Part 1: Employer Branding in a New World of Work — Whose Job is it Anyway?

Young business people discussing, sitting on stairs

Welcome to part one of a two-part series on the place of employer branding in today’s world, the benefits it reaps for businesses who get it right, tips on how to improve it, as well as the implications of getting it wrong—or ignoring it altogether.

You’re likely familiar with the term employer brand, though you may not think it’s not your problem, or your responsibility. Why does it matter so much anyway? And how relevant is it within the current climate of the COVID-19 pandemic? Well, we sat down (virtually, of course) with employer branding expert Brie Mason who shared her 15+ years of expertise in the field, to find out.

How do you define employer branding?
Every company has an employer brand—it’s the image of what they’re like as a place to work in the minds of current employees and the external market (active and passive candidates, clients, customers and other key stakeholders.)

A managed employer brand, is one where an organisation takes a strategic approach to uncovering its employee value proposition (EVP—its key messages), creating an employment brand identity (the creative look and feel), and executing an employment marketing plan to promote the company as an employer and create brand awareness.

In more mature organisations, employer brand management spans the employee lifecycle where the focus is on ensuring the promise is communicated, and more importantly, delivered to its employees. It even crosses into employee experience and making the company a more attractive place to work.

Brie Mason

Brie Mason, Founder, Employer Brand Mason

Whose responsibility is it?
Ultimately every person in the organisation has a role to play in building, communicating, embedding and managing the employer brand. No matter how programmatic the approach is to building the employer brand strategy, at the end of the day, it’s the people managers who deliver on most of these experiences for their people, so everyone needs to be working in alignment.

Often, recruitment teams drive the need for investing in an employer brand, as they reap the most immediate benefits of being able to attract and recruit better talent. But an ideal model is one where HR, Marketing and Communications all work closely together to deliver it.

Why is it important and how does it benefit businesses? 
A well-managed employer brand provides significant benefits in attracting and retaining great talent. Higher brand awareness and attractiveness results in organisations being able to source from more deeply into the talent pool, reducing the time to fill roles as they’re receiving a large number of better quality applicants. It reduces the cost per hire, and also the compensation premium required as they don’t need to compete on salary alone.

If employees are engaged and proud to work for an organisation, they’re likely to be more productive and stay with the organisation for longer. This in turn will ultimately result in better customer service, increased sales performance, and improved results in the market.

What’s the cost of getting your employer brand wrong?
Failing to manage an employer brand will provide significant challenges for organisations in attracting and retaining talent. Organisations with a poor employer brand perception will find they need to compete by paying above-market salaries to get people in the door. But in the end, the impact and cost of high turnover will be significant.

Another issue is when organisations make promises that aren’t aligned to reality. Every EVP will have an element of aspiration (as not everyone will interpret their employee experience in the same way), but to be effective it needs to be grounded in reality. If not, disgruntled employees will leave and they can damage your employer brand.

What role do current employees play in creating a strong employer brand?
Driving employee advocacy should play a critical part in any employer brand strategy. Employee advocacy is having your employees represent your brand in a positive light, helping to elevate it through word-of-mouth marketing. It gives your brand a real face, adds authenticity to your company’s messaging, and results in better cut-through.

Every employee in your business brings a large personal network. Between friends, colleagues (current and past), followers and connections on social media, each team member has access to a huge audience who they can instantly reach and influence.

By sharing information with their networks, employees can increase a company’s reach and legitimacy and generate meaningful conversations about the employer brand. And this is far from a one-way arrangement: employees build their personal and professional brands while they build their employer’s brand.

What’s one simple thing companies can do today to improve their employer brand?
Uncover what you really need and want to achieve with your employment marketing efforts. Many people start out with the goal of becoming ‘an employer of choice’ but the reality is, their budget, resources and commitment aren’t large enough to achieve that.

Before jumping in, you need to start by clarifying your talent attraction and retention challenges, and then defining your employment marketing goals – what are you specifically trying to solve or achieve? Otherwise, what you’ll end up with won’t cut—particularly in this current economic environment where business costs and resource needs require greater justification.

Keep an eye out next month for part two of this series where we’ll delve into the implications of the COVID-19 crisis on employer branding, common employer brand mistakes you can learn from, and where the future of employer brand is headed.

Brie Mason is an employer brand thought leader and pioneer in the Australian market, with over 15 years’ experience dedicated to building multi-award winning employer brands in the APAC region. She runs the employer brand consultancy, Employer Brand Mason, and aims to create greater awareness and understanding of the value employer branding brings, when there’s a holistic strategy that spans across the employee lifecycle.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Indeed.

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