6 keys to developing a great employer brand

An employer brand belongs to employees, which can make it difficult for organisations to control. A strong EVP is critical for attracting the right talent.

In building an employer brand with a view to attracting the right talent, embedding the brand message into employees is key to driving any brand’s success and attracting the right candidates, according to a Sydney-based branding agency.

“Your brand is not what you say it is, rather it’s what people think of you,” said Dan Ratner, CEO of uberbrand, which specialises in brand strategy, communication and design.

“To live the brand means having your people share an understanding of who you are, where you are going and why. Ultimately, your team must reflect your brand’s values, which will translate into better service and value for your customers.”

Ratner said the race for talent is not slowing down, and companies must make sure they are portraying a positive workplace for future employees.

“Businesses, particularly those that rely on specialised skill sets, need to stand out from the crowd in terms of offering a fulfilling and rewarding workplace,” he said.

“Financial rewards and other perks are not enough to keep employees interested and loyal,” said Ratner, who cited a recent Hudson Hiring Report which found that work-life balance was the number one priority for job-seekers, followed by salary and cultural fit.

“While organisations can include information about these things in job ads, potential candidates will look to the employer brand to gauge the truth of these statements,” he said.

“Your brand is not what you say it is, rather it’s what people think of you”

While it is easy for a company to say it offers a work-life balance, if it doesn’t deliver on that promise then he said the brand will take a hit.

“On the other hand, if employees at that company genuinely feel that they can achieve a work-life balance then the employer brand will reflect that, making it a more attractive option for job-seekers,” said Ratner.

An employer brand belongs to employees, according to Ratner, who said it is their collective perception of what it is like to work at a company and, in the age of social media, there are myriad opportunities for employees to share their experiences.

“This can make it difficult for organisations to control their employer brand,” he said.

HR shaping the EVP
Employee Value Propositions (EVP) set out the overarching rules of an employment transaction, and Ratner said that while developing an EVP is a strategic process, it needs to be implemented and managed throughout the employee cycle.

“A strong and well-defined EVP can help build and maintain the ideal workplace culture. A critical part of the delivery of the EVP is ensuring that both the organisation and the individual deliver on the inherent spirit of the proposition,” he said.

“This implies that HR executives need to consistently monitor, manage and review the effectiveness of the EVP both at the individual employee and macro levels.”

To do this, he said HR executives must consider how the brand values, emotional rewards and personality attributes inform at micro level:

  1. KPI’s within a job description.
  2. The hiring, on-boarding process
  3. Performance reviews and exit interviews

“At the macro level it means they need to work with senior management to ensure that the employee audience aligns to the strategic intent and brand strategy of the organisation,” said Ratner.

“To do this involves undertaking culture and workplace research to understand how the brand is tracking internally as well as communicating to this audience and taking action where required.”

Future EVP trends
A brand is a perception held in the mind, according to Ratner, who explained that perceptions are formed by all the individual impressions experienced by an individual.

“It makes a brand strategy the roadmap to move peoples’ perceptions from what they are today to what you want them to be in the future,” he said.

While the same philosophy applies for the internal audience, in some respects Ratner said it’s even more important, as employees should be the organisation’s greatest advocates.

“As the market for talent becomes more competitive, employers must therefore aspire for a positive, advocating and brand aligned workforce,” he said.

“To compete for talent within a more sophisticated market will require a more strategic HR approach. It’s less about workplace gimmicks (for example, lifestyle initiatives and giveaways); it becomes more about the organisations’ brand and aspiration and using that to attract the right employees.”

“A strong and well-defined EVP can help build and maintain the ideal workplace culture”

Ratner said this could mean that HR mangers become more like marketers, in thinking about an employee base as an audience to market to.

“What is the current employee profile, what is the desired profile, how will we reach them, what will we say and how will we retain them? Interestingly, this is the same approach marketers’ use,” he said.

6 steps to building and promoting an employer brand
1. Understand your audience. The employer brand will vary according to a variety of factors such as the organisation’s industry, operating procedures, types of skills needed, trends in the industry, competitor activity and much more.

Before trying to define how the brand translates for the employee, it is vital to understand what the ideal employee is likely to be looking for in a role. In some organisations global travel and state-of-the-art technology might be an important factor, while in others it might be a family-friendly environment and regular hours are key. A mismatched employer brand can lead to an organisation recruiting the wrong types of people.

2. Define your EVP. The EVP is a measure of what employees get out of working for an organisation. It explains what the organisation delivers to its employees and what it expects in return.

While it can include benefits such as ongoing training opportunities. It could also include cultural factors such as a thriving social life. Much like a business’s unique selling proposition (USP), the EVP must be unique, relevant and compelling in order to drive candidates’ interest in the company.

Setting the EVP includes articulating why employees benefit working at their. It should inform the unique policies, processes and programs that demonstrate the organisation’s commitment to certain values. And it should be lived every day by the employees so that it becomes an entrenched part of the employer brand.

3. Get leadership buy-in. Culture starts at the top so it’s essential that the company leaders fully support the employer brand. They must be willing to put policies in place for things like working from home, bring-your-own-device options, flexible hours, flexible teams, special projects, bonuses and any other aspects of the employer brand that are likely to appeal to key candidates.

4. Communicate the brand. Strong communication with existing employees is critical to living the employer brand. If employees are told explicitly what kind of workplace the business wants to offer, and this is backed up by actions, then the employee is more likely to agree with the company regarding the employer brand. They will reflect this in their own comments about their workplace, helping to cement the employer brand.

5. Pique their imagination. Companies that make it easy for candidates to imagine themselves working there have an advantage over their competitors. When candidates can get a taste of the company culture through blog posts, videos, photos and LinkedIn accounts of employees, it is then a very easy decision for them to sign a contract.

However, it is essential to project a realistic view of working at the organisation rather than an ideal view, since new hires that feel duped are likely to move on quickly, creating costly staff turnover.

6. Live up to expectations – become an employer of choice. Organisations that live up to their promises and deliver a consistent experience to employees will develop a strong employer brand versus businesses that fail to deliver according to expectations. Organisations with a strong employer brand will find it easier to both attract and retain top talent.