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Do you have an authentic employer brand?

Published Oct 01, 2023 – By Tim Turner

Mixed media hero image office people sitting and standing on coloured balls for Wardour blog on authentic employer brand

If you’re not sure why you need an authentic employer brand, stop for a moment and think about the process of hiring new talent. First, you have to write a job description, then you need to advertise the role or hire a recruitment consultant. Next comes shortlisting candidates for interview – a lengthy process if you have a large number of applicants – and then come the interviews themselves. Finally, you’re in a position to offer the role to your chosen candidate, who (after a bit of negotiation over salary and benefits) accepts the job. Success! It’s taken a few weeks, possibly a few months, but you now have a talented new employee.

And then, sometimes – quite possibly in less time than it took to recruit them – they resign. There could be many reasons, of course, but at a time when employees are increasingly inspired by purpose, they may well decide to leave because they don’t perceive your employer branding as authentic.

What is an employer brand?

Your employer brand, put simply, is how your company is perceived by your existing and prospective employees. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) defines an employer brand as: “a set of attributes and qualities, often intangible, that makes an organisation distinctive, promises a particular kind of employment experience, and appeals to those people who will thrive and perform best in its culture.”

This isn’t the same as your corporate branding, which is aimed at the people and organisations you have a commercial relationship with – customers, consumers, suppliers and so on – and the media. Your corporate brand is the public face of the company, while your employer brand is the private face: what it feels like to work there, the benefits and perks employees can enjoy, the company culture they experience and the career development opportunities that are available to them.

Although they are aimed at different audiences and expressed in different ways, it’s important that these two pieces of messaging – the corporate brand and the employer brand – are complementary. To take a simple example, a tech company whose external messaging emphasises the way its innovative products make life simpler for its customers might have employer branding that focuses on the qualities needed to produce that innovation – nimbleness, thinking outside the box, the ability to work at speed and so on.

It’s when the two brands don’t match, or when they actually contradict each other, that the problems start. Imagine a company selling eco-friendly products whose office is in a business park that can only be reached by car, and which has no on-site recycling facilities: the employee experience would be very different from that presented in the company’s advertising. That’s when the employer brand lacks authenticity.

Or imagine a company that prides itself on the way its products and services empower women, but makes the headlines when a number of female employees accuse their manager of sexually inappropriate behaviour. The damage to the employer brand is obvious.

Sometimes, companies with a poor employer brand try to make up for it by offering higher salaries – essentially, bribing talent to stay

Why is employer brand important?

If you’re still wondering why it’s important to have an authentic employer brand, listen to LinkedIn, who know a thing or two about what potential candidates want from an employer. According to LinkedIn’s 2021 Employer Brand Statistics, 72% of recruiting leaders worldwide agree that employer branding makes a significant impact on talent acquisition. It also says that companies with positive employer branding can receive up to twice as many applications as those with negative branding.

Sometimes, companies with a poor employer brand try to make up for it by offering higher salaries – essentially, bribing talent to stay. But this doesn’t always work: a poll from CR Magazine and Cielo Talent showed that almost 50 per cent of workers said they wouldn’t work for a company with a bad reputation, even if they were offered a big increase in compensation.

And the benefits of a positive employer brand are clear. According to LinkedIn, companies that are successful in their employer branding efforts see a 28 per cent reduction in the annual turnover of talent. Moreover, happy employees will tend to rave about the company to friends and on social media, which has been statistically shown to result in faster hires, lower recruitment costs, higher job satisfaction and better performance.

How do you create an authentic employer brand?

You may be reading this and thinking: “Hang on: we’ve never created an employer brand.” The thing is, even if you’ve never consciously thought about your employer branding, it exists – in the things your employees are saying about you on social media and in the pub after work, and particularly on the reviews they write on Glassdoor.

Given that, if you haven’t got one, now is a good time to start thinking about your employer brand strategy. The first thing to do is to look at the big picture: think about your company’s mission, values and culture. What is your vision for success, and what sort of talent do you need to accomplish those objectives?

Armed with this, you now need to find out what your current employees think. Whether you send out a survey, hold workshops, carry out in-depth interviews or all of the above, you need to learn what they like about the employee experience at your company – and, just as importantly, what they don’t like. This means you have to be prepared for negative comments, and you might want to consider hiring an external consultant to gather face-to-face feedback, to encourage employees not to hold back.

Honing your employee value proposition

You should now be in a position to develop your employee value proposition. While your employer brand describes the overall experience of working for your company, the employee value proposition is more specific. Recruitment company Michael Page summarises it like this: “An employee value proposition is the unique set of benefits that an employee receives in return for the skills, capabilities and experience they bring to a company.”

Things to consider when creating an employer value proposition, the recruiter says, include:

  • does it align with your strategic objectives?
  • does it differentiate your company?
  • does it paint a realistic picture of what it’s like to work for your company?
  • is it inspirational?
  • is it simple, but broad enough to appeal to different groups?

Communicating a strong employer brand

Once you’ve taken the steps outlined above, you should have a strong employer brand that will help to boost both employee retention and talent acquisition. So how do you communicate this? The most important thing is to make sure that your employer branding is accurately reflected on your company’s website and social media profiles – and, if you have a dedicated careers page on the website, there particularly. Use the voices of your employees wherever possible in your talent marketing – employee advocacy, in the form of personal case studies and testimonials, is a powerful way to communicate the experience of working at your company and showcase the benefits. You may need a brainstorming session with an employer branding agency to come up with interesting and engaging approaches.

Effective employer branding is a big topic and we’ve only got space to touch on the basics here. Additional things to consider include whether you need different employer branding for different parts of the company; in a multinational organisation, for example, the employee experience may vary from country to country. You may also decide to develop variations of the employer brand for specific groups of employees, such as those of BAME origin or those who identify as LGBTQIA+, to demonstrate how your company ensures they have a good employee experience.

And coming back to our original question: do you have an authentic employer brand? By now, you should be able to recognise if you don’t – and if you’re still not sure, check out what your current employees and job candidates are saying about you.

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