In short, it is the image potential employees have of you. Every employer knows how important it is to understand what their customers, shareholders and employees think about them and marketing professionals are constantly trying to develop new techniques to attract customers, communicate with them and build their loyalty to the brand the consumers are buying into. Yet some companies are still leaving their employer brand to chance, believing employer branding is the bottom of a long list of other issues they need to deal with. So why, exactly, does employer branding matter?
Many companies believe they have done all they can to attract people to vacant jobs and that the lack of demand stems from an absence of potential employees, especially those with the required talents. However a recent survey by the CIPD shows that the number of employees who are looking for a new job has now reached a two-and-a-half year high, following a plummet in job satisfaction which is now at its lowest level in two years. According to this survey of over 2,000 people, almost a quarter of current UK employees are currently looking for a new job. Furthermore, since the EU referendum the number of people in the UK looking abroad for jobs has doubled, especially in sectors such as transport, retail, engineering and human resources. So in most cases there is no lack of potential employees. The issue is that organisations have often not made themselves attractive enough to attract the required people; those with the best talents and qualifications. With the accessibility of jobs and ever growing size of today’s worldwide market, an employer brand must not only be clear and easily accessible, it must be exceptional.
Employer branding is becoming increasingly essential. In the fiercely competitive job market, companies need to accentuate their attractive brand values and career prospects. The employer brand is a crucial tool in attracting potential employees and retaining them in the long term. Increasing public identification with your organisation in the job sector and creating an emotional bond with people enhances the loyalty of employees and the attractiveness of the company. It is not only used in attracting employees, but also in keeping them. Every company will be saying “We are a marvellous place to work”, no matter how true that statement is. Everyone expects it and simply saying it will not be enough. You have to be unique and by focusing on your employer branding, you can stand out from the crowd. Furthermore, unique employer branding provides a distinct competitive advantage. It permanently increases the efficiency of staff recruitment and the quality of candidates applying because once that brand is out there, it will continue to propagate itself through social media and word-of-mouth. The more an employer brand stands out, the more successful it is not only in attracting eager candidates, but in attracting more of them. And, as we know, the larger a sample is, the more likely it is that the ideal candidate is in the group.
A strong employer brand should link to the company brand and connect with their values and HR policies. In a recent CAREEREALISM study 14.4% of candidates stated that the most important marketing material which influenced their decision to apply was the company’s values, followed by corporate social responsibility, 13.8%, and awards like the Best Places to Work Lists, 12.7%.
One simple way to increase your credibility with potential employees is in your presentation of statements about your organisation. Many companies on their websites and home pages put up statements about themselves as a company, their values and good reviews from other organisations or official boards. The problem with this is shown in the 2016 Edelman study. Using a ‘Trust Barometer’ Edelman measured how trustworthy people rated various organisations and people’s statements. The results were clear. Reviews from peers were rated as one of the most trustworthy sources, alongside qualified experts in technical and academic fields. Reviews from boards of directors were ranked as one of the least trustworthy, beaten to the lowest position only by Government officials.
Whilst it’s always good to state your goals and values, don’t expect that to be enough. Potential employees want to hear it from peers and current employees of a company. They are seen as the most trustworthy spokespeople, and with the ongoing growth of social media this is only becoming more accessible. As a result attracting new talent relies increasingly on employee engagement and positivity. By using this to your advantage you can expand your reach, rallying your employees to spread the word about employee culture as well as the company. One way to do this is by putting up positive reviews and comments from current employees on your website and including them in your image, this aids your employer brand building and means people are more likely to trust these positive statements. Potential employees see you valuing current employees’ opinions and will therefore find working for your organisation much more attractive. Everyone wants to feel valued and listened to. By showing that you not only do that, you take pride in it, people are far more likely to apply.
However your website alone is not enough. A study by CAREEREALISM shows that approximately 80% of job seekers research possible employers online before deciding whether or not to apply for a position. They are far less likely to apply if there is negative or insufficient information about a company. People will not be convinced that your company is worth applying for, and so will go to one of the countless others in the huge modern market of possible employers; one with a better, clearer employer brand.
