When thinking about core HR strategy, for most people, employer branding doesn’t come to mind. Instead they think of things like compensation, benefits, performance management, or recruitment – elements that are seen as essential. In recent years, core HR has gone beyond the basics to include employee experience and employee voice, which are both seen as essential for today’s HR professionals and leaders to understand. But what about employer brand work? Although there’s a common misconception that employer branding is all about creating an attractive image that helps attract talent, it’s much more than that.
Great Employer Branding is Grounded in Research
More than just creating an attractive image, great employer brands are authentic and based on an in-depth understanding of what employees, leaders, and future talent values most. To those who know a bit about employer branding, that’s the definition of an employee value proposition (EVP). Employer brand research truly gets at the heart of what matters most to your people and provides a beautiful foundation for you to build on. It’s up to you to then build on that foundation and fix any cracks. You’ll learn how to position your culture and employer brand so that it is seen as attractive, but you’ll also learn about the threats to your brand and culture, and what you need to do to address them.
Employee Voice and Engagement Surveys Can Only Do So much
Don’t get me wrong – employee engagement and employee voice are important. Both are focused on understanding what drives and motivates employees. When done well, great companies incorporate that feedback and use it to continuously refine and adapt their people programs. This is a no brainer, as people are the heartbeat of a company. There’s also a lot of overlap between those two things and employer brand research – all people data is valuable and considered when building an employer brand.
However, there’s only so much you can accomplish by listening to and focusing on one audience and how they feel today. In order to truly create a great culture and employer brand, you need to think more holistically about your culture and consider where you are today, from multiple perspectives, and develop a roadmap for where you want your culture to be in the next 3 to 5 years.
Great employer branding takes all of that into consideration. You conduct leadership interviews to get a sense of how they view culture today, and how they’d like to see it and the company evolve. Their thoughts and buy-in are critical. You conduct discovery workshops and surveys with internal talent to understand what matters most to them – not how they feel about every possible employee engagement dimension. That is the type of focus that’s often missing from employee engagement and employee voice surveys. Then, you take it a step further by conducting a competitive analysis and external research with prospective talent. What do they value most? How do they view your brand? And what does your current recruitment marketing tell them about your culture. All of those insights have the power to dramatically impact your employer brand and culture in a positive way.
If you’re in sales and marketing, you know what I’m talking about. Brand differentiation is about “individualizing yourself from the competition in a way that’s relevant”, according to Forbes. When you explain why that’s important to HR and employer branding professionals, if you want to attract, engage, and retain top talent, you need to stand out. That makes intuitive sense. If what you’re offering talent sounds the same as what every other employer is offering, why should prospective talent choose you over the competition? And it’s not just important to prospective talent, differentiation matters to your current talent too. If what you have to offer is the same as what your competitors offer, what happens when top talent starts looking for a promotion, salary, or something else that you aren’t able to provide? Even if your employees are loyal and engaged, they may look elsewhere and take their skills to your competitors.
For those who are able to cultivate an employer brand that is truly authentic and unique, the benefits go beyond recruitment and retention. Being part of something truly unique and special can also be an incredible source of pride for employees. As those of you in HR know, employee pride is related to employee loyalty and engagement, and we all know engagement is something that all organizations want.
Closing Thoughts on Employer Branding
As someone who works at an Employer Brand Agency I am, without a doubt, biased. However, having worked in HR for over a decade, I leveraged the power of authentic employer branding throughout my HR career, which helped me better understand the organizations I supported and position internal programs successfully. I can also tell you that, as someone who made the move to employer branding, I flex my HR muscles and use that knowledge just as much now, as I ever did. At Blu Ivy Group we really take a holistic approach to our employer branding work because we aren’t just here to create pretty facades, we’re passionate about creating amazing employer brands and work cultures.