How to create a brilliant employer brand
Companies need to compete in the recruitment market just as brands need to compete in the supermarket. Attracting candidates, like attracting customers, is a marketing discipline – requiring brand-building, experience planning and high quality execution. As HR teams have recognised this, they have developed employer brands. Some are more successful than others. What do successful ones do? And what should you avoid? Here are some recommendations from recent client experience.
Examples of success: GE and J&J topped the WilsonHCG Top 100 employment brands list 2017.
If you're looking at how to position your company as an employer, here are 6 steps that can help:
- Create an inspiring brief
- Segment and generate insight
- Develop brand positionings
- Test concepts
- Tailor EVPs for different audiences
- Bring to life across the candidate and employee experience
1. Create an inspiring brief
Explore the business context: purpose, strategy and future direction to identify what your recruitment needs will be going forward. Use internal research (quantitative assessment of recruitment funnel and qualitative feedback from recruiters, candidates, successful and unsuccessful recruits) to assess your current strengths and issues. Align stakeholders around the job to be done and critically, their appetite for change in what they ‘say’ externally, and what they ‘do’ internally to deliver the desired employee experience. Write an inspiring brief that focuses the team on both the strategic and practical needs.
2. Segment and generate insight
Create a segmentation to identify talent profiles and therefore priority audiences. Then conduct research to find data on perceptions of your brand vs. other employers and how is this changing over time, what candidates are looking for and how is this changing, and competitors.
3. Develop brand positionings
Review the research and generate insights in a cross-functional team including recruiters, managers, marketing leaders and recent hires. Create draft employer brand positionings by answering: what’s our brand purpose and idea, what’s our employee insight and the most compelling message that follows from this, what are the emotional and functional benefits of working with us, what are the best facts and stories that provide reasons to believe we can deliver these benefits, and what are the principles behind the employee experience we want to create? Draw on the company purpose and the equities for its brands to help you.
4. Test concepts
Select up to 3 options and test them internally and externally, looking for feedback on how motivating, credible, and distinctive they are. Identify particular words or reasons to believe that strike a chord.
5. Tailor EVPs for different audiences
Most businesses then create tailored EVPs for different audiences, fixing core elements that will be true across all segments, but flexing others for segment-specific insights. For example there may be specific benefits or reasons to believe in the Far East that vary from North America, graduates may need a tailored message versus senior hires, engineers may need a different message from sales representatives.
6. Bring the brand to life across the candidate and employee experience
When you develop activities and materials that communicate your employer brand create a coherent set of communications, experiences and guidance across the candidate journey. Everything from the job post on LinkedIn, to the website, to the interaction over booking interview dates, to how recruiters behave, to how the offer letter is sent and onboarding begun is an opportunity to express your employer brand, and the best companies view them as a coherent experience. Take it beyond the candidate to the employee experience so that what you are promising new recruits matches the experience delivered.
Pitfalls to avoid
- Internal blinkers: assuming what attracted you and your colleagues will be true of future recruits, focusing on what the company offers rather than focusing on what candidates want.
- Lack of future focus: don’t just capture what you offer today, your timeframe should be the next 3-5 years.
- Lack of credibility/authenticity: make sure you can deliver what you promise and avoid the “new customers only” trap. Existing employees are the most influential source of new recruits and they need to testify to what your company offers.
- Lack of distinctiveness: “We stand for trust, advancement, empowerment and diversity.” And so says everyone. There are points of parity such as these that you need to deliver, but don’t forget to hero what you can offer that competitors cannot.
- Functional not emotional: People don’t just join a company because it offers a higher salary or a better car allowance. They need to see themselves working with you, happily. And, as with all brand development, that requires emotional connection too.
- Skip straight to communications: Too many companies skip the strategic articulation of the employer brand, briefing agencies to develop a recruitment ad without clarity of message or context. Then they don’t carry through the brand in all the interactions across the candidate journey, resulting in candidates who are unclear about what you stand for.
Employers are finding it difficult to recruit the people they need to grow their business. The US has 5.9 million unfilled jobs while the EU job vacancy rate is 1.9% and Singapore is tracking at 2.5%. 
It may be time for you to look at your employer brand. And of course, if you want some help along the way, do get in touch.