One of the biggest challenges for employers is attracting top talent and differentiating themselves from the competition. When job seekers begin hunting for new roles, they might search for things like “best companies in XYZ city” or “top companies in the XYZ industry.” Why? Because reputation is everything.

What is employer branding?

Employer branding is a communication strategy focused on a company’s current and potential employees. It pulls together elements of branding and communication to emphasize the value of belonging to a company, with the ultimate goal of attracting and retaining talent.

This strategy allows you to control and positively direct the dialogue about your company. Simply put, employer branding is how you market your company to job seekers, and what employees say about your organization as a place of work.

The importance of employer branding

Employer branding is a powerful way to differentiate your company from others. It shows prospective hires what sets an employer apart and why they should work there instead of somewhere else.

Strong employer branding has many benefits, which are highlighted below.

1) Attract and retain top talent

A great employer brand makes your existing employees proud to be a part of the organization. Likewise, being a part of a company with a great reputation is important to job seekers. Companies need to be mindful of how they showcase their culture and foster a positive environment. Job seekers look at social media profiles, employee reviews on sites like Glassdoor, and culture recognition awards to piece together an image of a company and how it treats employees.

2) Create ambassadors within your organization

Employee reviews are a powerful recruitment tool. When your employees share positive feedback about your organization on social media or platforms like Indeed, it gives your recruitment efforts a significant boost.

You can turn employees into brand ambassadors by asking them to share information with their networks. This can include company news, their day-to-day experiences, awards, and more.

3) Demonstrate your culture and diversity

Being a desirable place to work for the largest skew of candidates means your applicants should feel that you are a safe and welcoming workplace regardless of social background or ethnicity. Showcasing employees from different walks of life helps a wider array of candidates to picture themselves working with your brand.

4) Boost employee engagement and satisfaction

Organizations who commit to an employee-centric brand intentionally engage their employees to prioritize team satisfaction and productivity. When teams are contented, they’re less likely to turnover, which improves your retention rates and, in turn, helps boost recruitment.

Key benefits of harnessing employer branding

The advantages of investing in employer branding as a talent strategy include better recruitment, cost savings, and improved company performance, to name a few. An employer branding program is meant to strengthen your internal and external reputation and make your company more attractive to candidates. Further, it should boost your retention rates. But that’s not all.

“Market” your workplace to job seekers

A strong employer brand makes it much easier to recruit candidates because it harnesses a marketing message to attract job seekers to your company. Employer branding works much like your product and service branding to make you stand out from the competition and lead potential employees along the applicant journey.

Improve culture

When you attract and hire the right talent, it helps foster a positive work environment and a healthier corporate culture. The reverse is also true. When you promote your culture accurately, it’s much easier to attract and hire the right people. With a strong and genuine employer brand, your company’s culture and reputation will shine through and draw in top talent who are aligned with your mission, vision, and values.

Growth of reputation

A strong employer brand will help you cultivate a glowing reputation among the business community, your employees, and potential candidates. You can support this flourishment by writing blogs, hiring for diversity, showcasing your company story and celebrating your team through rich media, and focusing on fostering a positive culture for all.

Decrease cost/less time to hire

Hiring is costly. In fact, it’s among the most expensive aspects of running a business. However, according to LinkedIn, a proactive employer branding strategy can reduce a company’s cost per hire by 50%, yield more qualified applicants, and even reduce turnover by as much as 28%.

Reduce turnover

A great reputation can carry through the recruitment process and into the employee life cycle. As mentioned in the previous point, refining your employer brand can reduce turnover by more than a quarter. How? Because when you invest time and energy into your employer brand, you also invest in improving your employees’ work life, which makes for happier teams and, in turn, reduces the likelihood of voluntary turnover.

What is the employer value proposition?

Most companies have defined their product or service’s value proposition, but not all have considered the employer value proposition, or EVP. The EVP “is your company’s core benefits that make up your wider employer brand.” Similar to how your product’s value proposition is a promise to your customers that your product will do X, Y, or Z, the EVP is a promise to your employees and recruits that your workplace will provide them with things like a positive and diverse culture, engaging work, and opportunities for growth and advancement.

Once you define your employer brand, your EVP should come naturally. A robust EVP can sharpen both the identity and culture of your company. It strengthens the employer brand and hones your recruitment process.

How to improve your employer branding

Given the importance of employer branding in today’s market, you should consider refining your own. While it can be established, built, and honed, your employer branding should constantly adjust and improve as your company evolves..

If you don’t have a defined and purposeful employer brand, don’t panic. Start by thinking about your company’s personnel goals. Then, be aspirational. How do you want your current employees to describe your company as an employer?

Even if you haven’t actively built your employer brand to date, you still have one (albeit unrefined). To make it work for you, you need to follow a few steps, outlined below.

1) Establish a brand identity

You’ve invested significant time, energy, and money into creating superior branding for your company’s products or services. Now, focus that effort on the largest service you provide: employment. Just as your customers could choose another brand for their needs, so can employees and job seekers.

Establishing a brand identity digs into who you are as an employer so you can showcase that identity in all of your HR content. This includes the type of language you use in job advertisements, how you present your work to potential candidates, and how you engage with your employees. Your employer brand can also tie into your industry or the type of products and services you provide.

2) Ask your team for feedback

For the most accurate representation of what it’s like to work for your brand, tap into the people who know the experience best: your current employees. Ask your team for feedback, like what you do well as an employer and where you stand to improve.

