It is widely accepted that a company’s workforce represents one of its most significant competitive advantages. Attracting and retaining the right kind of talent is absolutely critical to a business’s ability to compete, grow and be successful. Joanne McAuley looks at the role a powerful employer brand plays in dominating the talent market and how HR professionals can use employer branding to recruit top-notch candidates.
An organisation will of course have a reputation in the market for its products and/or services – what it sells. But it also has a reputation as an employer. This reputation, or ‘employer branding’, has, and will likely continue to become, of magnified importance as the jobs market becomes increasingly candidate-centric.
When we think of great local employers brands, it always tends to be the big tech giants or financial services companies that spring to mind – Allstate, Kainos and so on. But employer brand is important for any organisation, no matter its sector or size.
Creating or re-defining an employer brand certainly isn’t an easy task – it takes great commitment along with knowledge of the business and its mission, vision and values.
Jobseekers are making an almost consumer-like decision when it comes to new career opportunities.
According to a recent study by the Harvard Business Review and ICM Unlimited, companies with a negative reputation or poor employer brand should expect to spend at least 10% more per hire. Not only that, but they will struggle to hire the right people in the first place. If employers have a negative brand, then people are well aware, even candidates that are interviewing. They tend to research more thoroughly, looking at online review sites such as Glassdoor, and if their suspicions are confirmed they may decide not to continue to pursue that particular role.
On the flipside, prioritising and investing in employer branding appears to deliver better quality candidates, better levels of employee engagement, attracting more talent, and reducing recruitment costs. In short, if you fail to take the time to build a good employer brand, you could have difficulty keeping up in an otherwise hyper-competitive marketplace.
So what can HR professionals and businesses generally do to develop a strong employer brand?
Companies need to show both active and passive candidates why their organisation is great, and why they should want to work there. While most companies are well versed on their strengths, a much fewer number have a compelling Employee Value Proposition (EVP).
This is a unique set of benefits an employee receives in return for the skills, capabilities and experience they bring to the company. The EVP is in effect the employment deal - what the company expects and what it will offer in return - the most effective of which align the whole work experience, from culture, mission and values, to total rewards, through jobs and people.
When defining the EVP, organisations need to address the following questions. What does our current employer brand say about us to prospective candidates? What types of candidates do we want to attract? What motivates and interests those candidates? How can we create an environment that caters to those motivations?
Everything a candidate has ever heard, read or witnessed about your company will enter into the decision of whether to work with your company.
To really deliver a personal touch in your employer brand, you need to start thinking like a candidate. Put yourself in their shoes and understand what’s important to them during their interactions with your brand. What will make that candidate come away with a positive disposition towards you and the feeling that the interaction mattered as much to you as it did to them?
Employer brand strategy has to be very consistent with the real employee experience. As such it should be informed not by an ‘outside-in’, but rather ‘inside-out’ led process.
HR and marketing need to work in unison to make sure there is alignment with the brand. While HR may take the lead, a working group that includes marketing or corporate communication – for alignment with the customer experience and external brand, will allow for a broad spectrum of experience that enriches the process.
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