Employer Branding: The Next Frontier in the War for Talent


By Lindsay Macintosh, CHRP

In an era of globalization and changing demographics where talent is tight and the war for it is becoming fiercer, organizations have to find ways to differentiate themselves. As the economy strengthens and shifts towards a job seekers’ market, the key to success lies within an organization’s ability to integrate creativity and innovation into corporate culture, products and services. Herein lies the ‘secret’ to connecting with existing employees and potential candidates.

Craft Core Identity in the Land of the Brand

Organizations are increasingly concerned with their employer brand. Branding an organization as an employer of choice has important implications for attracting and retaining employees. If an organization is not perceived as a great place to work, even if it has a positive work environment, it will face obstacles in attracting and keeping top employees. Employers need to reach out to candidates and match their needs with what they have to offer.

Reaching out to candidates in key markets with a compelling employer brand is a vital part of the organization’s recruitment and employee retention strategies.

Employer branding is the process of marketing the overall employment experience your organization offers. It defines the organization as a preferred employer and creates a positive image or reputation to potential job applicants. Elisa Hendricks, managing director of Midlyn Day Communications, a North Vancouver recruitment advertising and employer marketing firm, says, “Employer branding is about attracting the best and the brightest by showing how they will benefit from bringing their careers – really their lives – to your company”.

In addition to attracting external candidates, employer branding plays an important role in employee retention. Hendricks says, “Great employer brands are generated with employee participation. Employees feel ownership of the employer brand and recognize it as authentic and accurate. In this way, the employer brand creates a sense of alignment between an employee’s career values with those of the company”.

Make the Most of Marketing and Advertising

Employer branding requires a campaign strategy comparable to marketing and advertising. Placing ads in career sections and collecting resumes are becoming things of the past. In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s the ‘who’ and not ‘how many’ that matters.

Today’s marketplace is becoming more complex with more options in recruiting and retaining employees. Finding the right person is more costly. The best solution is one that connects employers to the largest pool of applicants. To reach a large pool of applicants, an authentic employer brand underlying all marketing activities needs to be created with employee experience identified and defined. The right mix of marketing avenues such as print advertising, online advertising, social media, and internal communications, is necessary to effectively carry the brand.

An authentic and compelling brand can help a company increase it’s ROI.  A brand that is not authentic or congruent to the company culture and experience results in high turnover, low morale, low productivity, and decrease competition.

Employer branding needs to be based on a real focus and strong platform to prevent inaccurate expectations among employees and candidates. If a company has not carefully laid out the kind of employment experience it offers, the message sent out can be disjointed and inconsistent with what is really happening. Having new employees discover that their expectations of your organization are not in line with reality can lead to serious retention problems.

Avoid the Pitfalls of ‘False’ Branding

Hendricks states, “A strong and honest employer brand lets candidates assess their own fit with your organization. It also assists hiring managers by giving them a well-defined description of your employee experience which they can use to measure candidates in terms of fit”.

“A brand that is not effective is one that isn’t honest, one that really doesn’t accurately reflect what it is really like to work in the organization in question. The pitfalls of such ineffective brands are setting up unrealistic expectations, creating retention issues and even alienating employees.”

Linking Organizational Brand to Individual Drive

Employer branding will be important to organizations in the future. Today’s employees and job seekers are more aware of their value in the marketplace and the importance of fit in their career choices. They are the ones employers want to attract. Having a strong employer brand will be crucial in attracting attention from key markets, retaining employees, and building relationships with them.

Large organizations will no longer be the only ones able to get their employer brand message out to large numbers of job seekers like they were in the past. With new marketing tools such as social media, organizations of all sizes have the opportunity to reach large numbers of job seekers. Social media also enables employees to participate more in achieving the organization’s strategic goals.

As with the fundaments of branding, both online and off, authenticity is essential to anchoring any effective recruitment and retention strategy.

Lindsay Macintosh, CHRP, (lindsma@shaw.ca) has over 20 years experience in payroll and benefits in the retail, food service, and logging industries.

PeopleTalk: Summer 2011

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