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Employer Brand: What It Is and How to Own It

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    You might hear “employer brand” thrown around, but it’s far from a buzzword. Your employer brand defines what your company is and the kind of environment it fosters. Plus, it’s vital for attracting the best talent to future-proof your company. Read how every piece of your organization contributes to the employer brand and promotes an honest, healthy message.

    Gone are the days of skilled, superstar employees lining up to apply at the first sign of an open position. Now, finding and attracting the best involves a bit more wooing on the part of the employer. You need a strategy. Your employer brand is an important part of it.

    A powerful employer brand gives you an edge when competing for the best candidates. But cultivating a great brand requires more than recruitment marketing or gimmicky hype. It involves shaping the perception candidates have about whether your company would be a good place to work.

    In the digital age of ubiquitous transparency, that perception can make or break your company’s ability to attract and hire top talent. But that’s not the only way an employer brand can impact your business. A strong employer brand can reduce cost per hire and voluntary turnover, according to LinkedIn.

    So not only is the employer brand more than a buzzword; it’s something that affects the bottom line. For that reason, developing it doesn’t belong solely to HR. It belongs to everyone. Let’s explore how.

    What is an employer brand?

    Simply put, “employer brand” is the perception people have about how great it is — or not — to be an employee for your company. Many things influence that perception, including:

    • online reviews
    • press coverage
    • customer testimonials
    • employees’ social media posts

    That means your employer brand already exists. Conversations about what it’s like to work for your company happen, regardless of whether you actively participate in them or know what is being said.

    If it seems unfair that ex-employees with an ax to grind or customers who are impossible to please can influence your employer brand, it kind of is. Still, this is the age of the informed candidate. Employees considering a big move “shop” for employers much like consumers do when making a big purchase: by doing research. They want all the information they can get to make the most informed decision. Who could blame them?

    The good news is that you don’t have to leave your employer brand to chance. Working with other teams within your organization can help you enter the conversation and make it work to your advantage.

    How do different departments help cultivate employer brand?

    According to the Society for Human Resource Management, recruitment marketing describes all of the tactics used by recruiting and hiring teams to promote the employer brand. They go much further than posting open positions on job boards.

    These efforts attempt to meet the best candidates where they are: on social media, on TikTok and in conversations with their friends and family. It involves all of the strategic thinking and actions that go into reaching those sought-after job shoppers. Recruitment marketing represents the channels through which you can communicate your employer brand and attract the talent you need.

    Attracting the talent you need — instead of just increasing your number of applicants — is how you truly make your employer brand work for you. Remember, your employer brand should help you target and impress the people who will be a good fit and discourage people who won’t.

    In the past, when companies thought about expanding their employer brand, HR seemed like a natural fit. For good reason, too, as managing it resides in HR’s wheelhouse. However, because your employer brand must genuinely reflect the employee experience, everyone with a hand in building that plays an active role in shaping it, including:

    • CEOs
    • marketing
    • managers
    • employees

    Cultivating an employer brand — and putting it to work through recruitment marketing — probably sounds like a tall order. But if everyone in the organization works together, it’s possible. Let’s see how each group works with one another.

    How does HR shape employer brand?

    1. Identify

    Your employer brand already exists. It’s HR’s responsibility to understand it.

    Start by scouring social media to get a general feel for your reputation as an employer. Visit sites like Indeed and LinkedIn to see how you fare among your competitors. Be sure to take notes of the good and the bad. Understanding what people love about your company — and what they don’t — will help you develop your brand.

    After you’ve spent some time online, get personal by anonymously surveying employees. Ask great ones why they stay and departing ones why they’re leaving. Your employees’ attitudes about working for your company are at the crux of your employer brand.

    2. Develop

    Once you know where you stand, plan where you want to go. Think about what you want your employer brand to be and the company values it should embody. After all, it must reflect the actual employee experience.

    For example, if you work for a fast-growing tech company, you would highlight your organization as one where innovative and dynamic people can help build something big. Employees who are willing to trade personal time to bask in the glory of building a company would jump at the opportunity. Those who need a more flexible schedule may choose not to apply.

    The advantage of building the story of an authentic employer brand helps you attract the people you want and avoid the ones you don’t. Since employees know what they’re getting into from the start, they’re less likely to leave.

    3. Employ

    Once you’ve polished your employer brand, it’s time to share it.

    Putting your employer brand to work extends beyond getting in front of the most desirable candidates. Because an authentic employer brand should reflect what your people experience as employees, it involves refining processes as well.

    If your employer brand touts your business as dynamic and forward-looking, for example, the candidate experience should be, too. Sluggish, paper-based processes that create a lengthy applicant and onboarding experience would undermine your brand immediately in the candidates’ eyes. Talent acquisition software that streamlines recruiting, interviewing and onboarding processes helps reinforce an innovative, modern and authentic employer brand.

    If your brand targets Generation Z — who PwC predicts will make up 58% of the workforce by 2030 — think about incorporating technology into your processes. Gen Z has grown up completing time-consuming tasks on mobile devices. They depend on easy-to-use tech in their personal lives and expect it at work.

    That’s why it’s undeniably important to give employees self-service software. It empowers them to:

    The best tech will work seamlessly with your talent acquisition and HR processes in a truly single HCM software, so you can monitor progress and changes.

