Lately, the term ‘employer branding’ has flooded corporate vernacular. Every respectable company seems to be incorporating an employer branding strategy. Leaders are figuring out ways to push it up on their priority list. The race to be ‘the best place to work’ is getting crowded each day.

But, are organizations adopting employer branding initiatives as quickly as they’re needed? Are they identifying future trends and key areas to work on?

Today’s global environment has not only disrupted old ways of doing business but also changed how resources are managed, including human capital. In a time when innovations are transcending every industry, HR industry is still playing keep-up, especially when it comes to employer branding.

With organizations recognizing the need to develop culture, nurture leaders through echelons and improve employee engagement, branding your employer prospects has become crucial to meet complex talent and business needs. And it’s not just about the future talent but retaining the existing one to help cut down attrition and employee turnover.

The truth

Millennials have eclipsed all other generations to constitute the largest share of the workforce. Their aspirations and goals differ from other generations. They need a stimulating environment, exciting career opportunities, and better work life balance – challenges drive them, not security or money. Thus, HR management needs to constantly reinvent itself to harness the power of millennials. But is it evolving fast enough to keep pace?

A Deloitte study measuring the importance of talent challenges against HR’s readiness to solve them provides some serious caution. Among other areas, biggest gaps were seen in

  • culture and engagement, with a negative gap of 31
  • leadership (negative gap of 36),
  • reinventing HR (negative gap of 30)
  • HR and analytics (negative gap of 31)
    (gaps measured on a 0-100 scale)

The implications of these findings reiterate the fact that HR is lagging way behind on taking steps to retain and attract good talent.

Consequently, some reflections of this gap are glaring at organizations in the form of increasing attrition and high churn rate. This, in turn, is leading to panic among companies who are resorting to some innovative measures (after all, desperation breeds innovation). For instance, Infosys is already using predictive algorithms to check attrition, IBM is investing heavily on analytical tools, and TCS increased notice period to three months to deal with attrition.

In contrast, organizations that encourage and foster employer branding enjoy 10% lower payroll cost and 28% lower staff turnover.

As eager as organizations are to minimize the outflow of employees, perhaps not enough of them are yet readily investing their energy and resources in a long-term solution – employer branding. A research by Employer Brand International found that only 17 % of companies have a clearly defined strategy in place despite 87% acknowledging its importance in attaining employer branding objectives .

So, what’s causing such disparity when the knowledge is already out in the open? Some reasons areinsufficient funds (70%), not enough internal support (only 40%), and lack of necessary tools (49% of employers lack it).

However, it’s still not too late. There are myriad of policies which organizations can employ to improve their employer brand visibility. Just a word of caution here, do not focus your employer brand solely on acquiring talent. It helps only the recruitment process while neglecting advancement of company performance and culture. To provide holistic benefits to the organization, a 360-degree approach is required.

The way forward

A Randstad study observes, “More than half of job seekers rank employer brand as “the deciding factor when choosing an employer.”

This speaks volumes about the sentiment among job seekers, especially in today’s candidate-driven market. These candidates are well versed with corporate nuances that come with recruitment. They can’t be fooled by a faux image a company might project. Therefore, the only way to make your organization a place which itself attracts talent is to identify and build on key areas of understanding.

Honesty

“Honesty is the first chapter of the book wisdom.”

Thomas Jefferson

Employer Branding 2By virtue of being social creatures, we naturally value things like honesty, security, connection, reliability and such, more than other “material” traits. We expect them from other people and from ourselves. So it is totally understandable when job seekers extend the same expectations to corporations. They like an organization that displays a personality. It gives them a feeling of personal connection with the company. After all, an organization is not just cables, concrete and computers. It’s also the embodiment of dreams, culture, and ethos of people working there.

Holding that thought true, a Randstad survey revealed that honest organizations are indeed rewarded when it comes to recruitment.

“This is the first time the Randstad Employer Branding Study has measured personality traits important to prospective employees, and it’s extremely valuable for employers to know honesty holds such high importance,” said Jim Link, Chief HR Officer, Randstad North America.

employer branding 1For a bulk of employees, favorable key personality traits in an organization where they wanted to work are shown in the following infographic.

The same study also identified causes that disrupt work/life balance of employees.Clearly, such figures demand a long overdue shift in employers’ approach to providing their workers with a healthy work environment and at the same time contemplate on ways to improve their quality of life. For that reason, organizations need to be clear and transparent on work policies and culture right from the onboarding of employees.

