The candidate-driven market has forced employers to become highly competitive. Companies that want to recruit the very best must be known not only for their product but also as exceptional places to work. The science of carving out an organization’s image as a top employer is known as “employer branding.” But new research reveals that some employers across the country aren’t even sure what their company’s brand is. This is bad news if you’re trying to attract and retain the best and the brightest.
In a recent iHire survey, roughly 39% of U.S. companies report that they do not have an employer branding strategy. Furthermore, a little over 20% of respondents were “unsure” of their branding efforts—signaling a need for guidance on building, promoting, and maintaining a positive employer brand.
The Value in Employer Brands
On the flip side, though, 41% of organizations surveyed had a branding strategy, and these same respondents understand the value of a strong employer brand:
- Roughly 52% of respondents said employer branding is critical to recruiting top talent.
- 30% said it’s critical to retaining top talent.
- 51% said the brand supports their broader marketing efforts.
- Just about 41% said it builds credibility and trust with internal and external stakeholders.
Furthermore, companies with a branding strategy rely on a mix of channels to communicate their identity, with social media, company home pages, external job postings, company career pages, and marketing collateral emerging as the top five most popular channels.
“An extremely competitive job market requires employers to make extra efforts to stand out from the competition if they want to recruit and retain top talent,” says Steve Flook, President and CEO of iHire, in a press release announcing the findings. “That’s why employer brand—the perception of an organization held by current and potential employees—has become so important.”
Branding Remains Ambiguous, However
Survey responses from those without a strategy or those unsure of their initiatives confirmed that the concept of employer branding remains somewhat ambiguous to a number of hiring professionals. When asked why they hadn’t created an employer branding strategy, almost 40% of respondents said they didn’t know enough about employer branding in general.
Additionally, 24% said they had never heard of employer branding, and 28% said they are too small of a company. Other popular answers included a lack of budget, infrequent hiring, and a shortage of staff and/or resources.
“Every company has an employer brand, whether they’ve intentionally created it or not,” Flook says. “However, building and promoting that brand is not contingent on size, budget, resources, or hiring needs. We hope our research and advice will help employers enhance their branding efforts to attract qualified candidates, establish trust with job applicants, and boost their overall reputation.”
How Can You Build Your Brand?
For those who are unsure of what their brand is or how to go about creating or improving their brand, we’re turning to James Ellis, a RecruitCon 2019 speaker and Director of Employer Brand for Universum, a company that specializes in aiding in brand improvement.
Ellis recently hosted a Universum webinar called “Talent Calculus.” Although the webinar claimed it did not involve math, it provided a ton of formulas to help you get your employer brand just right. I won’t be covering these formulas, but I will go over some of the key takeaways, as I think they’ll help you understand the ins and outs of having a good brand.
According to Ellis, your brand is “what everyone thinks it’s like to work for you.” He says it’s the individual perception of what it’s like to work for your company based on a person’s experience and how that person communicates the experience. For instance, is that employee giving glowing reviews about your company to his or her friends and family, or is that employee too embarrassed to even say he or she works at your company?
Garbage Nests = Garbage Brands
He likens the employer brand to a bird’s nest. “It’s the idea that if your brand is like a bird’s nest, there’s no planning to it,” he says. Birds build their nests by simply looking around and gathering all the resources around them. “That’s your brand,” he says. “That’s how people engage with your brand. If you want to change your bird’s nest you have to replace what’s surrounding the birds.”
For example, birds that live in the city will collect garbage to build their nests, while birds that live in the woods will gather sticks and branches. In order to replace your garbage nest, you need to change the “tools” that are being used to build your nest.
Where branding is concerned, your “garbage” could be your reviews on Glassdoor. Are those favorable or terrible? If they’re garbage, you need to get to the root issues in order to improve your brand and turn it into the “nest” made from sticks and branches.
Ellis says that branding and hiring go hand in hand, and the Glassdoor analogy drives this point further. When candidates research your company and stumble upon garbage reviews on Glassdoor, their first impression of your “brand” is not going to be very good.
Even if you don’t think you have a brand or a brand strategy in place, what’s being said about your company by its employees is your brand! And as we all know, first impressions are lasting impressions.
Strong Brands Are Recognizable
As mentioned above, what’s being said about your company by the people who work for your company is your brand. How strong is your brand? Ellis says “strength” is a thin metric, but the strength of your brand hinges on the clarity of it and the people you’re trying to reach.
If your brand/company is relatively new, capitalize on it by using it in social media campaigns, candidate communications, your product packaging (if applicable), and more! Everything that has your company’s name on it should also include the company’s brand.
“Focus on clarity and define how clear you’re being,” suggests Ellis. “Look at all communication channels, literally everything that houses your name/brand. When showing off your brand you want to be repeating the same idea in a variety of ways.”
“The bigger the area of reach/clarity gives you a rough indication of your brand’s strength,” says Ellis. “Look at your competition and see how big their area is. If their area is bigger, it may not necessarily mean their strength is as good. You may have a clearer brand but don’t reach enough people like they do.” Ellis suggests focusing on enhancing your reach and clarity by looking to see where your competitors fall flat and standing out by improving in those areas.
Practice What You Preach!
Once you’ve defined your clarity and reach, you must work on your credibility. Nothing hurts a brand more than a lack of credibility. For example, let’s say your company specializes in making breast pumps for nursing mothers, but your company has the worst maternity leave policy on the planet. What woman is going to want to work for your company knowing that she can’t take time off to be with her new child? This is where being credible kicks in.
If you don’t practice what you preach, don’t feel too bad. Ellis says that when it comes to credibility and branding, most companies fall flat. However, to improve in this area, take a pulse on your workforce, and listen to what they have to say. If morale is low and people are leaving, it may be due to outdated policies and practices—and you may not even realize this because it’s been gradually happening over time.
Stay up to speed on what your workers want in order to build your brand. During the dotcom boom in the 2000s, Google made a name for itself as an employer of choice by appealing to Millennials with nap pods and free bagels. I’m not saying to copy Google, but I am suggesting that you know the talent you’re trying to attract and take a pulse of the top talent you currently employ. There, you will find what makes your “brand,” and you can improve from there.
As the war for talent continues to wage on, you must focus on building up or improving your employer brand. Clear brands that reach not only your target customers but also the top talent you seek will help you stand out as an employer of choice, and you’ll retain the workers you would have lost had you not improved your employer brand.
Need to improve/create an employer brand, but your company is strapped for cash? Join James Ellis for the RecruitCon 2019 session, “Employer Branding on a Budget: Crafting an Impactful Campaign to Boost Recruitment Without Breaking the Bank.” RecruitCon 2019 will be held in Nashville, Tennessee on November 14-15. Click here to save your seat today!
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