Every company has a reputation. It could include thoughts about your products, services, leaders, team members, history, and more. And your company’s reputation can also go beyond to inspire a specific perception emotional, instinctive, intellectual in the people who see your ads, use your products, and eventually, speak to others about you. That reputation is known as your brand, and it can be a powerful, mysterious, and synergistic force far more than just what you sell or office.
Your company also has a second brand related to its primary brand about how you’re viewed as an employer. This is your employer brand, and it lives and breathes in the minds and hearts of your former, current, and future employees.
In today’s increasingly competitive job market, a positive employer brand is critical. Without one, hiring and retaining the best employees becomes challenging and costly. You need talented, leadership-bound workers to drive your business forward, and the best way to find them is to cast the impression that your company is a great place to work. Everything from the salary and benefit packages you offer to advancement opportunities to weekly happy hours, the culture of an organization and the treatment of its employees can greatly impact the impression you’re trying to make on potential candidates.
As with all branding, crafting a strong employer brand is about good storytelling. It’s about how you want your organization to be perceived in the marketplace, using specific messaging to help attract the kind of prospects you’re looking for. But also, it’s about living out that story. Satisfied employees are your loudest speakerbox, particularly in an age of social media and user-generated feedback where employers aren’t always completely in control of their own reputation.
The good news is that with even small, simple tweaks, companies can improve their employer branding strategies in order to attract, recruit, and retain the best employees. Below you’ll find questions, answers, and tips on how you can turn your employer brand into your company’s competitive advantage.
What is an employer brand?
Similar to the way a corporate brand works (which offers a value proposition to customers, defining products or services in the marketplace), an employer brand includes the market’s perception of your company as an employer, but also describes your promise (or employee value proposition) to employees in exchange for their experience, talents, contacts, or skills.
Employer branding, then, is simply how you market your company to desired job seekers. You can do this by showcasing your organization’s unique cultural differentiators, and then working to amplify them so you can position yourself as a top place to work.
An employer brand or what is also known as your “talent,” or “people” brand that resonates is about defining the essence of your company, both how it’s unique and what it stands for, and then crafting and aligning those aspirations with the people you’re looking to attract. It communicates that your organization is a good employer and a great place to work, which boosts recruitment efforts and the engagement and retention of your current employees.
Done well, employer branding will spark buzz around your company, and this buzz will attract motivated job seekers and an army of happy employees. And then those people will turn around and broadcast their positive experience to other open talent, clients, customers, and stakeholders further broadening the scope of your employer brand.
What is an employer value proposition (EVP)?
An employer value proposition encompasses your organization’s mission, values, and culture, and gives employees a powerful reason to work for you. It’s everything your company can offer as an employer, in exchange for all the skills and experience your employees bring to the table.
An organization benefits from a well-designed EVP, communicated often to both potential and current employees. A strong EVP can attract and retain the best people, help prioritize goals and agendas company-wide (especially in HR and workforce planning), help re-engage a dispassionate workforce, and reduce hiring costs. Most of all, it contributes to a favorable and robust employer brand.
The messaging you use to broadcast your employer brand and value proposition shouldn’t just be a list of the perks and benefits you offer, but these are an undeniable part of the story. An EVP is considered an employee-centered approach because it’s a proposition that’s been discovered, defined, and tested using existing employees. Before you craft your employer brand proposition, your company’s benefits should be well-established, well-defined, and a proven hit with your current employees. And if they’re not, and you’re looking to revamp things, consider what influences a person’s decision whether to accept a job offer or not, including:
Company values and culture
Company location(s) and facilities, including accessibility and convenience
Team caliber and quality
Quality of work
Ongoing employee recognition
Work-life balance, or proportion of work to time off
Benefits, such as dental insurance and vacation time
On-the-job perks like lunch, on-site childcare, flextime, and telecommuting
Non-salary financial perks like commuter credits, bonuses, housing subsidies, relocation, and assistance
Opportunities for travel and client exposure
Opportunities to perform community service
What is the value of a strong employer brand?
Not investing in your employer brand is costly, and we don’t mean in a general sort of way. We mean it in a no-doubt-about-it, direct-line sort of way, on things like recruiting costs-per-employee, your HR budget, and overall bottom line.
To start, companies with positive employer brands (as in, their reputation as an employer is favorable in the marketplace) can get up to twice as many applications as companies with negative brands (an unfavorable reputation for being not-so-great to their employees). Considering that HR managers are finding it more difficult to hire the talent they need due to skills gaps and other factors, this is a huge difference in how efficient a recruiter or talent manager can be.
We also looked at what it costs companies when they fail to invest in their reputation as an employer — and it’s an average of a whopping $5,000 per employee. One poll from CR Magazine and Cielo Talent showed that almost 50% of workers said they wouldn't work for a company with a bad reputation, even with a big increase in compensation. This all adds up: With a negative, or non-existent employer brand, organizations are likely spending 10% more per employee hired. That means working much harder for longer just to get quality employees through the door.
But, when top candidates want to work for you, it has the opposite effect. Recruiting costs not only drop, they plummet — by roughly 43%. In other words, when your employer brand is strong, your recruiters experience less friction introducing your company to top talent and getting them to the offer stage. Your company becomes a talent magnet, and your reputation soars.