02 Aug 2021
If you’re wondering how to get employer branding right, you’ve come to the right place!
This article will take you through defining the term employer branding, to debunking some common myths, to a clear step-by-step plan to improving your employer branding strategy. It concludes with an example to bring the concept to life.
This article is part of a series developed from season two of our podcast – The Ins and Outs of Work. If you prefer not to read, listen to the episodes on this topic, split into parts 1 and 2, or watch the video below.
Table of Contents
What is employer branding?
The term employer branding essentially refers to your organization’s reputation with job applicants. It’s the face your organization shows to the outside world as a potential employer.
Employer branding is a key differentiator for companies that regularly attract the best talent – and with the best talent comes better business results!
How is it different from employee value proposition (EVP)?
Before going further, it’s important to understand the difference between employer branding and employee value proposition (EVP).
EVP takes a more individual approach and refers to the promise you make as an employer to your employee in return for their commitment. It entails the sum of all the benefits and rewards that employees receive from the organization they work for.
Employer branding takes the EVP and hares it with the world of potential employees the business would like to attract.
Why does employer branding matter?
When done right, employer branding can contribute strongly to business success.
According to LinkedIn, an organization with a strong employer brand experience can benefit from:
- 28% reduction in employee turnover rates
- 50% reduction in cost per hire
- 50% more qualified applicants.
The benefits of these metrics speak for themselves, but let’s go over how they help drive overall organization strength.
Employee branding drives organization strength
Lower employee turnover means better continuity and the ability to build your business’ strategy on teams that stay with you for an extended period of time.
It means lower disruption, for example, related to offboarding departing employees and onboarding new ones. A reduced cost per hire means more money to invest elsewhere or a greater profit at the end of the financial year.
And more qualified applicants means less time spent screening candidates and a better chance of hiring someone who is going to exceed expectations!
Two common employer branding myths debunked
Like every topic in the world of HR, there are certain ideas floating around about employer branding that simply aren’t true. Let’s take two of these and debunk them here!
Myth #1. You have to create your employer brand. Without actively creating it, it doesn’t exist
Not true! Definitely take time to shape and refine your employer brand in accordance with your strategy and goals. But also, realize that even if you did nothing you’d still have an employer brand.
Your employer brand will always exist, regardless of whether you are actively trying to shape it.
Because it lives in people’s minds. It’s about people’s perceptions of your company as an employer. And people will have an opinion about your company whether you are actively working to influence it or not.
Companies that do employer branding well know how to channel and guide the perspectives of their candidate audiences. They identify what they want to be known for and consistently communicate messages that convince prospective candidates of those truths. The very best organizations do this in an ongoing way. They constantly work to reinforce their values and embed them into a strong and tightly-defined employer brand.
Myth #2. There’s no way to measure your employer brand.
Here’s another falsehood that is often held to be true by organizations setting out. Yet, there are many ways to measure the effectiveness of your employer branding efforts, based on more than just gut feeling.
Ways to measure employer branding effectiveness
To measure effectiveness, you’ll need to start by clearly defining the goal behind building your employer brand. Without a consensus and clear understanding throughout your organization of the goal of your employer branding efforts, you’re bound to have this myth cropping up again and again in internal conversations.
For example, if your goal is simply to extend the reach of your key messages around recruitment and company culture, you could:
- measure reach,
- and engagement on social media.
If these metrics improve over time, you might conclude that your messages are resonating and awareness around your employer brand in the market is increasing.
More strategically, you may identify increasing the quality of candidates applying to your open positions as a major goal for your employer branding. Communicate in a structured, continuous, and inspirational way around the values and differentiators that make your organization a great place to work. This can certainly serve to attract higher-quality candidates over time.
Measuring your activities against this objective might entail keeping a gauge on the percentage of applicants passed through the initial stages of the recruitment screening. Seeing this percentage increase over time could indicate your employer branding is effectively increasing the average quality of candidates applying.
Finally, the easiest way to measure the effectiveness of your employer branding is by tracking your Glassdoor company ratings.
Glassdoor is a widely adopted online tool and often the first port of call for interested candidates to get more information on a company they might be applying to. Glassdoor’s analytics provides organizations with an overview of how their company rating is trending. It also breaks down the data by location or type of role. Recruiters and HR teams can use these features to analyze the effectiveness of specific employer branding campaigns, for example.
The best part is that moving the needle on Glassdoor isn’t just a metric you and your stakeholders see. Moving the number up leads to ensures high-quality candidates keep you in their consideration set, driving overall applicant quality up.
How to do employer branding: a step-by-step plan
So how can you turn all of this into reality and create an employer brand you’re proud of? One that delivers results for the business?
Here are 10 steps:
1. Audit your existing employer brand
Take stock of how your organization has historically been communicating to the wider talent market. Ask your current employees what working for you means and looks like.
