Branding immediately makes me think about publicity. Publicity being a vehicle through which a brand showcases its product or services to its potential or current customers, for these to become attracted or remember that specific company - instead of others.
Attracting customers is generally considered a company’s number one priority (hey why else would Marketing teams have such high budgets?) – to the point you might say “without customers you have no business”. I’d like to go one step back, and remind ourselves that “without employees you have no company”.
With this said, a company’s most important customer becomes their people. If great people, build a great product or provide a great service, customers will come and make the business successful.
If this is true, one of the most significant challenges a company faces is to hire the right talent to complement and help grow its business. Without people knowing the company exists, what it stands for and what it can offer, this is almost impossible.
This is where employer branding kicks in.
The term “employer branding” first came into play in the 1990s. According to a study conducted by Harvard Business Review, the most crucial goal with employer branding - surprise surprise - is securing long-term hiring needs.
To get long-term team members, you need only to hire the best of the best, not overall, but for your company – and to do so you need a crystal clear idea of what your company culture is and a plan to make sure others understand it as well.
It sounds like a daunting project, especially if you haven't been thinking about it from the start – something that can be “left with the next talent hire” or for “when we hit this next target”. But employer branding is something that can surely be managed by HR, but that should be on everyone’s agenda.
Let's see what the fuss is all about. 👇
What is Employer Branding?
When it comes to talent acquisition, your brand are the values that will attract and help you hire the right people.
We live in the age of connectivity and transparency, where one bad review can ruin an entire business's reputation. In the past, the reputation of a company used to rely entirely on marketing, and was left with PR and Marketing alone. Nowadays everyone you hire (and sometimes also the ones you don’t hire) actively participates in making, or breaking, your brand.
Employer branding is essential for recruitment. 📝
Think about it like this. Would you ever work somewhere that has a novel's worth of bad reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed? Whilst we all know these reviews need to be taken with a pinch of salt, they will influence your opinion and, possibly your decision to move onto the next application. Why? Because if the company has a bad reputation as a place to work, its ability to deliver results in its sector could be compromised as well.
A poor reputation, which we’ll see is not only reflected in poor online reviews, will drive away highly desirable employees. And whilst second chances in life are possible, when it comes to first impressions - you must endeavour to make sure the first one counts.
How to Attract the Best Candidates
Knowing the problem is half the solution. So, how do we use all this information when it comes to talent acquisition? It’s hard to stand out in a saturated market as the one we are currently living through (pat on the back for all the great founders and teams creating job opportunities). So, how can we excel at showcasing our company, whilst staying true to our values? This point is something I truly believe needs to be reinforced throughout the process, as it can appear an easy win to sell an image of the company that does not truly represent what an employee will experience once they join the business, thinking hey - it got them through the door.
Retaining the right person, who’s mindset and goals are aligned to what the company is trying to achieve, is what employer branding is really all about.
1. Retain employees through company culture
Your strong employer brand starts with the employees you already have. Something candidates will consider is how long people stick around at the company; this is an immediate tell of a great place of work versus a “not so great” one.
Making your current employees happy will lead them to tell their friends and family about how they look forward to their next project and like working with their teammates, share job opportunities with their network (without you asking), and perhaps even leave positive reviews.
Development opportunities, progressive policies, competitive compensation packages, challenging projects, and quality managers are all part of what current, and new employees, will want to buy into.
2. Understand your market
The biggest mistake that an HR team can make is not correctly understanding what people like, want or need.
Just you need to narrow down your positioning when you are entering a new market, similarly you need to identify your target audience when it comes to recruiting. Let's say you already know what you are after in regards to department, experience level and location. Ask yourself: who are they, what are they doing right now and what do they aspire to do, where do they “hang” (both online and offline, if you hire locally), what are they looking for and what can you offer them.
3. Know what you stand for... and let people know what it is.
Unless you are a well known brand (lucky you), your career pages, job specs and ads will be the first thing potential candidates will see. First impressions are everything, make them matter. Create an authentic picture and tone of voice for your brand, so candidates know what to expect once they join the company.
Showcase what you value, may it be transparency, by opening up your intranet to the world; late hours, by offering amongst your benefits free meals or cabs for those leaving after 8pm; or corporate social responsibility, by sharing goals or partnerships you have in place.
