A strong, positive employer brand can really make your organisation stand out in the competitive hiring market. Deploy some or all of these ideas to boost your branding
Employers should always be open to using new and different strategies to help them recruit the best new talent. Establishing, maintaining and nurturing a strong employer brand is one of the most effective ways to attract top candidates.
How you communicate your company culture and atmosphere is key to your recruitment process. Here are 11 simple steps you can take to develop a strong employer brand.
1. Be authentic
Your organisation’s leadership will have a significant impact on both your company culture and how happy your employees are in their roles. Research shows that an employee’s perception of authentic business leadership is the strongest predictor of their job satisfaction, commitment to the organisation and happiness at work.
Becoming a leader doesn’t require taking on a new persona. The key is authenticity: your style will be influenced by your personal experiences, values and strengths.
Authenticity requires the voices of employees to amplify your message and values. Trust is often an issue when it comes to allowing employees to openly discuss your organisation, but it shouldn’t be if you’ve nothing to worry or be ashamed about.
Whether you like it or not, your people will be sharing and discussing their experiences of working for you on social media. Rather than trying to control or stop them from doing so, you should be using these conversations to communicate your employer brand.
2. Be human
When a job-seeker is deciding which roles to apply for, they’ll want to see that your organisation has a human, humane side to it. People like, and are attracted to, other people – not faceless corporations. Showcasing a brand personality, thinking like a human and focusing on relationships are all important elements of a strong and authentic employer brand message.
Human contact is essential to an employer brand: how easy is it to contact your recruitment or HR team, for example?
It’s worth taking inspiration from how great brands look after their consumers. Moz.com reports the story of a large online bridal retailer that tested two ways to apologise to customers in the event of an error: a $50 gift card or a phone call. Those who received a personal apology by phone were twice as likely to purchase from the retailer again than those who were sent the gift card.
One great way to communicate with potential candidates is though online conversations. Offering advice, answering questions and asking for opinions are all important elements in sharing and promoting your organisation’s human side. Your staff can get involved too, using their own personal brand to strengthen your messaging and showcase the brilliant people they work with.
Sharing real-time social updates, rather than scheduling 100% of your content, allows you to tell your organisation’s story as it happens. Immediate content also adds a human element as it’s usually candid and ‘real’. Posting photos of your people having fun in the office, social events and the general culture of your workplace will give a real insight into your culture.
Using the same language that you would use in a real-life conversation when sharing content shows a more human side to your organisation. On some social platforms, such as Twitter, it actually helps to abbreviate and use slang to shorten messages – using technical terms or corporate jargon might put off some readers.
3. Embrace transparency
Websites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor have completely changed how people hunt for jobs. Organisations with motivated, happy and well looked-after people will flourish, while those who fail to appreciate the benefits of openness and transparency are likely to suffer.
If you’re not presenting an accurate depiction of what it’s like to work for your company then you may be missing the whole point of employer branding. If it’s relevant to what you do as an organisation, the people affected have a right to know. All too often, critical details regarding operations and decisions are divulged on a ‘need to know’ basis.
Your employees’ (and ex-employees’) reviews of your organisation and CEO can be hugely powerful marketing tools – but, if negative, can seriously damage your reputation and recruiting efforts. Potential customers are also more interested in your employer brand than ever before, and taking a more value-based approach to business is increasingly popular.
Using imagery of real staff on your website, rather than stock imagery, is one example of a very quick and easy change to improve the transparency and authenticity of your employer brand. You might also want to consider including real quotes and stories from your people about what it’s like to work at your organisation.
4. Ask for (and act on) feedback
There are various ways to ask for feedback from your workforce, including at regular departmental or company wide meetings, and through anonymous employee feedback surveys.
Staff need to feel that they are free to offer their advice and feedback without reprisal. If there is no trust between workers and leaders then honest feedback won’t be forthcoming.
Remember, inviting and asking for feedback is only the first step in the process: following up on the comments and suggestions from employees must be something that, as an employer, you’re seen to be doing consistently.
As the trust between your people and leaders strengthens, so too will the honesty of the feedback you’ll receive – allowing you to further improve your employer brand and working culture.
By providing employees with regular constructive feedback about their own performance, you can help and encourage them to continually improve. Your support will make them feel valued and appreciated, further strengthening engagement and improving staff retention rates.
5. Flex the rules
Although rules and policies are an important part of an organisation, are you confident that each one you have in place is strictly needed?
Workers now expect employers to offer flexible working options in order to improve work-life balance and allow personal obligations to be accommodated.
