3 ways HR can build a top employer brand

Top employer brands dedicate an average budget of 70 percent more on supporting employer brand initiatives compared to other brands, while twice as many top brands have a defined and documented strategy as compared to other brands, according to recent research.

It found that companies need to differentiate between their consumer and employer brands and implement an effective employer brand strategy if they want to attract the right candidates and engage existing employees.

Leading organisations devote significant resources to building an employer brand, with a strong focus on creating an employer brand strategy and a defined employee value proposition (EVP).

To support this, buy-in from senior company executives, multi-channel communication of a brand and internal promotion are all important components of building a successful employer brand, according to the report, carried out by Hudson RPO in conjunction with HRO Today.

The report, How to Launch a Successful Employer Brand: Building on the Practices of Top Employer Brands, found that 45 per cent of top employer brands indicated that they have defined organisational responsibilities for their brands, versus only 18 per cent of other brands.

Top employer brands also focus more on value to current employees: 49 per cent have a documented up-to-date employee value proposition versus 20 per cent of other brands.

The employer brand-talent link
“While a strong consumer brand can help companies attract top talent to their organisation, a clearly defined employer brand will help ensure that those they hire will not only have the right skills, but also be a solid fit with the company’s culture and work environment – resulting in greater employee productivity, increased levels of engagement and higher rates of retention,” said Suzanne Chadwick, head of employer branding, digital & sourcing innovation for Hudson RPO.

When it comes to building a successful employer brand, the report noted that certain building blocks are foundational to success, including authenticity, consistency with company practices and consistency with the consumer brand. The report also recommends developing a brand that is clear, believable, compelling and relevant.

According to Chadwick, it is often unclear as to who ultimately owns an employer brand strategy in many companies.

“Is it HR? Is it marketing? Unclear ownership of an employer brand results in ineffective collaboration and can even cause branding to become a ‘political’ issue. Clear ownership of an employer brand and collaboration from all corners of a business is essential.”

Common employer brand challenges
There are a number of common pitfalls for HR leaders and their teams when it comes to developing an employer brand, Chadwick said.

The first one is not engaging the right people from the start, while leaving marketing and brand out of the conversation can be another issue.

“While potential employees are one of an organisations main target audiences, it’s important that the employer brand works in harmony with the consumer and corporate brand,” she said.

Another common challenge is underestimating the size and commitment required to meet the task.

“Updating content and images on their career site or updating an employee value proposition does not make for a successful employer brand,” said Chadwick.

Having vague messaging or messaging that does not align to experience is another pitfall.

“Having a clear understanding of what messages resonate with both internal and external audiences,” she said.

“Portraying a brand externally as dynamic and creative externally yet current employees disagree and feel the statement is untrue or inaccurate, that can potentially be damaging.”

A final and common challenge for HR leaders and employer branding is securing executive buy-in.

“Getting the CEO to be a key supporter along with the leadership team is essential,” said Chadwick.

“Explaining the benefits of a strong employer brand at the beginning of the process increases the likelihood that they will champion the cause with a clear vision of what needs to be undertaken and will provide the necessary resource and financial investment to do a great job.”

3 key steps for HR
There are a number of key steps HR leaders can take to work with the business to develop and deliver an aligned employer brand with clear outcomes, according to Chadwick:

1. Education. “Based on many conversations I’ve had with senior marketing and brand managers, many haven’t had extensive experience with employer brands,” said Chadwick.

“Therefore the first step is often an educational piece around what the purpose of an employer brand is and what benefits it can bring to an organisation.”

Once marketing, brand and communications teams understand those objectives and benefits, she said it’s easier for HR and marketing teams to work together to identify what is already happening in the organisation and what else needs to be done.

“Remember: two heads are better than one and tapping a marketing team’s expertise and experience is often a great way to start,” said Chadwick.

2. Align goals and assign accountability. Having clear employer brand goals is going to help with assignment of tasks, and Chadwick said there may be internal communications that will need to go out, plus focus groups, external message testing and online metrics around attraction and engagement.

“As HR teams are the experts when it comes to employees, then ensuring that the HR strategy and employer brand strategy are aligned will help when it comes to any EVP surveys, focus groups and overall attraction goals and objectives,” she said.

“Also, the look and feel of online and offline will need to be in partnership with the brand and marketing so that they complement the corporate and consumer brand.”

Internal communication can assist with an employer brand launch and message dissemination across the business, how best to handle that and what’s worked well before when it comes to informing or engaging employees, she said.

3. Regular meetings. Regular meetings are invaluable for tracking where a project is at, what is coming up and who is responsible for which elements, Chadwick said.

“Having just an initial meeting and then touching base at the project end means you risk the project going awry,” she said.

“Thrash ideas out at the start, so everyone is on the same page, and then keep up regular meetings as the project progresses.