Do people want to work for your organisation? If so, why? Do job seekers view it favourably? What attracts them? Why do they apply? The answers to these questions are nothing less than critical to your future success: if you want to thrive as a business, you need the best people – and that’s where an employer brand comes in. We’re going to talk about how to define and build your employer branding and why it’s crucial to your bottom line. If you want potential candidates queuing round the block – and a healthy balance sheet – this is the place to start.
What is employer branding?
Simon Barrow describes employer branding as being about “bringing the best of brand management to the sprawling, litigious world of work.”
“The employer brand is how you pull these masses of things all together and create something in reputation terms based on the truth of how things actually are for you.”
Why should we listen to Simon? Because he’s the man that came up with the concept of employer branding over 25 years ago. In a seminal paper he co-authored in 1996, Simon sets out how branding techniques can be applied to employment – and his ideas have firmly taken root.
Today, an employer brand is defined as your organisation’s reputation as a place to work. It’s how your values and workplace are perceived by the wider world.
Employer branding is what you do to champion yourself as an employer among potential and current employees. And the stats prove that employer branding works…
A strong employer brand can provide your business with:
- A 28% reduction in staff turnover
- A 50 % reduction in cost-per-hire
- 50% more qualified candidates
- And will increase your hiring speed by 1-2 times (source)
These figures show that employer branding has an impact on a number of levels. And, if that wasn’t enough, organisations with a defined EVP (Employer Value Proposition) are reported to be 93% more likely to financially outperform industry peers. No wonder recruiters think employer branding is important. Some 80% say it has a significant impact on hiring.
Consumer vs employer brand. What’s the difference?
Before we go any further, let’s back up and answer a key question: how is an employer brand different from its consumer sibling?
Consumer branding is an age-old concept that’s integral to marketing (get The Maverick Group low-down here.) It’s a term that applies to the company’s reputation in general and differentiates it from the competition. Coca-Cola, Google, Amazon – thanks to their consumer branding, you know exactly who they are and what they stand for. Their employer brand is their reputation as an employer, which isn’t always the same.
- has a broad audience – everyone who considers buying your products
- is free to use pretty much any communication channels at its disposal
- involves a tangible product or service that can look, feel or taste a certain way
- often involves short-term, transactional engagement. A customer buys and may well move on
- is up against easily identifiable competition – other companies making the same product or providing the same service
- focuses on future and current employees – a much smaller audience
- is communicated primarily through a careers website, job ads and social media
- is based around the employee experience – how people feel about working for you
- must consider the long-term. Employees spend a significant amount of their time with you – months, years and sometimes decades
- must compete against broad competition for talent. Workers may consider not just other organisations in the same industry, but those in different markets. For example, a software developer could work for a bank, a government or a fashion brand
The two types of branding are closely related and have a definite impact on each other: a strong consumer brand can attract people to work for you, but a negative employer brand can put potential customers off.
Why invest in employer branding?
Over the last 20 years, the benefits of employer branding have become plain. Today, it’s a must-have – and there’s a clear business case.
1. Lower cost per hire
A positive employer brand translates into a whopping 50% decrease in cost per hire. When your organisation has a good reputation, you don’t have to spend big on recruiting or raising its profile. Attracting great people is easier (and cheaper) if they’re aware of your company and well-disposed towards it. In a large corporation, lower cost per hire can save millions of pounds.
2. Lower salary expectations
People are prepared to put up with lower salaries to work for brands they like. In fact, 67% of jobseekers say they would accept a lower salary if a company has positive reviews online. In short, reputation carries weight – and money isn’t everything. Get your employer brand looking good if you want to reduce payroll costs.
3. Attract top talent
Organisations with a strong employer brand attract applicants who are 50% more qualified, according to LinkedIn. When it comes to talent acquisition, your employer brand is a hugely valuable asset.
4. Better talent retention
A strong employer brand not only attracts more qualified people, it also helps you keep them. A good brand reflects a good culture, where people are happy in their workplace. When employees stay in their roles, it can reduce turnover costs by 28%. High turnover can be problematic, expensive and demoralising for a workforce.
5. Higher revenue
Did you know that 10% of an organisation’s productivity comes from its top 1% of employees? Or that 26% of its output can be credited to the top 5% of its workforce? In other words, the best people produce four times as much as the average employee. An employer brand helps you attract the talent that will help you achieve future success. Can you afford to miss out?
How to build an employer brand
It’s no good creating the employer brand that you want – your brand must reflect who you really are. If there’s mismatch between brand and reality, you will quickly get found out.
The first step is discovery – you need to get to know your organisation. What makes it tick? What are its values? What are its broader mission and vision? Your brand will be where the overlap lies between what the company wants and what the employees want.
You also need to consider company culture. What do people really think about working there? Internal and external brand audits are also useful for the discovery phase. Consider focus groups; employee surveys; workshops with senior management; and candidate journey audits.
Once you’ve gathered your data, it’s time to get crunching and turn it into an Employee Value Proposition (EVP). This is a statement that defines and articulates the benefits of working at your organisation. Your EVP needs to be compelling, realistic and easy to understand. It’s not a tract or a treatise – it’s a short, concise declaration of what you’re all about.
Although the EVP can set out tangible benefits such as compensation, it shouldn’t focus on these. The aim is to capture people’s imagination: culture, wellbeing, prospects and purpose are all powerful motivations to join and stay with a company.
Finally, you need to communicate your brand. This can mean launching it internally, applying it to your careers site, job ads and employment comms, and to the recruitment and selection process. Remember to evaluate to see how well the brand is received and whether it’s improving HR metrics. Measure and optimise so your brand is at its most effective.
Getting it right
When employer brands succeed, it’s a win-win: happy employees and an organisation with a productive, thriving culture. Over the last 20 years, The Maverick Group has helped DHL develop an outstanding employer brand that focuses on staff development and engagement. In 2021 this hard work paid off: DHL was named the number one place to work by Great Place to Work™ and Fortune Magazine. Before that, DHL had risen from eighth place in 2017 to second in 2020, leading to the best financial performance in DHL’s 50-year history.
The thing with employer brands is that everyone is unique. One size most definitely doesn’t fit all, which is why it can pay to consult an expert. If you’d like to talk to the pros who’ve helped DHL and many other clients define and build their employer brands, give us a shout. A bit of advice? A full-blown branding? We’re always happy to help.