A solid employer branding strategy is absolutely essential to becoming an employer of choice. But the foundations of employer branding start from the inside—which is where many organisations miss their mark. You need to practise what you preach if you want to attract and retain the right people!
75% of people research an organisation’s employer brand before even applying for a job; so how do you make future employees “fall in love” with your organisation? Build an employer brand that your current employees love, of course!
But employer branding isn’t just a recruitment tool; a solid strategy helps you to build an engaged workforce and a first-class employee experience, flowing through every stage of the employee lifecycle.
Any good employer brand starts with how happy and engaged employees are already—but it’s a two-way street. So if you’re not showing love to your people, you best believe that some other smooth-talking recruiter will be in their LinkedIn DM’s, faster than you can say “flexible working policy”.
But how exactly do you get started improving your employer brand, or create an employer branding strategy from scratch? Well, let’s dive into a bit of employer branding 101 and cover exactly that…
What is meant by employer branding?
Basically, your employer brand is your organisation’s reputation as a great (or maybe not-so-great) place to work, and how people perceive your mission and values—both internally and externally.
But it’s not just about preaching your mission and values far and wide; it’s based on the real experiences of your people—it could be about anything from leadership to culture and everything in between that paints a picture of what it’s like to work at your organisation.
Then, learning from all the savvy marketers out there, HR folk coined the term employer branding to describe the way an organisation markets its reputation as an employer to both current and potential employees. CIPD put it nicely:
Every organisation has a reputation, intentional or otherwise. It’s up to them to control their own narrative by fixing any internal issues that might present a roadblock to becoming an employer of choice, and building an employer branding strategy that reels in the right type of people (and keeps those they already have!).
The role of HR in employer branding
We all typically think of HR when we think about employer branding, but the reality is that multiple stakeholders play a part in managing and maintaining an effective employer brand; so what role does everyone else play, exactly? Here’s a super-quick snapshot:
Having said that, employer branding is really HR’s time to shine—once they have buy-in from all of the above. A lot of what HR does as a function contributes to their employer brand in some way, shape or form. Here are just a few HR functions that typically influence and boost employer branding:
It’s HR’s responsibility to create an inclusive, fair and friendly hiring process. Anything from poorly organised interviews to a lack of feedback to poor onboarding can have a negative impact on your employer brand.
- Policies and practices
From flexible working and absence to holidays and dress codes, internal policies that align with organisational values contribute to a positive employee experience by making everyone feel valued for their time and hard work.
- Workplace design
Even more so in today’s remote and hybrid world, workplace design plays a key role in how engaged people are with both their work and their employer brand. Making sure that you provide a workspace where everyone can thrive—whether that’s at home or in an office—will shine through in what you have to offer as an employer.
- Employee relations
From maintaining positive relationships to managing workplace conflict, HR has to make sure that everyone has strong relationships throughout the organisation. Without strong relationships, inclusion and belonging are likely to plummet, which will hit your reputation as an inclusive employer.
- Employee value proposition
Your EVP and your employer brand go hand-in-hand. Like we mentioned earlier, your employer brand is your organisation’s reputation; but your EVP is what you have to offer, helping people answer questions like “what’s in it for me?”, so can be used to communicate your brand offering and help promote it internally and externally.
And what do all of the above have in common? They all contribute to what a typical working day should feel like for everyone at your organisation; aka, your employee experience.
So… what makes a good employer brand?
The world of work is constantly changing, and employee needs are no different. As the world adapts, what employees want from their working experience does too—so we need the policies, processes and culture to match.
There’s no single right answer—that will differ from organisation to organisation—but there are five key trends that have prevailed in recent years and have only become more important following the small matter of a pandemic…
1. Flexibility out-flexes the cash
I’m not saying people don’t like money, BUT other things are way more important, especially to younger generations (we’re looking at you, Millennials and Gen Z 👀).
Think about Jack from the Marketing department. He’s not on the biggest wedge in the business but he’s consistently giving great survey feedback and it’s not uncommon for him to eulogise on social media about how much he enjoys working at your company. Why?
Well, your flexible working policy allows him to start his day early, but then leave a bit earlier to pick Jack Jr up at nursery and give him his tea (also known as dinner, for any of our more-southern friends!) before his partner comes home.
Without this, Jack would have to pay extra in childcare; so not only is flexible working allowing him to keep more of his salary in his pocket, it’s also giving him quality time at home with his children too.
2. Agile working is super important to the modern professional
These days, it seems like most business challenges can be solved by putting some ‘agile’ spin on them, but what does that look like from a people perspective?
To me, it’s about looking at things that have typically been a bit of a drag and removing the unnecessary barriers that get in the way of productivity and efficiency. Take the 30-minute meeting: everyone around the table, pretending to listen, wishing they could get back to the work that actually matters to them.
