If your Human Resources department is struggling with the dual challenges of retaining employees and facing hiring freezes in 2023, may we suggest you look inward to stand out. As Kendra Lively, Senior Vice President of Creative here at Phase 3 said recently, "In the age of the "great resignation," holding on to top talent is more important than ever. Brands must stand out in what they offer their employees."
In other words, a successful brand speaks to both external and internal audiences. The "employer" brand comes from a company's purpose or the "why" of its existence. This purpose should inspire current employees, so they do not want to work elsewhere. As Kendra mentioned, companies experiencing the effects of the recent recession should examine their employer brand and course-correct if needed. By doing so, they will save essential people and budget resources at a time when both are critical for business to thrive. Statistics show this to be true. A recent survey showed that employee turnover could decrease by 28% by investing in your employer brand.
Still not convinced? Read on to learn why employer branding is critical to the human resource function and some ideas to consider.
What exactly is employer branding?
Employer branding is the process of bringing brand identity, values, culture, and vision to employees to help them understand the who and why behind the brand's purpose.
Brand identity is the sum of your brand's message and design. It's how you communicate your product or service, the design of your logo, what your website and marketing look like, and, most importantly, what people think and feel when interacting with your company. These interactions can be as a customer, prospect, vendor, community member, employee, leader, board member, or stakeholder Essentially, your brand identity is the personality and reputation of your organization.
Brand values are actionable standards that form every facet of your business. They are at the very center of your brand and are there to define your identity and provide a compass for employees' actions and behavior.
Brand vision refers to the future of the organization. The vision reflects and supports the overall strategy the company would like to take to thrive in the future. Employees who understand a company's vision know how their work affects company goals.
Your organization's culture reflects your internal brand. When your brand is clearly defined, employees understand and live out your company's values and mission daily, both at work and away. As a result, your employees feel a shared purpose and are more invested in the company’s success.
Employer brand-building should work with external brand-building strategies to create a positive reputation for your company.
A strong employer brand creates a beneficial cycle. When you hire employees who connect to your brand, and those employees communicate that shared purpose to your customers and their friends and family, your external brand perception is strengthened and will attract even better employees. This cycle becomes even stronger when your employees build their lives and careers within your company. That is the best evidence of a strong brand.
Why is employer branding so important to the HR function?
When done right, employer branding will help employees make a powerful emotional connection about why your company exists. To quote Simon Sinek, “People don't buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it." This extends to employees as well as customers.
Without that insight, employees could unconsciously undermine or confuse your brand's value to leads, customers, or the community. Most likely, this is because they simply don't understand how to represent your brand's benefits and values. In the worst-case scenario, an unengaged employee can do quite a lot of reputational and transactional damage to your brand. This can be especially harmful in challenging times when layoffs and hiring freezes are already threatening to damage brand reputations.
Amanda O'Brien, our Senior Vice President of Strategy, said this about the benefits of an employer brand in HR, "During the best of times, employees want to know that their values align with your brand. They want to be a part of a well-articulated mission and story. Without these things, they'll be less engaged, less productive, and ultimately, they're going to leave (and perhaps leave a disgruntled review on Glassdoor or Indeed).”
When your employer brand is strong, your employees become your brand ambassadors, which translates to the outside world, also bolstering the brand. But for employees to represent your brand, they need to know (in their bones) what the brand stands for. Amanda continues, "When your employees face the uncertainty of economic downturns, a strong internal brand can keep them engaged and feeling secure in their position and in the future of the company."
How should HR departments use employer branding in 2023?
Just as a marketing team would use elements of your brand identity in advertising or on your website, the HR team should use elements of the brand in recruitment posts or ads, performance recognition programs, and employee engagement programs. Your employer brand should be firmly rooted in your culture. How are you communicating that? How are your employees showing they embrace the brand? How are you recognizing and rewarding that behavior?
Immersing your brand in your culture includes not only showing it in HR processes and policies but also in the day-to-day operations, like in team meetings, physical spaces like offices and common areas, company documents and forms, and internal communication tools.
The companies that echo culture best use all available employee touchpoints to demonstrate brand authentically and openly. Every experience reflects a deep understanding of the culture and empowers employees to engage. The most impactful way to accomplish this is through storytelling because every employee has a story to tell. Which ones will inspire and motivate other employees to live into the brand?
Phase 3 recently helped a facilities maintenance company elevate some less visible employees by highlighting their stories in an employer brand marketing campaign. The campaign's goal was to show employees how every role impacts the company's success. They are part of the value the brand delivers to customers. These stories inspired and motivated employees to see their value to the organization, which can be even more rewarding than a paycheck.
This initiative allowed HR to communicate the brand's purpose through the lens of individual employees. Our collaboration led to a comprehensive employer brand that gives employees an authentic purpose and will create a lasting impact. We told the employees' stories in videos, posters, an email campaign, and a manifesto brochure. As a result, over 130,000 employees were reading, sharing, and living one single, meaningful mission.
A brand is more than a logo or a tagline. It is your reputation. It is how a person feels when they hear your company name or show up for work on Monday morning. Your employees should champion your brand, whether at work or out in the world. That feeling of employee purpose should start at the hiring stage and continue throughout the employment cycle. Each employee should feel that your brand is a positive and authentic part of their life. Make sure your employer brand provides your employees with the tools to be your best brand ambassadors throughout their employee journey.