Employee needs are driving employer brand

Posted in Engagement on 3 August 2018 By Darryl Mead, Head of Employee Communications and Engagement

We live in a brand-led and knowledge-based economy. And although the ‘War for Talent’ phrase was coined by McKinsey & Co back in 1997, attracting and retaining talent is a top priority for most companies more than 20 years on. 

So what does this mean for companies? Simply, they must work harder to differentiate themselves. Employer branding is about standing out and being relevant.

The next 5-10 years will see a seismic shift in how people work and their attitudes towards work as Gen Y and Z penetrate the working population. CultureAmp’s recent research1 showed older workers are more likely to look for work where they can have a positive impact, and regardless of age, workers want a job where they can develop personally and have confidence in leadership and the people they work with.

The needs of employees are driving companies to developing a clear promise to employees and a unique employer brand.  As work changes dramatically for all generations, all aspects of managing talent - from attracting to recruiting and retaining people, has become about a relationship with a employer brand.

To attract the best talent, businesses need to switch to building a relationship with potential employees - and the ‘candidate experience’ should start well before application. This matches a step-change in research by employees, who now carefully analyse potential workplaces to understand their vision, purpose, values and culture to find out what it feels like to work there.

Just as we review and give feedback directly to brands via Twitter and Yelp, the workplace, its leaders and culture are now part of the “Trip Advisor mindset” via Glassdoor, Indeed, or the graduate and apprentice employer ranking system, TheJobCrowd. Employees want to see how a company rates before considering joining.

Increasingly, they are also looking for brands to demonstrate their impact on society and communities. Edelman’s Trust Barometer reports that people’s trust in business, government, NGOs and media is faltering, so employees are looking to employers as places to trust with their careers, personal development and wellbeing.

HR to think like a marketer  

HR teams are now responsible for driving business performance through people, so employer brand is ultimately about delivering sustainable business growth. The evidence to invest is there. Talent processes can boost employee performance by 22%, employee retention by 24%, revenue growth by 7%, and profit growth by 9% 2.

So, it’s time HR adopts consumer-brand thinking and incorporates marketing skills to define the target audience, find out where the candidates are, who they are, and what they want.

The real challenge is to truly understand your people, and segment them by their needs, wishes and desires - as marketers do with customers using data and analytics. It’s no longer enough to group employees by demographics, structure or locations. And that also means considering and connecting with freelance, contract, gig and alumni employees - they are brand advocates too. Many smart organisations are now mapping and delivering a branded employee experience by partnering with HR, Marketing, Internal Comms and IT teams.

Where to start?

Creating an employer brand starts with defining the Employer Value Proposition (EVP). This should be based on real insights to shape the story and drive reputation. EVP is what companies promise to employees — and keeping this promise builds trust.

  • To start, companies should take time to gain a thorough understanding of existing and potential employees and work with them to identify what makes the company unique as an employer.  What do they value? What helps them thrive? What are the behaviours that create the culture your company might need? It’s your culture that will ultimately define your employer brand.
  • Remember to involve recruitment partners. They sell a company and brand - plus they help shape opinions of candidates, so they need to know who you are, what you stand for and where you are going.
  • Using those insights, summarise into three of four core attributes, or pillars, that define the EVP. These should describe what you give, what you expect and reasons to believe it’s true.
  • Then, develop a creative idea and expression of your EVP - this becomes your employer brand.

Using the EVP

  • Define your target potential recruits for strategic or hard to fill roles. Develop a plan to engage existing employees - to build brand advocates and help them share the story.
  • Activate the EVP across the employee lifecycle with compelling content and messaging targeted at the right audience.
  • Put your careers site at the heart - and use SEO and social media to drive talent to your site. Get your marketing team, or a specialist on board. 
  • And finally, measure your programme, through quality of hires, retention, engagement and cost savings. Consider external measures such as brand awareness, social media activity, or net promoter score.

What does the future hold?

The connection between consumer brand and employer brand will strengthen over the coming years. However, a few factors impact this path to success.

The rise in automation will likely impact employer brand, jobs and the workplace although it seems employees aren’t quite ready for the changes just yet, as 47% of European employees think that automation will have no effect on their job.3 Automation will simplify and standardise elements of the experience, reducing administration and changing processes. Chatbots are already providing quick, efficient responses and core information. AI and VR will likely become important ways to experience an organisation’s culture, workplace and people.

Technology won’t change everything - core competencies such as critical thinking, problem-solving, the need for leadership skills, and intuitive behaviours are not going to be replaced any time soon.

Data-driven analytics and digital, cognitive tools are being used to better source and assess candidates. This provides more insight into employees, candidates and hiring managers. This may mean using that data to refresh the EVP and employer brand campaigns as the business learns more, evolves and grows.

Technology won’t change everything - core competencies such as critical thinking, problem-solving, the need for leadership skills, and intuitive behaviours are not going to be replaced any time soon.

Diversity is already impacting brands. Gender Pay gap reporting is driving new attraction strategies and creating conversations about all aspects of diversity in the workplace. As a consequence, values and behaviours remain front and centre as a way to build a stronger culture. Bersin’s report found that nine out of 10 high performing talent acquisition functions use workplace values as a basis for hiring.4

Employer brand is a brilliant opportunity to think like a marketer and target your audience with relevant, meaningful content and an offer that’s unique and compelling. Candidates look from the outside into organisations and seek development, belonging and trust. Create an experience that people love and everyone talks about. That’s the best employer brand you can have.

1 Culture Amp
2 Korn Ferry Institute
3 Randstad Employer Brand Research 2017
Bersin.com Talent Acquisition Practices That Contribute to Organizations’ High Performance

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