Employer Brand vs. Talent Brand: Why the Difference Matters

woman talking in meeting

Maybe you’ve heard (or even used) the term “employer brand” without being completely sure what it means and how it’s different from the concept of “talent brand.” If so, I won’t tell anyone—and I’m here to help clear things up.

Coined in 1996, employer brand is a relatively new niche that falls under the larger umbrella of talent attraction. While talent brand and employer brand have some areas of overlap, these two terms have several key differences.

Most of those differences are tied to the voice of your potential hires, or your audience. Make no mistake, you have lots of audiences. In fact, I always say that there are at least three sides to every story. Let’s take a closer look at what makes these concepts distinct and why they’re both important to your business’s reputation as an employer.

The benefits and risks of employer branding

An employer brand is all about storytelling. It encompasses how you want your organization to be perceived and the specific messaging you use when sharing information about your company.

Companies have a great deal of control over their employer brand marketing, which can sometimes cause problems—like when multiple companies turn to the same messaging again and again. Do these phrases sound familiar?

  • Our people are our greatest asset.
  • We have amazing benefits and perks.
  • We offer career development and progression.
  • We’re the most innovative company in our space.

These seem like great claims at first, but after the 27th time a prospective employee hears the phrase “We have the best people,” it can start to lose meaning. This is what I like to call ‘Employer Blanding.’

It makes matters worse if these claims turn out to be inaccurate, which happens more often than you might think. Even if an organization’s leaders mean well, they can develop a warped view of their employees’ experiences.

And when companies attempt to sell an inaccurate or inauthentic brand to potential employees, it could cost them in both the long-term and short-term when it comes to talent attraction, employee engagement and employee retention.

Your talent brand is forged by honest voices inside your organization

According to TalentBrand.Org*, your talent brand is “the honest story of life as an employee inside your organization, as told by the employees in parallel with the company.”

So how can you make sure your idea of your brand lines up with the reality of what employees are saying? That’s where a holistic view of your reputation comes in.

While your employer brand can be shaped and honed by your organization’s leaders, talent brand comes directly from employee experiences and feedback.

In other words, your talent brand is not what one website or channel says it is. Current, past and even prospective employees shape your talent brand through social media posts, review site comments, direct network conversations, face-to-face interactions and referrals.

On Indeed’s Company Pages, for example, you’ll learn what people are saying about your company’s culture, management, pay, benefits, work-life balance, job security and advancement opportunities.

This feedback from real employees provides a valuable touchpoint and reality check for company leaders who want to make sure their employer brand accurately reflects employee experiences. Again, this is just one piece of the Talent Brand puzzle that you need to examine.

The value in the overlap

Companies can get the most from their talent brand and employee brand identities when they consider these two concepts together. That’s why Indeed’s Company Pages feature employer-created videos and social feeds alongside reviews and ratings directly from employees.

How do I know which channels are important enough to monitor? I look at where I’m getting the biggest sources of candidate traffic.

Bringing these two types of branding together helps you visualise the overlap between the way you view your brand and how employees see your company. This area of overlap can shed new light on where the heart of your brand actually lives.

By focusing on the aspects of your brand that employees truly appreciate, you’ll get a stronger sense of which of your company’s unique perks and attributes you should amplify and share more widely, to attract the types of people you’re looking to hire.

And who knows? It may even mean you can swap out that “we have the best people” line for something that’s a much better fit.

*Full disclosure: I’m a cofounder of this community organisation.

Bryan Chaney is Director of Employer Brand at Indeed.