Being flexible with your employees is good for your business. It builds employee trust, helps attract and keep key talent, and it drives everyone to collaborate to find solutions that work for all those involved. In a 2015 survey, 67% of employers said they believed their employees enjoyed a good work-life balance – but just 55% of their staff agreed.
Many employers also worry that letting employees choose their own hours or work remotely may create a disengaged workforce. But so long as leaders create accountability, flexible environments actually benefit your organisation just as much as they benefit your people. Offering flexibility can have a significant positive effect on morale, loyalty, productivity and retention, and may even lead to a rise in discretionary effort.
Differing religions, cultures and employee needs mean that today’s employers must embrace and accommodate diversity. Being flexible will enable your brand to accommodate the needs of your diverse workforce more readily.
6. Put employees first
It sounds obvious but treating your people with respect and valuing their contributions is crucial if you want a strong and authentic employer brand. Not to mention the fact that finding and retaining top talent isn’t easy or cheap: one SHRM study estimated that every time a company replaces a salaried employee, it costs six-to-nine months’ salary, on average.
Employees want to feel like they’re trusted to manage themselves to a certain extent. Give them a sense of control by offering options for how, where and when they work. Perhaps they want to use a personal device for certain tasks, or want more choices for working remotely or flexible hours?
When your people are happy, they are more invested in your organisation’s success. This engagement is invaluable.
7. Realise that fun is good for business
Because we spend so much time at work, it makes sense to inject a bit of fun into our working lives where possible. And that fun doesn’t simply result in smiles and laughs – it brings a tangible increase in workplace happiness and productivity. A more enjoyable workplace makes individuals perform better in almost every aspect of their lives and contributes to better wellbeing.
Hosting themed events or competitions around festivities such as Halloween or Christmas, or even TV programmes such as The Great British Bake Off or The Apprentice is a great way to encourage staff to have fun and connect with their colleagues.
Having fun at work gives employees something positive to talk about and share on social media. These light-hearted stories are a great addition to both your marketing and employer branding efforts, appealing to prospective staff and customers alike.
8. Share your stories
As well as making efforts to introduce all of the above to your organisational culture, you should also be promoting your hard work and its results. Social media is great for sharing such stories because it is a very visual storytelling medium. Imagery of your people having a great time at work sends a powerful message to anyone who is considering connecting with your organisation. Telling people’s stories on your careers website is another powerful way to attract the right applicants for your vacancies.
But it’s not just external sharing that’s important. By publishing employer branding content internally, you reinforce positive messages about your organisational culture, and remind staff of the great environment that you’ve all created together.
9. Create a pleasant working environment
Collaborative spaces, quiet zones and healthy lunches are all examples of how an organisation can improve the working environment for its employees. The better the workspace, the more productive and happy your employees will be. Even if your people are increasingly working from remote locations, it’s important to make the office a pleasant place to be for those employees working in it.
Quick wins include:
- Keeping the temperature at a pleasant level
- Using colour and artworks strategically to brighten the mood
- Introducing plants and ensuring there’s plenty of natural light
- Offering free tea and coffee, and healthy snacks such as fruit
- Keeping bathroom clean and sanitary – you might also want to consider stocking them with essentials such as deodorant and hand moisturiser
10. Champion employee advocacy
We’ve all read about how powerful employee advocacy is for your employer branding and the many benefits it affords your business, but what about employee advocacy?
Many organisations have at their disposal a marketing team, strong online presence and a large social following. What better way to show that you care about the individuals that make up your workforce than to use your online might to advocate and encourage your employees in whatever they do?
As well as the social boost they’ll receive as a result of your efforts, your employees will also get a morale lift and share their positive employer brand story with others. These stories will also offer candidates and prospective applicants an insight into the diverse group of people they’d be working with if they applied for a role at your organisation.
11. Learn from your successes and failures
Employer branding is never stagnant. There are always emerging trends, advances in technology and differences of opinion about what works and what doesn’t. To maintain and improve your employer brand it’s imperative that you learn from your experiences and mistakes, and outside feedback, and apply this knowledge to continually adapt and evolve your strategy.
Scheduling a feedback session for new employees, for example, will give an insight into any changes required in the onboarding process, as well as what works well. Remember, don’t be afraid to try new techniques; resting on your laurels is a sure-fire way to fall behind the competition and lose out on the best talent around.
This article was first published in September 2017. It was updated in November 2018 for freshness, clarity and accuracy.