HR & Management

Five billion-dollar companies that built powerful employer branding

11 min read

28 October 2016

Every interaction a candidate has with your company will influence your brand’s perception and image. We refer to this as ‘employer branding’, which, simply put, is a term used to describe an organisation’s reputation to its employees, candidates and even its customers.

Believe it or not, 94 per cent of candidates are more likely to apply for a job if that company actively manages its employer branding.

In fact, we recently conducted a research study into candidate experience and the power of effective employer branding.

Get this: over one in four candidates would immediately switch to another brand if they had a poor candidate experience with that company. This means your employer branding is directly influencing customer decision-making, not just career choice.

There’s good news! For brands with simple, powerful and clearly articulated employer branding, you can not only attract and retain the best talent – you can even win new customers and radically improve brand image.

Let’s put these ideas into context. Below, I’ve personally selected five real-world examples of billion-dollar companies with effective employer branding.

These case studies feature some of the most cutting-edge thinking in the industry. In fact, each of these leaders just spoke at LinkedIn’sTalentConnect conference in Las Vegas held on 5-6 October.

Read on to see first-hand how powerful employer branding can help you attract top talent, win new customers and improve brand image across all digital and physical touchpoints.

(1) Cisco – Change your tone! Why communication is crucial

Employer branding Cisco

Using the power of storytelling, Cisco let its employees shine and do all the “selling”.

Macy Andrews (director of culture & global employer branding at Cisco) and Carmen Collins (social media lead, talent brand at Cisco) had a powerful story to tell about Cisco’s employer brand.

Cisco was looking outward-in, using PR and marketing to try to work its way to effective employer branding.

To arrive at the truth, the company embarked on a mission to give employees a “bigger and better voice.” This enabled Cisco to build employer branding built on trust and authenticity. Then everything suddenly clicked.

Social channels were given a human voice. Cisco began to adopt a “co-worker” tone that highlighted its people and their passions. Cisco even rebranded social channels – from @CiscoCareers to @WeAreCisco. The “We” helps instil a collective sense of belonging, for both current employees and future candidates.

Using the power of storytelling, Cisco let its employees shine and do all the “selling”. These stories helped humanise the company. Cisco now showcases exciting work, projects and blogs through a lively content hub on its site.

Continue on the next page for a firm that harnessed employer branding and highlighted how to do so without jeopardising the existing culture.

(2) Hulu – How to expand rapidly without jeopardising brand culture


Hulagan life – have you got a nickname for your employees?

Hulu ambassadors Jessica Wheeler (talent acquisition manager) and Mike Rocco (internal communications manager) took to the stage to talk about Hulu’s employer brand.

Growing exponentially year on the year, Hulu found itself in a state of flux, as headcount continued to soar and demand for top talent increased. With offices shooting up in new states and cities, Hulu needed to maintain a core identity if it was to remain true to its founding Silicon Valley principles.

Hulu’s defined core culture values alongside an organic, evolutionary roadmap that would position the company for success.

Hulu’s Talent and Organisation team, better known as TAO, recruited some of the best minds in storytelling, social media, sourcing and data. Such an eclectic mix of talent helped to fuel the creation of Hulu’s employer brand: “Powering Play.”

With this employer brand identified, the company could use it as a guiding force to direct and inform hiring decisions. What’s more, it allowed Hulu to create a messaging framework that told their brand story in words that would be understood by their star, ideal candidates.

Social media helped to amplify and solidify brand message across a number of different channels, remaining consistent in tone and structure.

It’s not just reputation that employer branding can save – the firm on the next page is saving over £4.4m each year with it.

(3) Virgin Media – Make candidate experience your top priority


Say hello to the jolly Virgin Media team in Bradford

Our next expert is Graeme Johnson (head of resourcing at Virgin Media). Virgin’s employer branding story is empowering; this lesson will show that by dedicating their brand to better candidate experience, Virgin is saving over £4.4m every year.

In 2014, Virgin were dismayed at a -29 NPS (Net Promoter Score) rating, and at costly, inefficient recruitment processes. This simply wasn’t good enough for a brand that prides itself on exceptional customer (and candidate!) experience.

Even worse, thousands of candidates (who were already existing Virgin customers) cancelled their subscriptions because of poor candidate experience. This was costing Virgin Media an astounding £4.4m in lost revenue – every single year! Talk about proof in the value of employer branding.

Since then, Virgin has committed itself to becoming definitive leaders in the talent attraction space. Through a series of EVP workshops, Virgin identified the key ingredients that make it unique and exciting to work for their brand.

Virgin’s careers website, newly designed app and social recruiting strategies all share the same messaging and tone.

Since redesigning their EVP, Virgin has become one of the highest rated employers in the UK and continues to attract best-in-class talent across all departments.

Fancy yourself as a bit of an artist? The next company has incorporated cartoons into its employer branding 

(4) SAP – Why you need to humanise your employer brand

Employer branding SAP

Dreams can come true with SAP

SAP quickly realised it needed to take creative control over its employer brand and build an in-house team around this newly-defined identity.

Robin Dagostino (social recruiting & creative media) and Matthew Jeffery (VP, head of global sourcing and employment branding) explained how SAP took this all-important first step.

The lesson? You need to have a clear, simple understanding of your own unique employee value proposition in order to share that message with potential recruits. SAP realised it’s the human element that makes it so great and successful. This became the mantra for future attraction strategies.

SAP used humanisation to create lively, engaging careers videos by filming employees across a number of positions. Why? Well, exploring a day in the life of a real employee helps take abstract brand principles and create values in real action.

These stories and film clips move beyond the confines of the work place, to truly encompass life both in and outside the office – something which SAP is proud to support.

SAP even started an innovative real-time feedback programme for candidates, that experimented with elements of cartoons and gamification.

“Life at SAP Illustrated”, the brand’s weekly cartoon show, features fictional stories about SAP employees both inside and outside the office.

Next, Netflix discusses employer branding and why it’s down to recruitment teams to channel the trend.

(5) Netflix – Why recruitment teams need to personify employer branding

Netflix Employer branding

Nellie Peshkov, VP of talent acquisition at Netflix, gave an inspiring presentation about securing the right talent and how Netflix’s success stems from a strong relationship between business and culture.

Netflix believes that company values are “behaviours and skills that are valued by fellow employees.” In fact, Netflix’s employer branding is rooted in the people that collectively make up its workforce. Those in the know refer to each other as “stunning colleagues” or “partner”.

Netflix’s employer branding bleeds through to all of their talent acquisition strategies. Teams are encouraged to talk and collaborate at unprecedented levels, and everyone is given a voice to contribute. This reflects Netflix’s ultimate culture principles of “freedom” and “responsibility”, the so-called yin and yang that define how decisions are to be made.

Engage hiring managers in sourcing and raise your voice during candidate assessment sessions. Strong employer branding is one thing, but ensuring that you motivate staff to perform and source future talent at an optimum level really brings that employer brand to a whole new level.

As a result, Netflix has raised the bar for talent and secured team members that fit seamlessly within their culture and employer brand principles.

Bryan Adams is the CEO & founder at Ph.Creative