The employer brand space may still be in relative infancy, but thanks to recent business trends, it’s growing up fast. In 2021, 69 percent of businesses reported employer branding to be one of their top priorities. Accordingly, leaders are beginning to prioritize the need for a strong, lasting employer brand strategy to drive candidate attraction, worker retention, and employee engagement well into the future.
Interestingly, the evolution of employer branding goes beyond the traditional concept of marketing. Audiences are now demanding more authenticity and evidence of real change from the brands they support. Additionally, 91 percent of job seekers research an employer’s brand before choosing to apply. As such, an emphasis on employer branding can be a powerful marketing strategy, as consumers often have high expectations and needs that must be met before exercising their purchasing power.
Case in point: Years ago, consumers bought Coca-Cola simply because the products were advertised as “cool and unique.” No longer. Now, consumers are more inclined to choose Coca-Cola products because the company aligns with their lifestyles, identities, and beliefs. In other words, consumers want more than just a “unique” product; they want a brand that meets their expectations.
Employer branding is similar in that instead of telling people to apply for or work at a company simply because it’s the smart thing to do, successful employers are wooing job seekers by touting the three C’s they offer: culture, career catalyst opportunities and citizenship. It’s essentially a move from storytelling to story “doing.”
Take Patagonia’s reputation for true citizenship, for instance. The brand doesn’t just say it’s making the world a better place; it backs up its powerful words with equally powerful actions. Recently, Patagonia pledged to bail out employees arrested at protests amid the overturning of Roe v. Wade. As a result, every candidate who applies for a position with Patagonia knows what to expect because the employer brand is specific, well-known, and actionable.
Moving Toward Employer Branding Adolescence
So what does the next step look like if employer branding is beginning to mature? One major employer brand strategy is focusing on alumni. For years, corporate alumni have been ignored in favor of job applicants and team members. And there’s no mistaking the importance of the candidate and employee experience. However, alumni have a place in the employer brand because they can fully articulate what it feels like to work at a company even after leaving.
It’s worth noting that alumni represent an enormous, growing community. People leave organizations all the time for many different reasons. What they say about their former employers matters, as top candidates will often use alumni reviews to make their employment decisions. Consequently, organizations need to make investments in their alumni populations now. This is a long-term play that will pay off five or more years down the line.
Another trending element of employer brand strategy development is figuring out what areas to focus on based on the stage of the organization. For example, a young startup needs to concentrate resources on employer brand research, validation, and improvements, whereas a mid-level company can be more . Knowing where a company is on the growth curve can serve as a starting point for building an employer brand or molding one that has already taken shape.
Where to Take Your Organization’s Employer Brand Strategy
If your company is just starting to investigate how to build an employer brand, you may find the process overwhelming. Below are some methods to see better outcomes faster and with less stress.
1. Exercise patience. It’s important to resist comparing your company to one that has a solid employer brand such as Netflix or Salesforce—those employer brands are mature, invested and optimized. They’re certainly worth studying, but thinking that you’ll have a sophisticated and elaborate employer brand overnight isn’t realistic.
Instead, methodically improving your own employer brand over days and months will generate far better results that rushing into the process just to match your competitors. With patience, you can achieve unparalleled employer branding. Whether you’re running an organization with 50 or 100,000 employees, you can design and drive an employer brand. You just need to take initiative and begin.
2. Influence internal employer brand strategy adoption. Once you have an employer brand strategy in place, you need to create buy-in and adoption at the senior level. Your executives and managers can’t be the only champions of employer branding. Ultimately, your employer brand initiative must be companywide. Without 100% adoption, everyone won’t be able to gain value from the experience.
You need to help people see how an employer brand can benefit everyone in your company. To do this, begin by identifying the people-based challenges underneath the problems occurring in your organization. Perhaps you have several internal teams that rarely communicate together, and their lack of discourse has caused valuable prospects to slip through the cracks. Show how your employer brand strategy can solve such issues by promoting communication and overarching goals that employees can work together to achieve. In doing so, you’ll find that more people get on board to move your employer branding strategy in a positive direction.
3. Become a role-model for your employees. When you act as a role-model for your team members, you commit to demonstrating the core aspects of your employer brand. You show how the employer brand works in action, thereby educating and influencing those around you. This could look like you upholding core tenants of the employer brand — such as communication or collaboration — by conversing with employees on different teams frequently and discussing important issues together before making any decisions.
Fortunately, your efforts won’t go unnoticed. When the light bulbs go on, your employees and peers will realize that their jobs will be easier if they embrace the employer brand strategy you have set in place. This understanding will prompt a seismic shift that will move your business forward rapidly.
Today, employer-employee and brand-consumer roles have changed and given equal power to all parties. In such a transparent economic and occupational ecosystem, employer branding enables you to remain competitive and differentiated in your marketplace. Just be sure to make it a priority now rather than later.