Inside Looking Out: A Perspective on Employer Branding
Is your company a great place to work? Do outstanding candidates flood your inbox, or do you have to exert extreme effort to find exactly the right people? Employer branding may provide the solution you need to attract and retain the best talent.
In the worlds of marketing – and recruitment – this discipline is relatively new. But it is not a here today, gone tomorrow trend. It shows every sign of enduring as experts debate whether the function belongs to marketing, HR, or the executive suite, and leading corporations create positions for employer brand managers.
As the leader of a business now involved in this line of client work, but with a history steeped in building corporate and product brands, I applaud the endeavor to apply branding strategies to the realm of the workplace. Yet I have a glimmer of concern about the approach to some campaigns.
One aspect that raises my eyebrows is a tendency to focus on “who we want to be” versus “who we are.” Successful brands are authentic. They reflect the true nature of a product, company, or workplace. Many businesses want to be just like Google or Facebook to attract a generation of millennials whose career goal is to work at such a place. The problem is that most of us can’t replicate that dynamic.
A company needs to be true to its character and the intrinsic value employees will find in working there. False proclamations about “who” a company is will soon lead to workforce dissatisfaction – a costly consequence. According to Gallup, “an unengaged employee costs $3,400 for every $10,000 in salary.” With “false advertising” you risk finding your workers trolling LinkedIn during their lunch hour to connect with a business better aligned with their needs. These sites, by the way, are the best way to reach your targets. According to the 2014 Employer Branding Global Trends Study Report, 76% of companies communicate their employer brand through social media.
Another issue I have is related to research – an essential component of building a brand. Research uncovers the truth and the opportunity to create distinction rooted in authenticity. Employees crave authenticity, meaning, and purpose in their workplace. Some businesses may be inclined to skip the research step because of the time and expense involved. Others may think it’s unnecessary because they feel they already know what it’s like to work there – after all, they also are employees. The process of an outside party interviewing workers – and potential candidates – reveals information to which a company may be blind. It also provides rich detail to help inform a strategy based on facts, rather than hunches.
One final observation is that, sometimes, employer brands seem to be created in isolation. As if the people who work there are somehow independent of the products or services a company sells. This creates a dissonance that won’t serve the business well in the long run.
The best employer branding strategies build a bridge between the workforce, the brand(s) a company takes to market and the culture of the organization. I’d like to think that’s the sweet spot where my firm operates. For our own company, we know it’s working. Brand Fever was recently named one of the top 10 places to work in Atlanta. I love it when the work we do for others is reflected in our own experience.