Methodically craft your job specs; remember people don’t know you, but you want them to want to know you; remember the difference between a job description and a job advert, and leverage the strengths of both.
The second point of contact for your applicants will be your hiring team. Make sure they are onboard with the company's vision and values, and are able to present them cohesively. There is nothing worse than contrasting inputs and misaligned journeys.
Ensure they have a positive feeling after leaving the interview – from inception, so no 3 months span to reject a cv! – may it have a positive or negative outcome. Following up with feedback on the decision made can be met by resistance from the hiring team, but is a good exercise for them to reason on their choices and a great way to leave an open door for someone you might want to hire in the future, or who could relate their experience to others.
Using Social Media to broadcast your employer brand
We can’t escape social media. That's why we should instead use it as a power tool. Curiosity killed the cat, but it's also the mother of discovery. And we sure wouldn’t want someone who has no interest in finding out more about the company come and join it. So let's make sure we show them what makes the company special, as if you have great initiative but keep them to yourself – well, no one will actually know about them.
Here are some of the best practices you can deploy when using social media to compliment your employer brand.
1. Share good content
Showcase your employees. You don’t only have to use social media for hiring; you can use it to show your future team members what life is like at your company. Events, projects, internal or external awards, benefits you offer and more, are all things people love to see (I’m a sucker for pet posts..).
Pull back the curtain. Take the time to give an insider look into what it’s like working with you. Make sure it's relatable and believable. It doesn’t always have to look like a ray of sunshine.
2. Be responsive
You never know what might come from an answer or a question. Make sure you are timely in replying and try being personal with every interaction – it won’t only stick with the direct receiver, but many others will see it.
3. Advertise open positions
When the time comes, you can use social media to promote available positions. Having a strong employer branding will have already made your job easier 😉
How does Employer Value Proposition (EVP) fit into this?
Unless you are offering a co-founder role or they are just fascinated by what you do, people won’t join your company for the glory of it. Sure, your employer branding will have them, but you now have to convince them to stay, and not to join your competitor, who’s chasing your same dream.
Here is where your EVP kicks in. Your EVP will show prospective employees everything you can offer if they choose to work, and stay, with you.
While you might expect candidates to come with resumes, cover letters, and references, they’re expecting a lot from you too!
During the recruitment process you should ensure they receive information around:
👐 Company values and trajectory
- Goals and plans
- Exciting projects
- Team structure
- Career progression
- Job security
- Salary and compensation model
- Bonus and shares
- Promotion system
- Benefits and perks
- Paid time off allocation
💻 Work environment
- Ability to contribute/impact
- Autonomy and flexibility
- Work-life balance
Plus anything else that makes your company, the best choice for them. You should make these points as clear as possible, as soon as possible. Don’t only let people know all the great things you have in store for them when sending the offer letter, as it might be too late. Let them be known.
Let’s Not Forget Onboarding
After all the effort put into creating that perfectly resonating employer brand and that first class interview experience – it’s time to walk the talk = onboarding time!
Clearly, people will expect you to prove true to what you preached. As during the first few weeks or months (depending on your process) you will be setting the expectations for what your new employee will be experiencing in the years to come, it’s not a surprise organisations with poor onboarding programs are twice as likely to experience employee turnover.
Show new starters that you are focused on empowering them, on seeing them succeed, develop personally and professionally and becoming part of the team. Make sure they receive the right amount of support, training, and mentorship. But especially make sure they recognise the picture you presented, in their day-to-day experience.
Lead with Authenticity
There are different results one could be looking to achieve and therefore different approaches. Ultimately, I feel it’s important to keep in mind that employer branding is an active display of what your company stands for, which will define its reputation.
For people to want to work for and with you, they should be able to know what to expect from the company they are joining – to hire the best people to be driven towards achieving your mission, you need to let them know what they will need to bring to the table, and what you will bring to the table in return.
Don’t only look outwards, look inwards as well – while you chase the next hire don’t forget your current employees who are sticking around and always give them an extra reason to do so.
Be strategic, but be authentic. Showcase what makes your company special, not what makes it like every other (possibly great) company.
So, what's your experience in creating your identity as an employer? What are the key challenges you're experiencing at your specific stage of growth? Is there anything you tried that proved not to be working? We'd be curious to know and learn from your experience. Drop me a note on Twitter @Lauren31v or share it with the folks @HumaansHQ. 👋
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