Social media is now a critical part of the employer brand equation and not just corporate sites, but more and more, those where potential employees can interface with existing and former employees. Around two-thirds of applicants use sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor when researching a company, looking for ‘inside’ information from current and former employees. For this reason employer brand crosses over ever more strongly with the Employee Value Proposition, or what the employee gets out of working for you. An organisation must market what it has to offer to employees, both current and potential. But it is important to note that individuals, particularly from different generations, are attracted by different benefits and components of a business. The younger generation, just coming into the world of work, values training and opportunity for self-improvement as they usually aim to be with a company for one to two years at most. The older generation, on the other hand, prizes career paths and future opportunity within the company. In general they are more focussed on staying on in an organisation and where they can get to within their jobs. By identifying these differences, the types of employees desired can be targeted using employer branding. If your image is tailored to certain types of employees it is far more likely to succeed than a general plea for candidates.
Of course, no potential employee is going to want to work for a company with infamously poor working conditions and low pay, but it is more than simply paying in the top quartile. People want to be proud of their job and the company they work for, be able to brag or at least talk about their job in public and at home. It shows not only how wonderful your company is, but how happy employees can be if they are part of it, whereas if your employer brand is poor, employees are less likely to stay with your organisation and potential ones are less likely to apply. People want to be a part of something they believe in. You need both current and potential employees to believe in your organisation.
Google, to use a well-known example, has a reputation in the employment world as being a “great place to work”, its employer brand is exceptional. In a large part this is because it works hard to maintain employee satisfaction with interesting and creative work as well as the apparently extravagant benefits offered to employees. Considerable media coverage is given to the perks Google gives its employees, including the bowling alleys, free food, gym memberships and colourful décor. All these things contribute to take the two-man start-up company to an organisation spanning 40 countries with around 37,000 employees. Now of course it would be foolish to suggest that every company did the same, and another company famous for valuing its employees is John Lewis, and their approach is very different. John Lewis employees are partners in the business, sharing the profits and holding a vote in the way the company is run. This is what the company is known for, its employer brand. The entire business is based around this principle, showing what it offers and the way it is run in every aspect of its employer reputation. Based around this brand, it is able to hire and retain the right people, with a turnover rate of only 3%, 12% lower than the UK average. Employer brand matters, and by showing confidence in your employer brand and centring your company actions around it, it sends a strong message. Google’s and John Lewis’s reputations did not come without work. They contributed an immense amount of time and energy to creating and enhancing their working environments, and through them their employer brands. But it is for this reason that organisations like Google, Apple and Facebook rank in the top five most sought after companies to work for in the world.
An often less considered reason why employer branding matters is the impact it also has on customers. Candidates want information and a clear view of what the company they are applying to values, but job seekers are making a decision as consumers too. If a company doesn’t fit with their values or they disagree with its policies and the way it treats its employees, they not only are not going to apply, they may well be disinclined to buy anything or do business with the company. If you do not pay enough attention to your employer branding or neglect it completely it may not just be damaging your recruitment opportunities and the number of candidates applying, it could also discourage customers. Customers are fickle and may well move to a different supplier if they do not like the way you do business or the things employees say about your company.
On the positive side of this, by incorporating employer branding into your marketing strategy you can create a feedback loop. When your most regular customers understand that you are a great employer as well as a trustworthy supplier, they are more likely to apply to work for you. Not only that, but as they have experience and emotional ties to the company in their loyal patronage, they make more passionate employees because they understand your organisation’s standards. If they have the correct qualifications, it is a huge advantage to hire people who already have an investment in the company and are eager to work for you. Their positive feedback of customer service as well as employee experiences will feed back into the positive cycle, attracting even more candidates as well as potential business.
In short, employer branding is more important now than ever before. Studies are telling us that employees currently lack motivation and qualified candidates are searching elsewhere, even for work overseas. As Claire McCartney, research adviser for resourcing and talent planning at the CIPD, said; "Although staff have a good knowledge of their organisation's key purpose, fewer feel motivated by what the organisation is doing. Leaders could set a clearer vision and consult employees more." By using employer branding techniques, not only can you gain more appropriate and qualified candidates in a time when they are becoming increasingly hard to attract, you can solidify the loyalty of your current staff and customers. With the rise of social media, it is easier than ever to spread the word about your values and benefits and paint the picture you want of your organisation. You can make your brand relevant, allow people to understand it and connect with it. By doing that, you become part of their lives and will be their first port of call when looking for a product, service, or a new job.