Is your employer brand and reputation putting off top candidates?
What is employer branding?
All organisations need to understand what their employees, stakeholders and customers think of them. Marketers have developed techniques to help attract customers, communicate with them effectively and maintain their loyalty to a consumer brand. Employer branding involves applying a similar approach to people management and describes how an organisation markets what it has to offer to potential and existing employees.
As outlined by the CIPD the employer branding definition outlines: ‘…a set of attributes and qualities, often intangible, that makes an organisation distinctive, promises a particular kind of employment experience, and appeals to those people who will thrive and perform best in its culture’.
A strong employer brand should connect an organisation’s values, people strategy and HR policies and be linked to the company brand.
Why employer branding is important for HR
The concept of employer branding has become prominent in recent years. CIPD Research Insight Employer branding: the latest fad or the future of HR? Identifies four main reasons for this: brand power, credibility, employee engagement and the prevailing labour market conditions.
In the last two decades, ‘branding’ has become a central concept in organisational and social life. Many HR professionals have embraced the language and techniques of branding to help enhance their strategic influence and credibility. Although, the recruitment proposition was their starting point, today many recognise the value of a branding approach to the whole employee lifecycle as they seek to build an engaged workforce.
Is employer brand still a relevant concept?
Employer branding remains relevant in uncertain economic times and particularly in a marketplace where there are skill shortages and organisations are competing for talent. There is an increasing desire for individualism and less trust and loyalty to organisations, (particularly among younger employees) which presents an important challenge.
Employer branding and mergers and acquisitions
Mergers and acquisitions have a particularly significant impact on the brand and shake the ‘deal’, which exists between the individual and their employer. Many employees are disempowered and may feel they are working in a job they did not pick, for an organisation they did not choose to work for.
How organisations can benefit from developing an employer brand
Organisations can use an employer brand to help them compete effectively in the labour market and drive employee loyalty through effective recruitment, engagement and retention practices.
All organisations have an employer brand, regardless of whether they have consciously sought to develop one. Their brand will be based on the way they are perceived as a ‘place to work’, for example by would-be recruits, current employees and those leaving the organisation.
To be effective, the brand should not only be evident to candidates at the recruitment stage, but should inform an organisation’s approach to people management. For example, the brand can inform how the business tackles:
– Performance management and reward
– Managing internal communications
– Promoting effective management behaviours
– People leaving the organisation.
It is important that the employer brand is not merely rhetoric espousing the organisation’s values, but is reflective of the actual experience of employees, because people who like the job they do and the place they work become advocates for it. An employer brand approach involves research with employees to understand their attitudes and behaviour, for example, through a staff attitude survey. This employee insight data can inform metrics on ‘people performance’ in the organisation, providing an opportunity to demonstrate links to organisation performance. Organisations could choose to monitor their employee brand through quantitative data such as number of applications for roles, acceptance of offers, employee engagement scores, reduction in costs or they could choose to monitor more qualitative feedback. Organisations should be able to answer questions on ‘what sets them aside from their competitors’.
How to develop an employer brand
Our employer-branding guide (see link above) gives detailed advice and suggestions for developing an employer brand. It identifies four stages of development:
- Discovery– understand how various stakeholders perceive the employer brand.
- Analysis, interpretation and creation– build a clear picture of what the organisation stands for, offers and requires as an employer – its distinctive ‘value proposition’.
- Implementation and communication– sees the brand being applied for the first time in the organisation.
- Measurement, maintenance and optimisation– concerned with checking progress and maintaining momentum.
The value proposition and employee segmentation
The value proposition describes what an organisation stands for, requires and offers as an employer. There is evidence of the influence of the ‘psychological contract’ as the proposition represents the ‘deal’ between employer and employee.
Rather than focusing on a single value proposition for the whole organisation, some organisations are beginning to take a more segmented approach. Employee segmentation is driven by the recognition that employees, like customers, are not a homogenous group. It can be beneficial to tailor the ‘deal’ or value proposition to the needs of a diverse workforce – and this can mean emphasising different elements of the value proposition to different groups of employees or creating subsets of the overall value proposition.
It is possible to segment an organisation’s workforce in many different ways. In the past organisations have analysed employee satisfaction or engagement data in terms of location and job type, but valuable insights can be gained from segmenting your workforce based on categories such as age, lifestyle and attitudes to communication in the organisation. Organisations use such approaches, for example, to help them communicate and promote ‘flexible benefits’ packages reflecting the various interests and needs of different parts of the workforce. Some are now moving on to using segmented reward approaches for different segments of an organisation’s workforce, for example: sales, executives, call centres, technical support, and so on, in terms of base, variable pay, benefits and non-financial reward polices.
Employer branding is a useful tool to help organisations differentiate what they have to offer in the labour market, and recruit, retain and engage the people they need to succeed. Just as marketers seek to understand their customers, HR professionals will benefit from gaining ‘employee insight’ through methods such as employee attitude surveys and focus groups. This insight should inform the HR strategy, influence how internal communications are handled and help in the design of effective people management initiatives.