Among the many challenges growing companies and organizations face, attracting and retaining good employees is near the very top. You might spend big chunks of your budget on expensive outreach tactics like recruiting events and headhunting. Or maybe you maintain the status quo—posting the same job descriptions to the same job boards—and expect things will eventually turn around. In either case, you are likely failing to solve the underlying problem: poor employer branding.
In this article, we walk you through the ins and outs of employer branding so you can optimize your recruitment and hiring processes for a better-fitting, more loyal internal team.
What Is Employer Branding, and Why Should I Care?
You can think of your employer brand as your company or organization’s workplace reputation. It shapes what people expect from the experience of being employed by you and affects how likely (or unlikely) prospective employees are to apply for and accept the jobs you offer.
What’s more, a strong employer brand communicates to prospective employees your workplace culture, helping to ensure that those who do apply and accept job offers are the right fit. This means they closely align with your mission, values, and mode of operation. Having right-fit employees helps ensure your whole team is in sync and happier, raising productivity and reducing turnover rates. In effect, good employer branding saves you time, energy, and money.
Building Your Employer Brand
An employer brand is determined by your organization’s actions, behaviors, and messages, and the impression all three impart on your audience over time. Building your employer brand means exercising control over these elements to ensure they align with how you want people to perceive your company as a workplace.
You’re probably thinking, that sounds well and good, but how do I actually pull it off? You start by creating a sound brand platform.
The Elements of an Employer Brand Platform
An employer brand platform is not all that different from a typical consumer brand platform. It lays the groundwork for living out your employer brand in a way that resonates with the audience you’re trying to reach. Here’s what an effective employer brand platform should include.
You can’t determine how you want to be perceived as an employer until you know where you are going. Articulating where you see your company or organization in five or ten years (or some other point in the future) will provide clarity around the types of positions you will be hiring for and the types of applicants you want to attract. It will also offer insights into the culture you want to cultivate. Finally, a clear, compelling vision will help you retain and attract great employees because it’s inspiring and gives people something to rally around. Motivated employees want to know they are with a company that has a bright future, and a vision statement gives them reason to believe yours does.
Writing a vision statement can be a challenge, but it’s also a lot of fun. To learn more about the ins and outs of writing an effective vision statement, check out this post. It includes a list of 10 reasons why every business needs a vision statement and outlines four principles you’ll want to follow.
Mission and Values
Your employer brand should be in alignment with your company or organization’s mission and values, so it’s important to identify both in your strategy. Your mission and values represent your reason for being and the principles that guide your day-to-day operations. In turn, they influence your workplace culture and offer your employees purpose, both of which are critical to employee satisfaction (and your reputation as an employer). Studies suggest 73 percent of purpose-oriented employees are satisfied in their jobs versus 64 percent who are not purpose-oriented.
When you implement your employer brand platform in the wild, you’ll want to constantly reinforce your mission and values via messaging and tactics.
Audience Definition and Insights
In the realm of employer branding, your target audience is, by default, your ideal job candidates and the great employees who already work for you. But that’s not quite enough information. To reach your audience, you’ll want to clearly define who constitutes a perfect-fit employee and what makes them tick. By formally identifying your target audience’s attributes, you’ll be better positioned to create content and employ recruitment tactics that resonate with the people you’re most interested in reaching.
To define your perfect-fit employees, ask yourself the following questions:
- What training or education do they have?
- What skills do they possess?
- Where did they go to school (if applicable)?
- What keeps them busy outside of work?
- What do they value?
- What keeps them up at night?
- What do they aspire to?
- What factors contribute to their unhappiness at work?
- What influences their decision to look for a new job?
- What influences their decision to accept a job offer?
- What benefits are important to them?
- Where do they look for work opportunities?
- Where do they want to be in five years? Ten years?
Keep in mind, if you employ people in several different fields, you might have multiple target audiences. (A law firm, for example, could have a target audience of lawyers and legal professionals and a target audience of administrative staff.) That’s perfectly okay. Just work through the questions above for each audience and define them separately. It will be helpful, though, to identify commonalities among your various audiences as well as differences to inform the overarching messaging that spans all of them.
Once you know your audience, you can tackle your employer brand positioning statement. This answers the question: how do you want consumers to think about your employer brand in relation to other brands? In this case, your competition is other employers vying for the same audience as your company or organization.
When you create an employer brand positioning statement, you’re identifying the place in the market you want to occupy and the kind of talent you want to attract. In that sense, your employer brand positioning statement is your North Star. It should guide all recruitment initiatives, internal operations, and workplace experience decisions. It should also inform how you message your audience. Everything that affects how your employees and prospective employees experience your employer brand should support your positioning.
Every employer brand positioning statement consists of four standard parts:
- Target: a brief description of your organization’s ideal candidates
- Frame of reference: a statement that defines your organization’s mission as an employer and how you help employees achieve their goals
- Point of difference: an assertion of how your organization differs from competitors in the same frame of reference
- Reasons to believe: evidence that supports your organization’s point of difference
To learn more about the parts of a positioning statement and how to write one effectively, check out our blog post: “What Is a Brand Positioning Statement.”
Employer Brand Story and Key Messages
The last component of your employer brand platform is figuring out how to synthesize your vision, mission, values, and positioning into a memorable employer brand story and supporting key messages that communicate why you are an employer of choice.
The goal of an employer brand story is to make a human connection with your audience that inspires them to see your company or organization as an attractive, great-fit workplace. This, in turn, motivates them to take a desired action, such as browsing your job listings and submitting an application.
To start, you’ll want to write with your audience’s needs, wants, goals, and challenges in mind. In doing so, you’ll make it easy for your target audience to see themselves in your employer brand story, increasing the likelihood that they will someday become a happy, dedicated employee of your company or organization.
Putting It Into Practice
Developing an employer brand platform is an important first step toward taking control of your reputation as an employer. Once it’s in place, you’ll want to develop a tactical brand-building strategy that lays out how you’ll apply your platform to your recruitment and hiring processes. This includes:
- Distributing employer brand content on your website
- Cultivating a social media presence that aligns with your employer brand
- Distributing employer brand content across social media
- Posting on job boards
- Conducting email marketing and outreach to potential candidates and recruits
- Promoting your employer brand internally through your intranet
You’ll also want to consider how your employer brand platform manifests in your company or organization’s everyday workplace. For an investment that pays dividends in the long run, your employer brand platform should inform how you delight and retain the talented people you already have—not just how you attract new ones.
Not sure where to start?
Consider a self-audit of your employer brand as it stands today:
How to Audit and Grow Your Employer Brand