Before parading off to market their firm as the best place to work, employers must create a healthy, progressive environment so it is exactly the same inside as it looks from the outside.

Shared Responsibility

employer branding 5Which department handles your employer branding activities presently? Is it your HR or PR? Or is it your CEO?

Many contemporary startups and corporations alike are struggling to allocate responsibility for employer branding. At a cursory glance, it looks like a job cut out for HR but a peek inside reveals more complex components that demand cross-functional inputs.

According to Universum global, 60% of CEOs feel it’s their job to promote employer brand, which is not bad as it’s a great sign of leadership and owning responsibility. But the real reason lies in CEOs not trusting capabilities of their HR in tackling employer branding. Almost 50% of CEOs think their HR department cannot handle it. And it may actually be true as 60% of HR personnel don’t think they have proper skills needed to do the job.

Thus, with C-level and HR both uncertain about the role, and constrained by various organizational responsibilities, what is the best foot forward to create a compelling employer brand? Plain as it may sound, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. A unified front. Combining the strategic proficiency of C-level with organizational skills of HR is bound to create some magic.

But is that still enough? While all the talk about C-suite and HR collaboration was progressing, a formidable department has been neglected. The department that actually works on branding. The marketers and PR people!

Marketing people, ones most competent in creating valuable and rich brand experiences, are mostly neglected during those employer branding policy formations. Perhaps it’s a result of marketing department typecasting employer branding as an inherent HR function. In fact, same Universum report backs this bias with 40% of marketers holding HR responsible for employer branding. Interestingly, 39% of them also feel that CEOs should be handling this role.

So what’s the next smart move?

employer branding 6The solution is apparent: organizations need HR, C-level, marketing and PR all combining their resources and working towards building a wholesome brand experience.  Throwing marketers into this mix adds a unique value as they are expert media and communication strategists. They create gripping content for potential employees while also improving your prospects of reaching potential customers, investors and the community.

History has shown that marketing department has time and again helped other verticals get out of a jam by drastically improving engagement whether it be external or internal. Therefore, it’s imperative they be included in the whole process and not just involved at the first sign of trouble. Their indispensable authority over strategic decision-making will help with the planning phase by establishing, enhancing and drawing the blueprint for values and objectives. And their “contributions in evaluating values communication through surveys, qualitative research”, and measuring key performance indicators will assist in the evaluation of relevant metrics in the execution phase.

Synchronize Consumer and Employer Brand

As long as marketers can remember, all of their efforts were focused on attracting and engaging the elusive “customer”. But slowly over the last decade, that focus divided as the need for employer branding to attract potential employees has become impossibly unavoidable. Most likely reasoning behind this talent-driven recruitment space is the advent of social media.

Social channels like facebook and twitter have given employees the voice they didn’t have before. Employees are now rating corporations on professional networks and sites like glassdoor. They provide raw, authentic views on their experience with their employers thereby influencing community’s perception of a corporation. And they’re very much vocal about it.

As a result, organizations are devoting more time to employer branding as they would to consumer branding before. However, the key to unlocking the true potential of a company and become a universal brand is not in dispensing resources to two streams but rather converging the flow. Aligning your consumer brand with employer brand unquestionably pays handsome returns, not only in company worth but also in attracting elite talent and customers.

Universum global surveyed over 2000 executives and found that only 19% replied that both consumer and employer are perfectly aligned today. That seems like a  discouraging number for sure, but then about 30% of them said they would like to align both consumer and employer brands in the next 5 years indicating increased awareness of substantial benefits by this merger.

This Linkedin and Lippincott study actually has a number and metric for this advantage. In companies with near-perfectly aligned consumer and employer brand strategies, there was a whopping 36% cumulative growth in shareholder value over 5 years. In contrast, organizations lacking in both areas saw their shareholder value decreased by 6%.    

Naturally, executives showed a growing interest in aligning their brands with 52% stating that in 5 years there will be a strong connection between consumer and employer brand as opposed to 36% acknowledging it presently. But the most proactive promoters of synchronizing both brands turned out to be marketers! Against 55% of general respondents, 82% marketers agreed on consumer and employer brand being the same or strongly connected.