You might not always like what you hear, and that’s okay. What’s important here is to listen attentively so you take that feedback to heart and make noticeable changes. Your employees can be your greatest advocates or loudest detractors, so it’s important to build your employer brand with them in mind.

3) Create a visual identity and stick to it

One of the key pillars of a brand is consistency, and your employer branding is no different. A visual identity refers to the imagery and/or graphics you incorporate to differentiate your employer brand from others. This can include colors, the use of illustrations or photographs, shapes, typography, and even animations.

Your visual identity helps job applicants and employees recognize your content quickly and reinforces your employer brand. For example, if your brand is heavily focused on your fun and inclusive company culture, you might implement graphics showcasing your diverse workforce along with bright colors and shapes that evoke feelings of happiness.

Once you’ve established your employer branding’s look and feel, stick to it. That consistency will reinforce your brand and make your content easy to spot in the sea of competitor content.

4) Review your mission, vision, values, and goals

Your mission, vision, values, and goals should not only align with your employer branding, but also inform your branding strategy and the activities you participate in during recruitment. Before you can strengthen your employer brand, it’s important you review your current and future priorities to make sure they fit your company, then use those to build your brand.

Your current and potential employees want to work for a company that has values similar to their own. By reviewing and highlighting your mission, vision, values, and goals in your employer branding, you’ll attract candidates who share your ideology to your talent pool.

5) Leverage social media

Social media is an incredible way to reach new audiences, both for promoting products and services and to support your recruitment efforts. Engage potential candidates with content that exemplifies your workplace culture and employer brand — like when a new hire announces they’ve joined your team. Also, take the time to respond to comments mindfully to further humanize your brand.

LinkedIn “People Pages” and other social spotlighting

Pull back the curtain on your workspaces and culture by putting your people in the spotlight.  Social networking sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn’s “People Pages,” and even your company’s Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook accounts are excellent platforms to give a face to your company name. You can show off your spaces, celebrate your team’s wins (personal and professional), welcome new hires, commemorate milestones like promotions and retirements, and more.

Instagram for culture content

Instagram is a fantastic tool for HR departments seeking to improve or expand their employer brand. Photos and videos are engaging and pop more than plain text. Instagram excels at both, making it the platform to leverage if you want to show off your awesome workplace culture through photo and video content.

Use Instagram to build your employer brand and boost your reputation as an employer of choice by giving sneak peeks into your day-to-day activities and sharing content that promotes your culture and your people.

6) Respond to every job application

We understand you receive dozens of applications, but only have so many hours in the workday to devote to them. However, responding to every job application is an important step in building your employer brand. It reinforces the promise your brand makes to applicants and employees — that you care about people and prioritize them above all else by showing them courtesy and respect through clear communication.

Unsure how you can possibly respond to all of those job-seeking hopefuls? That leads us to our next recommendation…

7) Use an Applicant Tracking System

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) will not only make your recruiting efforts easier and more effective, but will also help keep your employer brand consistent. It enables HR teams to communicate seamlessly with all applicants by sending pre-written emails that can easily be personalized to thank applicants for applying, invite candidates to interview, or let them down gently.

Best of all, you can customize an ATS to your unique needs and branding for a cohesive look and feel while also building in practicality and efficiency.

Your ATS will also help you keep track of applicants and the actions you and your teams take throughout the recruitment process to ensure no one slips through the cracks.

8) Treat all applications as inbound leads for future opportunities

Not every applicant will be the right choice for a particular job opening, but they might be a good fit for a future vacancy. With this in mind, it’s important to reinforce your employer brand and treat every application as an inbound lead.

Take your applicants on a journey the way you guide inbound leads through their buying process. Invite them to opt in to communications about job opportunities and nurture their interest.

9) Use storytelling in job ads

“Reporting to X, the Y will perform duties including…” Sound familiar? Boring, rote job ads fail to show off your culture or help potential candidates envision themselves working with you. Take a page from the marketing book and incorporate storytelling into your job ads.

Telling your company story gives candidates a sneak peek into who your company is and what working with you entails. Similarly, you can delve into the role, the department, founders, and even your successful candidate to weave a textual tapestry for your company.

Storytelling should be genuine, educational, entertaining, emotional, and motivational to set your brand apart and help you attract top talent.

10) Nail the recruitment process and give candidates a great experience

One of the best ways to establish an impeccable employer brand and improve your reputation is to wow candidates with your recruitment process. Whether or not they’re successful hires, make sure job seekers walk away from your recruitment with nothing but positive things to say. To do this, consider the following:

  • Time is money. Don’t drag out the process unnecessarily
  • Communication is key. Keep your job applicants informed from start to finish.
  • Consider every touchpoint in the recruitment process, from the job ad and application to the interviews, offer and rejection letters through to onboarding documentation. Your employer brand should be evident and consistent throughout as well.
  • Think like the applicant. How would you want to leave this process?
  • Show off your culture from the start. Talk about your company’s culture and perks in your job ads, on your social media profiles, and in interviews, and reinforce these as well as your mission and values during onboarding.

Wrapping up — Use employer branding to become a desired workplace

Employer branding is critical to set yourself apart from competitors in the struggle for elite talent. By improving your business brand and sharing the benefits of working for your company, you can attract larger talent pools and improve your overall hiring and recruitment processes.

Utilize social media, a positive interview process (even for applicants that don’t land a role), and a solid employer brand to leave a strong impression and make your company a desired workplace.

Take control of your recruitment efforts and evaluate whether you’re attracting the right candidates with recruitment assessments. See every candidate’s potential and how they fit in with your company.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick