Employer branding is critical to the bottom-line of any organisation. Why? Because a good employer brand can reduce turnover rates by 28%, and cut costs-per-hire by half. Additionally, 75% of active job seekers are likely to apply for a job if the employer actively manages its employer brand.
As human beings, a sense of belonging or being part of something; whether to a family, friendship and membership group, a tribe, a nation, or country has always been a fundamental part of our psyche. It helps to define who we are and contributes to our overall sense of purpose and wellbeing.
Astute employers understand this and have always worked hard to develop their ‘employer brand’ and to embed it within their company culture. This has been with both positive and negative effect – think John Lewis Partnership versus the investment banks that inspired corporate and individual greed.
What exactly is ‘employer brand’? The trouble with the term is that it implies something other (or extra) to your ‘straightforward’ corporate brand. Isn’t it just a ‘buzz word’ term coined to ensure you focus on how you attract, keep and remain relevant to your existing employees, and those you’d like to recruit in the future?
The important thing to remember about an ‘employer brand’ is that whether it relates to employees or potential employees, the opinions they develop aren’t based solely on direct engagement tools and methods designed to attract and retain them. Instead, they’re grounded in their experiences of your brand touchpoints and a breadth of knowledge gained from many other sources. These can often be disparate and vary greatly in reliability – your current employee ‘brand ambassadors’, family and friends, news channels, social and traditional media, online reviews etc. They may also result from being a consumer of your brand’s products or services. The fundamental factor in all of this is, when does anyone become a potential employee? The truth is, anyone from primary school age to those in their 70s (and beyond) could be just that. An ‘employer brand’ is more than the snapshot you provide at the time when you’re recruiting. Trying to address known issues with it then, might just be too little too late.
In the high-stakes recruitment and retention game, where competition for candidates with the relevant skills, attributes and expertise is fierce, particularly in STEM roles, our advice is to think wider and deeper about ‘employer branding’. There’s absolutely no point wasting money on developing fabulous employee or recruitment initiatives if they aren’t aligned to your overall brand experience (internally and externally).
If your overall brand needs fixing – and that means having total clarity about your purpose, your values and what you’re prepared to stand up for and act on, you need to repair it. You then need to make sure you communicate it, clearly and honestly.
Where do you start? First of all, define your company culture. Ask the people who experience it – at all levels. Does it stack up to your belief? Is it coherent and consistent? Does it align with your brand? Does that need realigning too? If not, then again, get fixing. What’s more, remember that brands and corporate cultures evolve just as the landscape in which they operate evolves. It really is okay to say that you haven’t got all the answers – as long as you can honestly say (and prove) that you’re working towards getting them and constantly reviewing them.
Let’s forget terminology for now. What is apparent is that what your brand says about you as an employer has increased significance today. It’s become progressively important to those entering employment for the first time and to those who now question what’s important to them – shared values and ideals in particular. The current Covid-19 situation has only served to emphasise this more. Never has communication with employees been so collectively important and also difficult to manage. The reputation of a few of the most well-respected brands has taken a hefty knock recently with their public failure to live up to their own brand ideals, particularly where employees are concerned. This may increasingly be the case as lockdown eases, as more people return from working at home to the new reality of socially distanced office working, in an environment in which employers’ face the brunt of new economic and financial pressures.
Over the past +25 years, Forepoint has worked with many clients on diverse and wide-ranging employer communication projects – many of which we’re sadly not able to talk about. These have included branding, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, Health & Safety and anti-bullying programmes, together with whole business transformation projects. The key to their efficacy has been in keeping communications simple, ensuring they resonate and helping people understand what and why it matters – to them.
Top tips for communicating your ‘Employer brand’
Keep it authentic
People see through insincerity. Be true to what your brand actually delivers, or you intend it to deliver. Don’t make promises you’re not sure you can keep and keep any expressed ‘intent’ grounded in the probable.
By this, we mean consider your range of audiences, their needs and ability to consume your content. Use what are both the right and most effective communication tools and channels to create the best experience – both internally and externally. Also, remember that some methods and channels may resonate better with different communities, and that doesn’t just mean by age demographic. To be inclusive, to motivate change, to attract the skills you want and to benefit from the diversity of thinking on offer, make sure your communications embed this as far as you can.
That doesn’t simply mean using employee interviews. It means talking to people as actual people, ‘human to human’, i.e. not forgetting how crucial it is to make sure your tone of voice, stories and messaging are personable, appropriate, engaging and ‘real’.
…and be engaging
So many businesses simply regurgitate the same corporate storyline used externally for their internal audiences. Do that, and you’ll hear a lot of ‘listening switches’ clicking to the ‘off’ position. Knock off a few of the corporate edges and use all of the above – authenticity, diversity of delivery and be human – then you’ll have an engaged, understanding and supportive team around you.