Indicating the importance and power of this union, above figures also reiterate previously mentioned amalgamation of marketers with HR as sine qua non to organization’s success.

Lower “Attributes Gap”

What qualities does your future employee look for in your corporation? How matched are those expected qualities to the ones actually delivered?  

Randstad US, one of the premier HR services in the US conducted a survey in which they asked potential employees to list attributes they seek out in organizations when looking for a job. Results obtained showed grim differences in preferred attributes by job seekers when compared with what their employer delivered.

Top three attributes in a job that employees cherish most are

  1. Salary and employee benefits
  2. Long term job security
  3. Pleasant working atmosphere

But oddly, same three attributes rank fifth, sixth and eighth, on the list of attributes that an employer actually delivers.

It’s a growing concern for both parties as millennials increasingly push towards a healthy work-life tandem. The offerings of today’s corporate aren’t what present workforce is looking for. Looking at the same study, we see financial health (1), strong management (2), and good training (3) as the strongest offerings of U.S. employers. As expected from this generation, they ranked it fifth, ninth, and seventh on their priority list of most desired organizational attributes.  

Well, to bridge this conspicuous gap and prevent future encounters of a similar kind, organizations need to take some bold measures. measures such as defining the EVP (11% say it’s the most effective initiative), conveying your employment programs effectively and pre-empt future attributes that employees are interested in based on data aggregated in-house as well as from the competition.

Internal Employer Branding

Change begins at home. This old adage, which holds true in every circumstance, is with greater reason potent in terms of branding. In a way, your employees are first customers of your company. They are also your brand ambassadors. Every employee carries with him an image that is integral to the core values of your corporation. Therefore, a corporation has greater influence and opportunity to shape the experience of its employees in order to project itself as an iconic employer of choice.

Most of the organizations primarily focus their attention on marketing and HR departments as key players in employer branding, often leaving the epoch-making influence of their employees on brand value untended. To support this argument, we present some insights from 2015 Employer Branding Study by Careerarc.

employer branding 3

Therefore,  the influence of professionals over an employer’s brand can’t be ignored anymore. Luckily, some shift in organizational policy is all it takes for an employer to provide an enriching employee experience which, in turn, reflects a highly curated brand image.

  • Employment experience – Starting at quick, streamlined onboarding process, and ending with an honest exit interview, your overall experience should be wholesome, enriching, and benefiting to an employee. The prime focus must be on providing a vibrant environment with flexible work practices where employees can make mistakes and receive feedback in order to grow. Regular surveys on employee expectations, providing opportunities to learn, a personalized approach to employee lifestyle etc. are some key differentiators when it comes to impressive employee engagement.
  • Rewards and benefits program – Providing a relevant employee benefits program is crucial to retain employees and boost engagement. Recognizing the need of your employees is imperative as financial incentives are not the only factor to boost productivity anymore. Integrate rewards and benefits program with your organization’s culture and employee experience so that it becomes more relatable and purposeful.
  • Diversity – Innovative corporations leading the charge have always had one thing in common. They are as diverse as a continent in terms of races, color, abilities, gender, nationalities, culture, religion etc. In spite of the fact that greater diversity demands better people management, pioneering organizations and startups both are giving it greater precedence during policy formations. This phenomenon owes its reasons to how diversity can breed innovation. With the help of leadership support and a focused strategic approach, diversity can work miracles for your organization.
  • Your workforce as your social brand ambassadors – Even most hesitant and critical of consumers believe in word-of-mouth more than they do on marketed content. Having your employees rally behind your employer brand and making them your brand advocates is a proactively smart move because whether you like it or not, people are already talking about you. So, to leverage this mass arsenal of matchless potential, train your employees with best media practices. Provide them with friendly instructions, positive encouragement and straightforward guidelines on how to advocate your brand effortlessly. Give them shareable content and in-house stories describing how amazing it is to work there. Equip your employees with autonomy to engage potential customers on social media. And finally, track relevant metrics such as organic content sharing, the number of new customers engaged by employees etc. to succeed in leveraging the ‘power of the people’ and finally receive organization-wide benefits.

Constant technological transformation is shaping a new world every day and HR practices need to progress with it. With future comes uncertainty, yet the workplace dictates that success has to be achieved at any price. Thus, make your best bet by adopting contemporary practices while ceaselessly  innovating for the future.

Share your thoughts, insights and best employer branding practices with us!