January 13, 2015
Since the phrase “employer branding” was popularized in the 1990s, companies have differentiated their workplaces for employees and job candidates by adapting techniques long used by marketers. The formation of the Great Place to Work Institute in the late 1990s and the subsequent launch of its annual Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list in 1998 created an official platform by which the world’s largest companies could be measured. According to The Conference Board, the majority of large companies were aware of employer branding as a concept by the mid-2000s.
Shift to the Candidate-Driven Market
Surveys show that employer branding is on nearly every company’s list of intentions, if not practices. The growth of employer review sites and frequent media coverage of workplace strategies at companies such as Google have made job seekers more discerning. A survey by MRINetwork found that 83 percent of recruiters said the market was candidate-driven versus employer-driven in the second half of 2014. In the second half of 2011 that number was 54 percent.
This big shift over the last three years indicates the need for employers to do something different. Employer branding is one of the primary strategies for creating a positive brand impression and attracting more active and passive candidates. It has also been associated with lower cost of hire and lower turnover rates.
In order to help you improve your efforts to attract quality candidates, Simply Hired is launching a new series of articles on strategies and tactics on employer branding over the coming months. To get started, let’s look at what employer branding is and why it’s so important.
Employer Branding is about Relationships
Because one of the goals of branding is to influence what people say about your company, it is necessarily based on relationships with current, past and potential employees as well as investors, press, vendors, suppliers and community leaders. Each of these parties gains an impression of your company through interactions and is likely to share this impression with others. According to the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer, “a person like yourself” is 44 percent more likely to be a credible source of information about a company than its CEO. A “regular employee” is 21 percent more likely to be found credible than a CEO.
Because people place more trust in their peers than talking heads, it’s no surprise that referrals are consistently reported as the No. 1 source of external hires in employer surveys. People are unlikely to refer a friend to an unhappy workplace, so creating a positive employer brand is paramount.
Employer Branding is Internal and External
A well-designed careers website with compelling copy and testimonial videos will have a limited benefit if the actual employee experience does not match up. Candidates get impressions from the way recruiters, hiring manager and other interviewers behave. Companies ranked on national and local Top Places to Work lists get free publicity and validation for external messaging and are less likely to have trouble attracting candidates. Internal branding efforts have a strong influence on external perception, and should be leveraged accordingly
Employer Brand and Company Brand Are Different
The way a company treats current and potential employees and talks about itself as a workplace is not going to be the same as the way it communicates its product and service offerings to potential customers. The goals are different. The employer brand should be articulated in a way that is consistent with employees’ actual experience. If employee research such as focus groups and surveys indicates that the experience is less than positive, then a positive brand can be developed and infused into the organization. The time and effort it takes to articulate a strong employer brand and maintain its consistency through both practice and communication will be well worth it.
Employer Brand Extends To Social and Mobile
A candidate-friendly mobile experience and an active social media presence contribute to a positive employer brand. Time spent with digital media has increased substantially over the past few years, and it’s only going to increase. A more interesting job posting, or an employer website that successfully loads on a smartphone, are expected. The constant trigger events offered in the social media stream give employers the opportunity to improve brand awareness through engagement.
Branding is Everywhere
Employer branding made its way to the mainstream about the same time as personal branding, with the 1998 release of the book “Brand You” by Tom Peters. Employer access to social media streams means that individuals need to pay more attention to the personal brand. A search on Amazon.com for “personal branding” delivers more than twice as many results as “employer branding.” Branding is now part of the culture, and an organization that expects candidates to clearly articulate who they are and what they are about should be able to do the same.
In this series we’ll move from general trends to specific case studies and tactics to help you create and maintain a strong employer brand in 2015. Stay tuned.