Do you have an employer brand strategy in place, or have the communications been more ad-hoc up until now?
2. Review your recruitment and selection process
What are your major touchpoints with candidates? And what is being communicated during these touchpoints? What parts of the process could be improved to better align with the kind of employer brand you are wanting to build?
3. Start building your employer brand based on your unique employee value proposition (EVP)
Your employer brand boils down to what you communicate externally based on the promises you make internally to your employees.
Your employer brand should be built out of the unique and differentiated value that you can provide to your employees. Approaching your employer brand like this will ensure candidates can quickly identify the advantages of working for you and decide whether their personal values are aligned to your organizational ones.
4. Set goals
As with any strategy, it’s important to set goals and objectives before you get started.
What is it that you want to achieve with your employer branding strategy? Is it about reaching different types of candidates, improving the quality of candidates who apply or their alignment to your values, or something else?
Having a clear picture of what you’re trying to achieve from the start will ensure you’re not wasting time and resources on things that don’t contribute to the end goal.
5. Divide responsibilities
Employer branding is not just HR’s responsibility. Everyone in the organization has a role to play and should feel they’re an owner of this. More broadly, other departments also have a role to play in building the employer brand.
For instance, the marketing department should be central, since they often have knowledge of how to do ‘branding’ on a company scale and are often responsible for social media, which is an important communication channel for the employer brand.
6. Select relevant metrics to track
As with any strategy, to be successful you’ll need to identify a few key metrics to keep an eye on as you roll your plan out. This will ensure you get a clear idea of whether you’re making progress towards your big goal.
As an example, if your goal is to improve the quality of candidates applying, you could measure the percentage of candidates getting through the first few stages of your application and screening process. Or go further and integrate new hire performance data and feedback into your analysis, to get a longer-term view of whether you have an upwards trend in the quality of candidates.
7. Determine the right channels and formats to promote your employer brand
Not all companies will have candidates (or prospective candidates) that are all hanging out in the same place online. Do some research on where your ideal candidates go for information, and make sure you are building your employer brand presence there.
8. Showcase your company’s values and vision
This is one of the most important steps.
A big part of what employer branding is all about is the ability to attract more candidates that are aligned to your company vision and values. Hiring more of these kinds of people will, over time, mean a more engaged workforce that believes in your vision and want to work hard for it.
Think about how you can get your vision and values across in your employer branding communications. How can you show candidates what your organization really cares deeply about?
9. Be transparent
It may sound weird to say out loud, but your company is not for everyone. In the same way that not every candidate is a good fit for your business, your business is not a good fit for every candidate.
Don’t be afraid to make that clear in your communications. Doing so will save you time and energy in the long run.
10. Foster employee ambassadors
There is no better way to advertise what a great place your company is to work than by turning current employees into ambassadors. People trust people, and for prospective candidates, hearing from a friend about how great your company is to work for will increase trust a great deal.
Storytime: employer branding at Netflix
One organization that does employer branding very well is Netflix. There are three major reasons we feel this is a great example of employer branding done right:
1. Their values are clear
Netflix has a very values-driven approach to framing their employer brand and recruiting their ideal candidates. They know what they stand for and they’re committed to hiring people who are aligned with their vision and values.
These values and key elements that make Netflix special are also very well defined and described in detail so it’s clear for all. Phrases like “encourage independent decision-making by employees” and “being extraordinarily candid with each other” make it really clear what working at Netflix is like.
2. They’re honest
Throughout their careers and culture website, and communication to candidates, Netflix is extremely honest. They make no secret that if you’re going to join Netflix, it’s all about the personal impact that you can make.
The company’s culture is described pretty extensively and publically for all to see on their website and doesn’t make things seem rosier than they are.
For instance, they outline exactly what they envisage a ‘dream team’ looks like, how they believe a team should function, and how not everybody may remain on the team, even if meet the standard they require.
Netflix is also very candid about their compensation policy, which is to pay employees top of their personal market (instead of a 2% raise for adequate and a 4% raise for great, as they put it). This also means that some employees’ market value may rise more rapidly than others.
3. They take employee feedback into account
Another thing Netlfix has focused on in their employer branding is incorporating feedback from employees and changing policies based on it. Their policy on holiday, for example, is that you can take as much as you need. While there are a lot of startups doing ‘unlimited leave’ today, Netflix was a very early mover.
They describe the inspiration coming from an employee one day bringing the feedback to HR that they were confused as to why they weren’t limited or ‘followed up’ when it came to time spent getting coffee, by the water cooler or going out to get some fresh air. So why was it different for vacation days?
And so, famously, Netflix changed their policy on holidays to allow their people to take as much time as they need. These trust and autonomy messages are key pillars in Netflix’s continued employer branding strategy today.
Interested in going further? Learn what it means to create purpose-driven employer branding, in our webinar replay.