You’ve struggled to hire the right people and the candidates you interview are a questionable fit for your company? This might be a symptom of not using your employer brand to your best advantage. An employer brand is what employees and candidates say about your company and the work experience when you’re not in the room. It’s not something you can buy or develop and replace if you don’t like the one you have. Much like branding a product, your employer brand has an elevated meaning and a predisposition to buy or join. In what is currently a competitive talent market, effective branding creates a sustainable competitive advantage and can make a huge difference in who is interested in working for you.
If you’re unsure about your employer brand, consider popular employer review websites. These rare user-driven platforms that encourage people to anonymously record their experiences with a company as a candidate or employee. They can write whatever they want. Unfortunately, much like any user-driven site, anonymous contributors are usually either delighted or upset. So, you tend to see both positive and negative comments.
An employer brand is not necessarily changed overnight, but every time you interact with a candidate, you create an impression. Now multiply these impressions dozens or even hundreds of times. This is a powerful force.
The people, symbols, and meaning we try to attribute to the company can be a powerful tool in communicating where the organization is headed. The brand management process helps you to unearth the organizations’ brand expression in the marketplace. Here are five ways to leverage your employer brand.
Be honest and detail your strengths and weaknesses? How large is your company? Do you need people who thrive in an intense environment or do you want workers who are happy with a stable career? What benefits do you offer? Are there advancement opportunities? Knowing and articulating these points are important.
What is your organizational culture? Is it vertical, with top-down direction and little front-line input, or are decisions made on a broad collaborative basis? Is there opportunity for creative thinking? Knowing how your employees interact today and empowering them to tell the story of how they contribute is powerful.
What other organizations can your candidates work for? You need to know who your competitors are and what they offer. If another company offers higher wages, can you compensate with profit sharing or better benefits? Are there opportunities for you to be creative with your offering based on what your competitors are packaging for candidates?
You need to know where your organization fits in your market. Does your company compete on price, or are you targeting the upscale market? Are you known for promoting from within? Does your company have a reputation for treating people fairly? Online comments are a good starting point, as are internal surveys.
This is the combined result of all of the “brand signals” present in the marketplace and picked up by candidates. Every element of your employer brand needs to be in alignment. For example, if you claim to care about the environment and offer candidates Styrofoam cups during the interview, you’d be surprised how this alters perceptions of what you stand for.
In today’s competitive economy, these five steps can help you find the candidates you need. Remember, candidates can be internal, as well. If you bring the right talent into your team, they may be interested and have versatile skills that could allow them to try new jobs at your company. They may be ready to take on a new role and be promoted, or they may be excellent at their current job. The point being: there is active work required to engage your current employees as brand ambassadors, as well. They, too represent and can carry your employer brand far and wide.
Remember, you can’t “make” an employer brand. An advertising agency can’t create a brand. They can help create a brand message. Whether you know what your brand is isn’t the issue. It’s knowing what the themes are that people use to talk about your organization. Then you can manage the expression of the brand – and how people receive it – as part of your brand as an employer.
It’s easy for someone to throw out “we aspire to be the best place to work.” Your employer brand cannot be solely aspirational – it has to be accurate for where your organization is today.