    It also should allow you to customize the display with your company logo and colors. With robust employee self-service tech, it’s easy to further enhance processes, visually support your employer brand and show all employees that your company truly is committed to giving them the tech they need.

    4. Measure

    According to John Sullivan, professor of management at San Francisco State University, measuring the success of your employee brand requires a two-pronged approach. Tracking brand strength and its business impact is critical to gaining continued support and buy-in from the C-suite. Here are key performance indicators (KPIs) to help you measure both:

    Brand strength KPIs:

    • online ratings
    • number of visits and conversions on your careers website
    • offer acceptance rate
    • employee referral rate

    Business impact KPIs:

    • cost per hire
    • performance-appraisal scores of new hires
    • revenue per employee
    • revenue from new hires who are in revenue-generating jobs
    • ratio of candidates you recruit from competitors versus how many they recruit from you
    • retention levels among your current workforce

    You may be shocked to see that “time to hire” isn’t listed. It stands to reason that a strong employer brand would increase the number of qualified applicants. But that may not always be the case. Remember that the best candidates — especially the passive ones — have the luxury of time when deciding whether to make a move.

    By looking and examining just a few of the metrics above, you’ll have a leg to stand on when you go to leadership and ask them for continued resources, support and collaboration.

    How do CEOs influence employer brand?

    Bringing leaders from across your organization together in pursuit of a common goal is not always easy, but no one can unite and galvanize them toward action like a CEO. When they are willing to champion a particular initiative, making it happen becomes everyone’s priority.

    According to Harvard Business Review, 73% of CEOs are concerned about a lack of key skills and understand the importance employer brand plays in attracting great talent. As a result, 60% of them believe they should be the primary caretaker of employer brand. Considering they drive the culture that the brand should represent, it makes sense.

    When CEOs champion the idea of shaping a great employer brand, big things happen for their people and their businesses. However, if your CEO remains skeptical about the value of investing in an employer brand, share additional business benefits, your goals and the KPIs. Once the CEO realizes you’re prepared to measure and report the business impact, they may be more inclined to champion the employer brand in a way that’s necessary for success.

    How does marketing boost employer brand?

    Within a marketing department lies a trove of writers, designers, social media experts and public relations (PR) pros who can help you craft your employer brand in a compelling way. They can manage aspects of communication, too. Consider tapping the following resources:

    • Creative writers inject your company’s personality into job postings, blog posts and materials for career fairs.
    • Designers bring your employer brand to life. Just remember the brand must accurately reflect what it’s like to work for your company. Thus, design should represent the physical environment in which employees will be working. For example, you wouldn’t choose light, airy colors if your brand was intended to attract welders who will work in a shop.
    • Social media experts help build an employee advocacy program, boost positive online chatter and help prevent the spread of negativity.
    • PR pros help manage the public-facing side of your brand and enter your company in the running for “top workplace” awards. Should you win, they can publicize the result.

    The most important thing to remember is working with marketing on employer brand should be a true collaboration. HR has the strategy and the vision; marketing helps bring it to life and increase its visibility.

    How do managers contribute to employer brand?

    Perhaps no one in your company has more impact on employee engagement than front-line managers do. In fact, 55% of workers who quit in the last two years said their manager could’ve helped them stay, according to an October 2022 Pollfish survey commissioned by Paycom. Supervisors play an enormous role in boosting and sustaining morale.

    If you’re going to task front-line managers with upholding the tenets of the employee experience — and by extension, your employer brand — let them know how important their roles are in doing so. You should also equip them with self-service software for managers to make their jobs easier. Tools that help front-line managers facilitate employee learning, development and advancement would be your best bet.

    How do current employees promote employer brand?

    Employees have one of the most important roles in shaping your employer brand because essentially, they are it. Their perceptions and opinions hold more credibility with potential candidates than any employer-sponsored message ever could. How can you leverage that in a positive way?

    Identify engaged employees who best embody your brand, and ask them to become employer brand advocates.

    Encourage them to share their experiences on social media, and provide a designated hashtag to include in their posts. Great employees can spread the word about your employer brand in real life, too. Offer a referral program to incentivize your people to encourage friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers they believe would be a great fit for your company.

    When encouraging employee advocacy, don’t make it a requirement or ask employees to share a specific message. Not only does this turn your employer brand into advertising, but it also is expressly against the rules for many “top workplace” competitions and websites.

    How do companies start cultivating their employer brand?

    A strong employer brand gives you an edge in today’s competition for top talent and skilled workers. Ensuring your employer brand works for you instead of against you requires everyone in your organization working together. It also relies on a genuine representation of your employee experience. No one can inspire that kind of collaboration and exert that kind of influence like your CEO.

    To get buy-in, show your CEO that you have roles and responsibilities mapped out. Share how you plan to measure success using KPIs. Demonstrate how the right HR tech helps you accomplish your goals and helps others accomplish theirs.

    Once your CEO is on board and you have the resources you need, you can begin cultivating your employer brand and attracting the talent your business needs.

    Find more strategies to enhance your workplace’s culture and employer brand on Paycom’s blog.

    DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.