligned its goals and staff are, there will always be a certain amount of churn.
People take their experience of working somewhere with them. And if they’re staying in the same sector, they take that to other people whose decision as to whether or not to apply for your vacancy hinges on the opinion of the ex-employee who raved about their experience or mercilessly moaned (delete as appropriate). A well handled exit could turn into your next star hire.
Having a strong employer brand that runs through the company like the writing in a stick of rock helps attract talent, but also makes for a happier, more productive place to work.
Elizabeth Grey is a freelance writer and editor, who specialises in finance, education and business.
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