Employer branding: your employees show the way
Employer branding is no longer only about finding new talent and keeping talent on board. It’s also about attracting and retaining customers. So, how do you build a distinctive customer brand that truly reflects your DNA?
First things first: you can’t solely create an employer brand top-down. Bottom-up also plays its part. Employer branding is all about the inside-out approach. In order to avoid a gap between expectations and reality, the outside needs to match the inside, not the other way around.
Building an employer brand always starts with your own employees. They don’t work for your brand; they are your brand. Not the board, not the CEO, not the management, but your employees define who you are and what you stand for. Employer branding doesn’t start by paying a marketing agency to come up with a storyline, a catchy slogan and a corporate movie, meant to prove that you are all one big happy family. Employer branding starts by asking your employees what they value and what they care for. What makes them jump out of bed every morning? What makes them smile all the way to the (home) office?
Showing your company story through your employees’ eyes is the most effective employer branding. Offer an actual look into the organization, the functioning, the coworkers, the customers,... Share real stories, told by real people. People relate to other people. Your employees are your most convincing, most credible brand ambassadors. They are the only ones who really know what it’s like to work for your company. Don’t fit them into a straitjacket of force-fed messages and slick talk; give them the opportunity to be honest and authentic. Promises you can’t deliver are the best way to kill your employer brand. Keep it real.
Boosting recruitment and retention
Employer branding used to focus only on future employees. Its only purpose was boosting recruitment. In the midst of a relentless war for talent, the focus has shifted to retention. Companies started to realize keeping their current employees on board is actually cheaper and more effective than having to keep looking for new talent all of the time. Employer branding has become a powerful tool to boost retention as well. When your coworkers are asked to co-create and share content, that gives them purpose and a sense of belonging. It will only make them more fond of your organization and will strengthen the ties.
To attract and retain talent, your employer brand needs to stand out from the crowd. Way too often, totally different companies tell the exact same story. Employer branding offers your company a unique opportunity to distinguish yourself. Don’t waste it by telling uninspired and interchangeable stories.
Bold and outspoken vs uninspired and interchangeable
The employer brand is the externalized version of the reigning internal company culture. So, how do you shape a distinctive company culture? Spoiler alert: you don’t! You can’t invent a certain culture and decide that’s how it should be. A company culture forms itself.
We know that employee engagement is like the holy grail for a lot of organizations these days. We also understand the main drivers of employee engagement: purpose, leadership, well-being. Your employer branding should show how you deal with those topics.
Make sure your purpose is crystal clear, tell your future and current employees exactly how the impact of their job goes far beyond your company walls.
Give your leaders a face in your employer branding: not just the CEO, but also the new breed of leaders who rise to the occasion. If you tell your employees that it’s okay to make mistakes, then allow them to without publicly disgracing them. If your or one of your leaders blunders, then admit to it and explain how this can be prevented in the future. Walk the talk when it comes to well-being and (physical and mental) health. That’s how your culture will take a solid shape.
Once again, employer branding is no rocket science. If you listen very carefully to your employees, they will guide the way. Your employer brand doesn’t need to be supersexy, it needs to reflect your DNA. Just as no two people have the same DNA, no two companies have the same DNA. Don’t be afraid to be bold and outspoken about the things that make your brand different from others.
Far beyond the fancy campaigns
Employer branding is no longer a ‘side project’ of the HR department or the marketing team. Your employer brand is an essential part of your overall brand and your reputation. They affect each other, they even define each other. When media reported that Amazon treats their employees like sh** (forcing them to piss in bottles, because they have no time to go to the toilet), customers started to protest. It works both ways. When Facebook took a beating for its privacy violations, the shares dropped, and users walked away from the platform. But the biggest threat for Facebook is probably that the tech giant is no longer an employer of choice for tech talent.
Employer branding used to be something only big companies invested in. But the tables have turned. Employer branding is not about fancy, expensive campaigns anymore. It’s about every interview with a candidate, every onboarding of a new employee, every single conversation at the coffee machine and even every touchpoint with your customers. Your employer brand is the sum of all these actions and gestures. Impossible to fake it all the way through, so building it bottom-up and from within is the only key to a truly successful and believable employer brand.