Ask a few people near you what it’s like to work for Google. You’ll probably hear words like “innovative, collaborative, techie, cool, open” and the crazy part is that the people you asked probably have never even worked at Google. The same test usually works remarkably well for Southwest Airlines.
And that’s the amazing thing about employment branding—just like a corporate brand, the reputation can often precede the experience. We don’t need to work for a company to have an understanding of their employment brand. Somehow, we just know.
What is an employment brand?
An employment brand is the market perception of what it's like to work for an organization. In other words, it’s the image that your prospective, current and past employees have in their minds about the employment experience at your company. This includes characteristics like the organization’s company culture, work environment, employee benefits, and employee value proposition.
Why build an employment brand?
More jobs are becoming available at the same time that fewer candidates are entering the job market. As a result, the war for talent is intensifying. So if your company wants to recruit more job seekers or attract top talent, you need to have a strategic advantage. After all, why should a candidate want to work for your over your competitor?
What elements make a strong employment brand?
While any company can create an employment brand, building one that is truly effective is more challenging and rare. It requires researching your target candidates, reviewing your competitors’ employment brands, and successfully executing and positioning the brand. However, the extra effort is unquestionably worth it. When you have a strong and strategic employment brand, it accomplishes the following:
- Creates a sense of urgency and excitement about working for your company
- Engages the mind, heart & dreams of candidates
- Complements your company’s products and/or services
- Provides a clear, compelling reason to work at your organization
- Aligns with what your current employees believe it's like to work for you
- Evokes feelings of fun, prestige, challenge or rewards
What are the benefits of a strong employment brand?
1. Attract the right people to your organization
Employers often talk about wanting to hire the best talent or the best person for the job. But the reality is that your canidates also need to be the right fit for your organization. Take for example, a software developer. This person may be by all accounts the perfect job fit based on their knowledge and proficiency in programming languages. However, if you have a collaborative and agile development culture, and the candidate prefers to work remotely and independently, they may not be the right person for the job afterall.
By clearly stating who you are as an organization and what you offer, you’ll help them to understand what it’s like to work for your organization. Through this communication process, you will begin to resonate with certain people and inadvertently help the others "select out" by showing you aren’t the right fit for them. The stronger the brand, the more successful you will be about attracting the people that are the best fit for your company. And because you’ve already screened out the job seekers who aren’t an organizational fit early in the recruiting process, you’ll spend more of your time with the right candidates. In fact, research shows that strong employment brands can significantly decrease time-to-fill and cost-per-hire.
2. Compete on a dimension other than solely compensation
Michael Porter stated two general strategies to achieve competitive advantage in a broad market for customers: differentiation or cost leadership. To attract customers, you can basically either ”compete on price” or “be different ” with a unique competency valued by your audience.
The same logic is largely true in recruitment—you can offer something unique to your target candidates or you can pay them the most. And for the average company, paying the most is not a long-term viable recruitment strategy. Plus, studies show that most job seekers would accept a lower salary if it meant working for an organization with a strong employment brand. In other words, building a strong employment brand can be the most cost-effective way to successfully compete.
So whatever it is that your organization has to offer, make sure that it resonates with the people you are trying to attract to your organization. It could be the diversity that your company culture offers, or flexible hours, or the type of technology used. If you need help determining what your unique offerings are, read 6 Steps to Building an Employee Value Propositon.
3. Set expectations and improve retention
By communicating upfront and clearly what it’s like to work for your organization, you set expectations about what it means to be a successful employee at your company. You can showcase the skills and traits that are highly valued in your organization, so that new hires know to emulate them upon starting. This communication resonates with the job seekers who are able and willing to meet these expectations. As a result, the ones who apply and get hired are more likely to have a better experience working for you and are less likely to leave your organization.
In fact, HRO Today states that employment branding can reduce employee turnover by nearly two-thirds. Therefore, you will experience higher employee retention and overall superior performance than organizations with a weak employment brand.
Complete an Employment Brand Assessment
So, how do you know if you have a strong and clear employment brand? Give yourself the employment brand 4-step assessment:
The self assessment: Why did you join the organization? What do you enjoy most about working at your company? Are these selling point being shared with your candidates?
The logo test: Go to your careers website and put your hand in the top left-hand corner so you are covering the company logo. Look at the images on the pages and read through the text. Could this be any number of companies in the local area or in your industry? Or is this clearly a unique company, with a strong culture and a clear message?
The employee check: Do you get employee referrals? What do your employees tell their friends and prospective candidates about working for your company?
The candidate survey: During your interviews with candidates, be sure to ask the interviewee why they applied to your position. Do they mention anything that relates to your employment brand, such as your company culture or work environment? If so, why do these characteristics resonate with them?
Improve Your Employment Brand
If you’ve discovered that there are opportunities to strengthen your organization’s employment brand, pursue them as soon as possible. By taking initiative to improve your organization's image as an employer, you can transform your candidate pool and talent pipeline for the better. As a result, you will fill positions faster and better—empowering your business and team to excel.