The solution here isn’t to stop having meetings, but to innovate the way they take place.
Stand-up meetings, on the other hand, are a much quicker and more meaningful way to have that same meeting in a fraction of the time. When everyone’s on their feet, you’ll probably find that a 30-minute meeting becomes 10 minutes of precise headlines, actions, and defined next steps—leaving people more time to get back to their work.
With everything that’s happened lately, we’ve got a unique opportunity to reset and reinvent the way we work—whether it’s meetings, technologies or processes, it’s time we evolved!
3. Employees want to make a difference, and they expect the same of their employers
It’s less about money and more about meaning; the modern worker needs to know that the work they’re doing matters.
What’s more, they need you to recognise their work. Whether it’s understanding the broader impact of their social media efforts or wanting to know how their sales performance has affected the bottom line. All organisations that are committed to breeding a feeling of mutual affection should reinforce the importance of their people’s day-to-day output.
We all want to feel like we’re fighting the good fight, not just for ourselves, but for our community and our society, too.
There are other ways to amplify that feeling, like offering a certain amount of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) days per year so people can volunteer their time to a cause that matters to them!
4. People want progression, or they’ll look for it elsewhere
How many times have you reached the end of an interview and been asked “what are the progression opportunities like here?”.
Modern professionals are more future-thinking than ever. So if you don’t have the right learning and progression programmes in place you can bet they’ll grab a better opportunity somewhere else when they feel like they’ve hit a career roadblock at your organisation.
Talent succession is key to creating an amazing employee experience that shows you’re committed to development, ultimately retaining your people and building out a brand as a great employer.
5. Culture is still king
Culture isn’t something an organisation HAS, it’s everything an organisation IS. And here’s the maths:
The culture of an organisation is a huge differential when it comes to levels of employee engagement.
Employee engagement is the largest differential when it comes to levels of customer satisfaction; organisations in the top quartile engagement scores average 12% higher customer advocacy and 18% higher retention rates!
So, if you believe in maths, then you have to believe in promoting a solid company culture.
Health and wellbeing, learning and development, and work-life balance are often the cultural elements that prospective employees enquire about when deciding if your organisation is the one for them. So, if you haven’t already, invest some time in defining your organisation’s direction on these elements and make them accessible to everyone under your banner.
How do you develop an employer branding strategy?
Employer branding might seem like a mammoth task. Well, that’s because it is—when it’s done right. But given the benefits, it’s a project worth undertaking!
Employer branding always starts from the inside; if you’re singing from a different song sheet to employees, candidates will soon spot the disconnect. Only when your employer brand resonates with everyone inside the organisation can you effectively shout about it to everyone else.
So, logically, start with an internal audit of your current employer brand. Here are five steps to kickstart your employer branding strategy:
- Check online reviews and social media: you can pretty much guarantee that most candidates will read online reviews to check out what people have to say about your organisation as an employer, so you should be keeping tabs, too. Glassdoor asks its reviewers to leave pros and cons—it doesn’t get much clearer than that! Don’t forget to head to social media and other public-facing platforms to search for other bits of valuable information too.
- Audit the candidate journey: from your job descriptions and applications to interviews and onboarding, take a look at the entire candidate journey to make sure everything is inclusive, fair and accessible; a bad candidate experience is a perfect recipe for damaging an employer brand!
- Survey current employees: your people are your best source of inspiration when it comes to improving your employee experience, so running an employee survey is your best port of call to gather the insights you need to make real, positive changes. Dig into how well your EVP resonates with people (more on that here!), the main drivers of engagement as well as how engaged people are—along with your eNPS score to really suss out whether your organisation is a great place to work.
- Run focus groups and workshops: by this point, you’ll be armed with a sea of insights that you can dive into to reveal what needs to be improved in order to boost your employer brand. Pick out the key themes in your feedback and run some focus groups with multiple stakeholders—leaders, managers AND employees—and use those themes to guide the sessions and collaborate on strategies for moving forward.
The organisations that get their employer brand right are the ones who truly listen to the needs of their people before deciding on the best course of action when it comes to employee experience.
Every business is different because they are made of people, and all people are different. So to get your people to fall in love with your employer brand, treat them as individuals, invite them to tell you what matters to them and when they do, make sure you listen. That’s how you can lay the foundations with employee insights.
Wondering where to start gathering employee insights? Book an intro with #TeamHive to find out how our employee voice platform can help you gather the people data you need. And in the meantime, grab a copy of our guide to taking a People Science approach to becoming an employer of choice with employee voice! 👇
Becoming an Employer of Choice with a Powerful Employee Voice Strategy
A 5-Step People Science Approach (With Survey Questions!)