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Brand Management

Employer Brand Strategy And Talent

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Employer Brand Strategy And Talent

A 2012 LinkedIn White Paper, ‘Why Your Employer Brand Matters’, found that a strong employer brand (as indicated by an individual having a positive impression of a company) is twice as likely to be linked to job consideration as a strong overall brand.

When a person considers working for your organization, this matters. It’s an important component of your brand overall, and it comes to the fore when it’s being viewed in the context of the job seeker – and both existing and past employees, who have significant influence on it.

Like your overall brand, your reputation as an employer isn’t fully within your control. The best you can do is influence it positively through clarity, consistency, coherence and – yet again – delivering on what you say. What you say, how you say it and where you say it – and what you do, how you do it, when and where you do it – have significant influence. Whether it’s online, in your retail environment, in your offices and workspaces, your advertising, articles in the press, investor relations, word of mouth, social media, internal communications, employee engagement, HR policies and practices, change management – all of these things combine to create a perception of what your organization is like as a place to work.

It’s also important to be clear on terminology – there are many confusing variations on this theme. The way I recommend talking about it, if you need to rely on specialist terms, is as follows. Your ‘employer brand’ or ‘talent brand’ is your reputation in the talent market that you seek to influence. It exists in the minds of your audience. You don’t craft an ‘employer brand’ as a project – it is the outcome of a variety of activities.

On the other hand, you do craft how you want to be perceived – your ‘employment value proposition’ or ‘EVP’. Some call it an employer value proposition (too focused on the organization’s perspective) and some call it an employee value proposition (too focused on the individual employee). So for that reason I recommend keeping it balanced since it is a reciprocal arrangement shared by the two parties. It’s the promise of the experience you will share as employer and employee.

There are many providers of so-called ‘employer branding’ services who seek to help refine and express an organization’s EVP in an effort to influence their talent brand. Often these are commissioned by HR departments – ideally with some coordination and collaboration with marketing and brand management. The ultimate aim is to express what the employment experience is within the context of the overall brand, and to do so in a manner that is authentic to your organization; relevant to your audience; and differentiating from your competitors for talent:

  •  Authentic. It has to be true to the reality of the organization and its culture. As with your brand and reputation management efforts, saying one thing but doing another is the quickest way to destroy brand value. It doesn’t matter if you come up with something relevant and differentiating if it simply isn’t reflective of reality.
  •  Relevant. It has to be interesting and compelling to your audience. There is always something interesting about an organization and its culture, regardless of its size, sector and location. It’s no good having something true and distinctive if it is just not appealing to your desired talent.
  •  Differentiating. It has to be clearly distinctive from alternatives.
It shouldn’t be different for the sake of it – the difference has to be meaningful. And it’s no good having something that is authentic and relevant if all of your competitors for talent say the same thing. 
One of the risks of ‘employer branding’ efforts is that they are, in reality, either over-exaggerated recruitment marketing campaigns with a 2–3-year shelf life, or, alternatively, they try to create a ‘sub brand’ or vanity brand for 
HR that actually can conflict with, and cause confusion with, your overall reputation management efforts. Once again, it’s critical to engage with the widest possible range of stakeholders when developing your employment value proposition.

The other risk is looking at the employment value proposition as applying to the external audience only. It should instead cover the entire employee experience. Since your organization is not only promising an experience externally to the talent marketplace, it has to be delivering on that promise in everything it says and does internally and with alumni. It is part and parcel of managing and engaging the talent an organization already has – and seeks to develop and retain.

Recruitment Experience

How you attract and assess potential talent is a critical part of delivering on your EVP and positively influencing your talent brand. With talent shortages proving to be a persistent challenge and barrier to growth even in times of economic uncertainty the world over, getting this right is no longer a back-office function. It is a critical driver of performance and growth.

What is critical to understand is that your talent acquisition strategy should not only be about finding candidates – it needs to be about finding the right candidates. If you get your EVP right, a big part of its role is actually to deflect interest from candidates who are not right for your organization, and who by entering your talent acquisition process will consume your time and resources. The ultimate goal is fewer applications of higher quality.

Companies with a weaker employer brand report a cost per hire that is almost double that of companies with a strong employer brand.

The talent marketplace is an increasingly complex ecosystem. The traditional economic assumption that talent markets are local is being turned on its head. It’s essential, therefore, that your recruitment experience is completely integrated and that you are managing it across as many relevant and effective touch points as possible. This includes:

  •  your website (not just your careers site);
  •  your careers site (not just your website);
  •  social media presence;
  •  recruitment advertising on and offline;
  •  job boards;
  •  PR and media relations;
  •  employee referral;
  •  recruitment agency management;
  •  university relations;
  • … and more.

Every communication relating to talent (and potentially relating to talent) needs to be aligned to your brand and your EVP – so that, wherever you are interacting with a stakeholder who has the potential to influence your reputation as an employer, you are forming a coherent, credible, clear picture. If you are telling different stories to different stakeholders in different times and places, it will be apparent to the talent market – and will reduce your effectiveness in attracting the best. How you go to the market for talent speaks volumes to who you are as an organization and how you manage your business.

Also be very aware of the people you do not offer employment to. They too have an influence on your reputation. Think of every applicant as a potential brand advocate – even those you say ‘no’ to should have a positive experience and, while they might not become a net promoter, you can at least prevent them from being a detractor. Keep a close eye on your recruitment agencies when it comes to this – they can often cause significant damage without your even knowing about it.

Excerpted from: Brand and Talent by Kevin Keohane, in partnership with Kogan Page publishing.

The Blake Project Can Help: Please email us for more about our purpose, mission, vision and values and brand culture workshops.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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