Think of the last time you talked to a friend about their job. When you asked what it was like to work at the organization, did they immediately dive into the great products the company sells?
They likely shared information about the culture, values, and leadership. In that moment, they transformed into an employer brand ambassador. Hopefully the story they told was compelling—for positive reasons. No one wants to feel like they are working in the next episode of HBO’s Succession.
Companies often think beer on tap, a ping-pong table, and pizza Fridays make a great place to work. They don’t. These days employees want more. Much more. And not just in the form of compensation.
Organizations wanting to attract and retain top talent—a challenge costing U.S. companies $1 trillion annually—should focus less on empty benefits and more on the employer brand.
What Is Employer Branding?
Employer branding is your reputation as an employer. The brand is what the company represents to job seekers and team members. Think of it like a promise made to current and future employees about exactly what they can expect from working at the organization.
The brand tells a story about what the company believes in, cares about, and focuses on. But employees see through great storytelling. Strong employer brands also must walk the walk by embracing and embodying that set of values in its everyday work.
Research from the staffing firm Randstad shows 86% of workers will not apply, or continue to work for, a company with a bad reputation among former employees. Pair this with the fact that 75% of companies report struggling to recruit effectively.
Seems like lots of companies have some employer brand building to do.
Why Is the Employer Brand Strategy Important?
Good employer brands impact the bottom line. They attract better talent, reduce hiring costs, and decrease employee turnover.
Consider these statistics and how they would impact your business performance:
- The best employer brands generate 50% more qualified applicants.
- A strong employer brand can reduce cost-per-hire by as much as 50%.
- 92% of people would consider changing jobs for a role at a company with an excellent corporate reputation.
And if these numbers haven’t convinced you, how about this correlation to revenue:
- 64% of consumers have stopped using a product or service after hearing the company treats employees poorly (CareerArc).
Every employer has a brand, whether they manage it or not. Your employees are always talking. The research clearly shows investing in building a strong employer brand generates a significant ROI.
What Messaging Works to Attract Top Talent?
Gallup surveyed more than 13,000 U.S. employees and asked what was most important to them in their next job. The top answer: a significant increase in income or benefits. Coming in second at just 3% less was greater work-life balance and better personal wellbeing. Rounding out the top three was the ability to do what they do best.
It makes sense that people want to be paid fairly, treated humanely, and empowered to do their best work. But these aren’t necessarily overly compelling reasons to apply. After all, what company is going to admit they don’t offer these things?
The best employer brands have seven key elements that make them stand out for all the right reasons:
Employees and candidates want more meaningful jobs. McKinsey found that 70% of employees define their personal sense of purpose by their work. The mission, vision, and values of an organization should show its heart and serve as a North Star for guiding the company and its staff.
- Honesty and authenticity
Organizations build trust by communicating honestly, operating fairly, and being genuine. Businesses embracing their realness and using it to be relatable earn workers’ respect.
Good employer brands clearly communicate what they offer and how they operate. A misalignment between the messaging in a job offer and what the actual work entails is a quick way to create costly turnover and a reputation for dishonesty.
Some companies talk a big game when it comes to their employer brand and then fail to deliver. Nike made headlines when touting its diversity and inclusion initiatives while simultaneously paying pregnant athletes less money or ending their contracts. BP said safety was its top priority and then had 11 employees die on the Deepwater Horizon and leaked 134 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The employee’s experience must always match the brand.
- Care and compassion
Companies should care about employees—not as resources, but as human beings. The special ways a company shows compassion set the brand apart. Employees and consumers also increasingly want to see that care extend to the environment, local communities, and social causes. Food company KIND’s motto is “Do the KIND thing.” The brand messaging applies to its healthy products, how employees are treated, and the social objectives the company invests in.
Organizations wanting to attract responsible talent must operate that way themselves. Using the corporate purpose as a guide holds companies accountable to their vision and values. Those speak more to jobseekers and employees than an HR sales pitch ever could.
Culture reflects an organization’s shared beliefs, accepted behaviors, and operating norms. Companies focused on healthy cultures create places where people want to work. Their brand story matches the employee’s reality.
Ready to do a deep dive into your employer brand?
Download Building a Strong Employer Brand, our comprehensive guide and workbook for creating your employer brand strategy. Learn how to define your employee value proposition. Calculate your employer brand effectiveness. Discover how to effectively communicate the brand.
The next time someone asks your employee what it’s like to work for the company, feel confident about what they’ll say.