When I got into marketing communications (let’s just say a few years back) you never heard the term “employer brand,” especially from a marketing stand point. There wasn’t a need for marketing to get involved because there were very few avenues for potential employees to get the low-down on a company. Or there wasn’t as great of a need to retain employees. The thought was, “why wouldn’t someone want to work for us?” Anything potential employees would hear about an employer was either through word of mouth or they would have read it in a newspaper or in the company’s annual report. Employers could hide a lot about what it was like to work for them. But then came the age of the internet.
In today’s tight labor pool, job candidates and employees want to know ‘what’s in it for me?’ Specifically, prospective and current employees seek to know the benefit of working at your company over another. Just as you communicate your brand value proposition to your customers, so too should you communicate your employer brand proposition to employees and recruits. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, a strong employer brand should do the following three things: 1) help employees internalize the company’s values, 2) achieve a reputation as an employer of choice, and 3) recruit and retain employees. HR and Marketing need to work together on employer branding to engage employees and recruit new talent.
17% of employees are actively disengaged. These employees are busy acting out their unhappiness, undermining what their engaged co-works are trying to accomplish.
-2015 Gallup Management Journal
Social media, corporate websites, blogs, forums and many other mediums create a new era of transparency. Now companies have to be authentic with their messaging and stand for something bigger. Wages and benefits no longer rule the day. Purpose, culture and workplace environments in today’s job market carry just as much weight in retaining and recruiting employees. With this in mind, Marketing and HR all have to be part of the equation, and they need to work together to develop and deliver your true brand and tell your authentic story. You may also want to consider working with an outside agency or consultants to help you with your initiative as they can bring a fresh perspective to the table, especially if you’re serious about a turnaround.
As a leader, you ask yourself, “How can I pull this together and deliver something that will move my business forward?”
Develop a strategic plan for your employer brand.
For your plan to be successful you need to have a baseline measurement of the current employer brand and an assessment of the employee experience. As with anything, if you don’t have a strong foundation you won’t have a strong building. With these metrics, you can gauge progress and see the success of your new employer brand.
Now that you have well-defined measurements in place, you need to look at the different components to your plan that will make sure it’s effective. Things like budget and resources, objectives, time frame, point person, approval structure, and target need to be included. These are the brick and mortar of your plan and will keep you on track for success.
So, you’ve got your plan and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself, what’s next?
How can you expect your employees or potential recruits to live your brand when it hasn’t been clearly defined by leadership? As the saying goes, “it starts at the top.” Determining your vision, mission, and values shouldn’t be done in a vacuum. You need to get all groups (departments and levels within the organization) involved. From the Visionaries to the Naysayers, Leadership to the Production Line. If you have multiple locations make sure that they’re represented. By having all of these diverse groups participating in the conversation, you’re creating an atmosphere of transparency and engagement. Remember, this is the foundation to create your employer brand and you shouldn’t take it lightly.
As stated earlier, Marketing and HR need to be present during these conversations as they will be developing and delivering your employer brand. By hearing and seeing everything firsthand it will be much easier for them to craft your authentic story. And this will only help to get buy-in from the start and move your company in the right direction.
Now that you have your vision, mission and values. How do you communicate it?
Here is where communication should come directly from leadership with the help of Marketing and HR. You’re setting the tone for how employees will engage and make an impact on the company’s customer experience. Messaging should be tailored for each level of engagement because the first question from employees will be, “What does this mean for me?”
So, what are some ways we can get the employer brand message out to everyone and give meaning behind it? One effective way is to hold lunch and learns. The objective here is to gain awareness and acceptance, engage people, and encourage participation. When it comes to managers on the front lines, it could be something as simple as providing a tool such as a manager discussion guide. The guide should explain the brand and how it can be brought to life by asking probing questions to generate discussion and identify lack of understanding of the brand. What you’re trying to do here is foster a culture of empowerment so that employees have a strong commitment to your organization.
Recognize and reward employees.
This would seem to be the area that would be the easiest for a company to execute, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. When companies hear of an employee recognition program all they think about is how much time and money it will take to successfully execute it. But it doesn’t have to take a huge budget to make a big difference.
One of the easiest, and most cost-effective, things you could do is send a Thank You email recognizing someone for their hard-work, or for going above and beyond. This is something that only takes five minutes and will become habit-forming.
Another powerful tool is brand storytelling. Start department or company meetings with examples of someone living the brand. Allow time for stories to be told by members of the management team or by fellow employees. Remember, everyone wants to be appreciated no matter what position. And employees sharing how they deliver or how a colleague delivers on the brand will help others take ownership of that brand promise too.
Create an engaging corporate brand environment.
Human beings are a visual lot and this continues to grow as we become more connected. An area that is often overlooked by businesses is their internal corporate brand environment. But it is more important than leaders may think. Studies have shown that the physical environment has become one of the leading influencers in recruiting talent and engaging current employees.
Top Factors Influencing a Potential Hire’s Decision
Taken together, culture and facilities outweigh the influence of salary.
*Hassel and Empirica 2014
A well-designed workplace should symbolize your vision, mission, and values to create an emotional connection that keeps employees engaged.
When you think about it, companies spend thousands of dollars and hours figuring out if a new technology or machine will give them a competitive edge in the market. Why don’t they do this for their employer brand? Creating a strong recruiting, onboarding and retention program should be shown the same attention. In the end, people can make or break any good business depending on whether they are bought in, so why not make them your greatest advocates?